Faulkner wrote about her ancestors She stood like a pillar of strength between her mother and daughter She stood strong as both of them held her arms that were their life jackets as they drowned in endless sorrows Tears silently fell from her face as her father laid in his closed home And the reverend went on about him being in a better place And her strength did not falter, She let her loved ones hold on tight while she tried to blink away tears , She swallowed her pain and absorbed the pain from those around her She wasn’t just strong for her mother and daughter, but she was a goddess of strength among the mere mortals around her that wept
From the ages of 18 to 23, I worked for a government agency as an interpreter. I was well-liked by many of my coworkers and my first supervisor was appreciative of me. I was very good at my job and even cross-trained in many other areas that didn’t “pertain to my job”. However, at that job, I was also bullied and discriminated against for being Latina. I was also slut-shamed by my second supervisor and coworkers the latter 2 years I was there. I don’t want to say I deserved being slut-shamed but I’ll just say that I trusted the wrong coworkers with my private life and they went on to gossip about me to everyone. It was also a very stressful environment because of the work I did and clients I had to interact with. My depression and anxiety went haywire. In 2003, I decided to enroll in my local community college and major in English. In 2004, I was trying to go to school full time, work full time, and deal with my child’s new autism diagnosis. I was breaking down mentally and something had to give so I quit this job. I was fucking done. And this poem was inspired by that moment. I thought I had processed this trauma until it came back up in therapy in the summer of 2021. I didn’t realize it at the time but I had suffered a deep racial trauma that impacted me and still triggered reactions in me. I was angry. There is actually way more to this story and one day I’ll share it when I’m ready.
There’s an idiom that says, “Don’t shit where you work” which means “Don’t get romantically involved with your coworkers”. There’s a good reason as to why this idiom exists. Dating is messy and complex enough without adding the complication of working together. Having said that, let me start by saying that Lucas did shit a lot with 3 of his coworkers . This would have been a way less complicated if Lucas and his wife would have practiced ethical non monogamy but that wasn’t really a thing heard of in the early 2000s and especially not in Georgia.
It’s January 2002 in a northern Georgia town and I work for the Department of Family and Children’s Services as an interpreter for Food Stamp and Medicaid Services and I’m also serving as the interpreter for Child Protective Services since their interpreter either got fired or left, I can’t remember. Lucas is an investigator for Child Protective Services and my other two coworkers, Sam and Paula are Investigators as well. Lucas is married, in his early 30s and lanky but cute enough I get a crush on him right away. Sam is married, in her mid to late twenties, slender and blonde. Paula is fresh out of college, mixed and a force to be reckoned with. Oh and also, my roommate/co-parent T is also working as a Foster Care worker but that’s a story for another time. Anyways, Lucas, Sam, and Paula all start working for DFCS at the same time in January.
At some point I start going out with them to interpret when they start going out on case investigations. I remember the first time I went out with Lucas and we went to talk to this mom at the local chicken plant. We were waiting in this room the mom’s boss had put us in and were sitting side by side. We were making small talk and he accidentally touched my bare knee. When he touched me, it felt like an electric shock went through my body and I can tell he feels something because of the way his face turns red. The only time I had ever felt like this before was when I met the first Andrew for the first time. The mom comes in and he tells her that the school has concerns and I interpret. After that event, me and Lucas became friendly and well, became friends. Around this time, I also became good friends with Paula. Me and Sam never really vibe because like most of the caseworkers at DFCS, she’s stuck up and looked down on the office assistants (that was my official title) without a college degree. It was a pretty toxic work environment but that’s a story for another time.
February comes and Paula tells me that she has a crush on Lucas and I listen to her but don’t tell her I also have a crush on him. I also started dating Ron around this time and while I’m not into Ron at first I go for it because he seems really into me and makes an hour and 30 min drive to see me. Ron is an apartment manager and also the lead singer of his heavy metal band. I don’t remember the name of the band except that it has psycho in it. Ron is 24,witty, is 6’4 with a larger frame and blond with blue eyes. Ron is great at taking me seriously. Within a month, I met his parents and he met mine and he even met my son. My parents nicknamed him “el Rockero”. Ron seems like a dream, right? Well, Ron is also kind of a drug dealer. I call him kind of a drug dealer because his drug of choice is weed. Ron is also very sarcastic and has this tendency to make me feel dumb and needy at times. However, not one to give up on relationships because the alternative is being lonely, I stick with it. I don’t think he intentionally meant to but at times, his insults felt like emotional abuse. However, did I forget to mention the part where he’s the most attentive boyfriend and he whisks me away to Atlanta to the apartment complex he managed for sex and great food on the weekends. It meant a lot to me, a young mom who lives in a shitty Southern small town and works in a toxic environment. Of course, I do also have to mention that on more than a few occasions he embarrassed me in front of his friends in a public by calling me dumb or stupid but you know-the sex is great and he loves me. Ah, young love-isn’t it the best?
Around this time, there were rumors at work that Sam and Lucas were “involved”. I got mad and jealous about it and wrote this poem:
Paula was upset as well and talked to me about it. She didn’t know that I understood her more than she knew. By this time, me, Paula and Lucas were going out to lunch together on a weekly basis when our schedules permitted it. One day, Paula couldn’t make it and it ended up just being me and Lucas going out to lunch at the Applebees.
I asked him outright, “Are you having an affair with Sam?”
He answers,“No,that’s ridiculous, I’m married”.
I reply, “well there is this rumor going around that you are”.
And he answers “nah, you know how these people are”.
I decided to believe him. At that lunch we open up more to each other and discover that we both love to write and decide to share our writings with each other. This brought us closer as friends. After that lunch, I wrote this poem:
The next day Sam corners me in the office and asks me, “have you heard the rumor going around in the office?”
I asked her“what rumor?”
She answers,“that you and Lucas had sex yesterday”
I asked, “where?Applebees?”
She didn’t even flinch or laugh. People actually thought that me and Lucas had sex because they saw us leave together for lunch. I told y’all,it was a TOXIC work environment.
I told Sam, “no, we went out to lunch as FRIENDS”
She’s says, “okay, I believe you. It would be weird considering me and Lucas spent the weekend in New Orleans for Mardi Gras together”.
I answered “ah,okay”. So she dropped this bomb on me and I was Idk, shocked but decided it was none of my business. I also turn 21 that month and I go to the local bar with my coworkers and get really, really drunk. Well, a lot of us do. That’s when Paula tells me that she’s also been seeing Lucas.