The Evil Leaf

Sometime in my not-so-distant past, I recall the one Friday night per year where unsuspecting young adults and children living in my grandmother’s house were subject to a washout. I dreaded this night of moans that was announced sneakily by the indiscriminant smell of Senna leaves boiling– this evil laxative leaf served in tea form is the reason why I’m ambivalent to herbal teas today. Not only was the smell tied to bad memories of trying to hold one’s butthole while running to the bathroom drunken with sleep, but the actual drinking of this horrid tea became a round-the-table spectator event. We sat around the table looking at each other, and looking down at our mugs filled to the rim, trying to come up with creative tricks for making the liquid disappear (my favorite was holding my nose, bringing in a big gulp, and hoping my gag reflex was shocked into submission).

My grandmother would serve us and sit at the table to make sure we drank ALL OF IT, even after we nursed the tea for so long that it got cold. Don’t make your tea get cold, she would warn… because indeed the only thing worse than trying to inhale this liquid laxative, was sipping it cold and tasting every last drop of its herbal textures.

Somehow, the battle and stand-off’s would come to an end, with the most resistance coming from her older sons. When the last drop was drunk, everyone was in for a long 24 hours ahead. 2 kids and 2 grandkids would be in for a long, uncomfortable night and an even sour Saturday morning, but nothing got in the way of making sure that everyone’s system was intact and clean. It didn’t matter if Lester was sick, drink the tea. Or that Marlon vomited in the kitchen sink, Let me pour you another cup. Or that Mansa was a vegetarian and hardly had enough meat to him as it was, It’s good for you, mon. A washout was the remedy to any ailment. Even if the toilets were clogged for days to come.

Grandma’s lesson was a success; there’s always a time of year in which I have this familiar feeling inside. I’ve been eating too much junkMy stomach’s been hurting for no good reason. I need a good washout. It’s time to detox.

Only now, I have a less painful method of consumption. It’s called Magnesium Citrate.


How I know I’m Getting Old…


  • I can tell my mom to chill out and she’s not automatically offended, or trying to smack me.
  • I read Flyy Girl and The Coldest Winter Ever about 10 years ago.
  • I can’t eat indiscriminately anymore, metabolism has kicked in hard!
  • I don’t get ID’ed at bars, and when I do I’m flattered.
  • I found a couple of gray hairs right in the front of my head.
  • After the renting car abilities of 25, there’s no more cool perks to look forward to with age.


  • I still lie to my mother when it comes to spending the night at a guy’s house.
  • Most times, I forget to brush my teeth before bed. Most adults are on top of that, right?
  • I can’t watch Chucky or the Gremlins without having nightmares.
  • I am still spoiled for Christmas.
  • Mom still won’t tell me about issues in her life. (maybe this will never change?)
  • I’m convinced being an adult is overrated, so I’d rather live somewhere in between childhood and adulthood.

Here’s to all the in-betweeners,


How I know I’m Getting Old…

ReCording Life: Traces of She

Chapters.  If you divided your life into chapters what would you call them? What chapter are you in now? What chapter is next?

1. Little Tica: I recall my early years in Costa Rica. Excursions with my mom (who I was instructed to address as ‘Betty‘) and way-older boyfriend to the beach house. My life was not much bigger than my mother, our house, my barrio and school.

2. New York, New York: In December of 1992, days before Christmas, Betty moves us to Queens to live with my grandmother.  I enter second grade in a local public school with a bilingual setting. I excel rapidly at English, am placed in regular English-speaking class by the fourth grade. By this grade, it is also discovered that I am squinting at everything and need glasses. Enter insecurity-issues. By sixth grade, American parents have noticed that I address my mother by first name and have pressured her into forcing me to call her ‘Mom.’

3. Black Girl Lost: Through most of my school years I identified with what people had assumed I was… ‘light-skinned.’ I had no real connection to Costa Rica, having never traveled back home nor kept any tico traditions at home. All I had were the isolated memories and current events that may have been slightly addressed in grown-folks conversations. My family looked no different than any other African-American family, and I never felt any real need to make any distinctions.

4. Lonely, Only Child: I went through tough bouts of depression in my pre-teen and teenage years. Mom and I were never really close as mother-daughter, and the fact that she kept constant boyfriends in between us didn’t help. I journaled a lot, to the point that my writing would get me in trouble when it was discovered snooped by Mom. Mom also had an overpowering fear that I would become a teenage mother, and was extremely stiffling. Eventually, since I couldn’t leave the house, I learned to use the internet as a way to recreate myself. I could become anyone I wanted to online. I chatted with older men online, being an utter attention-craver, but never went as far as meeting them.

5. College Daze: Upon HS graduation, I began to differentiate between Black people and me. The difference was 9 digits, and I didn’t have them. I wasn’t born in the United States, I was an immigrant. No immigration status translated into no hopes for college since I didn’t have the luxury of financial aide.

6. Fatherly Duties: Through the grace of God, my father (who had been estranged most of my childhood years), an American citizen, expresses wishes to file an application for me to obtain residency. It was not an easy process, but it gets done months before the deadline of my 21st birthday. I finish my Associate’s Degree on academic scholarship, and graduate with a BA degree in English in 2010. Through 4 years of my undergrad, I’m also employed full time as a legal secretary.

I guess I would call the Chapter I’m in right now, Adulthood, but that sounds so cliche. Currently, I’m a grad-school hopeful, tired of a job and looking for my career. Trying to find a place in this world where I fit. I want to work in the field that was pre-destined for me. I want to be the minority in this world who loves what they do.

The next chapter I hope will be called Commitments. As much as I try to make myself sound like this flighty, free-spirit I do long for stability. I do want to start a family, where a husband is key to the equation. I’m trying not to be cynical about marriage although it’s hard to be hopeful when all I see is ruins from couples who didn’t make it. I also long to be someone’s Mama, because bringing a life into this world is also another reason why no one can ever convince me that God does not exist. I want to be part of miracle-making, be honored with the task of a light-bearing Mama.

What chapter of life are you currently in? 



ReCording Life: Traces of She