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The Sunday Man

Paz, age 13

I have two older sisters. One of them lives in California. She started working for NASA, a mechanical space engineer. My other sister lives here. We almost never see her because she’s a lawyer and is always at work. She’s 24 and the other one is 27. My mother doesn’t work, and my dads an investment manager. And then there’s me.

We all love each other, but we aren’t very close all the time. We kind of keep our lives to ourselves. I mean, I think the only time we are together is when my mom drives me to school, and then at dinner. Other than that everyone is locked in his or her rooms working or studying.

My fantasy is to be an author, but I don’t see that happening. It’s too unrealistic a goal, so I think I would work as an editor. I’d like to be the person who checks what gets published, and says, “I like this, and that, but not that one.” I’d be good at it because I really like writing, creative writing especially. When everyone on my class wanted to be a princess or a pirate, I always knew I wanted to do something with literature.

You see until 8th grade, that girls at school were really mean, so I kept to myself. I had maybe one friend. Maybe. And I had to do something, so I’d listen to music and started reading and writing. Everyone at school would back stab and bitch at each other; have you ever seen Gossip Girl? It was like that. So I kept reading and reading. My dad used to read to me when I was little and then I started to read on my own.

Even though I see my mother more, she can be pushy and a perfectionist, so I think I’m closer to my father. He understands me, and I look up to him a lot. The thing about him is that he doesn’t care what people think, which I think is amazing. He has a saying that goes, “If you want to go nowhere, follow the crowd.” He tells me that all the time, and he’s helped me believe that I shouldn’t be ashamed of myself or who I am. At the shopping mall, he would turn around on the escalator and start shouting, “Dear brothers and sisters, we are gathered here today…” pretending to be a priest. It was so embarrassing! But I appreciate it now. He made us do all these things so we would never be ashamed of ourselves. And in the end it worked.

It’s a slow process. I’ve felt ashamed of myself plenty of times. I switched schools and until I was nine, people would make fun of me because I read instead of watching TV. I also stress a lot at school, and I don’t know why but that was funny to a lot of people. They would all laugh at me whenever I did well. It was the worst until I was in 6th grade; now it’s only little things, like someone making fun of me at a party or something like that, but not always.

At first, I hurt a lot. I remember every day when my mom would pick me up from school, I would tell her, “I didn’t cry today.” because I would cry most days. Kids were merciless. They would even laugh at my calligraphy. It was so stupid. In 4th grade I finally got tired of bullying, so I started being mean to people. I was crazy! I was even mean to my few friends. I was the bully. I realized it later. I felt so bad; I apologized to everyone and then changed schools. People continued bullying me. Maybe I look like a target or something, but I learned not to care. I mean, it doesn’t feel nice, but it doesn’t matter to me anymore. I just laugh it off, and they can see that. They can see that it doesn’t hurt anymore.

Now I guess I’m the happiest every time I’m with my friends, just having a movie night and something happens and we all start laughing really hard and I think to myself, “This is probably the happiest time of my life.” Writing is like that too. It’s so liberating. I don’t have a diary, but I write reflections or things I think. Stupid or not, I write and write. Writing is my escape.

It has helped me over come a lot of things. When I look in the mirror, I don’t like what I see. Everyone at my school is really skinny. They don’t have legs, they have sticks! I guess I’m just more developed but sometimes I feel like I would give anything to be flat and thin. That’s all trivial though.

The hardest thing writing has helped me through was the year I turned 11. I changed schools, and it coincided with the year my grandmother died. She had a memory problem. It got to a point where she didn’t even remember who I was. Every week I went to visit her, and we talked to her, but she kept asking the same questions over and over again. At Christmas she bought me a toy for a three year old. She was so lost. I remember it was a Tuesday, I was at break from school and suddenly I started crying and I just couldn’t stop. When my mom picked me up I told her, “She’s dead, isn’t she?” I don’t know why, I just knew. I really loved her, my grandma. Every Christmas I would go to her house and we would all be together, and those were the happiest times of my life too. Every time I was with her was amazing, and then one day she just didn’t remember me anymore. It was my first heartbreak.

Sometimes I sit and wonder how unfair the world is to some people. Every Sunday at mass, I see this man who sits outside with a bag. He was there every Sunday, and I would always give him money. “The Sunday Man”. He was a part of my life. I knew he slept on the streets and probably waited for Sunday to come so he could gather some money. He had a really dark and wrinkled face, and grey eyes that seemed so sad. I never saw him smile. And one day he just stopped coming. I never saw him again. And it seems so unfair to me! I can come home and sleep in a bed and he has to sleep on the streets. It really got to me. I wish I could give everyone an opportunity. I would try to make everyone happy.

Even on a smaller scale, I know that everybody has a lot of inner problems, and we all fake a smile a lot. You sit next to someone and you never know how much they are really breaking inside. Like me, I stress a lot about school. Sometimes it’s hard for me to be around people. I think people have really high expectations for me, and I don’t think I can fulfill them, and sometimes I have no choice, except to smile.

When it’s too much I listen to music. I feel like musicians write about feelings, and millions of people like the same song because they all share the same feelings. It makes me feel less alone when I listen to a song that describes what’s going on with my life. Somebody else went through this, and they made it.

Honestly, I feel the most isolated at home. Millions of things happen during my day and when I sit at dinner someone asked me about my day and I just say, “nothing happened” and then we go on to the next question. Whenever something good happens, my parents just say, “good.” I got an A, and they say “good.” I have friends that get a C and their parents have a huge celebration. So I think they take me for granted. They expect me to be as smart as my sister. I study to please my whole family, to please myself, and the expectations that are always there.

Sometimes it too much, but I think I’ve come to realize, that when people lash out or put pressure on others, or even bully them, they just do it because they have their own inner turmoil, not because they intentionally want to hurt me.

Someday I will be the catalyst; I will make somebody’s life better.

Emerson Tenney

Emerson Tenney

Emerson is a junior in high school. She loves literature and is passionate about writing, poetry in particular. When she is not playing the drums, participating in school musical theater, or training for marathons, you can find her with her friends checking out vintage records and used book stores in Hollywood.

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