Vur-awn-ick-ugh.

The sounds felt clunky on my tongue but still I said them.

After all,
that’s how my mother said it to the new teacher
on the way to
my new classroom
in my new school
in my new neighborhood
in this new world.

At home,
it sounded different.

Inflections aligned with their roots. V ed-oh-knee-ka.
Latin.
Victorious.

But my name was just the start. I realize now,

how many little things I changed about myself.

How many inflections I smoothed over so my presence
rolled a little easier on their tongues.

How I spent an hour
with an iron to my head.
Quieting down the curls
Loud and boisterous, like my upbringing.

How I chose studs
Instead of hoops
Because I didn’t want to look “too Spanish”

Spanish.

A lazy and inaccurate term I threw on.
Like a badge on a Girl Scout.
Like it wasn’t my entire being.
Like thousands of years of ancestral blood weren’t coursing through my veins in that very moment

I’m ashamed now that I accepted compliments
at the expense of you
my brothers and sisters,
blessed with a little more love from the sun than I.

I’m sorry that I didn’t fight for you.
Didn’t fight
when they said I didn’t look like you.
That I didn’t tell them that we were one and the same.

I let my ethnic ambiguity carry me through existence.
Laid on my back and let it carry me like waves in the ocean.

I thought I could float along like the others, and so I let the water wash over me,
water me down.

But some time ago now,
I reached the shore. Crashed upon it actually.

And immediately, I heard you wailing in the distance.

I realized I had been floating for so long,
the roar of the ocean had deafened your cries.

But when I finally heard them, I promised myself,
I’d never stop listening again.

There is no ebb and flow
sweet enough
to keep me from standing with you.

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