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Layla Benitez-James

I consider myself to be a rational person (although this is self proclaimed i.e. I could be wrong vis-à-vis my rationality). However, I do keep some superstitions close to my heart: I knock on wood and throw salt over my left shoulder to guard against bad luck and negative jinxes; I also make wishes on fallen eyelashes and, of course, at the time 11:11. I'm not quite sure why I ascribe so steadfastly to the rule of wish making at 11:11 but it's a favorite luck giving superstition. I don't know when this started but a halfhearted attempt at discovering the origins of the 11:11 wish online was disappointing, (save that now I know Ellen DeGeneres started her own record label called eleveneleven). I like to think it has to do with a person's love of symmetry or the comforting repetition of parallel lines. I also like to think the kind of person making wishes at 11:11 is an optimist: someone who, even if they don't initially see the glass as half full, has enough good will to wish it to be full. I hope everyone had a wonderful 11:11:11; it is the only one we will get (12:12:12 just doesn't have the same ring to it and thank goodness there can't be a 13:13:13). In the tradition of ascribing arbitrary significance to certain days over others, I had high hopes for my Friday. I even picked up a penny, heads up, as I was walking to the car in the morning to drive my boyfriend downtown to work. Instead of making it home in the normal five minutes, my trip was derailed by an HCC student who ran a red light because she was running late for class. We collided right in the center of Jefferson and Austin. I admit I felt betrayed, not only by 11:11:11 but by the "lucky" penny resting in my back pocket. However, as I waited for the police and the inevitable, dull process of exchanging information I realized that it was lucky no one was hurt, that my car was still drivable, and that I had only lost about an hour of my day. I was reminded that I can't always know what luck looks like when it happens: it could be more than something good happening, like something bad that doesn't become worse. Sometimes it's hard, when watching the news or listening to world events on the radio to view things positively. It's definitely difficult right after you've had a wreck. For me, part of my attempt to view things positively is the knowledge that I need to work without indulging in time wasting pessimism. One of my favorite poets, Heberto Padilla of Cuba, relays this understanding of good and bad luck in his poem "La alegría abre también los ojos en la negrura/ In blackness, joy also opens its eyes."
La alegría abre también los ojos en la negrura La alegría abre también los ojos en la negrura y despliega su mapa deslumbrante Donde está tu camino Y se planta a tu lado Y te arranca los ojos de suicida Es como un ramalazo que cae sobre tus hombros Y al volver la cabeza para mirar descubres que aun es posible el día La gran transformadora de los labios gruñones Y del hollín desesperado de los enclenques Que siempre tiene los mismos ojos Y la misma cara Y te busca en el fondo del espejo Y sólo espera que le tiendas la mano. In blackness joy also opens its eyes In blackness, joy also opens its eyes and spreads out its dazzling map indicating the road to be taken. It stands at your side and tears out your suicide's eyes. It is like a lash falling over your shoulders, and as you turn your head, you discover that the day is still possible. The great transformer of whining mouths and of the desperate, grimy weaklings (always with the same eyes and the same face) seeks you out at the bottom of the mirror and waits only for you to offer your hand.
For me, my silly superstitions are my way of offering my hand, of being aware of what good things come and what bad things are not only survivable, but allow me to see the world in new ways. My wreck could not ruin the magic I was determined to find on 11:11:11. I wish to always discover that the day is still possible and then, to write.

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