Are you there, God? It’s me…again. I cry out into the blackness that had engulfed my entire room. Wind rattles and shakes the trees outside, causing a whooshing sound against the window shutters. I’m nervous about how our flight is going to be affected. A tear slides down alongside my nose and into the corner of my mouth. I try closing my eyes, but they sting from crying. I open them again, and stare ahead into the night.
Oh where do I go from here? And then suddenly, the wind let up. The storm that whistled and banged outside began to cease. As quickly as it came, and as long as it lasted, the hurricane was over. I hear another bang outside. My eyes close as if the tiredness that wasn’t there suddenly overwhelms my body. And sleep.
The day the hurricane was announced was the day my flight arrived in San Juan. September 16. A Saturday. The sun beamed down on a cloudless day, allowing the heat that had already saturated the air to feel immensely thicker. My uncle and dad conversed back and forth, I listened. I was always listening, trying to grasp at the few Spanish words I could filter out between the words I didn’t know. A few hours later, after a full day of travels, we finally pulled in my Abuelo’s driveway. I greeted my Abuelo and Tia with a peck on the cheek—a typical Puerto Rican greeting. Some more conversation, where I pretended to understand more than I actually knew, and then we drove back to my Tia’s house.
More conversation. I think my dad and aunt were talking about all that was new since our last visit, 2 years prior. I caught on they were talking about trees, and dogs, and at some point chickens. Finally, my aunt signals it’s time for bed, and after only a few measly, uncomfortable hours of sleep on the airplanes, I was more than okay to find a bed to sleep in. Frogs screech out their “co-kee” sounds all around outside. And after maybe 20 minutes of reading, I found myself reading the same sentence more than once…after maybe 20 minutes of reading, I found myself reading the same sentence more than once…I found myself reading the same sentence more than once…
I was greeted the next morning by sticky heat, dogs barking, and people talking loudly. A knock on my door, “Angel. Time to get up, okay.” My phone declared it was 9 o’clock. So 8 o’clock in Wisconsin.
It was a typical vacation day for me in Puerto Rico. It consisted mostly of reading and enjoying the little bit of sun that I could handle while my cousin and a few other guys were working on slicing the banana plants to fit them in a box (my aunts husband was a banana farmer, and she still continued the business with her son after my uncle passed away).
The next day is when my aunt, dad, and I went to Lares a town about half hour away. My dad had to get something at Walgreens, and so my aunt said we should just make a day out of it. We stopped at a place to get food; I ate arroz (rice), bistec (steak), and pescado (fish), and then we went to Walgreens. Sometime during that afternoon after we got back from Lares, I went to go use my dad’s phone and discovered it had no service. Hmmm. That’s strange.
“Dad, your phone isn’t in service.”
“What do you mean?” And I showed him. He said something about it to Tia and the conversed back and forth a few minutes.
“Auntie says that there is supposed to be a hurricane to hit on Wednesday.” He looks at me with concerned eyes.
“What? Well, dad, how is that going to affect our trip home?”
“I don’t know, honey.” And I felt a bit nervous thinking how this could affect our flight home, and how I had no way of communicating with anyone to let them know. As serious as I thought it was, to me it seemed like it wasn’t as big of a deal for my family. My cousin Pecas (his nickname which means freckles) was chuckling and saying, “You’ll see things flying in the air.” My thought process was how they handle things so differently than the United States. It’s like they already knew and accepted that they wouldn’t receive help from the mainland, and would make the best of the situation and what was thrown at them. The rest of the day I was numb.
The next two days were preparation day. We went to town to get gas. The lines were long. We waited maybe 20 minutes for gas (which to me was crazy), which in reality was nothing compared to after the hurricane. At home, I watched my aunt and cousin take boards and covered the glass windows and front door. I wasn’t sure what to do. So I read and watched and listened.
Tuesday night, my aunt and I shared a room, while my dad shared a room with Abuelo, and my two cousins and their wives each had their own room. We boarded ourselves up—all the shutters were closed and the back door was latched. The power was still on, the heat was still strong, but the darkness encompassed all around. I stayed up as late as I could to avoid sleeping, because sleeping would mean that the storm would come. But sleeping meant I could avoid the day; sleeping would make the time go by faster. Finally after a couple hours, my aunt came out and beckoned me into the room to go to bed. That would be the last time I’d see electricity for the next 5 days.