I can’t even begin to explain everything I’m feeling right now. I can only imagine it’s about the same as every person who has family in Puerto Rico, in Mexico, in Texas, in Florida – in the middle of any and every disaster that leaves you wanting to do everything you can to mend the wheel but you can only watch it as it spins.
I went to bed last night hoping for the best, thinking everything would be okay, and that people would manage to get through the worst. People often do, but there was this tiny voice in the back of my head that couldn’t stop thinking of the people that don’t. I had seen a video with the mayor of San Juan, I saw shelters and I hoped, it would be okay. They’re preparing. Still managed to have a bad dream about it (which I don’t want to talk about.)
Then I woke up this morning and saw a stream of updates, videos and pictures that created a collage in my mind. They pricked my skin with the full force of anxiety and helplessness. I remember sending mom a message but didn’t get a response (still haven’t). I tried calling, but the line was busy. I told myself that was normal. Our landline gets screwy every time it rains (failure in the design of the house, water drips over a certain area where the water lines are) and I read some cell services were completely out.
I somehow got through a day of work. Well, not “somehow”. Friends checked on me, made conversation to keep me sane and amused, and I threw myself into my work. I cried on and off, but I got through the day. I honestly don’t think I’ve stopped crying. As soon as I started, I closed the office door. I didn’t want my sweetie seeing me like that. I knew he’d ask me what was wrong and then that’d be it, I’d be on the floor. I’d be useless.
Sadly, I am one of those people that, if something horrible is happening to me, the moment you ask me if I’m okay, I’m going to show you how not okay I am. Depending on how bad the situation is, I may be able to keep a strained face. I can’t keep a strained face near him, though. Heck, I can’t even not laugh when I try to tell him a joke (I laugh before I even start the joke. Or get to the punchline.)
It didn’t help that every so often, I’d check for updates on the situation, articles, messages—and yet, I kept about the same pace at work. Luckily, I don’t work with the public, which allowed me the ability to continue moving, much like an auto pilot, and cried as I worked. On and off. My sweetie even sent me a message while I was working (he knows not to come into my office…unless the world is ending), just letting me know he was home, and I swallowed everything I felt and summarized it into basic events (to avoid bawling like an idiot. Again) and warned him that if I seemed off, to just avoid me.
Now, I didn’t say this to be mean, he knows. I said it because I know me. Again, asking me how I am during times like these, while appreciated, may evoke a response of a million shattering pieces. I know this. My brain knows this. Previous experiences tell me this. And every time I talked about it, you could be sure, tears happened. (Still waiting for my eyes to dry out.)
It reminds me of a time my mom got so mad at me…because she thought something had happened to me.
I had gone to a retreat with a friend. I didn’t have a cellphone. I was a true introvert so mom wasn’t really used to me going to sleep anywhere else that wasn’t home…and, I later found out, she had a nightmare the day before the retreat was over (it was in our hometown, by the way) that something happened to me. Well, the day the retreat was over, our ride disappeared. So my friend took a ride with someone else, but since I had no one else, the plan was, I’d go with my friend to her place and then call my mom.
Yeah, there’s a saying about plans and their success rate (See: Firefly). We were dropped off, but my friend’s parents weren’t home and she didn’t have a key. My friend managed to use her neighbor’s phone to call her parents, but I (..and prepare to meet the idiocy that was me as a kid) didn’t want to ask someone that I didn’t know for their phone. I thought it’d be too forward. I thought my friend would ask but she didn’t think of it and I figured, it’d be okay.
Once her parents arrived, I had a ride home and came to an odd sight. Our front gates were open. Unlocked. The car wasn’t home. I walked into the living room and saw two plates, baked potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil. Suddenly, I heard the car and as soon as mom got out of the car, she told me to get inside. That was it. And, let me tell you, when your parent tells you to do something in the tone mom said it, I realized something was very, very wrong.
Once she explained to me why she was angry, I was stumped by two thoughts: one, I never thought my mom cared that much (brief explanation: I’ve doubted my worth since the day I was born. That’s a truth too obvious to deny while telling this story, so I have to say it) and two, I didn’t think it was that big of a deal (…yes, you may roll your eyes. I sure did.)
Many years later, I am now understanding the feeling she felt. And I know the moment, the second, she gets to send me a message and tell me she’s okay…well, it’ll go something like this. “Heeey Ani. I’m okay. Everything’s fine.” And I’ll let a sigh of relief and respond with, “Good. I’ve been stressing the fuck out.” And she’ll fuss at me for stressing when she told me yesterday she’d let me know when it was over (x.x I did tell her I’d message her anyway because I. Fuss.) And I’ll remind her of what I told her *points to parenthesis* And she’ll laugh at me, but not a mocking mean laugh, but the kind of laugh you give a toddler who tries to tell you what to do, and if I’m really lucky, she’ll bark at me, “you’re not my mother!” Or, better yet, she’ll remind me she’s part of the generation that could kill their food and cook it without electricity (and survive without Internet for more than a few days).
I’m looking forward to it, honestly. It’s the thread of hope I’m holding on to. And you know, it’s not the only thread. I mean, one thing I’ve always loved and admired about my island, people come together easily. One of the things I liked about the south when I moved here, people are generally nice, they smile at you, they’re polite and warm. That makes it feel like home. Fine, there’s always a handful of people that are as far away from polite as the word can get, but it’s the light in people that shines brightest.
And that’s what I hope, that after the worst has passed, after the water recedes, the people that shine the brightest will take action. It doesn’t matter who they are. It doesn’t matter if they were born there or not. If they have family there or not. The suffering that happened to me today doesn’t belong to only to me, it doesn’t revolve only around my family, it belongs to everyone. I’m pretty sure I can hope enough for all of us.
And to those who have checked up on me, who have stayed in touch, who worry because they know me and know how I can get…I’ll be okay. I’m not alone. None of us are.
Not that long ago, David handed me something to place on the table (I was closest to) and because my hands were busy, I said, “You’re going to have to wait.” To which he responded with, “As long as it takes.” And it was like a brick hit my head (or several) and a sudden relief came over me. Even when I’m at my worst, my most broken, my most emotional, he’s my rock…and also my light bulb because he’s right. Now I have to wait…as long as it takes.