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All the words I wish I could have told you

I got rid of my last photo of you, and I immediately regretted it. I realized that I will never be able to use the photos I took, documenting our love, as a bookmark.

I regretted that on any suspecting afternoon, with the sun gleaming just right twenty years from now, one of those photos will never fall out of an old book in front of my children and they won’t ask about the boy in the picture with curly hair and reddened cheeks.

I regretted it because you are – you were – my first love. And a person only gets one of those in a lifetime.

When I finally left I reacted curt toward you, almost passive or indifferent, because I didn’t want you to know that this was killing me too. Because I wanted to be strong – because the alternative was weak. Because we met un-intentionally and you immediately became forever etched into my soul.

I regretted it because we were damned from the start – because I found happiness in you before I found happiness in myself.

But, the reality is that I didn’t even know that I was looking for someone like you to save me from my misdirection. In fact, all I knew was that I liked the feeling in my stomach when your bright smile landed in my direction. I liked the comfort I felt in your eyes, I liked being desired. And, I liked how the beginning of our love story sprouted as if it were straight out of a Nora Ephron film.

The thing about those movies, however, is that they always ended just before the story actually began and reality set in.

For whatever reason, I thought myself righteous enough to pop our bubble. To be the one who decides that there is something better, grander, more extraordinary beyond the story of us.

So, I let it go. I convinced myself that I needed to get away so that I could start feeling again.

But seared inside my mind, hidden behind my self-proclaimed and glaring passions for the best love story known to man – and my belief that you couldn’t possibly give it to me – are the photos of you that I took in sepia. My hand on your chest. The back of your head against a sunset. Our hands holding one another. A kiss stolen in a gas station parking lot. Your eyes meeting mine with affection from the driver’s seat when we stopped at a red light and I told you to smile.

I regret that I didn’t give us the chance to seize just one more moment together. I regret that I didn’t give us a chance.

I know that you broke my heart in little ways for a long time, but I broke your heart in a big way all at once. One does not cancel out the other.

I loved you unconditionally. You knew it, too, but you lost me. I waited until I had enough and I left.

I realized that it is better to be single and search for myself, then to settle for something I feel insecure in.

Don’t get me wrong though. Our ending wasn’t nearly as tumultuous as I am making it out to be, nor as I would have liked it to be. One second we were, the next we were not. And that was it. We just ended. There was no thunder, no lightening. Nothing.

Even now as I am sorting through what exactly happened, I still can’t help but think that if you loved me the way you said you did you would have treated me the way you said you would.

I wouldn’t have had to beg.

Even when we did eventually try to talk about us, instead of ignoring the elephant in the room with banter or seduction, I’d be speechless. I didn’t know where to start.

But, please don’t mistake my silence for indifference. I do still love you. I always will, except it’s not the same. We spent so much time together and I know that I am saying so little right now to make up for it. I know that this is unbearable, but I promise you that every word I wish to utter to you is in my mind. I just can’t bring myself to speak when you look at me like that. When you draw yourself closer, it is a bribe which I can’t commit to. So please take a step back, I’m so tired of this. I am drained. If I stayed, I would spend a lifetime choking on words I wouldn’t ever dare to say.

I invested in you and I lost myself. I became dependent. And to be honest, this was the last thing I wanted. I spent close to a year relying on someone I didn’t want to rely on – nor could I. I knew it was the end long before you did, and I held on anyways, just in case, because I have a drastic fear of letting go and moving on.

But how can I reconcile breaking your heart and leaving everything we had together in just a few short minutes. You say that I took you by surprise, that you didn’t see it coming – but I don’t know how. I gave you all of the signs. You saw my silent tears. I always knew I wanted more. I was destined for something different. I felt it, deep in my bones, I just never faced it until I was forced to. I was able to ignore my confusion because we laughed with one another. We couldn’t take our hands off one another. We ran home in the pouring rain together, stopping only to kiss.

We experienced the best of one another for a short period of time, and I know that our relationship lasted as long as it was meant to. We loved each other until we couldn’t. We chewed us up and spit us out. We got everything we needed to get out of one another. We fell in and out of love from worlds apart. But I still feel terrible. And I feel like I should be feeling more even though I have been overcome with intense conflicting feelings every day since we said goodbye. Every day for close to a year.

I guess I just want you to know that I didn’t make this decision in haste. I needed to get away in order to understand more of myself.

I regret not thanking you enough for watching me blossom and believing in me so that I could believe in myself. I should have told you just how much you helped me realize the endless bounds of myself, for better or for worse.

I should have thanked you for letting me go, even though it hurt like hell.

I regret doing this to you because you waited for me. Because I gave you dozens of silent chances in my head. Because you would take me back in a second and I am here telling you that I am confused. That I need more time. That is – time to think. Time to learn and explore and dream. But all you hear is that I need to do all of these things away from you, that I need time alone. That I would rather work on building my sense of self alone than by your side.

But I deserve someone who makes me feel alive. Someone who is generous and who makes my heart jump when I tell people that they are mine. And you deserve someone who doesn’t give you an expiration date.

I am scared that maybe I made a mistake, that maybe I am foolish, or maybe that this is all that my love amounts to. I am having trouble accepting the normalcy of the end of us. The lack of explosion.

I am scared that I will forget. I am scared that after a few months everything we had will feel just like a dream. A dream that is open-ended, a dream that will constantly be on repeat in our respective minds until the end of time. Fated to carry each other’s baggage.

I regret that I now have to give you to someone else. That someone else will nuzzle into your chest, and devour your smell. I regret that I gave it all up so easily and have only in hindsight realized the weight of my naivety. Or did I? Because I also remember being so incredibly devastated, and being met with oblivion, with dismissive niceties. I remember my anxieties being belittled or made to feel small. I remember that I didn’t have the means, or the patience, to heal you.

I remember crying on the dance floor a year ago. Turning around so that none of my friends would see. I was staring at your messages. They were curt, broken and hard to make sense of. I remember being confused, I remember when someone told me for the first time that I deserved a love that was better. A love that nurtured. A love I didn’t have to settle for. A love that swept me off my feet.

I regret that we were different together than we were around everyone else. That no one got a real glimpse of us, in love. I regret being so quiet. I regret that I couldn’t love you like you loved me. I regret that you couldn’t love me the way I needed you to. I regret that we’ve run out of things to say.

I regret that our relationship was already broken even when your fingers were strumming through my hair or when we sat across from each other on the floor in a fit of laughter.

I regret knowing it was the end before you did, and holding on anyways just in case. I regret not telling you just how nervous I was and just how serious I was when I said that I thought we lost our spark. Our magic.

I regret it all because I wish that I held on to those pictures for a little while longer. I wish I studied them. Even though I knew the ending wouldn’t change.

Neither of us can fully heal our heartbreak unless we are apart. We have to heal for ourselves, rather than for the possibility that one day down the line we will be together again.

Seeing you that day, when you came by to collect your things, actually helped me realize that I am better off without you. That I am happy now. Really happy. And I no longer doubt myself. I no longer rely on you for happiness. I no longer get angry or sad because you couldn’t make me happy.

In hindsight I had absolutely no idea who I was when I met you. I still really don’t. I’m not even sure that I knew what genuine happiness looked or felt like.

Maybe that’s what ruined us after all. My indifference. My sadness. All of which at the end of the day amounted to nothing.

Soon I will be able to think about you without ripping my heart out.

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Broadway Pop Culture

Yes, “Hamilton” is good, but “In the Heights” is more important

I will the first one to confess to being an absolutely die-heart Hamilton fan. I love its character, its story, and its use of musical leitmotifs. However, when I listened to Lin Manuel Miranda’s previous musical In the Heights, that story touched me much more deeply than I had expected. Because it is real, and I have seen it.

The characters sing about paying rent and their arrival in the US. They rhyme Spanish and English words.

In the Heights has won 8 Tony Awards and a Grammy. However, it is often overshadowed by Hamilton’s success. Nonetheless, I hope that the ITH film adaptation, which was originally set to be released this June, but moved to 2021, makes the musical more accessible to a wider audience. Particularly to audiences like me, who know what it’s like to mix languages and cultures.

Why? Hamilton is an incredible musical, but In the Heights is about real people that are alive today.

In the Heights is Lin Manuel-Miranda’s first musical. He wrote it while he was still in college long before his Hamilton fame, along with Quiara Alegría Hudes, who wrote the book. Both of them based the story on their own experiences. It’s a musical with a seemingly simple plot: the lives of a group of young people living in Washington Heights, a Latino neighborhood of New York City. It’s a rap musical (yes, Hamilton wasn’t the first one) but it also mixes this genre with classical music theatre and Latin sounds and rhythms.

Usnavi is a Dominican bodeguero who dreams of going back to his home country, that his parents left before he can remember. Vanessa, on the other hand, longs to leave the neighborhood and live in the West Village. Nina, back home from university, struggles with the feeling that she’s disappointing her family. Abuela Claudia, who immigrated from Cuba in 1942, is the matriarch of the barrio who takes care of all of them.

I cannot explain with words the happiness that it brought me to listen to a Broadway cast made almost solely of Latinos.

However, it is precisely this simplicity that makes it that much more real and honest. It’s a story about something that we all struggle with: finding our place, and our identity. This is even harder for immigrant families and multicultural people.

One of the characters that touched me the most was Nina. She is someone that has seemingly made it. She is the first one in her family (and the neighborhood) to go to university, and she goes to Stanford. However, she struggles fitting in at university and feels the pressure of everyone’s expectations placed upon her. I think this is something many of us can relate to.

Even Usnavi’s name (from the US Navy) is a representation of the hope in a new future in the US. But at the same time, its pronunciation cannot escape the Latino identity. It might seem like a made-up thing, but I have met many people with names similar to that.

In the Heights also deals with complex issues. The characters struggle to survive and stay in their neighborhood despite the rising gentrification. One of the most moving moments of the play is the song ‘96,000’, where the characters discuss the things that they would do if they won the lottery.

“With 96,000, I’d finally fix housing / give the barrio computers and wireless web browsing / your kids are living without a good education change the station, / teach them about gentrification / the rent is escalating,” Sonny sings.

The characters sing about paying rent and their arrival in the US. They rhyme Spanish words with English ones, as people who have been brought up in both cultures would do.

Hamilton is an incredible musical but In the Heights is about real people, that are alive today.

I cannot explain with words the happiness that it brought me to listen to a Broadway cast made almost solely of Latinos, who sing about the things that mattered to them, removed from the gangs and crime stereotypes of shows like West Side Story.

I love how Miranda deals with very complex issues such as multiculturalism. He shows the struggle to reconcile the Latino and American identity. The show explores how characters hold on to their culture and the place they came from, while also being excited about the opportunities that the United States provides and the community that they have found there.

They sing: “In the Heights, I hang my flag up on display, / it reminds me that I came from miles away.” That sentence alone reminded me of how much I appreciated Spanish culture myself once I left the country to study in the UK.

I was very happy to see the producers maintain the Latino cast for the movie version. Moreover, in the trailer, it seems like the musical will be updated to touch on some of the most recent events that have been affecting the Latino community, such as the Dreamer’s Act. I am very excited to see how this is portrayed. Watching Lin Manuel Miranda’s acceptance rap at the Tony’s, where he raised the Dominican flag, gives me hope that they will do it right.

[Image Description: Lin Manuel MIranda holding a US flag] Via the New York Times.
[Image Description: Lin Manuel MIranda holding the Puerco Rico flag and a Tony Award.] Via the New York Times.
Although I have not seen In the Heights live. I am dying to. I can’t wait for the moment where I can see Spanish and English mixed onstage (or on-screen) while the stories of those people that always thought of themselves as invisible are presented to the audience. Until then, I will wait while listening to the cast recording with paciencia y fe.

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