We’ve been home for about ten years now. A lot has changed for us. We just got back from my therapist’s office. I see him every 6 months. Before it was every 3 months. Sometimes I don’t need to go but I do anyways. I don’t want things to be when we first came back to Mexico. I always bring my journals with me. This way we can talk about how I’m feeling, what I’m forgetting, and remembering. I meet with Dr. Nuno. He is kinda older. It looks like his hair is changing color. Turning grey. He wants me to keep talking to people even if the words don’t feel like they’re coming out. He said eventually they will and I’ll speak naturally often.
His office is in downtown Mexico City. We live about 30 minutes away but still in the city. My mom remarried about 7 years ago and we moved in with him and his daughter Yessica. His name is Carlos. The way my mom and him met was at the grocery store she worked at. Carlos and his brother own some grocery stores in Mexico City. They opened one in Patzcuaro a year after we came back from the United States. It’s not there anymore. It didn’t do enough business. My mom and I both worked there. I mainly bagged groceries. It’s all I could do at the time. One day they were talking, next thing you know they started dating. I’m happy for my mom. She’s had too much sadness in her life.
When my mom and Carlos would go on dates, Yessica and I would come too. I think early on Carlos knew we would be a family. She’s a year older than me and I feel that she is very protective of me. She told me that her mom had a tumor in her head and she died when she was twelve. She and Carlos are very patient with me. Maybe it’s because I had a brain injury and so did Yessica’s mom. I feel the reason They’re so nice is they see me for who I am. They never met me before I got hurt. I consider Yessica to be my best friend. Even though I go to see Dr. Nuno, she would still go over my journals with me at home. When she got her driver’s license, she even would take me out so I wouldn’t be bored at home.
On my 18th birthday, Carlos bought me a computer. He asked me if I wanted a car at first but I didn’t think that was a good idea. When he asked me why, I just pointed at Yessica and said “That’s what she’s for.” My mom, Carlos, and Yessica laughed. So Yessica told him to get me a computer instead. I kinda remember opening it out of its box. What I do remember is Yessica telling me “Now you have to use your brain” as she touched my scar. That made me laugh a lot!
In the last few years I’ve gotten pretty good at using my computer. It’s helped me communicate and learn faster. I never had one before and had only used them a few times. Usually with Yessica while she was online. With her help, I was able to explore websites. Especially Youtube! I still work for Carlos at one of the local grocery stores, but when I’m home I watch a lot of music videos. A few months ago I made a Facebook. After getting used to it, I eventually found Mayor Toro. We added each other on there. He is still skinny and he’s grown a bit. He has a little mustache but I don’t like it. It looks different. It’s weird. Mayor goes to college and has a job. He told me that he’s had two girlfriends since I left. He even says he would like to visit but I don’t think that will happen. Mayor also told me about that boy Garrett and his dad. His dad is still in prison gracias Dios! I guess Garrett got into a big bar fight recently and he’s getting locked up too. Some things never change.
It’s okay if Mayor doesn’t come. He’s from the place that my dad died. I want to forget almost everything about that place except him. He showed me I could be normal again. At work I try and flirt with guys who talk to me. They ask for my number but they get scared. They notice I’m not all there at times or that I speak slow here and there. I’ve hung out with a few guys though. Some try and take me on dates but most only want one thing right away. I know I’ll meet someone nice eventually. I have a lot to work on until then. One of those things are my bunuelos! They came out wrong for so many years. They were barely worth eating. Everyone in the house thinks they’re fine. I feel fine enough to make them now. In fact I feel a lot better than when we lived in the U.S. I can go out walking to the shoppes and not get lost…sometimes. If it weren’t for my mom meeting Carlos and him getting me to a good doctor, I wouldn’t be better. I think about that often. I wonder why my dad had to die. If he was still alive, would we be in that little apartment? Did I cause my dad to die when I went out with Mayor or was he meant to be taken? If he hadn’t died, would I have gotten better?
My purpose for writing this lost chapter was to give the story some final closure. It had too much of an open ended feeling. I read the book and enjoyed it immensely. As the story progressed I began to wonder if Maribel would say anything. When they arrived at the hospital I felt her chapter was coming up soon. I struggled to not flip through the pages ahead. When I read the last paragraph of the book and saw an empty page to the right without Maribel’s name at the top I felt let down. Afterall, you see the back of her on the cover of the book! So I decided to write how her life had progressed. Her story needed to be told but accurately. The majority of the time, a person with a TBI (traumatic brain injury) will struggle. Those struggles will be highlighted with cites as well as her room for improvement which is possible.
One of the first things I wanted to show was her use of the journals. “I’m writing. The doctors told me to write.” (Henriquez 73). They would be a constant thing in her life. Sometimes Maribel would need them and other times she wouldn’t. The next thing that would help her progress would be her new social circle. Her new step dad Carlos and step sister Yessica’s desire to help her would push her development forward. Her interactions in the book when she states “You don’t ask me how I’m feeling, I hate it when people…ask me that.” (Henriquez 113), and “I feel like you’re the only person who…sees…me.” shows this(Henriquez 173). These two new people had no expectations of her. They just wanted to be there for Maribel and help her. Carlos and Yessica wanted to help the person in front of them, not the one before the accident.
There are a few statements in the book I want to present that Maribel could and was improving. One of the doctors said after the injury “But she’s young, which gives her a better chance at recovery.” (Henriquez 106). At the dinner table while the Riveras were eating and Maribel is playing with her food, Alma thought to herself “She had been showing so much improvement-the latest report from the school had said that Maribel could easily answer questions and follow prompts, and that her attention span had increased.” (Henriquez 219). Another is with her last interaction with Mayor Toro. Maribel says to him “Finding is for things that are lost. You don’t need to find me, Mayor.” (Henriquez 263). That dialogue to Mayor was a testament to her creative thinking. She wasn’t just answering yes or no in a classroom setting where she was improving also.
Dr. Celeste Campbell is a neuropsychologist in the Polytrauma Program at the Washington, D.C. Veterans Administration Medical Center. She states “It is not unusual for the person with a brain injury and/or his or her family to need some counseling or therapy to understand this new identity, personality, and emotional reaction style.” In the lost chapter I made sure that she was still seeking support from a therapist in Dr. Nuno. She had her TBI to deal with along with the recent death of her father. The personal guilt if she caused it would always remain. I gave the story blessful news in that Garrett’s father was still in prison. Introducing Carlos as a father figure felt as a way to lessen this emotional trauma. Yessica would also be an emotional crutch for Maribel as Maribel was an emotional crutch for Yessica after the death of her mom which happened a few short years prior to them meeting.
In the article What Happens to Relationships After Brain Injury, it states “Many survivors are not able to drive or work after their injury. Lack of transportation and money may make it hard to visit others or do things you enjoy.” For this reason, I felt Maribel would not be able to drive. It’s also why she only works for Carlos at the local grocery store. She does go walking locally but gets lost sometimes. The article also states “Difficulty talking to other people or understanding what others are saying are common problems survivors face after injury.” Maribel had already progressed so far by time she left back to Mexico. I did want to hint that certain aspects of her injury would hinder her dating. I also made sure Maribel had a computer. This way communication with the outside world didn’t have to occur immediately.
In conclusion, I felt I gave Maribel the ending to her story that could happen. Having prior experience working at San Bernardino County Schools with special needs children for 4 years, I’ve seen how people react to having a strong family support system. I’ve witnessed people who were born with disabilities such as Down Syndrome or autism improve with limited capabilities. In The Book of Unknown Americans, Maribel had dramatically improved. From the time Mayor first meets her in the supermarket where she’s almost lifeless to their last interaction when she gives him her notebook. All of this happened within one year. Imagine what she could do in 10 years. I’ll leave you with a quote from Maribel to Mayor, “You’re the only one who thinks I can do anything.” (Henriquez 230).
Campbell, Celeste, “Why Has My Sister’s Personality Changed Since Her Traumatic Brain Injury?” brainline,www.brainline.org/author/celeste-campbell/qa/why-has-my-sisters-personality-changed-her-traumatic-brain-injury
Henriquez, Cristina. The Book of Unknown Americans. Knopf, 2014.
“What Happens to Relationships After Brain Injury?” brainline, www.brainline.org/article/what-happens-relationships-after-brain-injury
Mr Aesthetics. shutterstock, ak9.picdn.net/shutterstock/videos/12942809/thumb/1.jpg