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It's Friday. July 8, 2010. 7: 23 in the morning. The sun is shining through my windows and I can almost bet that it is like 120 degrees outside. I struggle to get out of bed and I begin to think, Why do I need to wake up? It's so early! Dang! Ughhhhhhh!
I wish I was back with my family and friends in New York. But it's time to get my mind back to business. Back home; back in Boston. I returned from New York yesterday, Where I visited my cousins Ashley, Nolis, and Chayanne, and, of course, "J;" the most stubborn man in the world, but the only one who makes my heart twirl. The man I love so much.
Even though I was on vacation, I maintained my schedule of jogging through the busy streets of New York City. I've been training for the Baystate Marathon in October, so I still have a few more months. I'm running not only to stay healthy, but to honor cancer survivors.
In reality, it is about ninety-something degrees but it is still too brutal to go for a run. Nonetheless, I remind myself that excuses are made by those who can't commit. Sticking to my training agenda has been a challenge, but it serves as a path to find peace and to help discover myself. I can't stop now. I can't stop ever. In the summer, I tend to begin my jogs before sunrise but there are days when the sheets keep me in bed a little longer than I expect. Can you blame me?
I could stay in bed. Or ...
I could push my limits.
The sun rays light up my entire bedroom, forcing me to keep my eyes wide open. No more thinking! Get up!
I stretch myself awake, turn on Pandora for some morning melodies. I change into my running gear, braid my unruly hair to a pigtail and brush away my morning breath. I wiggle into my leggings, gulp down a protein shake, and grab my iPod.
I drive to my usual jogging spot near the baseball stadium at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. After I park my car, I abandon my black-and-white purse in the passenger seat where I usually leave my cell phone. I finally feel disconnected from the world and ready for take-off.
With my headphones in ears, I begin my usual run. The rapid shuffle of music on my
iPod keeps me focused and feeds my adrenaline. Sometimes I choose to skip a bunch of songs just to listen to Alicia Keys. She's my favorite; her lyricism inspires me in a number of ways; but most importantly, she inspires me to B Beyond Words. To B Beyond Words means, to push yourself beyond your past, your fears, your obstacles, your shadows, and the labels that people attempt to use to define you.
The scenic trial by the river always fills my mind with peace and allows for meditation. The river cools the air on ninety-degree summer mornings. I look at my watch and notice it's a few minutes past 9:00 AM. I'm only on my third lap and I have so much more distance to cover. Today, my path looks sad and desolate since there are barely any runners. Only a lunatic like myself would run in this scorching heat.
Suddenly, I cross paths with a young man. He smiles at me. I smile back. I feel all the hair follicles in my body stand at attention. The patterns of my heartbeat all of a sudden lose control. No matter how much I want to catch up, I just can't find the rhythm.
He's a tall. White male. Dark hair. Wearing a black tank top. Around his hand, I noticed he was carrying a knotted white grocery bag which read Thank You in red lettering. I slowed down and begin walking north while he walks south. I glanced back, and one's there. He's still walking away. A new song begins. I look down to my iPod and see Tanks album cover on the screen as the piano keys of the song Scream genuflect in my ears. Before I can take two steps forward, I feel something bad inside of me, like an animal instinct. Intuitively, I feel threatened. Before I can finish my thought and turn my head and take two steps forward, I close my eyes to pray silently.
Lord, I know nothing is going to happen to me, but ...
But. I just need to look back again. As I turn my head to release my breath, I feel his face is right next to mine. It's already too late. I can't get away. He smells like fear as he grabs me by the neck and begins to choke me. My eyes are wide open. The music disappears. All I can hear is myself gasping for air, fighting to gather the strength to shout for help, to get away, to stay alive. I fight his hold, but fail. My feet up in the air flail with no sense of direction, as I am being squeezed like a fruit.
Get off me, I want to shout for help but I drown in silence. All I see is the sky, dense with menacing clouds. Dad, please don't let me die today. God, help me. Help me, pray.
It's pitch black. I see nothing. I hear the sound of nature. Bird chirping, leaves moving, and the sound of the river water flowing down the stream. Where am I? Am I in the jungle? Why is my body in so much pain? Am I in a dream? A nightmare?
I say aloud, Lord, was I not grateful enough for my past life that you've decided to give me a new beginning somewhere else?
My eyes open to shadows of tree branches and falling leaves. Where am I? What happened? Every part of my body burns, especially my throat. My neck sticky with tears, I look around and don't recognize my surroundings. I'm alone. Terrified. I don't know what to expect.
I notice a river ahead of me. I see trees everywhere, making me feel like I'm in the jungle. I lower my head and close my eyes, try to go to sleep, hoping to wake up in a different place. I do this over and over again.
Where am I? Why am I in so much pain? I say to myself, Okay, if this is a dream and I need to fight to wake up, I'll fight. Who am I? Bianca Ramirez. Who is my mother? Who do I love? Jaaaaaa.
Oh, my God. I stand quickly, but I trip after trying to walk, noticing that my pants and panties are wrapped around my knees. I desperately pull everything up and take some steps to find someone, anyone. I try shout for help but my voice sounds low with pain.
I run to the U Mass Lowell parking lot. I can't stop crying. In the parking garage, I see a woman. An Angel. Please help me. I'm amazed I have it in me to form these words.
I loose my strength and collapse to my knees, while she calls the police. Curls of nausea flow through my body. I want to explode into millions of little pieces.
The police arrive and ask me how I am and if I can walk. I nod my head and close my eyes. Hoping they understand what I'm trying to say.
Do you know who did this to you?
I shake my head. I'm trembling. One of the officers hands me his jacket as I gather my strength and wait for the ambulance. When the paramedics arrive, I'm given some water as I prepare myself to give my statement.
I began jogging before nine. Then I crossed paths with a white guy. Small lips. He was wearing a dark tank top and was holding a white bag that said Thank You. He ... he was. But after I say the words thank you I can no longer control myself collapsing to tears.
Then the interrogation continues. Can I show them where the attack happened? How many minutes ago? All sorts of questions. It's almost as scary as the attack, but in a different way. I remind myself that they're here to help, to be cooperative. That making me relive what just happened in words is helping me. So I continue.
The police ask the paramedics to stay with us as we walk to the precise, terrible place. We find my headphones on the grass, crumpled in a little wisp. As I see my poor earbuds, I begin to cry. I'm caught by the paramedics, brought to the little bed in the ambulance. I cry all the way to the hospital, and when my tears come to a stop, I vomit blood.
* * *
In the hospital, while the nurse examines me, a female officer asks me routine questions. Her feminine, kind aura makes me feel safe for the first time all day. Not having my cell phone and only knowing few numbers by heart, I call my Aunty Charo. I tell her what happened. I ask if she could go by the house and pick up some clean clothes for me to wear, and to please rush to the hospital. Crying, I beg her not to tell anything to any of my family members especially my mom. Not yet. I touch my heart, imagining how she'll take the news.
The two officers tell me that they had parked my car right in the front of the hospital. Hey, we found all your things, including your cell phone, one of them states.
My cell phone? No. I didn't bring my cell phone with me this morning.
Oh! What kind of cell phone do you have?
I have a black HTC. It's in the car, inside my black-and-white purse.
Oh. Okay, one of them responds.
Could I please have my cell phone? I ask. I don't know any numbers by heart, and I would like to make some phone calls.
I remember my good friend Darwin's number by heart so I call him next, but I get no answer. I want to call my best friend, LaSauna, and my J, but I can't remember either of their numbers. I try to contain myself but tears win and take over me.
Lord, why? Why me?
It is early afternoon when Rafael hears a knock on his door, Apartment 4B. He walks toward it and asks, Who is it? He thinks he recognizes the voice on the other end, so he opens the door. A troop of four men run in with guns and masks. They ask for the stash of money and for the drugs. Rafael doesn't answer.
One of the robbers sticks a gun in his face. Where is the money? Still, no answer. The robbers search the house and beat Rafael, and he finally tells them where to find what they're looking for.
They release their hold with a warning. If you move, I will kill you. I will shoot, bellows one.
Rafael thinks he can run to the door before any of them can pick up a gun and shoot. He is wrong. As he runs for the door, a robber shoots him in the chest.
Mami wakes up trembling and sobbing because she has dreamt this horrible and vivid dream. Two days later, her terrible nightmare comes true.
* * *
My father never did any of the usual dad things with me like playing catch, or teaching me how to ride a bike, or reading bedtime stories. He never even kissed me good night. It wasn't because he abandoned me. Shortly after I was born, he was assaulted by four men, shot point-blank in the chest while attempting to escape from his own home.
His name had been Rafael Cena. He and my mother lived a few miles from New York Presbyterian Hospital, where I was born on February 26, 1985. My father had rushed to the hospital as soon as he heard that Mami's contractions had begun. He arrived to find my mother sprawled out and in excruciating pain. In the hands of masked strangers, who claimed to know what they were doing. I was coming out, barely a little human being. A thrill in the room. Me.
There I was, entering this mashed world of violence and beneficence. For the moment, everything was glorious, and my family basked in the delivery of this six-pound, three-ounce baby girl. My father held me first, then gave me to my mother. Their arms touched. One of the final days together.
My father was six feet tall with glazed, noir skin and a big, bursting smile. He was an athletic man. If he hadn't been shot, my life could have gone in a few different directions. Unfortunately, because my father was involved in an illicit business, I probably would have lived not the safest life. Maybe I would've been a troubled person. Maybe, just maybe, I would have grown up with my parents in a happier and healthier environment. But this is a question that can only be answered in the safety of my imagination.
My mother rarely speaks about my father. I have asked many times, but it kills her to speak of him. I've studied pictures of him. I don't look like him; in fact, I look just like the pictures of my mother when she was a girl. It's alleged that I do carry many of his qualities, though. Both of us affectionate and hopeless romantic. He never settled for less, nor do I. He always kept busy, as do I. Even though I never got to receive his blessings, I feel as though he guides me and lives within me.
When my father died, my mother's life tumbled into a nightmare, a whirlwind of guilt. She believed that if she had warned him about the dream or asked him to tread carefully throughout the day, maybe my father wouldn't have been killed that morning.
* * *
There was an awful irony in my mother's situation: she had to ship my father's body back to the Dominican Republic, going back to her beautiful homeland for the first time under such horrible circumstances. I was just an infant, but that was first and last time I was with my birth father's family. We stayed in the southern part of the country, in a town called Bani.
Bani is the capital valley of the province of Peravia, one of the wealthiest towns in the Dominican Republic. It's an hour west of the capital of Santo Domingo, and it's industrial, known for producing the city's coffee and bananas. It's also notable for a man known for his international prominence: Major General Maximo Gomez Baez, who dedicated most of his life to the liberation of Cuba. At the end of Cuban independence in 1898, he refused to Cuba's presidential nomination because he felt that being Dominican didn't naturally grant him with the civility to become civil leader of Cuba.
My mother is originally from Santo Domingo, but as a teenager vacationed in Bani with her father. Her father had been in the military, which gave my mother some luxuries, including a high-quality education and plenty of opportunities to travel.
Bani was filled with pleasant memories for my mother, including a past romance with a young man named Enrique. He was very handsome, with intellect to spare. His middle name was Rafael, just like my father's. Photographs record vivid images of my mother during these days, photographs that I value tremendously. She was young and curvaceous. She had fair skin, long and dark hair, tight curls that sprang to the rhythm of her steps.
When we returned to Bani, my mother avoided going to places where she thought she'd bump into Enrique. Naturally, she bumped into him almost right away. It could have been a scene from a romantic comedy, one where a couple sees each other after years and the shock causes them to act like middle-schoolers. Stuttering. Avoiding any eye contact, even though all they wanted to do was stare at one another. It was as if fate had forced the chain of events leading up to the moment she saw Enrique.
No escape for either one of them.
"P-P-Paula? Is that really you? struggled Enrique.
Yes, she said.
Do you have a summer job here or something? And whose baby is that you're holding?
This is my daughter, Bianca, and I'd rather not say any more. I have to leave.
It had been an awkward moment. As my mother walked in the opposite direction, wishing to be anywhere but there, flashes of shame overwhelmed her. Sweat tingled on her arms. Enrique followed her, drawing closer. He spoke with sorrow, asking why she had moved on without him, why there were no letters or phone calls.
I've waited for you. I thought we had both agreed?
I was in high school Enrique. The timing was wrong.
Didn't you think we had something special?
I'm sorry if I've hurt you. It was never my intention. I just thought you'd move on after a while. She walked away for good this time, and cried on the way home.
Weeks later, Enrique arrived at her house, offering friendship and a helping hand. She opened up, revealing to him about how she had come to be widowed at twenty-one. Their friendship began to flourish. Although she was often reluctant to receive his help, he was always there for her.
It was obvious that Enrique had an agenda: he wanted to win back my mother's heart, and his calculations began to pay off when my mother accepted his dinner invitation. For Enrique, this was the time to ask if she would consider embracing a new beginning with him. He pleaded my mother to give him a chance, to let him be the father in her daughter's life. After she mulled it over, she accepted. We began a new life together, the three of us.
Excerpted from B beyond words by Bianca Ramirez. Copyright © 2013 Bianca Ramirez. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted September 20, 2013
GREAT buy! GREAT story of triumph! I'm going to see the play soon and I just invested in the book!
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Posted April 2, 2014
This women is..WOW. I never believed someone so young could have experienced so much hardship. Her positive attitude, her smile radiates on anyone she surrounds. I can't wait to see more. to read more books from her. Wish we had more people like her in this world, people who make a difference and are fearless to change the world. I can't wait to see the play. I definitely and highly recommend it. Prepare to be inspired by a woman who is far Beyond Words.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 20, 2014
I finished this book a week ago and actually just met the author today at a luncheon. I almost wished I had met her first before reading the book because I think it would have had even more meaning. The story is inspiring, easy to read and holds your attention. Meeting Bianca today was like letting a ray of sunshine into your heart, she is dynamic, warm, adorable and funny! That she was able to maintain such a positive outlook after all the hardships she has faced is nothing short of incredible. I highly recommend this book not only to support this wonderful woman, but to help inspire everyone to reach above whatever obstacles come your way. I am looking forward to the play!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 8, 2013