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The day was October 31, 2010.

You might say I got into a car accident. My opinion is that my lifted SUV ate this very sad Acura. My car drove away with a broken headlight, and this other woman’s car was driven away on a tow truck. Fourteen-thousand dollars in damage.

“Are you okay?” Mom asked. She freaked out when I called her but wasn’t really mad. Even though she had to pay for my mistake. She still brings it up.

“Why are you asking me for money, when I’m still paying for your insurance premium?” she says.

“That’s not fair.”

“You’re in college now. Real life. You should be paying this.”

That Halloween night, I just wanted to get to the party, with people I didn’t even like — that was the extent of the relationships I had at the time.

Three weeks later, it was an elderly couple in a teal Camry.

I was blaring the latest and greatest Eminem song through my subs, so loud I didn’t even realize I’d hit anybody, until my car wouldn’t reverse.

My life has been tossed like a salad, mixed like a drink, and pushed off the cliffs into the ocean so many times I don’t even remember. I have never lived in a house for more than three consecutive years. I might as well be a scrambled egg or a protein shake. All I have known my entire life is divorce and dealing with people I secretly loathe.


I am just a girl who could spend every day sitting in a cross-legged position facing the ocean. But when May hits, the kooks come out in full swing. By the time June is here, forget getting all the way up Garnet in under 25 minutes. You’ve got to scavenge for silence up the coastline.

Police officers clocking people left and right on Mission Boulevard. Hair extensions on sidewalks from last night’s bar fight. The shadows from late-night escapades linger on the morning streets.

This young gentleman was slung across the marble countertop at my retail job in Mission Bay.

He purchased something simple: batteries. When tourists come in to a place where all the knick-knacks are plastered with San Diego, this is what they tend to buy.

“Hello,” I said, “is this going to be all for you this afternoon?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Enjoy your stay in San Diego?”

Nothing out of the ordinary, but there was that pinched feeling you get in your cheeks when you try not to smile.

He had some leftover sunburn on his nicely chiseled abs. I could see them because he was shirtless. He leaned over my counter, and I had the idea he was getting that same pinching feeling until finally a smile cracked from both of us.

When he spoke, I pinpointed the accent: Texas.

I prefer pineapple to corn-fed.

He was not from around here, and I had to work my counter.

But coming up with a reason not to jump on a flight to Austin after my shift was harder than expected.


There are 12 letters in the Hawaiian language, near half the amount in the westernized English we hear in America today. The beauty of the Polynesian culture radiates from my brown eyes. Behind my curly brown hair, I have always felt that San Diego isn’t the place for me. I was born here, but my soul is Polynesian.

Ho’oipoipo, Pilialoha, ‘ao’ao — the love I have for you, the friendship we acquire, and the way of life.

I get my height from the Swede half of the family, though I rack in at a whopping five-four. I have the ability not to use sunscreen, from my Chamorro ancestors.

Now my life has holes, and gaps. Whether that’s common or not, to me it is fact.

One thing I do remember is the day I was reading through a book on Guam. There were beautiful photos, page by page, each one with a legend. This book was given to my mother by her biological father — the Chamorro bloodline.

There is a legend on the island of Guam. It tells of a woman and man who were madly in love. She refuses to marry her destined suitor and runs away with her native soulmate. When they reach Tumon Bay, they hear footsteps approaching. With the promise of eternal devotion upon their lips, they tie their long, beautiful hair together and throw themselves into the cruel waters below. Puntan Dos Amantes, or Two Lovers Point, in Chamorro. It is an actual place, beautiful, overlooking the thrashing blue ocean.

I have a troubled heart. I now believe that falling in love is like falling for make-believe. Yet this story is so beautiful. Polynesia runs in my veins. Island culture is so beautiful. It is what helps push me to get through these years of community college and to save every dime that I have. I’ll sell my beast of a truck, buy a Vespa, sign my life away for student loans, and become a University of Hawaii student.

At my retail counter, this curly-haired man bought a T-shirt with a credit card. I asked for his ID.

It read “Hawaii.”

I felt my face light up, and then turn to jealousy.

I said, “I cannot wait to see that ID with my name on it.”

He was confused. I elaborated.

“I want to go to school out there. That’s my dream.”

“You better save every last cent you can.”

“I have family out there.” I paused. “I know what I’m doing.”

“Good luck!” he said, and walked away.


It was my first summer out of high school. I remember crying on my way to the airport from my cousin’s house on West Oahu. I did not want to leave — which was pretty much me fighting for a new start. I flew from Honolulu to Las Vegas and then drove to Laughlin. I didn’t want to go to Nevada, but I ended up falling in love there.

He lived in Yucaipa.

It is beyond ironic that I drove the distance between San Bernardino and San Diego 12 times in a month that summer and I didn’t get into one accident.

I found myself in this little town where family was key. If you didn’t have four dirt bikes or didn’t ride motorcycles at Glen Helen every other weekend — on top of not owning three Ford vehicles — you were dirt. This family I was in love with. But the distance was too far. It got old, and my mentality thrust me back into reality when I realized this wasn’t what I wanted.

It was the last time I would be making a trip back down to San Diego from the 909. Later, I was struck by the irony.

I was in the number-two lane, passing by Auto Park Way, going 70 miles per hour, and a car accident happened. It wasn’t even me — I got lucky. A Mustang spun across my path and hit an SUV. I drove right through where they had collided. It was crazy. Irony saying to me: get the hell out while you can.

“Blue Slide Park. Mac Miller.”

We’d argue about the music driving to and from Los Angeles or Long Beach.

“Is that even music?” I’d say. “Let’s listen to Nesian N.I.N.E. or one of the Marleys.”

There was always that one flaw in the relationship: he wasn’t a reggae fan. It might as well have been over before we even started.

Mom would say, “Honey, you can’t force things. Just let them happen. Hawaii might happen, but if you are happy, don’t end things because of your future plans.”

That was the usual mother-spillage I’d hear between my failed relationships or when they were in the process of failing.

My mom makes up these crazy thoughts in her cranium about young Filipino men that are in her Spanish class, men I should be betrothed to in future years. Not that I’m objecting.

“See, isn’t he cute? He’s the sweetest thing. He loves his mom and sisters and cousins, that’s how I know he’s great.”

Little does she know that one day I’ll run away and get married in Tahiti and no one will know.


My first car accident happened when I was four.

A sunny day in Pacific Beach. My eyes were as big as marbles. I clung to my SeaWorld cup while my mom clung to me. Half of my face was bubbly and charred, which would surely be a scarring burn. Now, I can’t even see it.

It was the year Notorious B.I.G. was shot, the year Princess Diana was killed, the year Titanic won 11 Oscars. It was the year my parents had their irreconcilable differences. The start of mother’s and father’s single status.

Now this seems like an everyday commodity. Divorce. But when I was not even in my adolescence — still a baby, I didn’t even know the difference between Britney Spears and Bob Marley — it was all only noise in my brain, my life perspectives unconscious for years to come. From that day on, my relationships skills lagged and my future driving skills were destined for failure.

My dad or mom, depending on whether it was Wednesday or Sunday, would drive on Highway 67, through Scripps Poway Parkway, down Interstate 15 that merged into the 163, all the way through Sixth Avenue. Times like these made me feel like a nomad.

There’s a lot I don’t remember, but I do recall controversy over weekly visits, a routine I hated at such a young age. Dad’s new girlfriends. Mom’s new boyfriends. Constant new homes — five in Ramona alone by the time I was 11. My mother and I began life with a new family. We packed and moved down the hill to Santee. That was my introduction to the wild ways of East County.

Usually I was an observer in toxic situations, taking part in nothing but conversation.

Just two years ago, when I was living here, some kids found themselves in endless amounts of mischief, a place where accidents cause death. Manslaughter.

Families were split and cracked apart that night in April. A Volvo. A Passat that flipped multiple times, killing all the passengers in the car.

The 52 plus the landfill equals death-by-car-racing. Decisions that now reap regret.

The driver of the Volvo, Michael Johnson, was a boy I met in the sixth grade.

It’s been at least two years since we’ve spoken. Kindness and a good sense of humor are all I remember of him. Not the third-degree murderer. That’s what the cops busted him for, though he wasn’t even driving the car that crashed.


Throughout the ’90s I lived off Laurel, where today I spend a good amount of time. Ramona is where I used to play cowboys and Indians. I’ve seen San Diego in its multitude of diversity.

I lie in bed during the week in Bankers Hill and let the sounds of Boeings put me to sleep, and on the weekends, the sound of my ceiling fan and the crickets out my bedroom window.

“Yeah, I live in Ramona and downtown: five minutes to the beach, twenty minutes to Julian,” I told a coworker.

“I wouldn’t mind that. You get it all. ”

Many say I live the life. Downtown, in Ramona, working in Mission Bay, and taking naps on the beach. Most days I’d agree.

My grandparents live in a house on Bankers Hill that could legally be considered historical, built in 1916. The wood paneling in the upstairs bedroom is the epitome of old-school. Two blocks up, there’s a high-rise building that was built not too long ago. Block by block, you are never quite sure what you’ll find between Front Street and Sixth Avenue. It’s a surprise, like Christmas morning: a homeless man wearing different shoes on his feet, then…look at that multimillion-dollar home.

The other morning, I ate at the Hash House for breakfast.

My unbending mind, which is set on college — that’s always a feisty topic, when someone tells me it’ll be too hard or too expensive. Don’t be surprised if I reach across the table and smack you at dinner. Because college is what I live for. My mentality stems from Grandmother.

She is the only known human being whose eye contact is more piercing than my own. She’s strong, 83 years young. She and my grandfather both were born and raised through the Great Depression in none other than the Dust Bowl. In the state of Nebraska, she had dental-hygiene license number one. Yes, the first one. She and Grandfather moved to San Diego in the mid-1950s. They spent many years walking their doberman in Ocean Beach. Now, it has come down to neighborhood walks, where they stop at Einstein Bros off Sixth.


It has been almost two years since my last car accident, and I am such a tightwad I refuse to get the little nick below my headlight repaired. Life of a college student is to blame, and the genetic traits I believe I inherited; 40 percent of our intelligence is probably inherited. To me, money has no value, only when used to pay for college and gas. Four dollars and change per gallon, all day every day.

Two-thousand-twelve seems to be the Year of the Ticket. Moving violations and citations are my new thing.

Whoop-whoop, sang the sirens.

Sometimes, I wonder if they ever feel guilty for pulling over a broke college student whose car is falling apart.

Improper use of the seat belt — nice. Two tickets in 14 days. The first one was for talking on speaker-phone while I was driving.

I really don’t enjoy being nannied. My car continuously has stalling problems and other nonsense I have to find funds for. Let’s just add a ticket or two to my tab.

The 163 area is riddled with bad drivers. People who forget the use of a blinker. That hasn’t changed since 2004, when gas was approximately two dollars and ten cents a gallon.

My father, my dog Coco, and I once left our mark on the center divider in front of Fashion Valley. We were driving back to Bankers Hill from a night of the teenager Nazi regime — gymnastics, that is. Five hours of brutal workouts. For me, it was routine.

Just like the car accidents I found my life stumbling against, routine. I saw the lights from Fashion Valley Mall spin slower and slower as my father’s eyes got larger and larger. As quickly as that Chrysler came, it was gone.

My dog hit the dashboard. Coco was shaking, I was not. Lying back on the doctor’s table, my vision turned to orange. Shards of glass afflicted my retina. My eyeball was intact, my stability was not.

I acknowledge the fact that my young years were far from perfect.


We knew we were in love when he stroked the guitar for me for the first time. He gave me a slight smile out of the side of his mouth. Right then and there, I was as good as gone. He left a week after we marveled about our infatuation. Standing on the Ocean Beach Pier, we saw a seal. The ocean so green, the weather so pure, the love so bold. We were creative and in tune. All along the watchtower, I must wait for his return.

The military sure puts up a stiff fight for successful relationships.

This wonderful grandmother of mine talks to me about how her loving husband’s personality is beginning to change. She asks if I have noticed, and I say, “Of course.” During our frequent dinners, he sits in his chair with nothing more than the scrapes from his silverware against the plate coming from his direction. I cannot help but let my heart break for my grandmother, over the man she loves. His memory is fading, quicker and quicker. We sit and play gin rummy. I find hope and love in his silent presence. I want to soak in his knowledge and remember everything he’s said in the past and cherish it. Love it. Remember it.


Alyssa A'Bell interview
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Comments

Carolann Feb. 11, 2013 @ 9:47 a.m.

I don't know if it's just because I'm reading this story so early in the morning and not really comprehending the "flow", but it seems to be a tad bit all over the place and I'm just not getting it. Maybe it's just me?

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skyrunz Feb. 12, 2013 @ 9:15 a.m.

I really liked your story. It seemed like a steady stream of your thoughts placed on a page. Keep going to school and never give up on what is important to you in life. You've got a talent for telling a story and I hope to see more from you in the future.

Thanks!

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mujersincabeza Feb. 12, 2013 @ 5:41 p.m.

This story, much like many stories gracing the cover of the San Diego Reader, was SUCH a disappointment! The inability of the writer to keep her thoughts straight and coherent was upsetting. The writer was all over the place. I wanted to yell out to the universe, "Who cares! This doesn't make sense. Has anyone at this paper taken a critical writing course in college?" The only thing this article proved to me is that the drivers in San Diego are horrible! Some of the worst. In this situation, why are we allowing people like this on the road. As a biker, I am scared to share the road with these shameful drivers. (On another note: Come on SD, let's get progressive & change the biking laws like Los Angeles did). This article just proved to me why I stop reading this paper, even if it is "free". I keep telling myself, just give the San Diego Reader another chance. However, everytime I pick up this weekly paper, I am ALWAYS let down! Has anyone at this paper EVER picked up a LA Weekly, my goodness I miss LA. Please stop disappointing me San Diego Reader and get some real in depth articles about this wonderful city,

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Steve916 Feb. 20, 2013 @ 2:11 p.m.

I was very disappointed in this "cover story" - it felt like a rejected Creative Writing 101 piece that was submitted to the SD Reader. To the writer - hope you got paid well, since you really need to work on story structure.

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