Updated: Mar 12
Chapter: The Nice Chola
One time my dad took me and my sister Regina to buy some tennis shoes at a store in his neck of the woods, East LA. I was about thirteen or fourteen, looking like a normal nerdy type little girl. Never in fashion like my sister. Who looked like a hard core mean chola with the giant black jean Ben Davis Pants, a small pin stripped shirt with blue and white Adidas strapped to her her feet. Her hair was long, v shaped reaching to the small of her back and black, parted like a McDonalds sign in the middle. Eye liner thick, black noir. We walked in and I followed her to the Nike section when we were met by some unhappy chola looking girls, sitting there a few feet ahead of us, trying shoes on. As we approached to pass them, they all looked up at both of us and started mad dogging my sister hard. Not a single blink. Again, even though my sister was mean to me and harsh at times, she was MY sister and even though she looked and dressed like a hardened chola, I knew she was delicate. And I wasn’t about to let no one run up on her. These B*tches just effed with the wrong quera.
They hadn’t even notice me walking up and I'm sure it's because I looked so non threatening. When I got right in front of them I turned around, really annoyed and said, “She’s really fu**en pretty huh? What the fu** are you looking at? You got a fu**ing problem or something?” They looked at me surprised. As though it surprised them I was even talking and gave me the look you give someone when you think they're weird. They seemed surprised but quickly replied, “Fu** you B*tch.” To which I replied wide eyed, “fu** you b*tch”, and they said it again… then I said it back, until they said… “fu** you”. I believe we said it a good four times each. Strangely the ones who were seated stayed seated. But no one made a move. I was ready to take them ALL! Every last one of em was about to have heads rolled. My rage was on boil status. No one eff’s with my sister man! Let’s do this. I stood there looking at them. Staring contest champion here, don’t play!
The store owner yelled over the shoe isles and my dad walked up with a little smile on his mouth and waved for me to come to him saying, “Quera come here.” I turned around really slow, keeping my wide open crazy green eyes piercing theirs. Their husband or boyfriend was standing about ten feet away on another isle saying, “What the F*ck” as we passed. We were all immediately asked to leave the store by the dude running the store. I was heated, breathing heavy and I wanted to fight these bit**e’s so badly OOUUUFF we bout to blow!! Walking out of the store headed to dads burgundy two door, sunroof, loud, speedy little car. We’re all laughing mostly. I loved making him proud, hearing him tell me I was loca and “down”.
Then he turned the key in the engine and... silence. It wouldn’t start! He tried a few more times and NOOOO. How embarrassing!!!!! We all got out and started looking under the hood. My sister standing behind the door as me and dad go to see what’s wrong. He’s trying to fix the problem, when they all walked out in their group. I looked at them without looking away and watched as they got in their car. They drove by smirking at us, looking out the windows saying, “Yea bit** now what bit**”. When out of my mouth flew something that mortified me as I heard it escape.
LOUDLY, I yelled, “Fu** you bitch suck my pus**.”
I died. At that moment I died!
My dad was standing right there by me and I couldn’t believe I had just said that! I’d never said something like THAT before and now I just felt dumb and like a damn weirdo. Ahhh But they just kept driving. So embarrassed but I didn't let it show. Dad didn’t say anything about it. He was pretty intimidating looking himself and even though he was a champion for the innocents, always standing up for people, he’d also beat a fool down real quick if they got disrespectful or tried to run up. I remember when he told me how some girl came to my moms house when they were teenagers and wanted to fight her and he told her to go out there and fight her. And how he let them fight for a little bit then pulled my mom off the other girl. Mom was a thug.
Finally, he got the car started and we bolted out of the parking lot! We were all laughing together talking about it, feeling all pumped and like a family united. Back then I liked fighting. I took Martial Arts classes and learned some basic fighting styles such as Jiu Jitsu, Tae kwon do and a few more styles. I was pretty darn good at it too. Competitive. I won first place in my first fight tournament. I fought boys and won and loved feeling strong. On another occasion, when we lived at my tia Vanessa’s house in San Pedro for a short while at one point. She enrolled us into a summer school program at a place called, “Toberman Park.” It was some sort of summer school thing. Well, I got into a fight with a girl over a tether ball game. She was trying to cheat and getting loud in my face thinking I’d back down, so things got heated. I got angry and we began to brawl it out. Rolling down the hill. All the other kids on the playground watching us. I stopped hitting her once I was on top and felt like I won. Everyone was yelling saying “oooouuu.”
As I walked away some girl came up and told me to go over to the older girls table. I got there and a couple of the older chola’s were saying I kicked her ass and I’m so down. They were so pretty in all their make-up. Aqua net hair styles. They said they were gonna call me “La gatha,” which means ‘cat eyes’ in Spanish. I liked it. It felt like I belonged.
At elementary school age I maintained so many racially diverse friends, and hadn’t even noticed anyone or my own race, till about fifth grade. That's when it became suddenly obvious which group I was supposed to sit with, play with and be friends with. I was kinda sad about it. I felt rejected and like I didn’t belong or have any friends anymore. I didn’t “look” like the other Mexican girls nor could I speak Spanish. But I wasn’t a "white girl" either. I had a few African American acquaintances but not close friends to walk around with and always go sit by at lunch. So, for a while I learned what it was like to be a “loner”. Until a few of the Americanized Mexican girls decided to be my friends, and for once I truly felt a part of a group.
One day when mom was driving us home from school, the DJ made an announcement that some singer named ‘Selena’, was just shot and killed. Not knowing who she was till she passed away, when I got to school the next day my friends showed me some more of her songs. Mom liked her music too and bought the music tapes so we could all sing in the car together. We even liked some of her Spanish songs too. But I liked her English album more than anything. My friends and I sang together under the stairs at school. Then decided we should start our own little singing group. These were my same friends who helped me run away from home and hid me in their houses.
We had so much fun together and still maintained some levels of little girlhood. Until the older, meaner girls became part of our group too. That was when my demeanor changed from being a nice-ish girl with anger issues, to doing things like “mad dogging”, and being outrightly confrontational. Although I too got punked around a few times by meaner girls. And that was definately a really crappy feeling, so I didn’t make it a habit of doing that to other girls. But I’d always defend myself. However, of course I do have at least ONE super embarrassing lesson I learned about not bullying others.
One day at lunch time, after I was told some girl named Rachel was trying to talk to “my man”. They pointed her out, so I went up to her in front of everyone! At the lunch tables. Where all the kids in eighth grade sat and were eating. I was in fifth grade. But I didn’t care about differences or any reasons I should possibly be scared. I thought about how I wasn’t scared. Which I learned to do from constant night terrors almost every single night. Falling asleep was one of the most terrifying things to do. I’d be lying there looking at the silhouette of bunched up blankets at the end of my bed, and think to myself “oh my god what is that”? And I’d freeze in terror. Pulling my feet slowly up away from the end of the bed, so afraid it was gonna be a hand or something. But then I’d tell myself, “okay, just grab it, just hit it”. And I would. I’d face that fear, then exhausted fall asleep.
I tapped Rachel on her shoulder and asked why she was talking to 'my man', she just kept saying she didn’t like him and didn’t know what I was talking about. I didn't know what to say back though so I just kept saying “you better not” but felt really stupid walking away from her. Then our school’s janitor called me over and told me about how I should never fight over some boy. Which made complete sense, so it stuck with me.
My school started out as bungalows in a parking lot. Also known as CIS. It was right next to Long Beach City College. A famous rapper had gone there too. Warren G. Then a grant was issued and the city decided to move the school around the corner and rebuilt it all together. It was now a big cement series of buildings named ‘Mary Butler Elementary School, A performing arts school.’ With a new principle and structure, they offered many different creative type classes. Over those few years I chose Karate, calligraphy, ‘folklorico’ dancing and theatre amongst others. I loved my teacher Mrs. Brown. She taught me acting, singing and writing, how to trill our lips for practice before singing and about her days when she played the part of ‘Annie’, in a theatrical play. She was short in stature and totally resembled the Annie character big time! With short curly brown locks and a round, freckled face. It was really cool being in class with her. Her personality was shiny and friendly. She was someone I wanted to be like.
But all my fun classes didn’t keep me away from the racial grouping habits of our day to day lives. Which often got us into trouble. One day we were all waiting outside the gate when the new girl in our class went walking by on the other side of the street. She was a friendly but shy Latina girl, I could tell was the kind who had loving, caring parents. So automatically we all didn’t like her. My "friends" created other reasons to not like her, but I knew in my heart we were all simply jealous of her. At once they all started talking about jumping her. Everyone, about five of us all in agreement. But deep inside once we headed across the street toward her, as I stepped off the curb, in the middle of the street something inside reminded me she was just a nice innocent girl. And suddenly I wanted to protect her. So, I stopped them in the middle of the street saying, “wait you guys, think about this, whatever we do is gonna come right back to us and hit us hard on the ass.”
I don’t know why I said it, or what made me think of those words, they just came out. Everyone looked at me with squinted eyebrows, then said “what? Well I guess.” I could tell they knew I was right. Plus, by now the girl was gone. It was too late. So, everyone split up and we all walked our separate ways.
A few months later I found out through the grape vine that an older girl who hadn’t liked me from the first time she seen me in the fourth grade, even though she was an eighth grader, was at my school again and wanted to fight me. I always looked older than my age so by now I looked like a high schooler, but I was only in the fifth grade. Plus, I was held back a year. And don’t forget about my ‘’big bones.” My problem with this girl started the year before, when she got jealous about her boyfriend liking me and of course I liked him too, because he was way cute. She had come up to me and told me to stay away from him. She was really mean, a lot bigger and older than me and everyone said I should be afraid of her, so I was, and I did stay away.
School was so much nicer when she left for high school and I didn’t have to see her ugly mad dogging face in the hall or at lunch anymore. Now she was attending my sister’s high school. Still my home life was miserable and I hated my mom. One night my sister was on the phone with one of her guy friends from school. We were all joking around talking on the phone showing each other songs we had on tape. When my sister’s friend put some guy friend on the phone to talk to me. It was a casual conversation nothing special, I didn’t know him, he didn’t know me, but it was a fun conversation.
The very next day, I got caught by our male hippy type substitute teacher, passing a note that said we were gonna get some “sigs.” I don’t know why I literally thought this choice of substitute wording was a good undercover word to use for ‘cigarettes. But anyway, we got caught and I was kept after class as he gently tried to explain to me that he too wanted to be cool way back when he was in school, when the dinosarus roamed but smoking wasn’t the way to do it. I didn’t give him a major attitude because he was making a genuine effort to be nice to me but now, I was mad because I was being punished and when I got home late I’d have to deal with mom’s crap. I sat watching the clock when finally, the time was up. Angrily I stepped outside of the classroom heading down the stairs when a bunch of my classmates ran up to me and said ol chick from my elementary school days, was there to fight me. That one who left for high school and always hated me because she was a jealous hateful lil thing.
I thought to myself, “great now more problems.” I was visibly annoyed more than afraid to fight her. I walked to the gate and there she was, waiting by the entrance. Long thick copper wavy hair down to her waist, in a low ponytail. She walked up to me with her little sister who had the same hair style and color. She was in one of my classes but her personality was quiet more than anything.
Right into my face home girl began telling me that I don’t need to be talking to her boyfriend and now she’s gonna kick my ass. She turned around to walk outside of school grounds and my only reply was, “what are you talking about, whatever then.” But as we all walked together in a large crowd, I remembered the advice our janitor had given me after I’d humiliated myself trying to confront another girl for this exact same stupid thing. So before we reached the very outer limits of the gates I stopped her saying, “Hey look". She stopped and turned to face me as I said, "I ain’t about to fight you over some guy.” She quickly looked at me with this annoyed and disgusted look on her face, and slowly replied, “You know what... Biiiitc*.”
Those were the last words I heard her say because I blacked out.
I came too as we were rolling down a small grass hill. I was holding her hair with a tight grip, both hands clutching her head, my mouth wide open, teeth clenching down on her head. I was literally trying to bite her head off. She landed on top of me and began punching both my sides. But it felt like a pillow fight. I could tell she’d been in a few fights but I wasn’t about to let her win, so as I held her hair tightly with both hands I realized I had to let her go in order to fight back. So I pushed her head up and as she sat back I brought my legs up and wrapping them around her neck from behind throwing her to the ground. She didn't expect that move at all, most kids don't fight like that but I was a Van Damn fan so I used moves I'd seen in the movies. She fell backwards and I began speed bag kicking her in the face. Then a police siren rang out.
My friend ran up and broke us up and punched her away from me yelling, “The police are coming.” But I didn’t hear them till I jumped up from the ground and then I got really scared. That’s all I need is to get in trouble with the police after all this. We bolted toward the street and as I looked back, I seen ol Chick getting up fixing her hair with her face beet red. Then I glanced over to the small side street and seen my substitute teacher, the one that had scolded me earlier, sitting there in his car. He was watching the whole thing with what looked like a bit of a smile on his face. I took it he was happy for me not getting beat down. I couldn’t believe he didn’t even try to stop us. I guess he was cool after all. I grew a new respect for him.
As me and my friends headed to the street everyone ran up praising me for how it turned out. But I was still mad because now I'd get home even later and had to explain the scratch on my cheek to mom. I walked to the bus stop with a feeling of emptiness and fear in anticipation to face my punishment. When I got home mom and her boyfriend just happened to be outside pulling groceries out of the trunk. She looked over at me and asked why I was late, I hesitated, looking down trying to hide the side of my face. But she peeped the scratch on my face and then looked away from me saying nothing. She gave me a gesture to stay with her while her boyfriend walked inside the gate.
Ready for her to slap me in the face or start cussing me out but to my utter surprise she turned and looked at my face and in a very low calm voice asked, “Did you get into a fight?” Reluctantly I replied, “Yea.” I was ready. My mind said, ‘bring it’, and my arms were ready to block her strikes. Then she asked, “did you kick her ass?” I looked at her in shock, squinted eyebrows and felt a gentle smile on my face and replied “yea.” She said “good.”
I was shocked. All she cared about was that I won. She left it at that, and I didn’t even get punished at all. The next morning, I woke up feeling good for the first time in a long time. I loved to make my mom proud. When I got to school the day things continued to be good besides when some of ol chick’s friends whispering down the hall, claiming she’d kicked my ass, but it didn’t matter to me because I wasn’t afraid of her anymore and I knew I won.
A few months later I was almost thirteen, and lost my virginity to a boy who said, “Ok, get off me now” after it was over. That was it. THAT was my special day. Innocence lost. My want to be liked by boys only grew. A time passed and the days were sometimes bland and sometimes just okay. When I turned fourteen my need for attention from guys was the main focus of my mind and desires. Life at home was becoming more depressing, I slept a lot because I felt tired so much. Mom would take us to family gatherings sometimes and our time with family was enjoyable, but we’d always have to go back home with the people I continued to hate.
I tried to commit suicide on two separate occasions. The first time, I was sitting on the bathroom floor in the middle of the day, listening to my mind convince my feelings that I was miserable living with mom and her boyfriend. So, I grabbed a razor and started trying to cut into my wrist, but it hurt really badly… so I just sat there crying wishing I wasn’t there. Feeling bad for myself.