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CHAPTER 8: Moving Forward

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

Life was not easy for the little hoppy frog. His pond was surrounded with dangers, and shadows that were filled with strangers.

He had to escape, he had to keep safe and was running out of time.

 Jump frog!

Tick. Tock. Jump frog! You can make it through the fog.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

Jump frog jump frog! Find your own log.

What else could the little frog do? Bouncing was what he was born to do.”

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

Allo, I’m coming back” 

Another night waking up startled out of breath.  I removed the pillow over my head that was suffocating me. Finding myself with the same dream, again.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The loud clock was ticking away after 2AM and my heart was jumping out of my chest, like that frog bouncing away. I couldn’t help believing the frog was me and everything around it was transpiring in my actual life. Maybe that frog was trying to tell me something? I couldn’t understand why that dream was coming over and over especially now that things in my house changed once more, morphing my path yet again in a new direction, a better one. Things were just fine. 

My sister who got pregnant very young, was having her first baby and moving in with her boyfriend to become a housewife. My first niece, an adorable baby girl, would be the first member for a new generation of our family. I was happy for her, even though she was leaving.

My brother’s prayers were answered and he was finding salvation in the love of a girl who would provide him the fresh start he needed. He moved away to be with her and to become a new man, a better man. Hulk was gone, and I was happy for him even though he was leaving.

As for my mom who was holding down multiple jobs, she was busy enough to forget me while she worried about my dad AR who had sent no news from his travel chasing the American Dream.

Mother busy, father gone, sister and brother gone. The hoppy frog was already 13 and alone on the log, hopping along my own path, going forward in my own way. I had my own places to go and things to do.

Sitting in my pond, planning for my world domination career (wink wink), all I could think of was how to make money. I needed money. Money meant freedom. Money meant no more problems. And I was determined even at such a young age that I was going to leave this life of poverty. So I studied hard, did my homework, I went to school, and I got several jobs to be as productive as possible. 

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Find Me.

Hopping away, my day would start at 7:30 AM (which is very early for me now! Don’t know what happened to me). I would get up, get ready and head out to my first job which was just outside our house on the street corner. My sister had set up a fresh orange juice stand, selling to the busy morning commuters, and I was there to squeeze hundreds of oranges through the rush.

By 10 AM my shift started at a gaming arcade, where the only thing I had to do was to exchange money for tokens. Kids would come to play video games while I sat at the register, just doing my homework in the neon lights and loud electronic music. Whenever I had some free time, I would spoil myself a bit and play for free with the machines.

Once the clock struck 1:30 PM it was time for me to go to school, not before I stopped home quickly to pick up a snack and a bag full of products that I used to sell at high school. 

I was such a business-kid. It was like a little traveling dollar shop strapped to my body (half of my body because I was pretty short) and I had a wide variety of stuff: small plastic rings, bracelets, candy, chips, but without a doubt my star product was my “Chocolate Abuelita ice cream” a homemade chocolate ice cream that I made overnight every night. They would be totally sold out within 20 minutes of me getting to high school.

Once I finished classes around 10 PM it was time to go hopping away back home to start my fourth job for the day. Outside of my nana’s house, there was a small food truck selling burgers and while a guy was cooking them I was the one in charge of preparing them for the clients. 

I guess that’s where my extensive love for burgers comes from, it literally was my dinner every night I would work. Once the place was closed I would pick my 70 pesos salary and the tips I got (which all amounted to around 10 dollars per day by then) and head home. I still remember the owner telling me how lucky I was, because the clients never used to leave any tip until I started working there.

Finally, when the day was over, I would wait to be alone in my room and count my money from all the jobs of the day. Darn it I was proud, working for myself. For a 13  year old I was doing great, hiding money where no one could find it, and feeling not like a little frog anymore but like the Great Gatsby.

And that was my routine for the coming years. We were all moving on with our lives, looking into the future, hoping for better moments ahead. But for some weird reason I forgot to worry, in my house it was always like an up and down roller coaster and if I should have learned something by then, it was that our life was like one step forward and two steps back. 

But while I was busy looking ahead, life was ready to take me back! And just like that it happened, unexpectedly.

 “Ruben come here” my mom screamed.

I went running inside from my shift in the burger place to check what was so urgent that it couldn’t wait for me to finish work.

“Take the phone” she said as she shoved it in my hand.

Who could be calling me at this time at night I had no idea.

“Hola?” 

“Hey! How are you?” he said. 

I knew this voice. I froze for a minute. 

“Good… I’m good and you?” I replied. 

“I’m coming back”

You are coming back? OMG He is coming back! I thought.

He was coming back

AR was coming back.

Just like that. One step forward, two steps back.

Jump frog, jump frog! You can make it through the fog.

AR is coming back to your pond.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. 

Mucho amor,

Ruen on the road.

 

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