BY CELESTE MARTINEZ
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, afraid that I am dying all over again. When a white truck drives by, I collapse within myself, afraid to move. I am 3 years old and I am in Mexico. There's images of doctors and a table. Everything is slightly tinted green. Other times, I'm in the recovery room. I'm trying to scream, but nothing comes out. That's when I remember that my mouth is sealed shut. My mother comes to me, and she drips water from a cotton ball onto my cracked lips. How did she know that's what I wanted?
My mother carries me in her arms to where there's a shower. I look down at my stomach, and for a split second, I think there is a centipede, crawling towards my head. The were stitches, as my scar can attest, but at the time, I learned to fear my body.
Other times I wake up in the middle of the night, afraid that my father is still living with me. Afraid that he'll come into my room and start hitting. Afraid that he'll say, "You should've died that day."
But then I look into the blackness of my room, and remember that he's gone. But my feelings of worthlessness still remain. I lived through that day in Mexico, but I have died a thousand times with him.
I am 7 years old, and the doctors are telling my mother that I can no longer eat meat, or greasy food, or anything that would make 7-year-old me happy. He says that my intestines are too short, and I can't digest it properly. I didn't know what he meant, but my mother later told me that it was because of my accident. The doctors had to remove all of my damaged parts, and now it's affecting me.
I'm 12 years old and sitting on a bed in a doctor's office. The doctor is telling my mother that the way my pelvis is shaped, it would be hard for a baby. She tells my mother that my scar tissue would prevent a cesarean. She looks at my mother and judges her. The physical therapy I should've gotten was too much to afford.
The doctor says, "Well, I guess that's what happens when you have surgery in Mexico. What a mess," and leaves. I clench my stomach. My mother is crying. She feels like she failed me. I can't feel anything. All I know is that my right to choose was taken from me.
I am 18 years old and have graduated from high school. I am valedictorian. I am going to college. And in the back of my head, I hear, "You should've died that day" over, and over, and over again.
I am 20 years old, and decide that I want to die. I can't figure out why I'm alive. I should've died that day. I fill up the tub and get my razors ready. My roommate comes home, and I hear my father's voice, "How disrespectful. You'd inconvenience her by letting her find your body," I shudder. I put the razor down and dry off. I don't want to bother anyone.
I am 21 years old, and I see a picture of Frida Kahlo. Right next to her is her biography. I see the words "accident" and I see her painting "Cesarean" I limp through the museum, my right leg slightly dragging behind me. I cry. For the first time, I no longer feel like a burden. For the first time, I feel like I can live.
"I have lived"
Celeste Martinez is a proud 3rd generation Mexican-American from Robstown, Texas. She is the eldest of three daughters. The women in her family, especially her mother and grandmother, inspire her to keep moving forward, even if it is hard to do so. Celeste comes from a family of artists although, not in the traditional sense. She is continuously awed by the ways her mother and grandmother create art, whether it be through embroidery, makeup, or the stories they choose to tell. Art is the way Celeste creates resistance. Her art is a reflection of her existence, her community, and her survival.