Sonyi; in 110 words or less:
“I’m not that interesting” were the first words she uttered, and in that instance we knew Sonyi was everything but boring. Sonyi, pronounced SUN-g, is a Dominican-born, Mott Haven raised, writer. She is currently obtaining her Bachelors in Creative Writing and Journalism at the City College of New York. Her stories explore identity, race and culture through whimsical, personal monologues. She aims to transcend into the hearts and minds of her readers while dismantling social constructs that separate those from them. In her words, she hopes to ignite emotion in those that read her stories. Sonyi’s exuberant personality will captivate you in person, but her words will captivate you incorporeally.
by Sonyi Lopez
Sometimes on the ethnicity choice section of a survey, "Hispanic" is not a selection. So, I choose the masks that fit me best:
✓ White: My skin, my nose.
✓ Black or African-American: My hair.
✓ More Than One Race: Everything else I may be--My feet are Roman, according to a Facebook meme.
I check off everything but Pacific Islander. At this point, I may as well just choose that too. The fun the proctor of that survey will have trying to
figure me out. I am part of the 72.9% Meztizos, or "mixed-race" folks who comprise my countries population.
My family is from the Eastern five eighths of Hispaniola, aka Dominican Republic. But my ancestors treaded the entire country, including Haiti,
the highly oppressed neighbors I consider my brothers and sisters.
Like the story mode in a role-playing game, each of my ancestors had a different role:
Player 1: Indigenous Taino
Player 2: African Slave or
Player 3: European Colonizer
Each choice came with varying abilities, their pros and cons, so to speak. Player 1, the Indigenous Taino was the fighter type, prestigious with
combatting skills but had no magical powers. Player 2, The African Slave, had the magical abilities but were very weak as a result of malnutrition and mistreatment from Player 3, The European Colonizer, the rogue, and the stealthy thief.
I'll choose Player 1 for this excercise. Indigenous Taino- good, prudent, noble, the Indigineous Arawak were the original occupants of the
country then known as "Ayiti" or "Hispanola". The Taino were a strong and beautiful people, the original inhibitors of my land. They stood naked, tall, and dark. Proudly and gorgeously decorated in their gold earrings and necklaces. They lived in homes made of wooden posts, and woven cane. The homes were often strong enough to withstand hurricanes and had little furniture, aside from stools for sitting, a Hamaca for sleeping and pots for cooking. The indigenous lived in either a Caney- A small home if they were general folks, or a Bohio- a bigger-small home if they were Caciques, chief heads of their village. The Tainos were a powerhouse of arts & culture. They expressed themselves through their beautiful artwork, music, dance and poetry. They were a beautiful people who welcomed their future oppressors with peaceful generosity and kindness.
Those gold earrings and necklaces, those homes, the pottery in it and everything that belonged to them was ripped right out of their brown
hands by another player. They lost their land when they lost their battle. Their spears, no match against a firearm. Many were defeated, and many ran away, never to be seen again, they hid behind forest trees.
The traces of those who ran far enough, still live within me. Remnants of their skin, hair and dialect still exist in my family today. My mother,
with her olive skin, silky, long black tresses. My grandmother, with the equal part serving of salt and pepper in her hair, her full lips, and our use of Taino words still like Hamaca- Hammock, Guagua- Bus, Mime- Little Fly.
I don't serve the looks as well as Ma or Abuela, but I do have the blood. See me on the dance floor when Curandero comes on and I'll show
you. We keep our Taino sides alive through strength, art and culture.
by Sonyi Lopez
I remember grandma in her prime. Nails, always coated in lavender blankets. Hair, equal parts salt and pepper, curled behind her ear like snail shells. Her eyes, green Fibonacci spirals. Lips, left behind wet peachy pink prints on my cheek.
“Grandma! Why are your kisses so wet?” I’d say, scrubbing her lips off my face.
“Honey, save the dry lips for the dead!” She’d reply, smacking them together and kissing me again. Attempting to grab my face to apply shade
#072, peach perfection on her apparently dead granddaughter’s lips.
Grandma was my best friend. She was the most beautiful woman I knew, inside and out. I desperately look for her in every wrinkled face I see.
As grandma began to age, I thought I'd be afraid when I held her feeble hands, her over-ripe banana peel skin or when I looked into those
cataract drowned islands eyes, or when I watched the frothy, snowy substance escape her lips as she convulsed in her bed. I thought I'd weep when she bruised upon tripping and falling down a flight of stairs. Or when she fell off her bed, trying to weasel her way out of the hospital, attempting to crawl back home. But none of those events were ever enough to break her, and so, they didn't break me.
I remember all of my nightmares dissipated with just my grandma’s breath as she would susurrate me to sleep.
“Grandma, can I sleep with you tonight?” I’d ask, standing at her bedside gripping my teddy and pillow. Breathless, after having dashed to her
room outrunning the darkness of my own.
“You are old enough to sleep alone, honey. What do I always tell you when you’re having a pesadilla?” She’d ask.
“Pray, grandma.” I’d reply, while stealthy climbing onto her bed.
Grandma played with my hair and whispered to me, “That’s right.. pray, mi amor. Get rid of the negative thoughts and just, pray.”
It’d be the fourth time that week I attempted to escape the demons in my room. I’d drag myself back down the hallway, switch my room lights
back on, and pray myself to sleep, the way grandma taught me.
Thank You Great Goddess for this day
for the blessings and lessons that came my way
May my sleep be peaceful in dreams and rest
and tomorrow, may I do my best.
She’d sneak in later to leave those peach lips on my face again, then she’d shut off the lights behind her and walk past the goddess’ shrine in
the hallway, between her room and mine. She’d whisper to the goddess’, trickle water onto the flowers at the base and light a candle every night.
Slowly, my grandmother herself became those nightmares, that fateful day she forgot my name. She forgot who I was.
∞ ∞ ∞
Grandma began to forget things when I entered college at 19. Even though this was true, I was never afraid of her forgetting me. And so,
every day I visited her at the hospital at noon, during my forty-five minute break between classes. I’d come back on Friday evenings and stay the night, through the weekend. I did it because I wanted to see her, of course. But also, because I didn’t want her to ever forget me. It seemed she’d forgotten about all the things that no longer existed. But I was here, existing, by her side every day. But one Sunday, I no longer existed. Not in my grandma’s mind, at least.
“Hey Grandma,” I walked in the room, hanging my backpack on the door handle.
“Grandma, the flowers are dry, has that lady come in to water them today?, ” I said.
She usually didn’t answer me the first time around because she was either a. asleep or b. pretending to be asleep so hard that she actually
fell asleep in an attempt to avoid the nurses. She’d rip her heart monitor off so they wouldn’t sense the changes. Grandma hated nurses because they poked and prodded her. Sometimes, they even tied her to the bed because she’d get aggressive with them. Hell, injections every other day? Medicine in high dosages? I would get aggressive too. Despite all of that, grandma was still the sweetest to me when I came around.
“Grandma,” I crawled into her bed, tickled her socked feet and tugged at her mumu.
She wouldn’t move. I put my left hand on her chest and right hand under her nostrils. The silence of the room didn’t permit me to hear any
signs of life at first. But then I could feel her heart thuds, and breathing. I was relieved. I’ve had scares before, nurses running in to aid me because I couldn’t feel her pulses. But by now, I’m an expert.
“Grandma, levantate, its 12:05. I have 35 minutes left! ,” I said.
She finally twitched a little. She opened her eyes and looked toward me.
“Hey, girl! ,” I smiled.
She didn’t return the greeting, or the smile. She didn’t look me in my eyes. She didn’t ask me how classes were so far today, or how the
weather is outside. Nothing.
“Quien eres tu?,” Grandma quivered.
She was afraid of me. I was a stranger at her bedside. A stranger tugging at her mumu and tickling her feet. She was pissed. And I was
scared. I lost my breath for a minute, and regained it the next. I had enough breath in me to start speaking.
“Grandma, it’s me..,” I started.
“Nurse! ,” She screamed.
I got up from her bed as her scream pierced through my heart. I looked at my grandma, I’ve never seen her this way. She gripped onto the bed
sheets. Her eyes were turning crimson, her furrowing brows, and introverted laugh lines made her skin appear more wrinkled than ever. The nurses ran past me and tied her down as she kept fighting back as if resisting her memories of me.
I walked backwards, grabbed my backpack and felt as if my life was muted, and on rewind. Hoping tomorrow may be a better day, and all of
this would be past us, I made my way down the hospital hall. I looked back and saw the flower watering woman enter my grandmother’s room.
I returned the next day, and there she was. A sleeping beauty. When she woke up, she startled me. I flinched, expecting another scream,
another horrid stare. But she just met my gaze and asked me to sit. So I did. After that day I became her new, nameless friend.
When the doctor’s told she would never remember me, I tried praying at the shrine at home, but all I knew were sleep prayers. Those only
worked to fend off nightmares, they couldn’t make miracles happen for grandma. But I didn’t lose faith. I lit that candle every night, I glued my hands together and mumbled a few words to the air. I tried rubbing vivaporú on her temples, in what I thought was an attempt to stimulate her mind, that stuff was a miracle growing up. If I had a cough, she'd slather it on my chest. If I stubbed my pinky toe for the 399th time, she'd coat it on. Those picture day pimples were saved by none other than vivaporú, the powerful all-use menthol ointment.
When I slathered it on her wrinkly temples, it just irritated her skin. If I made her sniff it, it made her sneeze. But I didn't know what else to do. I
was helpless and hopeless.
“Achoo! Doctor! Crazy girl is in here torturing me with this stuff again,” She'd yell.
“Abuela, it's just me, and its vivaporu! Not stuff,”. I’d respond.
The doctor never came, he knew the deal. Eventually, grandma gave into the crazy menthol lady and made her a friend all over again, every time.
A lovely, young woman, who I assumed was a volunteer, came into our room every Sunday carrying a gold stamna vase, to water the
Anthuriums sitting atop of the desk near my grandmother's bedside. The young woman sauntered her way through the room, she used her white cane, drawing a path to the desk, like an Etch-A-Sketch. I knew she couldn't see me, but I also knew it was rude to stare. I'd never spoken to her before, but today, I needed to speak. I thought long and hard about what to say to her. I didn't want it to be awkward. I didn't want her to think I was speaking to someone else, grandma was asleep.
“She forgot my name.” I finally said.
The woman seized her pouring. She turned to me. Her eyes were iris less clouds, they made my own eyes water. Her copper hair, the ends sinuous plumes, rested gently above her shoulders. She set the vase aside and continued to regard me.
“My grandmother, she for--”
“While it is true that I can only see a silhouette of you, it does not mean I do not know what mysteries the silhouette bears,” she says.
I think I offended her.
“I’m awfully sorry if I've offended you, madam.”
Awfully? Madam?.. really? Damn. I've adapted her vernacular.
I snort at my own thoughts. A snot bubble pops out of my nose.
“You haven't. Now, may I?” she says.
The woman summons me off the bed, away from grandma and I stand idly beside her. She was a fortress of a woman, me a peasant at her
steps. Her shadow towers over me as she glides closer towards my grandma. She draws her hands in front of her and gently pats around until she finally feels grandma's nose. Her hands sway a few centimeters down to grandma's peachy lips. I've made it my mission to continue lathering her favorite lipstick on them. I see the woman moving her own lips, yet I can't make out what she's uttering, the chime in her tone hints at prayer.
She snaps a yellow zinnia between her fingers and tucks it behind my grandma's ear. I regard her now. The clouds on the woman's eyes
reveal the same green Fibonacci spirals my grandma once had in her own eyes. I’ve seen her before. In the hallway, in my home. I’ve looked into those eyes, I’ve prayed to them. The clouds reform, she smiles beautifully, then purses her lips and takes a step back. The woman grabs her vase off the window sill, along with her white cane leaning against the wall. She begins to make her way out of the room.
“Wha-what is your name?” I ask her.
“You may call me Nemy,” she replies, as she wiggles her white cane away from us.
“Your grandmother will be fine.”
She has rendered me speechless. I am addled with the idea that this woman must've joined my grandma and me in this room one thousand times, yet, I never really noticed her. She was a stranger.
And now, I know her. I know her eye color beneath the fog matched my grandma's, I know she can snap healing flowers out of her fingertips.
Grandma swivels her neck around the room, like a fan on its lowest setting, she passes the IV machines, the steel commode, the Anthuriums,
until she finally finds me at the corner of her bed. I meet her gaze. She lowers her eyes and with a thwarted smile, she regards my dry, desiccated lips.
“Hi, Grandma.” I say, cracking the skin on my lips with a painfully big smile.
Grandma titters, “Cielo,” She recites.