When the Heart Breaks 

If you’ve followed this blog, you know that it was here that I started writing my memoir, Relentless, without even realizing that’s what I was doing. It’s an honor to share that the first essay from the memoir, “When the Heart Breaks”, was published in As/Us Journal’s 5th Issue. This essay is also part of the writing sample that got me into Tin House’s Winter Nonfiction Workshop with Lacy Johnson, which I’ll be departing to next week.  Let’s just say I’m feeling all sorts of proud and emotional about this publishing credit. I hear my brother’s voice saying, “You have to write our stories, sis.” That’s my mission. 

Here’s an excerpt of the essay, familia. This is my thank you & my promise to get this book done and out into the world. Word.

“I’m a sin, sis. The Bible says I’m a sin.”

My brother, Juan Carlos, and I were sitting just outside my aunt’s first floor apartment in the hallway of a five story walk up on the grittier side of upper Manhattan. It was early March of 2013. We were chain smoking and talking about our family, our childhood and his heroin addiction. It was the day I told him about the secrets I was revealing in my memoir; about mom’s rape and how he found out when he was just thirteen that he was result of that rape. We traced his spiral to that day, more than 25 years ago, when he was in eighth grade.

“Sometimes I blame myself.” He stared off across the foyer, avoiding my eyes. His face drooped like a bloodhound’s and his bald head shone with sweat. It dripped down his forehead and dotted his nose. Carlos pulled out a rag and wiped his head and face. That was one of things that stuck out about him in his addiction—he was always sweating and eating candy; his pockets rattled with boxes of Nerds.

“I wasn’t supposed to be a drug addict, sis. This wasn’t supposed to be my life.” He looked at me then turned away quickly, like he couldn’t handle what I reflected back. We were quiet for a while. I stared at the geometric designs of the black and white brown tiles. Carlos emptied a box of Nerds into his mouth.

Finally I said, “I’m writing all of it in my memoir, bro.”

“The rape, too?” he asked without looking at me.


Carlos lit a cigarette and pulled on it so hard I thought he was going to burn it to the filter. Then he said, “Write it, sis. Maybe somebody’ll fucking talk.”

He died three months later.

~”When the Heart Breaks” by Vanessa Mártir, Read the entire essay on As/Us


  1. First and foremost, I am sorry for your lost. I am glad that you can finally open up and free yourself. I wish you much success with your book. I bid you a great day!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s