This is Shela's day, the one she's been working toward for many years. She graduates with a PhD; she's now a psychologist. But her feelings of accomplishment come with an underlying sense of sadness. She lost the love of her life six years ago, her brother is in a coma, and there's a dysfunctional feeling to her family. On this special day, Shela takes a look back at how this came to be.
She likens her life journey to that of a turbulent roller-coaster ride. When she was twelve years old, her family immigrated to the United States from Haiti, and this move from her birth country left her feeling confused. As a victim of rape, xenophobia, domestic violence, and a lonely childhood, Shela was forced to grow up before her time. But her many trials and tribulations provided the impetus and motivation to move ahead.
A coming-of-age novel, Shela's Turbulent Journey narrates this young woman's story as she searches for love, identity, direction, and a meaning in her life.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.49(d)|
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Shela's Turbulent JourneyC'est la vie
By Barbara Rodriguez
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2011 Barbara Rodriguez
All right reserved.
Chapter One"C'est La Vie"
Tick Tock Tick Tock
Shela looked at her stereo and it was exactly 11 p.m. when she pulled up on her driveway. She walked up to the entrance, put the keys in the knob, and slowly opened up the door. As soon as she turned on the light switch, she immediately glanced at a particular picture hanging on the wall, one that evoked painful memories of past events and the powerful emotions that accompanied them. White-hot anger burning in her veins, she was overwhelmed by a sudden moment of rage as she rushed over and punched the framed picture with a closed fist. The frame fell free from its hinges and clattered onto the cold, wooden floor.
She never acted like this. She was still angry with him, she knew that much. Yet she could not deny that some part of her will always love him. With her anger satiated for now, it faded away into the deepest recesses of her being. Rational thought returned to her and she stared at the broken picture lying forlornly on the floor, remorse clear in her bloodshot eyes.
She bent down and gently picked up the frame, inspecting it for any noticeable damage. This isn't like you her rational mind spoke to her. Listen, you're tired right now. You need some rest. Shela didn't disagree. Given all that has happened, she needed to forget those awful memories by drowning them out with blissful sleep. But how could she? Her whole house was littered with bitter reminders of him. Everywhere she looked, memories in the form of silvery streams of images would come rushing back into her head. And she doubted her fist could last through several more rage sessions.
She tried to hang the photograph back to its original position and suddenly glanced at the clock on the wall, a gift from her mother. Sure enough, bittersweet memories flashed in her mind again, trying to taunt and torment her. Shela, however, didn't dwell on them this time; she was too exhausted to even bother. She glimpsed up at the clock one more time when she realized she didn't even pay attention to what time it was. Twelve o'clock a.m. it read. "And the countdown has begun." She thought quietly, staring at the floor as she made her way to her bedroom.
For six years, Shela had been waiting for that day with great anticipation. And now, less than twenty-four hours away, the fatigue was outweighing her urges to celebrate. Shela was used to handling high amounts of stress, but lately she had been exhausted. Between studying for finals, research papers, and caring for her paraplegic brother, Shela's body was worn-out, and it was starting to retaliate. Hopefully after the ceremony, she would be able to get some rest, relax, retreat, take better care of her body, and finally find the time to enjoy her newly decorated sanctuary.
Her bedroom had always been her asylum and Shela had just recently switched its theme from a serene forest to more like a midnight breeze. That room was her ideal relaxation zone but she hadn't found the time to exploit its beauty yet. The designer's goal was to make everyone that walked in feel like they've immediately entered into a fantasy place. The offspring of his imagination was enough to take anyone's breath away. The pieces were arranged beautifully and they weren't all cluttered together. No television. No radio. No distraction. The only accessories she had were vases, marbles, paintings, a few books, and a bowl of decorative blue rocks. The rest of the house was big enough for all the other crazy and exotic decorative pieces. But even though her luxurious house was very well organized and she had multiple walk-in closets, that night she made sure she got everything ready, close to sight just in case she woke up too late on her special day.
Normally, she didn't wear any jewelry, but she was going to make an exception on that particular day. A couple of years earlier, one of her classmates by the name of Barbara Africana had given her a nice set of authentic tribal African jewelry. Shela valued the gift and, in fact, as a sign of appreciation, she promised to wear it on one of the most out-of-the-ordinary days in her life. It seemed like that day had come, seeing that the extremely exhausted Shela was trying on the set for the first time. They were made of dark brown wood. "This powerful set has all the elements that can channel and help vivify your inner mysticism Shela; it's not just any gift. It symbolizes our connection to the earth and to each other," her African comrade told her when she had given Shela the jewelry set. There was something exceptional about this young lady, but Shela couldn't pinpoint what it was. In a very odd way though, she kind of reminded Shela of "The Oracle" from the matrix. If it was meant to be, one day she eventually would find out about Barbara's uniqueness.
As Shela was sitting on the lounger, she subliminally started thinking about some of the deepest conversations she used to have with the extremely smart and culturally adept Barbara; and just like that she allowed herself to fall onto the soft sheets. Before she knew it, her mind was already off, drifting into the realm of dreams.
Shela had an introverted personality. She wasn't the type to hang out with friends—she preferred the drama-free lifestyle. Her favorite pastime was reading giant philosophy and psychology books and anything with William Shakespeare's stamp on it. She also enjoyed sitting in the park, contemplating nature, and capturing its beauty with her digital camera. "I am forever thankful to you, dear, architect of the universe!" she'd sometimes murmur in the morning when she first exited her house and looked at the greatness around her. That was how much she loved contemplating the beauty of the earth. Even in her dreams, she was still a true nature lover.
Shela was sitting by the lake that was not too far from her house, watching the ducks and everything else that Mother Nature had to offer while the sun disappeared over the horizon, casting a red glow over the gently lapping waves of the lake. The mesmerizing different species of roses in the park were so inspiring. Shela wasn't a landscape photographer, but she appreciated nature's beauty so much that you'd think she was; she was an artist from birth. Shela closed her eyes to enjoy the trees whispering musical notes in her ear while the birds sang nice melodies; under her feet, she felt the rhythm of the ground as all living things interacted with each other. The wind was playing with her hair and caressing her outer layers; oh, and she was inhaling the mixed fragrance of the roses and the soil as she opened her eyes to embrace light and life.
While her portable radio oozed out some "konpa dirèk" to satistify her melomania, her mind began to float and she slipped in a state of semiconsciousness, drifting away on the clouds floating through her mind. She looked up at the sky to thank heaven for her favorite companion—nature. She was quite surprised when a woman with a baby mystically made an apparition next to her. The stranger sat silently beside her. The woman looked familiar, but Shela couldn't remember where she knew her from. She was wearing a blue and gold outfit with a lot of silver chains; she had tribal scars on her cheek; and she gave the impression of being protective. She was gazing at Shela with a caring look on her eyes.
"Ke ke ke ke ke," she was stammering
"Excuse me?" Shela asked, looking at them while her heart thumped erratically in her chest
"She is greeting you," the baby said.
"What the f—?" Shela got up to run, and suddenly her feet became so heavy that she couldn't move. She stood in an awkward running position—she was immobile.
"Ke ke ke," the woman kept stammering
"Don't worry, I'm her translator," the baby said to Shela. "Have a seat ... don't be scared."
Shela regained her mobility and sat back down.
"How can I help you?" Shela asked as she wiped the sweat descending down her forehead with her elbow.
"No, we're here to help you," the baby announced.
Nervous and astonished, Shela asked, "How is that? You don't even know me."
The woman was still stammering, but the baby was doing all the talking; she was a good translator. It was so magical the way she interpreted this monosyllabic "Ke ke ke" and turned it into different and complete sentences and ideas.
"Oh yes, I know you. I've been with you since before you were even born."
Shela looked down and realized her hands were shaking uncontrollably. "Okay," she uttered as her shoulders instinctively tightened and she let out a breath through her nose. "So what exactly are you here for?"
"You need to reinvite love into your heart," the baby replied.
"Whatever, so you're the goddess of 'love'?" Shela said with a shrug.
"You guessed right," she ventured.
"Which one are you? Venus? Aphrodite?" After a minute of complete silence, she pointed at the baby and continued sarcastically, "And you're baby Cupid, I presume?"
The baby opened her mouth to answer, but Shela didn't let her. With her chin stuck in the air defiantly she said, "Please, you're in no position to talk to me about love. You don't know half the shit I've been through. Do you know what it's like to be craving the taste of Clorox bleach drained down your throat all because of that four-letter word 'l-o-v-e'? You and your 'love' crap can leave me the hell alone."
Shela knew the complications that came along with the word "love." She learned it in the past. "Love is an emotional investment. Falling in love is like taking an emotional risk. If you fail, the breakdown would be too much to bear," she would tell Uncle Dere every time the topic of love came up.
Shela closed her eyes. For a moment, she felt peace, but too soon it was swallowed by her anxiety. It didn't take a genius to see that Shela didn't want to deal with those feelings of angst anymore. Based on her experience, being in love was horrible. It made her so vulnerable; she was scared of love. She was scared of intimacy. She always felt like love was going to betray her. Anyone who had ever had his or her heart broken before, anyone who had seen someone with myocardiopathy before certainly could empathize with her. Love had a funny way of taking hostages. Shela was no exception. Love got inside her. It consumed her and left her crying in the darkness. It hurts. In her situation there was no closure. So the pain was something that would never go away. It was like a dagger being wrenched into her heart, getting pushed a little bit deeper every time she thought about it. For her, it was the worst emotional spasm ever. And the sad part was no one could help cure her broken heart unless the heart itself understood that it needed convalescence. Shela learned the hard way that love could be the best and worst emotion that one could ever experience. She learned that this love thing is a feeling that human beings have no control over and when people allow themselves to be in total submission, things could get quite messy or even harmful. The hardcore truth was that letting go wasn't that easy to do—that was Shela's real issue.
"You're wrong, Shela," the baby replied.
"You know my name?" Shela asked, surprised.
She smiled and said, "I know everything about you, and I'm here to help you."
"You're persistent, huh?" She countered and continued with, "Whatever you know about me, you're still in no position to tell me what to do with my life. You're not in my shoes; you'll never understand how I feel."
"My daughter, you're wrong again. Our story is very similar."
Shela let out a nervous chuckle "What are you talking about?"
The woman didn't say anything, provoking Shela to take a quick trip down memory land. Shela closed her eyes trying to think about her past. "You have no idea what I've been through." She shivered at the memory. Meanwhile the woman for once managed to stay silent, but progressively her demeanor started to change.
"Did I say anything to offend you?" Shela asked, her eyes expressing her inner turmoil.
After a few seconds, the baby responded, "It's okay."
Then Shela's shoulders dropped, and she stopped trying to squeeze life into the camera she was holding.
"She's reminiscing," the baby admitted. "It's just that her personal story is a tragedy. She was a Fanm Vanyan and combatant—a warrioress—who fought with her people during the Haitian revolution. Her own people cut out her tongue so that she would not tell their secrets should she be captured."
"Oh my God, is that why she can't talk?"
The baby nodded affirmatively.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Shela told the baby compassionately.
"Don't you worry about her, she's indestructible," the baby said before she started singing these words:
Set kout kouto, set kout pwenya,
Prete m dedin a pou m al vomi sang mwen,
Set kout kouto, set kout pwenya,
Prete m dedin a pou m al vomi sang mwen,
Sang mwen ape koule.
which translates to:
Seven stabs of the knife, seven stabs of the dagger,
Lend me the basin so I can vomit my blood,
Seven stabs of the knife, seven stabs of the dagger,
Lend me the basin so I can vomit my blood,
My blood is pouring down.
Shela didn't understand where that came from. She didn't see the point of that song. Her eyebrows crumpled into a deep frown, her face was ridden with worry. Fear was written all over Shela's face when she heard those lyrics. Shela was confused as hell. She had no idea what was happening to her, and she tried her best not to look scared, but it was translucent. One thing that Shela knew for a fact was that she could relate to the woman's anger to a certain extent.
"What's so indestructible about her?" Shela asked the baby with a look of trepidation.
"Even after seven stabs, she's so strong that she will still hold a basin to vomit blood and go back to continue her battle. She cannot be defeated."
"What's your name?" Shela asked the baby this time with an authoritative tone of voice.
"My name is Anais. I'm her daughter."
Shela grinned, her own nervousness evaporating. "Okay, Anais, what happened to your mother is very tragic, but I'm afraid that she must have mistaken me for somebody else, because obviously our story is not all that similar."
"She was referring to the feeling of being betrayed by the people she loved and trusted the most and how she's been judged by people who don't know her. Something you can relate to, I'm sure."
"I saw the detour in her body language when she was reliving the painful things that happened to her. It's obvious that she's still upset, so how is she going to help me when she can't even help herself? Your mother is the one who needs help, Anais. Not me," Shela told baby Anais.
Excerpted from Shela's Turbulent Journey by Barbara Rodriguez Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Rodriguez. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
To anyone affected by the Haiti earthquake....................xiii
"C'est La Vie"....................1
The Moment of Truth....................19
Welcome to America....................50
911! Please Help!....................65
It's a New Day....................77
Tell Tale Story....................96
Meeting Uncle Dere....................110
Proceed with Caution....................114
We All Have a Story....................116
Meeting Prince Charming....................130
The Answer Lies Within....................137
Lean on Me....................140
Thanks for Giving!....................150
The Truth was ....................162
Let It Go!....................169
This Is It!....................181