Wind and Terror: A Hurricane Story (part 3)

Friday Night: [Journal entry] Dad talked with Linda and Tia. Tomorrow we are gonna go to Adjuntas to check and see if the travel agency will be open and get some flight info there. This gives me a little bit of hope. God please make it so! Tomorrow, tomorrow—it’s only a day away.

Saturday I awoke at 7:30am—a half hour before my alarm was to go off. Excitement and hope radiated throughout my body. Okay. Gotta pack my suitcase. Today is the day. After packing my suitcase, I greeted my dad and Tia. Tia had prepared some coffee and breakfast. I was anxious to get to town. I was anxious to get info. I was anxious to go home.

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“…we saw just a hint of the damage that had taken place…”

Linda showed up about 9am or so…much chatting went on between everyone. Finally the time came when we were to go to Adjuntas; Pecas drove. The trek down the mountain to the small town was usually a half hour drive, that day it took an hour. We weren’t even two minutes down the road when we saw just a hint of the damage that had taken place—power lines down and across the roads, trees brushed to the side to clear a narrow but drive-able path.

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“They looked like giant twigs that were stuck in the ground.”

We continued on down, though the destruction didn’t get any less; it got worse. Looking down towards the valleys that were literally green and luscious just days prior were now stripped of everything. They looked like giant twigs that were stuck in the ground. We got to maybe the halfway point when we came across a literal one lane path in the road. So we sat…and waited…and waited some more…maybe ten minutes and like thirty cars later, we were finally able to make our way down through the path, along with our train of around twenty to thirty cars. After what felt like an eternity, we finally made it to the small, cramped town. Upon noticing that basically every single building was boarded up, we were extremely disappointed to see the travel agency no difference.

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“…like thirty cars later, we were finally able to make our way down through the path…”

F#@$!#  B^%%$#!t.” My dad screamed into the busy but quiet air.
“Well…now what are we going to do?” I questioned out loud, not expecting an answer.
“I don’t know, Honey. But we are going to go home by Monday. Let’s go find Pecas.” Thus began our slow ascend back to Tia’s…it took longer since we had a few extra stops to make.

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One of the stops we made was at the Panaderia store; across the street from it these folks had to dig their driveway back out. 

When we finally weaved our way back to Tia’s house, a cloud of disappointment hovered over me. Dad talked with Tia and Linda about what they were going to do next. I trudged myself around between my bedroom and outside, burdening a great deal of anxiety.  I sat on the ground, while Asevache used me as a chew toy (my arm never felt so loved!). When lunch was made I had only a few bites of the rice and postale. What are we going to do?

What felt like hours later, but perhaps only maybe an hour, my dad came up to me. “Okay. Listen to me,” he got his usual serious face on, “Tomorrow we are gonna go to San Juan and go to the airport. We will take Linda’s car. They are going to be flying planes out maybe on Monday I think is what they say. We gonna find out all the information we need. I don’t care if I have to buy more tickets, I’m not worried about that. I wanna go home, and we gonna go home.” By this point it was twenty-four hours after we were supposed to say ‘Sayonara’ to Puerto Rico…yet we were still there held as a prisoner by the storm’s devious hands.

A couple more hours pass and Tia begins making dinner for us. Then afterwards, we took Abuelo back to his house. Now he lives the opposite way we go to go to town, so I’m sure my dad and Tia were just as curious to see how the road looked going this way. Trees toppled over as if they were made out of wet pieces of cardboard. There are two small bridges that go over really tiny creeks, and both of them were completely covered in water. It was a dramatic change to say the least.

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“There are two small bridges that go over really tiny creeks, and both of them were completely covered in water.”

At Abuelo’s house, we walked around to see what damage had occurred—which was hardly anything. One tree had fallen over and my uncle’s work shed just fifty feet from the house barely remained standing. Abuelo’s house stood strong and untouched. My brother’s house next door ended up getting some shingles knocked off on the porch portion of his house, but nothing else was hurt, not even his car. And then, my dad, though he had a lot of pain in his leg, suggested we go and see Noel (his brother) and Coca’s house (which essentially is across the street, but one has to climb up a steep hill to get there). Noel and Coca’s house was pretty much destroyed. Though the walls stood firm (as they should, they’re cement), the roof had been completely plucked off like a Band-Aid and tossed somewhere far away; 90% of everything they owned was destroyed by rain and unusable. A short while later we went back to Abuelo’s house and then went back to Tia’s.

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“…90% of everything they owned was destroyed by rain and unusable.”

My dad and I were outside, not so much talking as we were watching the sky and listening to the night creatures croak out their songs. My dad gasps.

“There’s a plane!”

“Where?” He points towards the southeast. A tiny yellow speck glittered in the sky. Dad ran inside to go tell Tía, who came outside to look. They talked. I felt hopeful. Very hopeful. After a bit, we saw another one. Tía went back inside and I followed to look at my phone. I knew that I wouldn’t get any text messages and it was essentially useless, but still I turned it on. I scrolled through my messages, wishing something would change. Dad came in to tell me he saw two more planes. That was four so far. We went to the back area and stood and watched them fly towards the west. In total, we saw nine planes. Just as we were watching the last one, I linked arms with my dad. “This means that they’re trying. This means we have something to look forward to tomorrow.”

That night, I didn’t fall asleep until 2 or 3 in the morning. I was too anxious and too hopeful about the following day.

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Wind and Terror: A Hurricane Story (part 2)

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Are you there God? I’m here…still. I pause. Hesitant to go on. I’m tired. Sleeping is the only time where I’m not worried. Yet here I am…awake. Not afraid, just worried. Can you please make it so we can leave tomorrow? I wanna go home. It’s Thursday night, a day after the storm. The song “Say Something” has been on repeat inside my head all day now. Finally, as if on command, my body falls back into a deep rest. My eyelids drop down until I shut out the darkness with more darkness.


When I awoke on Wednesday morning, the storm had already started.  By that point it had been going on for hours. My Tia had prepared breakfast for all of us—sandwiches warmed in a pan and coffee. Tia was able to run the generator for an hour, although by doing so they discovered water dripping through some of the lights—meaning it could potentially be unsafe to run the generator at all (it wasn’t started again until Friday). Afterwards, I went and napped.  I was awoken again for lunch, which was lukewarm sandwiches and lukewarm juice.

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“The wind whistled…Rain fell in heavy drops onto the cement driveway…” [screenshot from video]
The wind whistled through the cracks, as it thundered against the house, as if it was trying to pry its way in. Rain fell in heavy drops onto the cement driveway where it would slither its way towards the road in streams. Everyone was just sitting around mostly silent (except for the occasional small talk), rustling about trying to be comfortable in the uncomfortable situation. I watched and listened, as I was unable to communicate with anyone other than my dad; I felt so alone. Throughout the day I just bounced between sitting on my bed in the dark, to reading in the living room, to watching the storm, to reading in the kitchen.

I wasn’t scared. No. Anxious is a better word for how I felt. Anxious for how this would affect our trip home. Anxious for how this would affect our communication even more. Yet despite my feelings, the wind howled on, unaware or perhaps uncaring for what lay in its path.

Finally, the time came when we could all go to bed. I lay there silently, staring towards the dark wall. Waiting for the next day to come. 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.

After a few hours of aimlessly lying there, the wind suddenly was letting 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.

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“…her lemon tree in the back [was] broken, her shed was ripped up and twisted, several other trees in the back were pushed over…”
Thursday was inspection day. I awoke to my aunt making fire outside my window (as it was next to the back porch), cooking us breakfast and making coffee. My dad and cousin Pecas were going around finding decent scraps of wood and bringing back my Tia’s cardboard banana boxes to keep the fire going. All around outside my dad and I walked around looking at everything that was broken. My Tia’s cement wall and her lemon tree in the back were broken, her shed was ripped up and twisted, several other trees in the back were pushed over, her papaya tree in the front yard was shredded. Banana tree leaves littered the ground like a thick carpet.

 

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“My Tia’s cement wall and her lemon tree in the back were broken…”

But Tia’s house stood strong, barely damaged (except a few paint spots that sagged from the drenching rains) just like my aunt’s faith and strength. She continuously hummed “Alleluia” as she worked throughout the day to fix what Mother Nature had broken. My two cousins and their wives went back to their house, which was just across the street essentially to go and fix up their house. Word from my cousin staying with her brother, Pecas was that my Tia’s stretch of road was blocked to town from either direction. Basically we were stuck there, not that we would go anywhere even if we had wanted to.  I mostly shoved my nose in a book the rest of the day, to keep my mind preoccupied about my flight home. Tia had heated some water for all of us to be able to bathe ourselves; that night was the first night where I could take a quick sponge bath, and how glorious it felt indeed.

Friday: [Journal entry] Our flight was supposed to leave a half hour ago. But here I am…stuck. Anxious. Annoyed. I’m fearful about work. I’m fearful my mom will be waiting for us, but we’ll never come. I feel so alone, except for the licks I get from Asevache (my Tia’s puppy).

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Asevache: Tia’s Puppy

I have faith that God will take care of us…yet I question. Why couldn’t we have known about the hurricane a day earlier? I would rather not have come had I known. Ironic though, isn’t it? I always wish to have so much time, and here I am, with so much time, and now I’m wishing I could be home, where I have little to no time for anything. God, is this your way of showing me how much time I’ve wasted…You wait for me, but sometimes I ignore that time that’s given to me. Now you’ve given me time, as if saying “See…now you have time.” Grandpa has been here since Monday. He has been asking since Monday night when he is going home. The answer is always the same—we are in a critical condition, it will be some time yet. He feels out of place I’m sure, being that he’s blind and can’t walk anywhere without assistance. He can’t talk to anyone because everyone is outside. I sit with him but I can’t talk to him. He misses his son, Isidro, who lives with him and cares for him. He misses his dog and chickens I’m sure. He’s lonely; him and I are alike in this given situation….Why is it raining so much today?

Whistling down
it plops, in multitudes
splashing on the hard cement.
A puddle, dirtied by
red clay, welcomes the new
drops, tossing rings to the side
as it does suddenly a wind whips it
in swirls
causing a mist to swell.
It falls harder, as if the clouds
cry harder,
just like the tears on my face.

Conversation with my [Non-existent] Prince Charming

“I’m just afraid that you’re gonna try and kill me or something.” I thought he was joking, but when I looked up from my phone and looked at his face it was nothing short of seriousness. Dark curls gathered like a wet mop on top of his head; his green eyes staring straight at me. His calloused hands rested on the sides of his sanguine colored recliner, gripping a can of Root Beer.

“Why would I kill you?” I smirk, amused at this accusational statement.

“Because…well…I don’t reciprocate any feelings back.”

I look at him with concern, “What are you talking about?” What did he know?

“The other night, when you came to apologize to me…after we got into that small tizzy…”

“Ummm okay.”

“Well…you told me you loved me.” I pause. Concerned that what I thought was a dream wasn’t a dream at all. But it felt so fake. It didn’t feel like it happened. Was I drunk?

“Okay…so you think that just because you don’t have any feelings matching what I feel…that I’m going to…to kill you?”

“I mean…yeah,” he stammers, looking down as if suddenly the ivory carpet looked interesting.

“Do you think you’re the first guy to ever reject me or something?” I paused. He waited, confused and concerned. I continued.

“You’re not. Do you realize that pretty much every guy I’ve had any feelings for rejected me? I’m not the most likable person around. I’ve only ever had that one serious relationship. Obviously he didn’t even like me in the end. In eighth grade, do you wanna know why I started having an eating disorder. Because I was rejected by some douche-waffle that I had a major crush on. I wrote him a stupid love poem, and shoved it in his locker. The next day I heard him laughing about it in gym class with a couple of other dudes. Laughing. And making fun of ‘some girl who spends too much time inside.’

“And do you know, my best friend at the time, who was a guy because I couldn’t make friends with girls, because I was such a tomboy, went and told that boy, that very boy that I had a huge crush on…the one that I made a poem for, he told the boy that I had a huge crush on him. His response? It was ‘eww, shes gross and fat.’ I died inside.” Tears welled up in the corners of my eyes. One slid down into the corner of my mouth. I licked my salty tasting lips.

“I literally started starving myself. Anything to make myself more appeasable to someone out there. Do you realize I emphasize how much I want to just stay single, that I’m better off by myself, so that if I end up being single the rest of my life, which will probably happen, I emphasize this so that I’m never disappointed with the results? I don’t fear being rejected. I actually fear being wrong. I fear that ‘what if.’ What if I ever did find someone—then what?”

He looked baffled. Not really sure what to say. His green eyes looks at me then down then back at me. “I think that you’re too hard on yourself.”

“And I think you overthink anything I do, and my supposed intentions.”

He opened his mouth to respond but quickly shut it, not sure how to respond at this point. I got up from the faded brown chair to plug my phone in at the nearby outlet. My back still towards him. I let out a long breath.

“Look, you’re my best friend. And just because you don’t have feelings for me doesn’t change anything. I appreciate our friendship…just as it is. And I always will. I used to think you had feelings for me but…honestly I know that you don’t. And that’s okay.”

I let out a sigh of relief. I turn around to the old, red chair across the room; it was empty.

 

Any events, persons, and/or materials are completely fictitious and any resemblance to non-fictitious events, persons, and/or materials are completely coincidental.

Wind and Terror: A Hurricane Story (part 1)

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…

Then blackness.

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).

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On our way to Lares; 3 days prior to Hurricane Maria

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.

IMG_6835The 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.

Lost

What’s it like to be lost?
I wonder as I wander
through the forest
on a trail
riddled with cracks
from the hot summer heat.

Leaves make a shhhh sound
as they catch a slight wind.
Lost in their own song.

A cardinal belts out his call
for his long lost love.
I say lost, because it’s more like a croak,
as if he’s starting to lose hope

What’s it like to be lost?
I wonder as I wander
through the field
blossomed with alfalfa and clover

Bees skirt from flower bud to flower bud
lost in their daily routine

a doe whistles as she flees
from her natural flight instinct
whooshing through the grass, her tail up
soon lost in the scenery

does a buck grow back antlers
because he lost them
or does he lose them
in hopes of them growing back bigger?

What’s it like to be found?
I wonder as I wander
further and further into the tangles of wild thorns

Untucked Wings

A forest dark and grim. A young girl shutters as she gasps in between sobs. Her blonde hair hangs in strings from days of neglect. She dared not care for where would she go now? She hesitated, but finally stands up. She looks first southward, where her old, dull, yellow, paint chipped house lies, but turns northward. A dark wind blew from the horizon. She knew not where this path would lead, only that she could no longer bear where she came from. The past was riddled with guilt and doubt. Boldly holding true to herself, she made her first step.

Out of the forest line, she awakens to the shine of a fading orange sun. Heavy and burdened, she made her way out to the plains. She hoped to meet someone there. Someone who could make this all make sense. She blinks her eyes towards the fading sun. Her hopes are scattered in front of her while her heart is cast upon her shoulder. The seams that were stitched together are beginning to crumble and rip. Would she ever trust again? Could she ever trust again?

Her faith makes her strong; the world makes her weary. No longer could she be concerned with the daily passages, for a mission had been taken exposing the frailties in who and what she is. The betrayal was too much to admit. The long lost effort is painful; the passing glances are too much.

Her father’s whiskey stained words echo in her head, but she presses on. Bird wings can be heard fluttering in the long grass in front of her, and for a brief moment a smile flickers across her face, pressing creases in the sides of her mouth. She yearns to fly like a bird and finally be set free. Free from the burdens that never cease from her heart. Free like the un-caged bird.

Falling to her knees she cries out to the blanket of silence that engulfs her. Crying for the love and laughter that had ceased long ago. Her father could never understand. He was, after all, the reason she left in the first place. But now…the deep breath of fresh air liberated her soul. She rises back to her feet.

She feels free at last, as she untucks her wings that were hidden inside of her. Her legs begin to go forward, faster with each step. Faster down the hill she runs. Glorious with arms spread, as if she were to take off at any given moment. And then she came to the bottom. The brief moment of freedom had ended.

She begins up the next hill.

 

*Though this story is very short, it was co-written with one of my good friends. We were messaging each other back and forth via Facebook, and together we created this story.*

It’s not Goodbye

She hugged me and told me, “This isn’t your career. I want to read your book one day.” Shaking and not trying to cry, I whispered, “Okay.” We embraced for a few moments longer, before letting go, and heading towards our cars to go our separate ways.

Peggy is one of my best friends, and the reason why I have the job I have. About a month ago, she told me she was possibly moving to a city almost two hours away, and she wanted to run the thought by me. Instinctively I wanted to tell her no because I didn’t want to lose my best friend at work. After thinking about it for bit, while taking phone calls, I realized it would be best for her to take on this new adventure. I was excited for her and this opportunity. I knew this is exactly what she wanted and needed at this moment in her life.

See a couple months ago, her long term relationship suddenly ended and the happiness that once was an aura around her was now clouded with hurt and frustration. I didn’t want her to suffer from the same pain I took on two years ago. I wanted her to be happy. And when my ex and I decided to go our separate ways, it really helped me personally to be far away from him during that time that my world was shattered and hurt. They say time heals, but I also think distance helps. I didn’t have to worry about that awkwardness if I ran into him at the store, or that disappointment of seeing him on another date at a restaurant.

When Peggy hugged me on our last day at work together, a great pain of sadness hit me. I didn’t want May to end. I didn’t want to go into this summer without her by my side at work, because she was my rock at work. She calmed me when a guest would get me upset. She played mom when I got wound up from drinking energy drinks. She stopped me from quitting when I felt so frustrated with things. I realized I no longer will have those amazing talks after work, discussing whatever happened at work, or laughing at those silly questions we get asked.

As I head into work tomorrow, it probably won’t hit me that she’s officially gone. It probably won’t hit me until Monday, in the middle of my shift, when I’ll probably get a frustrating call, and I’ll look at the empty chair beside me. In the end though, I know we’ll see each other again, and we’ll pick up right where we left, as if time had stopped while we were separated.

It’s never goodbye, Peggy, but always see you later.