Hiding Behind My Happiness By Maryeli Reyes
It was foggy, dark and cold. The car windows sounded like they were shattering. It was March 27, 2009 at 12:00pm as they rushed Yadira to the emergency room.
“Señora, estás bien me escucha” the nurse had asked her.
“Si” my mom said with tears running down her cheek. My mom was in pain. She was in excruciating pain, as if her stomach was being torn apart from the inside out. She was really hurting so she called the nurses three times! With each call, they kept saying, “Señora todavía no se puede.” Mom was upset and she was crying and screaming. It was about 12:55pm when my mom said, “no puedo mas” and she started pushing. The nurses rushed to the room to help her.
“Vamos, push, push!“ She pushed and pushed. It was 1:00pm on the dot when this beautiful little baby girl was born– yeah I know what you all are thinking “OMG in five minutes?!” Yeah, in five minutes!
“Her nombre will be Laura” my mom told my dad. However, my dad always said that he wanted his daughter to be named after him. His name was Martin.
“No, my daughter's name sera Maryeli,” my dad replied proudly.
“Me gusta ese mejor.”
I, Maryeli, was born 7 pounds and healthy. My mom and dad didn't get to see me until the next day. I am told that my mother had a huge smile when the nurses walked in with me, her first born.
“Ay dios, she is so gorgeous!” They both said with a giant smile on their faces. Three days later, they took me home to the Bronx. It wasn't the best place back then and it still isn't. I was introduced to my whole family. They all looked so big to me– like giants! But eventually I started giggling with all of them as they played with me .
3 years later…
I was about 3, turning 4 still living in the Bronx. My dad, the protector of our family, moved my mom and I away from the projects. I was small at the time so didn’t really understand gang banging or drugs or anything like that. I was always happy when I was with my dad. He always used to take me out with my dog to the park and we all used to go down the slide together. Laughter and screams of joy radiate through my memory when I think of these past times. I loved mangos and strawberries and every time dad used to go out, he would bring me 2 packs of strawberries and more than 5 mangos! I used to eat them all in one day – and yeah, I know that's a lot! Mom worked at a salon, so she was almost never home– she was always working, but dad didn’t work so I never knew where he would go when he used to drop me off at his grandma's house.
“Mama, where is Papi?” I always asked. I was only three but I had already spoken clearly and I was always curious and aware.
“Working, mi amor.”
“He will be en casa soon,” My grandma Carmen would always say.
My birthday was coming up and my dad wanted me to have a huge party. I loved Dora The Explorer at that time, so that was my party theme. March 27, at 5:00 pm, my mom took me to do my hair. I had little curls. I was really sassy at the time, so you know I needed my nails done too. My dad got me a big, beautiful, puffy purple dress. I looked so cute in it. It was about 12:00 am and I couldn't sleep. I was really excited for the party. The next day I was jumping like a little grasshopper. Long story short, it was time for the party. It was around 103rdCorona Ave. The place was packed. I danced with everyone, took lots of pictures and received lots of gifts. I was so happy, but of course at one point my birthday had to end. I went home and opened all the presents. I got a lot of stuff. My dog, Ding, wouldn't leave me alone while I was playing with all my new toys, so I LET HIM OUT! I did notice it was wrong though, so I ran after him and got him back.
“ARE YOU LOCA?” My mom screamed at me. I giggled while she was giving me that death stare that she still gives me today.
2 weeks later, my dad told me, “If you stop using your pacifier I will buy you a bike” and most definitely, I agreed. I was 4, still using a pacifier– I know lol.
“OK, dad. I will stop using it when you get it for me.” I replied. My mom just laughed because she knew I was lying. The next day, dad popped up with a bike. I was shaking with excitement.
“OK, now the pacifier.” Last night I made sure to hide one under my pillow as a backup, so I was good.
“Here you go!” I proudly handed it to him. He immediately threw it out. Later that day, I went outside and tested my new bike. It was bright pink with training wheels. It had flowers and butterflies all over it with a little basket that had a huge butterfly at the front.
“Yo se that you tricked your dad” mom said with a smile.
“Nooo, yo no” I laughed. About a week later, my dad wasn't home, but my mom sent him a picture of me with a pacifier in my mouth. He was MAD!!!! HE CAME IN RED! Looking back now, it was funny, but I was trying not to laugh.
“OHH SO I THOUGHT WE HAD AN AGREEMENT!?” He screamed while I was still in the corner trying not to laugh.
“NO DON’T LAUGH'' he yelled and my mom came in and yelled back,
“RELAX SHE IS A LITTLE GIRL YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN.” He turned around and just left.
“Mom, when is dad coming back? I miss him.” I have been asking my mom the same question for about a month and her answer always was “he will be back.” I asked if she promised me he would be back but she bursted into tears. I didn’t really understand because I was only 4, so I alway thought dads would actually come home.
One night, I had a dream where I saw someone outside my window laying on the hard, rocky, light blue concrete ground with blood all over him. I remember seeing mom screaming like crazy and hysterically crying. She cried so much that I thought she wasn't going to have any tears left. The dream seemed so real to me. Everytime I think of dad, I remember that dream. It is burned into my memory. I didn’t understand why though– and I never told my mom. It was just a dream after all, no big deal. When I was sad I used to talk to my little doggy. He was furry and really adorable. His little nose will alway be wet… dad bought it for me so it is the closest thing I have to remind me of him– except for his pictures obviously.
2 years later…
Two year passed by and I was 6 now. My birthdays weren’t as amazing and cool as they once were, because dad was never there with me. I was never happy.
”Mom, where is my father? Please be honest with me. WHERE IS HE!!?” At this point I knew she was lying to me about him coming back. It was like one in the morning and I went to sleep. I had another one of my weird dreams, except this time it wasn't only the guy on the floor, but it was like a whole episode. Let me take you back to when I was four…
Enter my dream:
“Heyy, wait, WHAT? Noooooooo!” My mom cried. BOOW BOOW BOOW! When I heard the gunshots I didn’t know they were gunshots. I was only four. I got scared though so I ran to my window to see what was there. I see a black BMW with a gun pointing out of the window and someone on the floor with blood all over them. I knew everything about guns because of my dad. The car saw me looking out the window and left. My mom is still crying. I didn't know what to do because I didn’t know what was going on. When I look at the guy again, I see my dad’s tattoo, so I screamed with joy
“Mommy it’s dad! He came back!”
Mom looked at me and said, “Where is he?”
“Look outside my window” I yelled. When she saw him she was in shock, screamed and ran outside. The blue and red lights flashed, the sirens got louder and louder.
“NOOOO who did this?!” Mom said, crying. “This can’t have happened,” she continued. I was really confused.
“It was *** that son of a ****”, my dad’s friend Chacho said.
“WHAT!?” my mom screamed. “He would never do something like that.”
“I know, I don't understand either,” Chacho said. I ran to Chacho to give him a hug but the cops wouldn't let me get close to him.
“Heyy baby wake up we need to go” mom whispered. That’s when I woke up. I told everything to my mom and she sat down on the floor with tears in her eyes.
“Mom, this did happen, right? That’s why I don’t see dad or Chacho any more, right?” I asked her, crying.
“Yes, mi amor I was waiting for you to be a little bit older so I could tell you” she replied, “Papi is dead.”
“Mom, he died? Mom MOM MOM MOM” I screamed. I was really upset. I wanted to go to his grave but it was in the Dominican Republic and we were in the Bronx. Mom eventually took me to DR and I got to see it. I dropped and cried in front of it. I talked to him for a while catching him up but it wasn't the same. I wanted him to see those moments. I mean, he was, just from a distance. I cried every night because I just knew that I was never going to be able to see him. On my trip to the Dominican Republic I found out I had siblings – 11! I know it's crazy. I got to meet all of them while I was over there. It was really cool. I mostly connected to my older sister, Marianna. I still loved all my siblings the same, she was just my favorite (don’t tell anyone though.) A few months passed by and my mom and I moved to Queens. We were staying at my grandma’s house.
“Welcome, my babies,” my grandma said proudly.
“Thanks, mami.” we both said. My grandma from my mom side wouldn’t want to talk about what happened because they wanted me to kind of forget about it, so I wouldn’t be upset. One night, she found me crying. I used to sleep in the living room with my mom in these sofa beds so it was really easy to hear my crying since I was close to her room.
“What’s wrong, princess?” my grandma said in a soft voice.
“I miss dad. I don’t think I could live without him.” I realized while blowing my nose.
“Don’t say that, mami, there was always one thing your dad wanted you to do, and that is to graduate. So the least you can do is make the dream come true for him.” my grandma said smiling.
I smiled back and yelled “Yes! I am going to graduate and make my dad really happy.”
“SHHH” my grandma said “your mom is sleeping.” I had forgotten and we both just laughed.
2 years later…
Two years went by and I still couldn’t forget what happened and the fact that it happened right in front of me and I didn’t even notice it. Next thing I knew, my mom got a boyfriend. His name is Adrian. I didn't have a problem with him but I just needed to get used to him. We got to know each other but I couldn’t find the courage in my heart to call him dad. Months and months went by, and I still called him Adrian. When I turned 7, he threw me a party at our apartment. Yeah, he moved us out of my grandma’s house. I was really happy and grateful when he did. My Grandma's house was small and I wanted my own room. Though I still didn’t get it when we moved, it was OK with me. When I was 7, I loved the little toys called Shopkins. So, my step dad, Adrian, made Shopkins the theme for my birthday party.
“Thanks, Adrian. You really didn’t have to do this!” I told him excitedly.
“Yes I did, you are my daughter now and you’re the only child I have. It doesn't matter if you are my step daughter. Also, you are doing excellent in school, getting all 4’s in your report card so you deserve it.” he said smiling. My eyes teared up and I hugged him. How did we get so lucky to have him in our lives? I invited some of my friends from school– it was lit. We danced to all these corny songs, but it was our jam so we didn’t care. When the party was over, I opened my presents– I got like 500 dollars! I was excited to waste it but I put it away so good that I lost it. I looked for it all day and still couldn’t find it.
“Mom, did you see my money?” I yelled.
“No love” she yelled back.
“Adrian what about you”
“No, where did you last put it?” he said
“I wouldn’t be asking if I knew.” I said giggling.
Jumping ahead to 2015, we found out my mom was having a baby. I was happy because I was finally going to have a sibling who lives with me. I went shopping with my mom almost everyday and all we got was stuff for the baby. We didn’t even know the gender yet but we were too excited. We got bottles, socks, hats, pacifiers, and many more things. My mom was really excited. At this time, she was like 5 months pregnant. She had a doctor's appointment on a Friday. I had school, but I really wanted to go because she was about to find out the gender. I begged and begged to go
“No you can’t go, you have school” mom said with a serious face.
“But mom, please I wanna know the gender pleaseeee” I begged.
“Fine, let's go,” she said, shaking her head. I was in the taxi and I was jumping with excitement.
“Mom, what do you think it is?” I said.
“I think it's a baby boy at least that’s what I want. Why baby, what do you think?” She replied smiling.
“Mom, please – we both know it's another girl!” I laughed. We walked into the clinic and it was scary, mind you I hated the clinic since I was a baby. I just hate the smell there. We are sitting in the waiting room for them to call us. Almost 40 min have passed and I was really hungry.
“Mom, I'm hungry, can we leave and come back?” I say with a crying voice.
“No baby there– ‘Bernarda Vasquez please come to room 4’” the loud speaker said before mom could finish her sentence.
“See love, let's go, follow me” mom said with a huge smile. We go down this long hallway and go into room 4. As we wait for the nurse I am sitting in the corner because like I said, I am scared of nurses and doctors.
“Hey, Yadira?” said a sweet lovely voice.
“Yes,” my mom replied.
“I am nurse Emily, and I will be checking to see if everything is ok with the baby today. I will also see if we can already tell the gender” the nurse said.
“Oh ok” my mom whispered. The nurse is putting something blue and sticky on mom’s belly. It looks really gross. I wondered what it was but I didn’t ask any questions. I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. Now I see Nurse Emily is rubbing this little machine against mom’s stomach. As she does that, I see the baby on this little screen. I gasped.
“Mom, is that the baby?” I say shocked.
“Yes baby” she replied.
The nurse laughed and said “yeah, the gender is visible. Do you want to know what it is or do I put it in an envelope?”
“You can tell me,” mom said. I am in the corner jumping with excitement.
“It’s a boy,” the nurse said.
“HUH?!” I said.
“A boy?! Noo, I wanted a sister” I cried.
“It's ok baby, trust me, you are going to love him no matter what.” I know how much mom wanted to rub it in my face that I was wrong, but she didn’t because I was upset.
3 years later…
I was 10 in 2020. In 2020, everyone was going through a tough time with COVID19 going on and everything. People dying, getting sick, hospitals full, schools shut down – it was just chaos. It was around March where Covid really went bad. Schools shut down, everyone had to quarantine, everyone started wearing masks and gloves. The supermarkets were low on food or toilet paper.That year was really hard for me and my family. My mom just had a newborn and no not Ayden. This was baby number 3! Her name is Adrianny. Ayden was already 5 by now, but I felt really bad because he didn’t get to do all the things I did in kindergarten. He didn't get to graduate, walk down a stage, perform a small dance with his class. He didn't get to do any of that. I didn't either since I was in 5 grade at this time. I never got to graduate with my friends, we couldn't even have our school dance. It was just really hard and not only for Ayden and me, it was hard for millions of people. As everything started closing, my birthday got closer. I couldn't do anything when I was turning 11 and I just had to stay home and deal with it.
“Mom I don't want a cake or anything for my birthday it's not worth it” I said while my eyes teared up.
“Are you sure baby? You have been waiting for you birthday for so long and your ipad pro too” mom explained.
“Yes mom, forget about all of that. The ipad, the cake, everything. Money is short right now mom, and yeah I know you are working, but you’re still putting yourself at risk of getting the virus.” I also explained.
Mom took a deep breath and said “Listen baby, you are my daughter, the girl who I will alway stay strong for and will most definitely sacrifice my life for. I am getting you at least a cake. I don't want you to spend your birthday like this.” We had this conversation on the 27th, a couple days before my birthday.
Now it was the 28th. It was around 9:30 when my mom woke me up and said “put some shoes on and go to your grandma’s house. She is going to give you something.” I am still waking up so tired that my eyes can't stay open as I walk out of my room. Our living room seems as bright as the sunlight today.
”Surprise princess!” my mom says with a bright smile.
“Mom, I said I didn't want anything…but, thanks mom I love it.” Mom got me a pink and green slime cake. It was beautiful with bright colors. There were dripps all around it. It just looked amazing.
“Ready to start opening gifts?'' mom said, all excited and with a big smile. I looked confused but replied with a “mom it's 6:00 oclock in the morning!” She just laughed as she handed me the first box. That box was heavy and when I say heavy I mean heavy. It weighed as much as a car LOL no exaggeration. I opened it as fast as I could and all I saw was a box with some bright colors on the cover. When I noticed it was the ipad I have always wanted, the ipad pro, I jumped up and gave my mom a hug. “Thanks mom I love you.” I whispered.
“No problem sweetheart” she said as she kissed my cheek. That day I didn't know how to feel. I was happy of course because it was my birthday, but then it was just like whatever because I couldn’t do anything thanks to covid. I was sooo bored that the only thing I could really do was sleep and that was exactly what I did until my friend sent me a Zoom link. I was confused, but I joined because why not? As I joined I saw all these names and I noticed they were all my friends. I looked shocked as they all sang happy birthday to me.
“What? You really thought we were going to let you be bored on your birthday?!” One of my friends said, I giggled.
“You guys are the best!” I yelled.
“We kinda know,'' some of them said. I had the best day that day, but let's fast forward.
2021 – One of the best but worst years. Let me throw you out. 2021 Chacho came out of jail. If you don't remember, Chacho is my dad's friend. After he came out. I had the best days, especially on Sundays. We had the best Sunday fun days ever. There was this one day where we went to the Cheesecake Factory – mind you, I was a picky eater. I had never been to the restaurant before so I didn't know what to get.
“Maryeli, what are you getting, mama?” Chacho said with his little squeaky voice.
“Umm I don’t know, checking the menu right now.” I replied.
“Lisanny and Zanalis help her out and Leah, what you want baby?” Lisanny,Leah,and Zanalis are my cousins – well not really, but I love them and look at them like they are. Chacho has two daughters Leah and Lisanny, that's why I say they are my cousins. On the other hand, Zanalis is Chacho's wife. Maria’s nice. Maria has been like a mom to me that's why I say Zanalis is my cuzzo too.
“What you getting girl?” Zanny asked me. That’s the little nickname we have for Zanalis.
“I really don't know I have never eaten here.” I reply with laughter. “I might just get some french fries and chicken tenders.” I also say.
“WHAT? Miss girl, you are not about to eat some french fries and tenders like Leah at Cheesecake Factory girlfriend” Maria said. Mind you Marira is bad and boujee and is the type of girl you will see with Gucci, Louie, Dior and all of that. She's like that because of Chacho. He is always buying them all that good stuff.
“Miss girl I don't know what to eat!” We all laughed
“Let's do this, get some file mignon steak with mashed potatoes and everything but we will still get you some fries with tenders just in case you don't like it.” Chacho explained. I agreed. When the food came, that filet mignon looked gooooood. I still didn't think I was going to like it but it looked crispy, well done, juicy and everything. The mashed potato was the best. It looked perfect, it had a perfect little shape, it was smooth and creamy, it just looked so good and tasty. Well, it was time for me to try it. I was a little nervous because like I said I'm a picky eater but I still did. I graded the sharp knife and the fork. I started to cut my piece of steak. As soon as I took my pieces you could see the juicy inside of the filet mignon.
“Dammm this is goood.” they all laughed
“See and you wanted to come eat some fries and chicken, girl get out of here.” Chacho said. We all laughed again. After that day all I eat at restaurants is filet mignon. Maria calls me Miss Boujee now, but I like it lol. In 2021 I also went to DR also known as the Dominican Republic. When I went, covid was still bad, but not as bad as it was in 2020. That was one of my favorite trips ever. When I go to Dominican Republic I always go to the beach and everytime I go I get a really nice tan. To be honest I can't let a little bit of sun shine on me in the DR because if I do, I will immediately get a tan. I don´t really like it but sometimes it looks cute. In DR I mostly go to this little city called San Francisco De Macoris. I love it there because that is where my sister Marinna lives. She is one of my favorite older sisters. She's the one that has the closest age to me. I don't really know why we connected so well but I am glad we did. My mom said we were going to the pool one day and the first thing I did was pick up my sister. I wouldn't go anywhere without her and if I did it would be boring. We would go do our nails the same as our hair. I would take matching outfits for us. It's just amazing but to be honest I had the best day when I went to take photos with my sister for her birthday. It was super cute. We were kinda matching but just with a change of color. For example, her dress was pink and the shirt she had under it was white and I have the same dress but red with a black shirt under it. We still had the same shoes though. We had on our Air Forces. Her’s were just high though. Back to the point– it was on of the best days because I got to spend alone sister-time with her and even though I am younger than her, I have more style because she is not really a fashion person. I say this because when we were taking the picture I was always fixing her up. The photographer even took some unexpected pictures of me fixing her up. It was so cute.
“How do I pose? I don't know what to do. What about my hair? Is it good?” Marianna cried. And that's why I say I have more fashionable and style experience.
“Come here” I yelled, laughing as she walked towards me. I started to fix her hair and gave her some posing ideas. I was so inspired by her and I always will be. She is only 14 and knows how to do so many things it's just amazing. That same day after the photoshoot we went to buy some supplies for the actual party which was the day after on July 4. We bought some candy and plants and went home. We couldn’t even sleep because of how excited we were but it was like 2:30 in the morning so we had too. My sister wakes up really early and since it was her birthday, I wanted to do something special. So I woke up super early, like at 10 in the morning – and yeah, you might say ‘what is she talking about that it is not early’ well for me it is! I be waking up at like 3 in the afternoon so yeah, 10 is early. I got up and made her some breakfast and designed it really pretty. I made her some mash plantains with salami, cheese and eggs, but the salami I made them into little hearts as well as the cheese. In DR we will call that “mangu con los tres golpes” except the one I made doesn't have onions because my sister doesn't like onions. I also made a cute little cupcake for her. I didn't know how to bake at all but I googled it because I wanted it to be special. Her favorite color was baby blue so I made some frosting with eggs, vanilla, and sugar and added some baby blue food coloring. After that I put it into a zip lock bag and made a hole at the bottom because I didn't have a piping bag. It wasn't the best swirral of frosting but it was something I added some sprinkles and put a little candle. I lit it up and took it to the room. While I sang happy birthday, she woke up looking like a bum. Her hair was all messed up and everything. I couldn’t keep singing so I started dying of laughter. I put the cupcake down and she threw a pillow at me. After I calmed down, I took her breakfast to the room and she enjoyed it.
“Yooo sisss this is mad good who taught you how to cook?” she said with mouth full.
“Google.” We both laughed. After that she got up and we looked for our clothing. She took out her closet two short jeans and two matching shirts and I took out of my suitcase two matching bathing suits. We showered and got dressed. When we finished, we headed out to the living room to tell my sister's mom that we finished.
“Mom we finished,” my sister yelled.
“Ok girls let’s go have some fun.” her mom said dancing. We went to the pool and had the best day ever. We cut a cake for her and enjoyed the rest of our day dancing and throwing ourselves everywhere. Two days after that, I had to return back to New York. I was a little upset because I was leaving my sister again.
“I am going to miss you.” I said to her, Tears ran down her face and we hugged each other.
“I'm going to miss you too,'' she said, trying to hold back her tears. Now I have to wait another year to see her. I hate the fact that I live in New York. When I arrived at the airport, the flight was delayed so we had to wait like 3 hours in the airport. It was like 6:00 am. We had to wait until 11:00 something. I fell asleep at the airport. When I woke up it was time for us to get on the plane. I had no idea how many hours I was asleep for or what my mom, step dad and siblings did while I slept. We got on the plane and the plane ride was amazing because I didn’t even feel it. I was asleep the whole ride except for when the food cart came around. I have to be awake for that.
“What drink would you like? `We have soda, water, coffee, and chocolate.” The flight attendant explained as she looked for more options “I would like a Sprite please.” I relipled. She took a cup from her cart, added ice and popped open a Sprite bottle. She hands me the cup and the can of Sprite just in case I wanted more. I took a small sip and they waited for the other flight attendant to come with the chip basket. “Which one would you like?” she asked. In the basket I see popcorn chips, cheese its ,and a granola bar.” I will take the popcorn please.” She hands me the popcorn. I started eating right away because I was really hungry. As soon as I finished eating, I went right back to sleep and woke back up when the plane landed. I was still super tired but it was time to get up. My stepdad took our luggage out of the airplane cabinets and we started following the others out. We arrived at gate 11, which was where we had to get our suitcases. We waited for our suitcases to come to our side and we all tried to grab one and we all did. We are a strong family. We walk out and my step dad’s father picked us up. When we arrived home I went to sleep – “againnnn” y'all might say. Yes, again. I am a real lazy sleepyhead.
A couple months passed by and school started. It wasn't horrible. But it was horrible seeing people in person and writing on paper. Then December comes around and in a snapshot, Christmas is here. Not going to lie, it was a really cool Christmas even though I didn't get a lot of presents. I didn't care, at least it was with love. I got an Oculus. If you don’t know what that means, it's like a 3D headset. I also got some fitted hats. One of them was black with a Dominican flag and a pink rim and the other was navy blue with a bedazzled peach on the front and a gray rim. They were really cute.
Now we are in New Years 2022 baby. On days like this, my family comes together and we have a big feast. We make ribs, chicken, like 3 different types of rice. It just looked like a whole restaurant. Not going to lie though, my mom's ribs are hitting different but we ain't getting into that before I get hungry. When it's 12:00, everyone rasis a cup of whatever you are drinking and we say our goals for 2022. Mine was to keep living life and smiling like I always have. Also to focus on school.
Wow, I really just told y'all my life in a short amount of pages. I am still here today Mar 9, 2022 It's crazy right? Since I spoke a lot about my birthdays, this year I am not really doing anything, just going out to eat with my mom, step dad, siblings, and Chacho’s family. It's 9:26 am and I am thinking to myself ‘why did I write this and what is this going to teach others?’ At first I didn’t even know. I just wanted to write about me and some events that happened in my life since I was born, but I noticed that I am actually writing this to show people that my life has been like a roller coaster, with exciting events, happy memories, scary memories and memories that are just impossible to take out of my mind. From my writing I want you to realize that I never gave up on anything. I have been through a lot but I didn’t let that bring me down. I always got up and put on a smile – did it alway work? No, but I still didn’t give up and thanks to that, here I am now with my beautiful family and with my angel looking over me.