1997 - I was eight years-old when my father told me I wasn’t his daughter. It had to be around ten o’clock at night when he came into my room drunk, crying his eyes out. When he sat on my bed I remember this very strange, potent smell filling the room. I remember pulling the covers over my nose, I hated it so much. Later in life I’d find out it was whiskey. Maybe that’s why I don’t drink. My parents were in the middle of a bad divorce and it was mine and my sister’s last night with him. When he came into my room I remember feeling so happy. I was such a daddy’s girl, I loved him so much. He laid next to me like he always did before putting me to sleep, only this time he was crying. I remember asking him, “Daddy, why are you crying?” and I remember him sobbing out, “You’re not my daughter.” I don’t remember anything after that.
1999 - I was 10 years-old when my mother pulled me into my tia’s bedroom crying, shaking. She sat me down on my tia’s bed and said, “Hija, I have to tell you something.”…She said, “Gustavo is not your real father.” I felt deaf, like I was having this outer body experience just watching myself on the bed in silence while she cried. I didn’t comprehend what that really meant and remained untouched by that day for years until I was 19 years-old, lying naked in a bed with a man I didn’t want while he sloppily fucked me till tears ran down my face, my thoughts reverting back to that irreversible day in my tia’s bedroom. I remember feeling like I didn’t know who I was, like I didn’t belong to me, I belonged to the men who I let use me. That night I found out they call those “daddy issues,” you know, using sex as a means to conquer a love I never knew I lacked growing up a young woman. And here’s the thing, no one told me using sex to fill that void meant losing pieces of myself. No one told me growing up not knowing that side of me would land me on multiple beds with my legs open desperate for love. No one told me love was not sex. No one told me, so I had to learn the hard way.
2001 - I was 12 years-old when my mother tracked down my biological father. I was in my room when she called me into hers to tell me. She said, “Hija, I found Alberto.”
Silence. “I also have his phone number.” More silence. “Would you like to call him?” Anxiety.
I can’t really explain what was going on in my head, I mean, I was only 12 years-old, it was all so sudden and on a lot of levels I still had no idea what it all meant. But I remember wanting to runaway. I’ve always been good at that. But she didn’t let me. So, what did she do? She called him. And what happened? He and I spoke. I don’t remember the conversation at all, not even the “Hello” and “Good-bye,” but I remember scratching my thigh with a quarter until I drew blood, praying the conversation would end. And it did. But not for long.
A few months later my mother told me Alberto was coming to visit me. I remember almost having a heart attack. I was in one of those dreams where you’re trying to run, but you can’t, so you scream out for help, but no one hears you. I was lost and all I could think was…what about…my father Gustavo? What about him? Did he know? Was he mad at me? I remember crying my eyes out because I didn’t want him to hate me; I wanted him to know he was my dad, and I loved him. But I was only 12. I didn’t know what to do. And then we met. I don’t talk about it often because it’s not something I care to relive, but for all healing and evolving purposes I will.
I knew the second I saw him I didn’t like him. Even at such a young age, my intuition was strong, and the more I was around him, the more those feelings were justified. He was pushy, persistent, extremely, uncomfortably affectionate; he wanted me to call him “papa” almost immediately; he wanted me to open up to him like he wasn’t a stranger, have a sleepover—I mean, he was just too much for my 12 year-old self. And to top it all off, my mother made him do a paternity test which, of course, came out a positive match, but after it was all said and done, he disappeared. He just…went on with his life like I didn’t exist. I remember feeling so conflicted about it. I didn’t feel bad about my own sentiment towards him, but I remember taking his abandonment personal. Why come just to leave? Why say and want all those things from me when your intention was never to stay? And then I questioned myself. Was I not lovable? Did I do something wrong? And then I thought, why do I care if I didn’t even like his company? Why be so affected if I didn’t even want any of that to begin with? But no matter how long I suppressed his memory, those questions never left my mind, and as years went on they were no longer limited to just him. They ended up being the most common, conflicting questions I’d never figure out with both men and myself.
2001 - That same year I lost my virginity. He was 16 years-old, charming and the first guy I ever liked. It was around that age my body started changing. I had gotten by period earlier that year, my breasts were coming in and I was suddenly getting attention from boys. He (I won’t reveal his name) was my best friend’s cousin. He was older, cooler, and just fun to be around, but he never paid any attention to me—I was a kid. He was always nice, but like I said, he never paid me much attention until his 16th birthday. His family was having a little get together at his house and I was invited. I wanted to look nice, so I decided to wear a dress to dinner. I’ll never forget that dress—I got it at the Body Shop. It was sleeveless with a white collar, baby blue, white and tan stripes. I was still a little chubbier than a lot of the girls my age so when I wore it I got all sorts of disapproving, critical attention, but I loved it and felt so pretty in it. Any way, I got to his house around 6:30 pm, feeling as normal as any other day. I knocked on his door expecting my friend to answer, but instead he did and it was…different. His eyes widened, his mouth dropped a little. It was as if it was the first time he really saw me. He’d normally call me Channel, but that night he started calling me Chanelle. I was suddenly this woman in his eyes and it felt good.
From that night on it was always us. Whether it was at his family functions, chillin’ outside, out and about, or simply riding in the car, we were always side-by-side. And then we had our first kiss. At the movies. We went to see The Mummy Returns. It happened during the part where Evelyn fights Anck-Su-Namun during one of her flashbacks. He placed his left hand on my right thigh and I just remember being so nervous. When I turned to him he kissed me. No warnings, no words; a kiss. Two weeks later I gave him my virginity.
I know I was young, but for some reason I felt like that’s what I had to do in order for him to care and love me. The attention he gave me made me yearn for more. Unfortunately for me, losing my virginity wasn’t as special as I thought it would be. A few minutes before we had sex I told him I loved him. I can’t even tell you why I said that, but I guess it doesn’t matter because he never said it back. And I knew what I was doing was wrong—I felt it in the most innocent part of my innocent heart. I felt awkward, it felt forced and I knew after it was over, so were we. And I was right. I was a 12 year-old girl hypnotized by a kiss and sweet nothings from the first guy who really showed her any attention, and ended up giving away the most sacred thing about her to him. And that’s usually how it went. I think that was the beginning of what’d I think love was: one-sided, overly romanticized moments with men who didn’t love me.
2005 - I was 16 years old when I got with Larry. Ugh, Larry. He was my first love, my first heartbreak—my everything. Our first time having sex was life changing. It was everything I’d ever wanted it to be and more, and all it took was one time for us to be equally hooked on each other. As you can imagine, I fell blindly and idiotically in love with him. And I say that literally. He started cheating on me three months into our relationship. We were together for about four years. Yes, he cheated on me throughout the entire relationship; yes, I stayed, and you know how I got over each betrayal? Sex and lies. He’d cheat on me, I’d cry, say I was done, but he’d beg me to stay, tell me I was the one, he loved me, so, of course, I stayed. Then we’d make up and repeat the same disastrous cycle for the next several years. Our behavior and relationship became such a normality in my life I didn’t believe anything else existed—I didn’t believe in better. And I was no better either. Towards the end of our relationship I started doing the same things back. Yes, I cheated, too. It’s so crazy saying it out loud—I CHEATED—but I did and I was good at it. I’d make men fall in love with me like a siren, and once I got what I wanted, I left them for what I knew. I know it’s twisted, it sounds evil, but I loved the game and needed the drama to survive. My mother used to call me a masochist and she was right. I was definitely queen masochist. In retrospect, maybe my behavior was just a terrible cry for attention or help, I just didn’t know I needed it. Until June.
2006 - Crazy
2007 - Empty
2008 - Emptier
2008 - I was 19 years-old when I met June. Actually, I’d met him a few years prior through my sister, but we never had any real interaction until I saw him again at my friend’s Halloween party. He was nice, outgoing and had one of those laughs that made you laugh, too—he was cool. But as the night went on I could tell he was slowly becoming interested in me. He gave me a lot of attention, singled me out during group conversations, inched his way closer to me, but it was the way he looked at me that said it all. I didn’t really think too much into it because I was already dating someone else, but when things ended between us, I guess June found out and the rest is regretful history.
I was lying in bed, sulking when he texted me. Things had just ended with Dale, and I was feeling really low. I knew things with us weren’t going anywhere because he was still in love with his ex, but I desperately convinced myself it could. And when I finally faced the music, I’d become so upset with myself for once again over-romanticizing something that wasn’t real that I just needed to feel wanted again. So, when June hit me up it’d become the perfect opportunity to keep my ego leveled. Just to see another’s man name pop up on my screen made me feel like I was winning, but deep inside I felt like such a loser. Small talk turned into flirting which eventually turned into questions like “When can I see you?” and “Do you want to come over and chill?” I initially declined his invitation because it was almost 10 PM, but he didn’t take no for an answer. He was persistent, kind of desperate, and even though I didn’t feel right about it, I just kept thinking should I? Something in me was telling me to stay my ass at home, but the attention he was giving me made me feel better. It was all so superficial, I know, so, I said okay.
When I got to his house I knew I should’ve turned around and gone back home, but if I’m being honest, I was desperate, too. As you can imagine, he was so happy to see me. His face was giddy and he kept saying “Yo, I can’t believe you actually came,” which made me want to go home even more. And then he started showing out in front of his roommate, trying too hard to be funny—just doing too much. And to top it off, he kept bragging about how great of a writer he was. He even pulled out at least two journals of his poetry to prove it—and performed one for me! I didn’t like either. After his…performance I told him I was ready to go home; it was late, I was tired, but he asked me to stay a little longer, so I stayed. I shouldn’t have stayed.
When his roommate went to sleep he asked me into his bedroom. That should’ve been it for me, but he said he wanted to talk and “get to know each other.” I thought maybe this could go somewhere if I let up a little bit—maybe he really was into me, so, I went for it. And to my surprise he really did want to talk…about himself. He talked about his family, his friends, his aspirations. He even got a little emotional when talking about the dysfunctions in his life like his relationship with his mother. He seemed borderline depressed and he spoke in ways that hinted how alone he felt. It made me ease up a tiny bit because I deeply related to that. Come to think of it, maybe that was his plan: to be vulnerable enough to get me where he wanted me. I don’t want to overanalyze it now because it’s over, but it was all so pathetic on my end. I know I didn’t get many words out to tell him I understood him, but I also know I tried being his friend. As you can already guess, he ignored the curve because the next thing you know he was asking me to stay the night. I was so skeptical, so alarmed, but I didn’t know how to say no. I was definitely hesitant, and I know he felt it because he quickly started telling me sweet nothings, inching closer to me, and then finally kissing me. I pulled back from his kiss because, even though I connected with him on some level, I didn’t want him—I knew I didn’t want him, but I gave in. And (sigh) it was the worst kiss of my life. Seriously, the worst kiss/er in the world, but I didn’t stop it—I didn’t know how to say no when I was always saying yes, and this was no different.
In a blink of an eye he was inside of me, grunting like a pig—thinking about it makes me feel disgusting, but like that day in my tia’s bedroom, I remember having an outer body experience. I remember watching myself lying on that bed with my legs in the air, staring at the ceiling so utterly ashamed at myself, my choices, crying, wondering how I got to that point in my young life. I don’t think he noticed my tears—at least I hope he didn’t, but even if he did, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of what I allowed which is the saddest part. I allowed that to happen and it was too late. So, I watched myself quietly cry into a pillow until it was over.
The next morning I woke up praying it was all a bad dream. It wasn’t (lol). He was laying right next to me looking worse than the night before. Maybe that’s my way of projecting how I feel/felt about myself onto him, but lord knows everything about that situation was gross. I didn’t stay long, though. My mind woke me up at 6 AM and made sure I was out of there by 6:20. He walked me to my car, I guess to be a gentleman, but I wish he hadn’t. Our good-bye was so awkward. I didn’t want to kiss him, so I gave him one of those side hugs women give guys in the friend-zone. I don’t think he noticed…or cared because he got what he wanted any way: me. And as he made his way back into his apartment, I made my way back to reality with more tears leading me home.
2017 - I’m 27 years-old and in the happiest, healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in, both with myself and a man who loves me almost as much as I love myself. It took some time and one last heart break to get to where I am now, but I’m finally here. Hi and hello. I used to be so ashamed to think, let alone talk, about my past, but after that night with June, and rummaging through years of suppressed feelings, thinking, and evolution, I remember thanking my God for everything. I can’t really explain it, but it was exactly what I needed to be set free of myself in order to find myself. And I did. I found Me. All of Me. And even without the love of a man or father or that piece of myself I still don’t know, I still have Me. And no one will ever take Me away from myself ever again.
Chanelle Garzon, 27
Virgo, Writer, Lover, Believer