This is a teen-written article from our friends at Youth Communication, a nonprofit organization that helps marginalized youth develop their full potential through reading and writing.
By Juana Campos
When I was seven, my father taught me how to ride a horse. It was the most beautiful experience of my entire life.
My family still lived in the Dominican Republic then, and one day my father took a day off from work to go with me to my uncle’s farm. The horse he chose for me to ride was dark brown and her name was Susanne, but I couldn’t pronounce that, so I called her chucale, which later became my nickname.
It was a beautiful sunny, breezy day, and the green field was full of flowers. The wind was moving my curly hair and all I could hear were the birds singing. I rode Susanne while my father guided me.
“Gather the rope around her neck,” he said.
I accidentally grabbed Susanne’s mane instead of the rope and she reared up. I was going to scream for help but then I realized I was pulling her hair so I let it go and she stopped. I was worried that I might fall, but I had fun, too, as though I was going up and down on a roller coaster.
“Are you having fun with Susanne?” my father asked me. He was really excited that I didn’t fall off the horse and he seemed happy.
“Her name is Chucale,” I yelled at him, rolling my eyes.
“Fine, however you want to call her. Just don’t hit her so she won’t get angry.”
I kept going in circles with Susanne until it started raining. We got wet and then my father took me inside so I wouldn’t catch a cold. My dad had taken a picture of me riding Susanne, and he wanted to give it to me but I refused to accept it.
“It’s OK, Daddy, you keep it. After all, I had a great time with Chucale and I don’t need a photo to remember this moment.”
Two years later, my father left our home and I haven’t seen him since. But I’m pretty sure he remembers that day as much as I do.
A Desert Inside
The day I went from living with both of my parents to live with only my mother, I felt like a desert, empty and like everyone had abandoned me. I was 9, and I’d arrived home early from school. The front door was open so I entered the house unnoticed. I heard my mom and dad talking in their bedroom. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but my mother sounded as if she was about to cry so I got closer and listened.
“Why did you do this to me?” my mother asked.
“I don’t know. It was an impulse,” my father replied.
“What impulse? What are you talking about? How many times have you cheated on me?” she yelled at my father.
“Is this how much you ‘love’ me?” she asked. Mom started crying.
“Don’t cry,” Dad said.
“How am I supposed to tell the kids about this?” she said with a sad voice.
They stopped talking for a second but then my father said that they should divorce because he wanted to marry the other woman. He told her he was sorry for her and the kids, and that he was sorry for not telling her before.
“I’ll leave next week and when the kids ask you where am I, just tell them that Daddy found a new job and had to move to the city for a few months.”
I felt a lump rising in my throat, but if I cried, my parents would notice I was listening.
The next few days were agony. When mom told me and my siblings that our dad was leaving for a few months because he found a new “job” in the city, my siblings believed what my mother was saying. But I knew the truth, and later I told my mom that I’d overheard their conversation.
He Never Came Back
She hugged me. She tried to deny it, but then she realized she had to be honest with me. “Oh honey, I wish you hadn’t heard that, but things aren’t going well between Mommy and Daddy so we have to divorce,” she said in a quiet, comforting voice. She gave me a kiss on my forehead.
I felt angry but tears flooded my eyes. I rolled my eyes and they disappeared. I didn’t want to look weak in front of Mom. I wanted her to see I was a brave girl. I promised never to tell my siblings the real reason my father left.
After that, I saw my father twice and then he never came back. The last time I saw him, he took me to a park in the city of Santiago and bought me ice cream. I understood that I wasn’t going to see him frequently after that, but I never thought that was going to be the last time.
At first, my brother and sister believed what Mom said about him and his new “job,” but soon they noticed that he didn’t keep in touch with us. They were sad but they weren’t so close to my father, so I don’t think it affected them as much as it affected me.
My sister and I talked a lot about how we felt. My sister said that she was sad that our dad had left but she said she understood that he’d found someone else and maybe that person made him happier than my mom had. She was 14, so maybe it was easier for her to take that in.
Reprinted with permission from Youth Communication.