(inspired by Joe Brainard's I Remember// https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/joe-brainard-i-remember)
I remember the first time I learned the hand signal for ‘head’. I was wearing my ‘I heart
NY’ shirt, sitting across from a boy who just flunked sixth grade.
I remember the first time I saw a home with two wives. We (the kids) ate pizza and talked
about Star Fox. The adults all had tortillas in their hands while watching Congo.
I remember the roads we took while driving in (or out) of Mexico.
I remember Spanish rock ballades about flying love and who to call ‘daddy’.
I remember one long night in a van when my aunt banged her fist against the drivers head
rest yelling for him to stop the car. She had to puke. I remember feeling like the van, so
heavy with passengers, could easily fall into the abyss because it was pitch black outside.
The only light came from the radio and the van headlights.
I remember shopping for Christmas clothes with my dad when he held and stared at a pair
of khaki pants for a long time. He said they were exactly like the ones he wore when he
crossed through the desert.
I remember biting into an apple and tasting blood. My tooth was nudge inside the apple
I remember the feeling of my gold necklace being yanked off my neck during a 1st grade
fire drill in a packed school cafeteria.
I remember my brother running down our apartment buildings stairs so quickly, he
tripped and landed head first on a very large smooth rock. When he got up, his forehead
was streaming hot, bright red blood.
I remember the Three Stooges.
I remember la India Maria.
I remember Cantinflas.
I remember Pedro Infante. His movies almost always involved a child dying.
I remember the first time a boy liked me. He had blue eyes the size of golf balls. He
always used them to stare at me and smile.
I remember when I first declared war against my name (1st grade). A girl named Maria
bent over a desk in front of me to reach a boy across from it. I saw her pale-pink
underwear with its frilly lace poking out from under her uniform skirt. All she did was giggle and laugh.
I remember the first time I was in love. It was with a 2nd grade teacher. I don’t remember
her being nice but she must not have been mean either. I wrote her a letter but never
I remember the first time I knew I was ‘not like the boys’. My grandmother painted my
nails with clear garlic nail polish so I could keep them pretty and long.
I remember living in California. I climbed up an electrical pole and turned my head. I
could see the HOLLYWOOD sign on the hills.
I remember laughing during an earthquake incident. My uncle ran out of the bathroom without
pants and my aunt ran out of the shower, dripping wet in a towel, with shampoo in her
I remember my first nightmare. I was left alone in the family truck. Invisible monsters
were coming for me.
I remember hunting rabbits. I stayed in the truck while my dad and uncle chased after
skinny brown-haired rabbits.
I remember my mom pulling out a bloody booger from her nose to entertain us during a
I remember always listening to oldies music. It was how we learned English.
I remember crying in the back seat of the family car. When my dad asked me why I was
crying I said, “It helps me fall asleep.” (My son recently shared this theory with me.)
I remember the first time I heard “look it”. We were at my dad’s aunt house and all his
cousins- three boys and two girls- wore white tanks, Dickie pants, and wino shoes.
I remember the last time I drank out of a baby bottle. I was five. As I laid down on our
water bed, I began to choke on my drink.
I remember the first time I was in Hollywood. There was so much traffic.
I remember my grandmother visiting us in California from Chicago. She would take
pictures of us all day long.
I remember the first time I saw snow. It was at a snow resort. I was six. We were on a lift
and I remember thinking it all looked cold and yummy.
I remember the first time I was in Mexico. I heard a cow yell and scream. Then a hot
stream of blood flowed through the dry beige dirt towards my dust feet.
I remember the first time I got lice. It was during my first trip to Mexico.
I remember the second time I got lice. The popular boy in class had complimented my
hair. The next day I had my hair cut off. I explained my haircut by saying I lost a bet to my aunt.
I remember the third time I almost got lice. It was during my second trip to Mexico. I noticed my
aunt kept scratching her head so, I asked if I could check her head. I knew we were going to
share a bed so I removed the nits from her hair.
I remember taking a bath in a river in Mexico during my first trip. A mini tornado came
and took all of our clothes with it.
I remember my first fight. A boy in my second grade class tried to lift my skirt so I
punched his baby tooth out. My grandmother treated me to dinner with dessert at Los
Comales on 18th street.
I remember the first time my nose bled. It was when Tweedledee and Tweedledum came
to greet Alice in the forest.
I remember a classmate going home hungry because the teacher’s aide took away his
plate. My classmate had refused to eat his green peas first.
I remember a boy named Barney and thinking how miserable his life would be.
I remember laughing so hard I spit my mouthful of water all over my grandmother.
I remember the first time I felt sadness and shame. I was going to a field trip in second
grade when I saw my mom, along with my three very young brothers, sitting on my
school steps. I remember my mother, with the baby in her arms and my two little brothers
huddled closely next to her, extended her somewhat free arm to hand me my forgotten
lunch. The girl behind me kept pushing me to move forward so, I didn't grab lunch. I turned away from my mother and got on the bus.
I remember being very upset for missing a third grade field trip because that meant I
would miss the McDonald lunch.
I remember the first time a boy and I had an unspoken connection. I was in fifth grade
and he was in eighth. Every recess he would bring me a packet of my favorite gum-
bubblelicious or winter fresh- and hand it to me through the gate. (The playgrounds
were separated by grade.)
I remember the first time I wishfully thought about my death bed. The sooner I finished
fifth grade the sooner I could finish eighth grade, the sooner I could finish high school,
the sooner I could finish college, the sooner I could get to the day were I could peacefully
I remember Spiderman and Madame Web.
I remember X-men and Jean Gray.
I remember Full House, The Simpsons, homework, then dinner.
I remember where I was when Selena died. My mom surprisingly picked us up from
school. She was crying. I asked her what was wrong and she turned up the radio, turned
around and said, “Selena was shot.”
I remember where I was when Aaliyah died. I was up, way past my bedtime, listening to
the radio, playing Dig-Dug, enjoying Doritos with cream cheese and Cholula sauce in my
large walk-in closet bedroom.
I remember going to dance parties with my grandmother and her sisters. My cousins and I
were some of the oldest kids at age 11. We got to see all the dance moves for the top
Banda music. The best dance was La Quebradita.
I remember the last time I saw my cousin before she and her family moved to Arizona.
We showed each other our best yo-yo tricks while dancing to Daft Punk.
I remember Puff Daddy and Biggie Smalls.
I remember Savage Garden and Backstreet Boys.
I remember Queen.
I remember when my grandmother bought us a super Nintendo for Christmas. My mom,
my brothers, and I stayed up for 24-hours taking turns. We power napped after our turn.
I remember Mortal Kombat and back + back + B. I also remember, down + down + up , back + back + forward , and the “Toasty!” Easter egg.
I remember almost drowning because I needed to touch a duck's tail.
I remember Darkwing Duck.
I remember my mom not letting me watch Clueless. Every girl in my third grade class
quoted the movie.
I remember the first time my best friend and I debated on whether or not we could share a
lollipop. We did but neither of us liked it.
I remember leaving behind my two good friends to go to the ‘cool kids’ party. The party
involved laughing and giggling, B96 Usher requests, doing the butterfly and tootsie roll,
and cupcakes. I declined to go to other parties after that.
I remember trying out specific gestures (rubbing the back of my hand on my lips, making clicking sounds by pinching my nails together) certain classmates did just so I could try to understand why they did them.
I remember using sign language to communicate with friends during class lecture.
I remember getting so angry at Dennis for spitting spitballs in my hair that I got up from
my desk and I walked towards him, he ran, and I ran after him. The teacher made us stay
after class. She explained to Dennis the proper way to tell a girl he liked her. She explained to me that if I didn’t like him I should just ignore him completely.
I remember always not caring about the views of adults.
I remember strawberry fields and dusty roads.
I remember the first time I heard Korn. I really didn’t like them.
I remember the music show The Box.
I remember JB TV.
I remember JB Alberto’s pizza. (They just celebrated their 50th anniversary.)
I remember a couple high school guys wrote a fake admirer letter to one of their friends.
He thought it was from me.
I remember the first time I met Martin. He was sitting in table with four girls. The
security guard presented me to the table (I was the new kid in school). When I went to sit
down one of the girls said, “You can’t sit there.” That’s were some old invisible friend of
hers used to sit. So, I sat in front of Martin and though we didn’t say anything to each
other, we clicked.
I remember time stopping and hearing The Flamingos- I Only Have Eyes For You when I
saw P. B. Hawkins walked past me through a crowd of students.
I remember running to lunch on spicy-chicken-sandwich days.
I remember failing my constitution test but the teacher passing me.
I remember when my Chicago History teacher told me I was much better than my
younger brother. I asked for the bathroom pass, swiped her chalk holder, and never
returned to her class.
I remember cutting school alone senior year. I just walked around the neighborhood and
sat on the stoops of very expensive homes.
I remember dreaming of going to Columbia College. I remember my mother breaking me down
with her ‘reality’ chats.
I remember surprising Martin after his Columbia class, Oct. 8. We hung out at Borders on State
and Lake. That was the day we had our first kiss.
I remember telling Martin I could read Italian. After two sentences I realized I was actually
I remember when my friend and I decided to move out together, we shared the last words
our mothers said: Don’t expect any help from me.
I remember the first Chipotle in our neighborhood.
I remember Carmen’s Pizzeria and their awesome brunch.
I remember the Loyola red line and imagining I was one of those university students.
I remember being pickpocketed on the red line. The guy yelled out that his foot was stuck
between the train car and the platform. Once I moved past him, he easily pulled out his
foot and stayed on the train. Martin, Esteban, and I reported the guy but the CTA worker
said there was nothing he could do now since the train is already on its way to Howard.
We walked back up to the platform, got on the next train, and got off at Howard. As we were
walking towards Dominick’s, the foot guy walked quickly past us. We all looked at each other
and ran after him. In court, I found out that this was the first time this man
broke the law.
I remember Cowboy Bebop and Inuyasha.
I remember graffiti art and foot work.
I remember our turtles: Juan Jose Carlos and Spartacus.
I remember Demon Days and Mm…Food.
I remember College Drop Out and Arular.
I remember moving back with my mom but never being home.
I remember living on my friends’ brothers’ couch. I paid my couch rent with
I remember moving out with the same friends to a place on Fullerton Ave.
I remember our Buffalo Wild Wings party. We all ate on the roof and ended up sleeping there, too. We woke up surrounded by flies and bees.
I remember when I had to choose between paying bills or school. I moved out to
Bensenville with my dad and brothers. I couldn’t finish school and I couldn’t find a job.
I remember being so sick, that my grandmother went to pick me up and take me to her
home. She dipped yerba buena in some type of warm liquid and blotted the plant stems
all around my head. She then grabbed an egg and swiped it back and forth across my
forehead and neck. I then took and a shower with a bucket of water. She then came in and
handed me a cap full of rubbing alcohol to pour on my head. I got out, quickly put on my
pj’s, put on a winter hat and winter socks, and wrapped myself in blankets (in the middle of June). The next day, I felt a whole lot better.
I remember Martin had a fever the day we got married. I remember being very tired.
Once we were home, I dropped dead on one coach and he did on the other.
I remember blurting out “You’re fucked up!” after a friend said he did coke.
I remember feeling ‘stuck’ so, I finished watching all my shows and finished all my art
I remember how happily light-headed I felt after I uncluttered my house.
I remember thinking how I didn’t have my own real bed until I was 21 while I was out
shopping for a toddler bed.
I remember my mom saying, once you can shop at Gap, you have made it. Once you can
buy real maternity clothes, you have made it. Once you have your college degree, you
have made it.
I remember my mom also saying, never trust what anyone says. Never trust anyone
whole heartedly. Always think outside of the moment.
I remember my moms’ long red acrylic nails and dark red lipstick.
I remember my dads’ laugh.
I remember my uncle taking my cousins, my brothers, and I to go see the Mighty
Morphin Power Rangers live. The blue ranger (Billy) was my favorite.
I remember my first man crush. It was Charlie Chaplin, without makeup.
I remember a toasty cold winter night (7th grade), laying on my coach watching Hook. That was the night Robin Williams became my man crush number two.
I remember a yellow school bus taking us to church. The people from the church would
come to our neighborhood and gather all us kids to tell us what their big giveaway would
be. The only way to get the prize was to go to church with them. My brothers and I
decided we would only go if the prize was worth it. The first time we went was for a free
trip to Lincoln Park Zoo (We had never been). The second time was for a goldfish (We never had
a fish as a pet). The third time we went was for the mother of all prizes- The Super Soaker. At the end of the church day, the instructors put all of the kids names in a hat. They had three super soakers to giveaway. We had three chances to win (Me, Abraham, and Peter). Everyone was silent when the first name was drawn. Then the second name. Finally, the third name was drawn and we had won! I remember my name being drawn but Abraham remembers it was his. Peter was too young to remember any of it.
I remember Abraham standing with the super soaker on the back porch while I climbed onto
the garage roof. We were measuring how far the super soaker could shoot. I remember us
concluding that depending on the angle of the soaker and the power of the wind, the
soaker could possibly reach the garage roof.
I remember having histories first indoor water fight. It involved the super soaker, a wet
mop, a bucket of water, and left over water balloons. Our friendly fight turned into a ‘You
always get everything’ fight, where we fought over toys, friends, and parents love.
I remember falling asleep while reading a Sonic the Hedgehog comic book. My dream
was an image of a desert mountain top with bombs going off above it and women with
covered faces running from the incoming drill noise.
I remember Abraham falling off the top bunk bed and giving a loud short yelp before falling
asleep on the floor.
I remember waking up everyday at 6am to get ready for school. Our mom told us that
wasn't necessary at all. We’ve been late for everything every since.
I remember my mom walking with us when we were going to school on time. Anytime
we were late, she left us to walk on our own. I remember calling her a chicken.
I remember the first time I outsmarted my mom. She only let me paint my nails with clear
nail polish. So, I colored my nails with my markers and put the clear polish over them.
She took me to therapy after that.
I remember my grandmothers curved back under the hot California sun in the middle of a
I remember strawberry milk shakes (without the ice-cream).
I remember fighting with Abraham over cheddar cheese when I was six, he was four.
I remember thinking Peter was the most beautiful chunky baby I had ever seen.
I remember Abraham always being so sensitive.
I remember playing with my tea set when Abe, after setting up his car scene, climbed
onto the coffee table and said, “Sooper Mahn!” His left eyebrow hit his fireman’s
ladder. I continued playing while he was rolling in pain.
I remember the Super Mario Super Show.
I remember Race for your life, Charlie Brown.
I remember winning an award in kindergarten. I wore a beige knitted sweater with a
black ribbon trim.
I remember not wanting to take a picture in front of my school. My mom forced me.
I remember writing letters to my grandmother in Chicago. All in Spanish. All with my
left hand. When we went to live with my grandmother she‘corrected’ me and said, the left is the hand of the devil.
I remember elotes were $1 and never in a cup.
I remember water paletas with 50 cents and milk paletas were 75 cents. The best water
paleta was the blue one called Chicle- it came with a ball of gum frozen into it.
I remember wishing for a sister named Elizabeth. The day my mom left us with my dad,
he introduced us to our little sister named Elizabeth. I then understood the meaning of ‘be
careful what you wish for’.
I remember when Eliza was two or three, she loved to drink Coke. My brother dropped
salt into her drink. About an hour later, she came to me while I was tying my shoes to tell
me she wasn’t feeling good but all that came out was diarrhea all over my shoes.
I remember Abraham refusing to eat potatoes. I refused to eat cooked bell pepper. My mom
sat us together in one chair. Abraham was so hysterical claiming he was going to throw up and
once he actually did, he had the audacity to point out the little, tiny potato piece that
caused all the mess. The cheerio in his barf was bigger than that damn potato.
I remember Mortal Kombat the movie. We had the soundtrack. That was our party
I remember Winnie the Pooh the movie. We had the soundtrack. That was our cooking
I remember my mom rented Spawn. She thought it was the movie but it actually was
I remember the Fly.
I remember Jurassic Park.
I remember going to the Burger King behind our house and buying the meals to get the
Jurassic Park watch.
I remember my dad’s crazy aunt Maria. Another reason why I hated my name.
I remember moving to the south side. There wasn’t much traffic there.
I remember we created a soccer team with the kids on our street. I was always the goalie
because of my height, even though I was the only one that wore glasses.
I remember we used to climb over the school gates to into the front garden- the only
patch of grass close to us. Every summer we ruined the grass. The school then, added
pine trees to stop us. We just pretended they were permanent cones.
I remember our competition against the baseball kids. They played soccer against us (we
won) and we played baseball against them (they won). It was the first time either of us had played
I remember playing kick ball and dropping to the floor because of a drive by. Our ball
I remember my grandmother never having her front room lights on at night. She didn’t
want people outside to peak in.
I remember a friend named Joel. He was always spitting and his spit never landed on the
I remember Joel's sister. She invited me into their house to see the epic Mia Ham play on their
large screen TV. It was the game where Mia pulled up her shirt.
I remember joining the soccer team in 8th grade. I was put in the goalie position because
of my height. Our first game, I blocked a fast ball and as I dropped to get it, an opposing
team player came into my goalie box and started to kick my hands with her cleat shoes to get the ball. I remember she had red streaks in her brown hair and she had baby-blue colored contacts
on. I held on to that ball so tight. When I heard my team mates start yelling, I stood up ready to fight. It was the best game of my life.
I remember joining the school basketball team. There wasn’t one for girls so I had to join the boys. I enjoyed the drills we did together. I was always on the bench but the boys treated me like a team mate and the coach treated me like a member of the team.
I remember wishing I could go to Curie High School. When the dumbest boy in my class got accepted, I decided to go to Bogan instead.
I remember the first day of school, all the freshman were the last to enter into the building. We were all pushing to get in when we heard upper classmen yell, “Freshie!” and the first raw egg landed on the tall boy that looked like Ryan Phillipee.
I remember all the freshman being inspected- their bags, theirs pockets- and metal detector wands waved around our bodies. We each were told about dress code while all of this was happening: only one earing per ear, no hoops, no earnings for boys, no colored hair, no hoodies, no metal toe boots.
I remember our first drug raid. I was walking to the entrance when I saw kids running, dropping, and digging holes in the ground. I heard through others talks about the cops rounding up the kids from the White Castle across the street. Acid was the popular drug in my year.
I remember security forcing an upper classman girl to go the to boys side. I found out she was born a he. I never seen someone who had decided who they were at such a young age. She was beautiful. Many of her classmates yelled out in protest when she was escorted to the boys side.
I remember my dad dropping me off at school and I would never enter.
I remember Down with Sickness.
I remember Suite- Pee.
I remember This is Not.