Rodriguez: Reflecting on the empty nest

Rodriguez reflects on the impact his parents’ separation has had throughout the past two years.

Luis Rodriguez

Luis RodriguezIt was supposed to be a big day for me.

Two years ago, almost to the day, I was on my way to pick up my first press pass. Looking back now it’s eye roll inducing to think about how excited I was, but then again my freshman year is full of those of moments. At least this memory doesn’t begin with me consuming blue alcohol and 99-cent mixers.

I had to rush to the Kimmel Center to pick up my press pass for the first Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, because I had an appointment soon after with my future roommates and landlord on Main Campus.

I got off the train and walked up to the entrance to the Kimmel Center, and then I got the call. My mother had been trying to reach me for a few days, but I had the bad habit of screening her calls.

In my excitement, however, I was compelled to answer this particular call, as I was about to open the door to the Kimmel Center.

“I called to tell you I’m leaving your father,” she said, interrupting me as I tried to tell her how excited I was for my first press pass and attempt to explain what a press pass is in Spanish.

At that point, I was in the atrium of the Kimmel Center, and the press check-in table was in plain sight, but I couldn’t stomach it. I stormed outside as I felt my face flush and my throat close up; there was no press pass or celebrity interview that would have made that situation tolerable.

As my mother explained her reasoning for leaving my dad – and failing to recognize her lack of tact in giving me the news – I stood on Broad Street holding back tears.

Two minutes into her monologue, which showed no signs of ending anytime soon, I became extremely self-aware. The idea of being the kind of person who would casually cry while on the phone in the middle of the day on Broad Street was horrifying. So I walked around to the side of the Kimmel Center and cried on the phone in the alley like a dignified human.

If my parents did any kind of assimilation correctly it was taking up the WASP tradition of repressing your emotions, especially in public.

After listening to her go on for about 20 or 30 minutes, she asked me how I was doing, and then instructed me not to stress out because it wasn’t really my problem. Thanks, Mom.

We ended our conversation, I wiped my tears, I collected my thoughts and I picked up my press pass. Thankfully that allowed me to forget what just happened, if only for a moment.

The rest of the day was a crash course in putting on a smile and acting as if nothing was wrong.

I went to meet my future roommates at the Saxby’s on Liacouras Walk so we could meet with our future landlord. He was running late, so I did what I do in my darkest moments and ordered pizza from Maxi’s while we waited.

Our landlord showed up, and I really couldn’t tell you anything he told us. There were hundreds of things racing through my mind without any sort of filter. It got to the point where I was just waiting for him to finish his spiel and give us the draft of our lease, so I could go to my dorm room and hide under my covers. I couldn’t even finish eating my food or my feelings, which is unlike me because at least once a week you can find me in a dimly-lit room eating my feelings in the form of taquitos, listening to show tunes – judge me – or late ‘90s to mid-2000s hip-hop.

My parents tried to salvage their marriage shortly after that day for my sake, and I managed to make it through the last weeks of my freshman year without being too rattled.

I went back home to Florida for three weeks as I waited for move-in day for my first house, and I watched my parents tiptoe around each other and witnessed the devolution of their relationship as they began to live as roommates.

In the two years since that Kimmel Center phone call, I’ve received phone calls like it. Whether it be when my mother called me to tell me she had officially moved out, my dad calling me to tell me his side of many stories or my mother texting me bad news without warning as I worked on a take-home final, it was never a good time.

Suddenly I was in the middle of my two best friends. They weren’t on good terms anymore and they would talk about each other to me. My parents were making me the Heidi Montag to their Lauren Conrad and Spencer Pratt, but out of respect I have for them, I will say both of my parents are LC. That’s a good thing for those of you lacking “The Hills” knowledge.

It’s interesting to go through your parents divorce when you’re in your 20s. You want to be an adult about it and accept that relationships come to an end sometimes, but in the back of your mind you hold onto the idea that “mommy and daddy” are meant to be together.

At least if my parents had separated when I was younger, I could have justified going through one of those fun emo phases I was deprived of when I was in middle school or, you know, get a therapist to help me adjust.

I’d be lying if I said their split isn’t still affecting me. I’d be lying if I said there haven’t been days where I’ve stared in the mirror and thought about giving myself the 2007 Britney Spears makeover, because I still feel a little lost. And I’d be lying if I said events in the last two years haven’t affected me mentally, emotionally and academically.

I was feeling really down recently and when I looked at the calendar I realized why. It shocked me how much time had passed, how much I had changed and how little I had resolved.

Just addressing my problems hasn’t been enough, so I’ve made a vow to myself to actively seek help to sort through what the last two years have done to me. While I do think I have been made stronger because of my issues, they’ve also managed to make me feel much more exposed.

Luis Fernando Rodriguez can be reached at or on Twitter @theluisfernando.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.