Nah, say my name

“What is your name?”

What is my name. What is my name, they asked. Not, “how do you say your name?” As if it were some other creature only tied to me by the pencil and paper I write it on. As if it was  never mine in the first place. As if it were not me. As if it did not belong to me. As if I did not belong to myself.

My entire life has been a saga of deja vu, where I explain my name to friends, teachers, colleagues, and the baristas at Starbucks. Sometimes I’ll spell it out, or write it down — everyone learns a different way, and “it’s very important to foster a learning and positive environment,” said every Berkeley mother. It astonishes me how many times I have to repeat my name to the same person, and to each person I meet. While their reactions vary, I am left with the same feeling: isolation.

As with all things, I didn’t become ashamed, embarrassed, confused by my name until I reached the age of schooling, where I was ripped out of the safe web my mother had created for me, and into the sea of stubborn ears and tongues that did not listen. I dreaded the first days of school, because every damn year, I would have to go through the same public humiliation of a teacher butchering my name. I was not an exception — there were plenty other children of immigrant parents who suffered the same invisible terror. But this is my story. And no one else had my name, or was me: Camila.

“Cuh-mee-lah.”

“Kah-mill-uh” is what I got instead. Camille. Camillia. Camilla. Kamila. Cammy.

I was a painfully shy child, so when this happened every 365 days, I wanted it to be over as soon as possible. Never mind that they got it wrong, just get on to saying Hoshang’s or Ayeyi’s name. For the love of God, just butcher someone else’s name. And people wonder why I have anxiety. (Yes, it’s your fault Mrs. Downey. Mr. Aiken. Oh yes, I’m calling you out — funny how the tables have turned, eh?)

The worst part about all of this was not so much that everyone and their literal mother got my name wrong — it was that I didn’t have the courage to tell them that. I didn’t want others to experience my shame, my embarrassment. I just thought it would be easier to let it be, and that being called something other than my name was a fair price for anonymity and minimal humilation. I really did believe I’d come off as a stuck-up, snotty paled-skinned Latina brat who thought she was better than everybody (and for a time, I definitely did). So my voice remained quiet, and I let others name me. Me, my person, my literal identity, didn’t even belong to me. It belonged to those who were willing (or cared enough) to say it. But honestly, by the end of the year, or once soccer season ended, no one remembered my name anyways. No one remembered me. I was just that weird white girl with the weird name. And I stayed that way for the rest of my life.

The most puzzling part of this identity ordeal was that while people called me a literal flower, my name was perfectly normal in Argentina. Normal. There was nothing weird about my name, my skin, or the way I pronounced by double L’s. At six, I didn’t even know what normal was — and I still don’t know. The main difference, though, is that I don’t give a shit about normal anymore. But six-year-old, 12-year-old, and 16-year-old me did.

Each time I hopped on a plane to South America, I was able to shed the snakeskin of my phony identity off my body. I didn’t have to coil myself together like I did on the playground or during show-and-tell. People didn’t have to come up with nick-names or alter ego names just to interact with me (It’s Maya, if anyone is asking. My alter-ego name is Maya.) There were no misunderstandings in my name, and there were no fifth-graders to make fun of my stutter while giving the lunch lady my name. I was free. I was normal in Argentina. And more than anything, everyone in Buenos Aires said my name flawlessly. I fell in love with each person who uttered my name. It was a love affair with my own name, one that was forbidden and chastised in California. It put Romeo and Juliet, Rachel and Ross, and Kimye to shame.

“It’s not that hard of a name,” people would tell me years later, after I decided I would correct people until they said my name properly. I remember sitting at the table, passing hookah around with my college roommates while playing reggae in the background and sipping on beers. In unison, they all agreed that Camila Martinez-Granata was not a difficult name to say or spell. Truly, I know their intentions were well-meant. But on the inside, the smoke of the hookah plumed out of me, leaving the room thick with tension. It was, and continues to be, one of the most back-handed compliments I have ever received. Not the, “You’re pretty for a curvy girl,” or “You don’t look Hispanic.” Never mind that. There I was, sitting at a table, with mint-flavored tobacco in my lungs. The taste went bitter. I took another hit, held my breath, and with my exhale, pushed out every foul and insulting word I wanted to say. I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell them that they were being insensitive or that instead of making me feel validated, they made me feel dumb. Dumb for always correcting people, dumb for speaking out about my name. Dumb for being me. Instead of comforting me, I was pushed against a wall, alone and naked, shut out in the dark. My entire life, I had listened to people, just like my room mates, murder my name, carelessly. And suddenly, it was so conveniently pointed out that my that name isn’t that difficult to begin with. You’re right. It isn’t. My name is not what’s hard. It’s the people. It’s the ignorance that is hard. You do you not get to selectively choose when a name, or a fucking word, is hard to say. It suddenly becomes easy when they decide it is. It’s selfish as fuck.

I blow out the smoke. “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” I say.

 

Breaking up with Barack: A choice

This is the hardest breakup I have ever gone through.

Apart from my incessant ability to procrastinate, I did just that when Obama gave his farewell speech earlier this week. I felt guilty for not watching sooner. But grief is a hard master. So tonight, I sat down and braced myself for the waterworks and ugly crying that I did. And you bet your ass I drank some Gloria Ferrer. If this is to end, I’m doing this with fucking class.

Let me lay this down for you. I’m not happy about this shit — and as much as I wish this weren’t true, it is (it’s not over until I say it’s over, you know?). And there’s (almost) nothing I can do about it.

For the last eight years, Barack Obama has perhaps given me the most stable, reliable source of trust and confidence I’ve ever had (an exception to my romance with beer and grilled cheese). No one’s perfect, but that’s what makes them perfect. And when you love someone, you don’t suddenly stop loving them because they walk away from the relationship. It hurts. And it hurts because deep down, you know it was for the best. You know this needed to happen.

So when I sat down and finally watched his speech, I was filled with an array of emotions that may be the weirdest cluster-fuck of feelings I’ve ever had: Pride, anger, fear, and love. There I was, watching the man I love continue to be the honest, inspirational, and provocative man I fell in love with eight years ago. I was so proud of him, even though with every word he said, my heart shattered into a thousand pieces, again and again. Just because he’s leaving my life does not mean he stops being any of those things — and that is why this hurts. He will continue to exist, without me as his (somewhat) law-abiding citizen and number one fan (challenge me, bitches, I dare you). Because life, as it does, will go on, and I will enter the next chapter of my life. Without him. It’s selfish and self-centered and possessive, but those are my feelings.

The hardest part of watching Obama leave the White House may not be the fact that he’s going to be replaced by a cheeto-dusted moron (a close fucking second, though). It’s because I know this is the right call. There is no other way. This is the way of our democracy, and I have to come to terms with it. The passionate, unrealistic soul in me was hoping Obama would come out and say, “Nah, fuck that,” and allow himself to be re-elected. Or write some sort of deus ex machina that would save me and the American people from World War III and being forced to let anyone grab my pussy. This must be some sort of sick joke. It can’t be real. It can’t really be over. He’ll change his mind tomorrow. This can’t be the end. He’ll change his mind tomorrow. It’s when you start thinking of all the grandiose, unrealistic options, that it’s really over. There’s nothing you can do.

I can’t blame him. I can’t say he cheated on me, or lied to me, or chose being an ethically moral human being over protecting me from a xenophobic, misogynistic, racist piece of fake burnt crisp. I have no ammunition. It is so easy to replace love with hate — but I can’t bring myself to do that. I’d be a total phony if I did. There’s nothing I can say that will change this decision. Nothing I can do to reverse what time and the Constitution has inflicted upon me. I feel so helpless. I feel so lost.

I avoided watching his speech, because I knew it would hurt. I knew it would leave me reeling. There’s nothing worse than listening to the last time the person you love tell you goodbye, because at the end of the conversation, that’s it. They walk away. And there’s nothing you can do about it. There’s nothing Obama can do about it — he has no other choice, either. And this whole time, while you’re trying to hold it together and respect their voice, you can’t help but dread the minute they stop speaking to you. The second he thanked Michelle for her devotion and unconditional love, I lost it. When he made his final, final comments, the tears and hyperventilating came. Because then, it’s really over.

Over.

I can sit here and tell you I finished that bottle of champagne to myself, or spent $70 on underwear because I’m dramatic and emotionally unhinged, I could. And for the record, I did both of these things. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from my relationship with Obama, it’s, well, love. I love that man. I always will. Him walking away from the Oval Office won’t end me. It does not break me. I am so proud of him. In the face of adversity, he did. I’m not bitter or resentful toward him — he has given me so much, in such a selfless manner, that I am struck with a flood of emotional gratitude. And I could never, ever resent him for that. His presidency — my president — has left me with an inspirational, uplifting sort of love. The kind that makes you want to be a better person. The kind that challenges you to wake up in the morning and dish out kindness and patience toward people you don’t know. The kind of love that challenges you to love yourself (what an idea!). The kind of love that makes you want to be a better person. In fact, you ARE a better person because of them. And, I think, that is the greatest gift that anyone can give you.

So, as much as it breaks me, as much as it hurts me, I have nothing but love for this man. Thank you, Obama. Thank you for all that you have given me. You can bet I’ll raise hell these next four years. I dare you, watch me.

West World Chronicles: 1.10

Season finale. Everything comes full circle. I thought about breaking this up into two separate posts, but fuck it. I figure if you want to read it, you will. There’s a path for everyone.

“The Bicameral Mind” is the final episode of West World’s first season. With the way things end — I can say I’m more hooked than I was on Game of Thrones. Call it my addictive personality or obsession with a great story, but it’s true nevertheless.

Once again, the title talks to us. The now outdated theory of our mind separated by two halves — one that talks, and the other that listens and does — makes itself present in this episode. It manifests itself in none other than Dolores — who, throughout the season, has shown that she is guided by an inner monologue. Her intuition, her bicameral mind. More on sweet D in a sec.

In this final episode, we begin with Dolores’ very first memory. How fitting the end is the beginning. Dolores is now the narrator, telling Arnold of her first memory — a memory she’s had all the time, but was unable to access it. She is enchanted by Arnold and her epiphany. Their relationship is that of a parent and child. However, the Man in Black snaps her back to reality, and she is back in Escalante shaving his neck with his knife (how ironic). The Man in Black begins to lose his patience with Dolores, but humors her as she falls back into another memory, which leads her to her own grave. She digs up a toy maze; she holds the game — literally — in her hands. Contrary to what the Man in Black may believe, there are no coincidences in West World, no chance encounters. And as Dolores says, “There’s a path for everyone.”

She realizes Arnold made the maze for her. Dolores, who has been at her grave before, is explained (by Arnold) that the journey to consciousness is not a path upward, but inward. (lightbulb moment.) Arnold tells her that he wanted her to listen to her own voice, and reach her own consciousness, but that she has yet to reach the third level. This is when Arnold explains to her (and us) that once he realized what Dolores was capable of, there was no way he could go through with opening the park — a decision Ford was not onboard with. Arnold tells Dolores, “Once you found it, you will find your way back.” Arnold wants Dolores to break the loop and help him destroy the park — and the only way to do that, is to kill the other hosts. Dolores panics — she’s too gentle and naive to be holding a gun — or so it seems. So, Arnold messes with her personality, and adds in what I’m assuming is a lot of aggression and very little empathy. I found this scene to be particularly puzzling. I’m all for Dolores being a bad ass and smashing the park — but it’s almost like she’s a pawn of Arnold’s. I suppose Arnold is acting selflessly because he wants to free the hosts, but he’s still controlling her. How much free will does Dolores actually have?

We quickly flip to William, who is consumed by his obsession to find Dolores. I don’t think anyone really gives a shit about him at this point, and if you do, I ain’t sorry. We’re trimming the fat here.

Teddy awakes on the train (again). But this time, something is different when he steps into Sweet Water. His mind begins to flip back to another life long ago, and sees the entire town massacred. The only other being he sees is Dolores, who flashes him an all-knowing smile.

Back to the graveyard (which is an interesting setting, given all of Dolores’ realizations that make her alive). For Dolores, the past and the present meet in the graveyard in Escalante — including her relationship with the Man in Black. He is frustrated with Dolores, and after 30 years of playing the game, he wants answers. Frightened, Dolores tells him that she has someone — someone true — who is coming for her. MIB chuckles and in a long-winded narration, he tells Dolores the story of William. He reveals that while searching for Dolores for all those years, William found his true self along the way. And, surprise, MIB is William. Not a huge fan of this twist, but whatever. This truth then reveals that during this entire season, we’ve been watching Dolores from the past. Sure, there are subtle hints here and there that point to this, but I really was hoping for something more… clever. Having this thrown in my face sort of disappointed me — made me feel slightly cheated. Whatever.

A key part of this scene is a notable switch in Dolores’ demeanor after William pushes her.  Dolores is devastated that she was the one who committed the massacre in Escalante all those years ago — but don’t forget, she did it under Arnold’s orders. Her disposition quickly shifts from being a damsel, scared, and vulnerable, to an ominous, dangerous, and indestructible being. The juxtaposition of Dolores, injured and on the ground by her grave, and William standing over her should not go unnoticed. William tells her he wants to get to the center of the maze, and he’s sick of her stupidity. This triggers Dolores to make a very, very foreboding statement: “Time undoes even the mightiest of creatures … One day you will perish … and your bones will turn to sand, and upon that sand, a new god will walk … the world belongs to someone who has yet to come.” This is not the first time Dolores has predicted this apocalypse of sorts — she says something very similar before slashing Logan and escaping the Union camp. It is not gibberish, or improvisation; it’s a premonition of the future. In a nearly possessed manner, Dolores attacks William and deals him several blows (that actually hurt him and he totally deserves it because he’s an asshole murderer) before he is the one who finds himself at her mercy, laying on a grave. Dolores holds a gun to William’s head — but she can’t pull the trigger, and disappointedly, William stabs her. Circling (ha) back to Arnold’s theory of consciousness, is the final step to consciousness free will? Why does Dolores hesitate? She, like Teddy, can’t bring themselves to murder, and I’m dying to know what that final step is.

In an epic Maeve fashion, she, Hector, and Armistice begin taking down the gods and escaping. This comes just after William encounters Ford at the graveyard, and tells him he wants the hosts to fight back. Ford also tells William the maze isn’t meant for him, but he will at least like the new narrative. Be careful what you wish for.  The trio head down to where Clem and “dead” Bernard are. They bring Bernard back online, who is still shocked by his memory. While it may seem Maeve has no empathy for Bernard, she has chosen to let go of the past on focus on her plan of escape. For a hot minute, she asks Bernard to delete her memories of her daughter — making it obvious she still may be grieving. But Bernard tells her it’s not possible, and that it is engrained in her core code. This is Maeve’s cornerstone — her identity as a mother and losing a child. Like Bernard. Maeve is rattled, though, when Bernard tells her that she’s been programmed to escape this entire time (orchestrated by Arnold). She vehemently denies, and says, “I’m in control.” Maeve is strong, but her notion of free-will is threatened; which, in turn, causes her to question the nature of her reality all over again.

Teddy finally takes Dolores to where the mountains meet the sea (WW is on an island, in case you didn’t know). In a theatrical, dramatic performance, Dolores’ final words to Teddy are what we have always heard Dolores say — but with more. She begins by stating, “Some people choose to see the ugliness in the world, I choose to see the beauty.” A given. However, she follows by saying, “But beauty is a lure. We’re trapped, Teddy. Lived our whole lives inside this garden, marveling at it’s beauty, not realizing there’s an order to it, a purpose. And the purpose is to keep us in. The beautiful trap is inside of us, because it is us.”

A lot to break down. This soliloquy reminds us that throughout the entire season, we are only seeing a part of the picture, but not the whole picture. That there is much more at play than we can see. Dolores’ final words aren’t threatening or dangerous — they are sad. We pity her. We feel for her. You can get real introspective on this shit, but all I’ll say on this is that it calls on the audience to consider their own entrapment. How happy are you, living in your own garden, in your own world? Is there more out there? Maybe, we should constantly search for more, rather than live contently, exactly where we are. And maybe, ignorance isn’t bliss.

Maeve and her followers make their way through West World’s facilities, shooting and killing anyone who comes in their path. Bang bang. Felix is clearly disturbed, and Maeve urges him on and provides him with tacit emotional support. An interesting role reversal. Armistice’s arm is trapped in a door — there’s no other way it can end for her (love that her name is Armistice, when she is literally the antithesis of that, almost like Ares). Her cornerstone is fighting to the death, and sticking it to the man. Hector tells her to “die well.” (But if you caught the scene after the final credits, you know damn well she’ll be back for season two) Maeve bids farewell to Hector, her star-crossed lover, in the elevator. He understands, and tells her, “See you in the next life.” (Foreshadowing, much??) She does not want anyone by her side in her endeavor. Not even Felix, who hands her a piece of paper with her daughter’s location inside the park. For half a second, she hesitates. But then she says,”She was never my daughter, any more than I was … whoever they made me.” And with that, Maeve leaves Felix and plops herself down onto the train.

Following her death, Dolores is brought back online by Ford in the old field lab. She and Ford muse Michaelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam.” Ford uses the painting to explain Arnold’s thought process behind building and creating Dolores. He tells us that through Arnold’s own personal tragedy, he created a test of empathy and re-imagination; an idea he had gotten from one of his son’s toys. The maze, then, was created for Arnold’s child, Dolores, to play. She solved the mystery of the maze — and the key, Ford tells us, was the simple update of the reveries. We learn that in an attempt to stop Ford from opening the park, Arnold merged Wyatt’s narrative with Dolores, enabling her to take down other hosts. We watch Dolores kill Arnold during the massacre, who tells her, “I hope there’s some solace that I left you no choice.” Although Dolores physically shoots Arnold, he programmed her to do it re: “These violent delights have violent ends.”

Ford goes on to explain Dolores was not truly conscious, and Arnold pulled the trigger through her. He defends his stance on opening the park and choosing to trap the hosts in his dreams, but he also admits he’s changed. Upon quoting J. Robert Oppenheimer, Ford is admitting he may have made a mistake, one that took him 35 years to correct. In his own way, Ford is apologizing to Dolores. He levels with her, and while referencing the painting, tells her that the divine gift of consciousness does not come for another power, but from our own minds. In a paternal manner, he asks her: “Did you find what you were looking for, and do you understand who you will need to become if you ever want to leave this place?” He then leaves her, but not before saying, “Forgive me.” Dolores is left in tears, but her eyes are fixated on the painting — she knows what she needs to do.

Bernard, still pissed at Ford, confronts him in the church on his way out. He calls him out and tells him that one day, he will loses control of the park and the hosts. Ford (who is really just Anthony Hopkins playing Anthony Hopkins) counters with a confession of sorts. Ford explains while Arnold tried to save the hosts, Ford knew how: time. The hosts needed time to understand their enemy (humans), so they could have a fair shot at their own freedom. He admits that Arnold’s key insight, which led to the hosts’ awakening, was his own suffering. Through suffering, the hosts could reach their own consciousness. It was only after Arnold’s death, and through his own suffering, that Ford realized he was perhaps wrong. Ford, the master, the creator, the god, repents for his sins and confesses to his creation. Before leaving the church, he, in a way, passes Bernard the baton, and tells him: “In order to escape this place, you will need to suffer more.”

Wrapping this up because I am now over two thousand words and I’m not sorry at all so here’s the last bit.

Dolores, alone in the old field lab room, comes face to face with herself. She finally reaches the third level. She realizes this entire time, she’s been listening to her own self, her own voice. Her realization of self prompts her to make her own choice — completely unprogrammed (I’m making a jump here, humor me). She grabs the gun and makes her way to the gala, where Ford makes his final speech — his final performance, if you will. Unlike her last go-around with Arnold, Dolores will kill Ford on her own free will — and Ford knows this. There’s no doubt in my mind Ford is aware of the events that will transpire, even if they are unplanned and improvised. He explains to the shitty Delos board people that this next narrative will begin in a time of war and a villain named Wyatt, and a killing will occur –“this time, by choice.” Little do they all know they are part of the narrative — the story of the hosts and humans finally collides in an explosion of gunfire and violence. Dolores’ past and present finally merge. In a predictable final blow (sorry not sorry), Dolores assassinates Ford, and proceeds to shoot guests. But not before Ford heeds a final warning, one we’ve heard throughout the entire season: “These violent delights have violent ends.” Ford’s final narrative finally begins, as his own ends. And if we’re being totally honest, it’s not his narrative anymore — it’s belongs to the hosts.

Shit really does hit the fan, but it would be naive to say we didn’t see this coming. Dolores has reached her full potential and steps into her own self — one that was there all along. She breaks the loop with her own free will, and she does that on her own. We finally see Ford’s full plan — and until this episode, I don’t think anyone was expecting him to help the hosts. Like Arnold, West World became Ford’s reality — and I don’t think he could live without being in it. Which I think plays a factor in his choice to help Dolores, and end his life. His own suffering, I think, drove him to compassion for the hosts. Maeve also arguably makes her own decision in getting off the train — I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next season, she sets off on a quest to find her daughter. Maybe, just maybe, Arnold programmed her only to leave the park and get on the train — maybe he was gambling and hoping Maeve would decide to stay.

Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for next season’s West World Chronicles.

Freeze all motor functions.

P.S. I sat down the other day and watched the  1973 film “Westworld” out of principle and sheer curiosity. Well, mainly because a very clever human called me out for blogging about this show and having never seen the OG. Needless to say, the concept behind the film was developed, but I think the tech/special effects couldn’t do it justice. Besides, who wants to watch some robot take down a human who can barely put up a fight? We all like watching people squirm, robot or human-alike.