You Can't Hide

May 25, 2010
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One minute I am beautiful, the next day I am hideous. One minute I’m too tall, and the next minute I am too short. They suggested that I lose a few more pounds, the scar on my face is not good for advertisements, and that my figure just wasn’t right. My feet were too big, my ears were a bit small, but what did that have to do with anything? Some were blunt enough to come right out and tell me that it was because I was Hispanic, and took offense to my Spanish accent. As I wait in audition lines the other girls look me up and down, whisper to the person next to them, and glance in my direction every now and then. I sat in my room and cried just thinking about the fact that I would never be good enough. I knew I was strong, but couldn’t help but cry because these thoughts kept running through my mind and overwhelmed me at the time.

It was raining so hard outside that I failed to hear my roommate Nicoelle enter into the apartment. She was my best friend, and I felt like she was the only one who truly understood me. I met her when I first moved to America after escaping my alcoholic father, and we went to high school together. She was much better off than my mother and I, but she was always there for me no matter what. She didn’t think twice about letting me stay with her in her New York City apartment that her dad bought her after she graduated high school. She was going to New York University, but all I wanted to do was become a model.

She knocked on my door yelling “Nessa!” I quickly wiped my tears from my face and ran to open it. She must have noticed that my eyes were a bit red but just asked me if I was hungry because she picked up my favorite dish from the Chinese restaurant around the corner. Fried rice and sweet honey chicken were my favorite and is hard to turn down even though I am on a diet. She didn’t bother asking me what was wrong because I usually prefer to be left alone; she knew that I would open up eventually. I told her thanks but no thanks, but she insisted that I need to eat more. I refused again, locked my door back and sulked in my bed because I was just having another one of those days. I reached in my bag to grab a travel magazine that I picked up from a news stand on the street and flipped through the pages. The mountains of Brazil, the shores of Australia, the busy streets of London, Paris, and Italy were all so beautiful! I wanted to visit all of these places and so much more. My browsing was interrupted by an incoming call. It buzzed at the end of my bed and it read “David.” I hit ignore, this was the fifth time he tried to call today but she was the last person I wanted to hear from. He always discouraged my future aspirations and never thought I would make it. "It was a hopeless career, and we didn't come to America to pursue hopeless dreams," he would say. He probably tried to leave a message but my mailbox was full, oh well. I went to the bathroom to wash my teeth, brush my face, and look in the mirror causing me to notice imperfections. The scar across my jaw bone couldn't be covered up with any kind of make-up. I decided to just call it a night and hoped that tomorrow would be a better day.

The next day I decided to relax and I sat around the park and read the entire day. I boarded the subway to go home just as I do just about every day around 10 o’clock, and I seemed to notice a strange character riding the past week or so. He always sat in the opposite corner with a trench coat and a hat, his head was always perched down so that you could barely see his face. I didn’t think anything of him because I mean, this is New York City and you see a lot of crazy things within a day’s walk. My phone began to ring; once again, it was my brother. I pressed ignore hoping that she’d get the hint that I didn’t want to talk. It rang again, assuming that it was him again I pressed ignore, but I realized that it was Nicoelle. She wanted to let me know that she was going to be staying on campus with a friend that night and to call her if I needed anything.
I exited the subway and was in a rush to get home because it was freezing outside and I stayed about five blocks away. It was a quiet walk but after walking the first block I heard quiet footsteps walking behind me. We lived in an outlying neighborhood from the city therefore there usually was not a lot of commotion. I hugged my jacket closer to my body and the click of footsteps behind me kept reminding me that I wasn’t walking alone. I did not want to turn around to see who was walking behind me because that would make the rest of the walk home awkward. I was hoping that this person would turn a corner to differentiate our routes, but every corner I turned they followed. I did not want to speed as that would reveal I was nervous, but the entire way I could tell that this person was the same distance away because I was closely listening to their footsteps. I couldn’t help not knowing who was behind me and was curious so I just took a quick glance behind me as a car passed to make the gesture less obvious. Chills ran through my body when I noticed the trench coat, and the hat of the same man who was riding the subway. This reminded me of all the scary movies I’ve seen and I was only thinking of the worst possible situations that could become of this moment. It could be a coincidence because maybe he lives near me, you never know, but I was starting to panic. I reached in my pocket to make sure I had my keys handy. My brother called and this time and I just decided to answer because this would be the perfect distraction at the moment. “Vanessa where are you, I’ve been trying to call for the past two days!”
“I’m sorry my phone was having problems and I couldn’t receive calls.”
“Look I need to know where you are, I know how hard this is going to be to hear, but mom was found dead yesterday in her apartment. I’ve talked to the police and they suspected that it was our dad, they searched records and it shows he came to the country a few weeks ago.” My heart dropped, my legs still kept moving, but I don't know how because I was in another world. "Vanessa, Vanessa, hello... are you there..say something!" I hung up instantly and started thinking to myself, this is no coincidence, I've been seeing this man often, and he has never gotten off at the same stop as me, let alone follow me several blocks. If I start running that will be too obvious, I could call the police but he's right behind me and- maybe I'll just stop and confront him, but what if he has a weapon. All these thoughts are running through my mind, I don't want to die. I wiped my tears from thinking about my mom's death and at this point I was one block away from my apartment.

I ran for it! Luckily I didn't have my heels on but I sprinted as fast as I could. The wind was catching my hair in each stride and I didn't turn back once. I found myself running for my life because sure enough, the click of the man's heels were at a super fast pace, and eventually he was running too. No matter how out of shape I was, when you are running for your life, you sprint like you're in an Olympic race. I screamed at the top of my lungs as loud as I could but the streets and sidewalks were empty, living rooms were lit but nobody cared to come to my rescue. I screamed and ran but I was losing my breath. The man was still keeping a close distance running as well. I reached the apartment stairs and I ran -- I leaped up each flight of stairs skipping about three in between. Unfortunately I lived on the fifth floor. Every time I turned to run up the next flight of stairs he started running up the previous flight, one trip, and I'd be done for good. I bolted to the door and fumbled with my keys but saw him coming out the corner of my eye. I managed to make it in right before he got there. I rested my back against the door because I was so tired until I heard a loud bang! The man began pounding the door ferociously.
It was about 8 years ago when my mom, brother, and I all packed the few clothes we had and fled to America in order to escape from my father. He was an alcoholic, used several drugs, and no matter where we would run he would find us somehow. We tried to stay with my Auntie Maria in San Jose, but he would come banging on the door. He would curse and say other things, saying that if we didn't come home he promised that he would kill us. I remember hiding under the bed with my brother because we were scared to death and he would hold my hand as we cried, and watched my mom cry. Bang, bang, bang! That sound beats terror into my heart because the image of my father sometimes keeps me up at night. I specifically remember the time he came home drunk and he hit me across my face and my mother couldn't do anything. He made me feel so ugly and I have so much hatred for him. Moving to America was the best thing that could have ever happened to us, but I knew he would find us eventually.
I ran to the phone to call the police. As I picked it up off the table I fumbled it because my hands were shaking so much and my hands were dripping with sweat. "New York City Police Department."
"HELP ME, H-HEL-HELP ME PLEASE...!" I could barely get the sentence out because I was scream, quivering, and crying at the same time. The pounding was getting louder and louder, and with one strong hit he would eventually bust through the door. "A MAN- A MAN IS TRYING TO GET IN MY HOUSE, I NEED HELP PLEASE!"
"Ok ma'am remain calm is there anyone with you now?"
"No, PL-PLEA.." I dropped the phone dead. I was now staring at Alejandro Cruz. The man who killed my mother, and the one who attempted to take everything we had whether it was money or pride. He walked in, closed the door, and looked me straight in the eyes. I was silent, but the shaking of my body and the quivering from my mouth was causing enough noise. He took a step closer and clenched my arms pulling me close to his face. He was a very tall and muscular man making it impossible to escape from his grip, but I wouldn't dare try either. He breathed heavily in my face smelling like cigarettes and vodka, and I clenched my eyes shut because all I wanted to do was live.
"You thought you could run didn't you," he said in his thick Spanish accent. I said nothing.
" You can run, but you can't hide!" He started reaching for something on his waist until the police came and busted through the door. He lifted his hand to put the gun to my head and I was terrified, shaking, and praying in my head. He was a bit too slow however because they shot him twice, once in his chest, and the other in his shoulder. I cried and screamed as I watched him lay there and the blood created a puddle underneath them. I'm not sure if those were tears of sadness or joy, it was both. He was my father, but as much he has put my family through, the fact that he killed my mother, I am glad that he's dead. I could finally live free without the fear of him showing up in my life again.
My brother eventually made his way to the apartment and he hugged me for a good five minutes as my tears damped his entire arm. Although we rarely talked anymore, I was grateful to have him now. It's sad how tragic events have to bring people back together but I was going to start living different. I will never let anybody control the way I live, and I must have faith. Whenever nobody is there for me I must trust God, but also believe in myself as well. If I really want to be happy in my life from now on I have to move on, live for tomorrow, and let the past be the past. You can't hide from your imperfections, they make you who you are, you must learn from them, embrace them, overcome them, and become a better person.

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