Live Like they Left the Gate Open

And if they didn’t, kick it open your damn self, make a run for it, and don’t look back.

I’ve learned that life is always going to be busy and demanding and full of difficult tradeoffs. Every day, I wake up and wonder how well I’ll manage as a mom, a writer, a daughter, a sister, a woman, a friend, a person.

How miserably will my memory fail me? How overwhelmed will I let myself get before I buckle down, meditate, and calm the monkey brain. Will I remember all the birthdays, meetings, and obligations or forget something again, even though it’s on my calendar with three reminders? Probably not.

You know, this is the reason people have personal assistants. It’s why house girls are an African tradition and why very successful people have maids, cooks, and lovers managing their lives behind the scenes, reminding them when to pick up the dry cleaning.

Comedienne Ali Wong was right,

Photo Compliments of Vulture
“Do you know how much more successful I would be if I had a wife?”, she says, “Some loving, devoted woman by my side who bought a bunch of fruit beside bananas and put the duvet cover on the duvet?!”

I’m not reconsidering my sexual orientation. I’m just looking for as many ways as possible to hit the Easy Button on life. I’ve heard there’s a tribe in Kenya where women marry each other only for this very practical reason. It’s like polygyny without the middleman.

The Easy Button is the only way to make the questions quiet down. Will I make time for a workout or choose to cling to my blankets at the end of the day instead? How much energy is it going to take to cook dinner? How many times will I be interrupted while working, and how late will I finish because of it?

Moment to moment, I question every word, every article I write for my employers and clients, no matter how repetitive the content may be. I wonder how long I can keep up the charade. What will it take to keep my morale high enough to get everything done and still make time for the things that make me feel like me? Everyday.

Somehow, the duties get done and things come together as they should. And, more and more, I’m learning to make time for the things I’d otherwise someday regret not doing, like taking evening walks with the kids, writing what I want, growing the big garden, traveling, and just living—whenever opportunity strikes.

For this adventure, Bae and I decided to take our first trip together and explore Puerto Rico. I had my first jaunt there with my bestie back in February 2020. I loved it so much I started planning my Blaxit and researching real estate there with the intention of making it my home for part of every year once the kids are grown. As Serendipity would have it, I soon manifested a boyfriend with Puerto Rican Heritage.

This is definitely a place I want to see more of. On my first trip, Bestie and I spread happily across the sand on the beach in Condado, danced Salsa with an instructor in Santurce, and walked the well-worn streets of Old San Juan.

We hugged the predictable tourist attractions pretty closely, though. So, I vowed that on my next visit, I’d venture a little farther away from that zone, get an Airbnb in a “real” Puerto Rican neighborhood, and visit Piñones where a Black American attorney told us there are some pretty strong Afro-Puerto Rican roots.

The old adage, “everywhere you go, there you are”, is absolutely true. Don’t think for a minute that a trip to some alluring, foreign destination will save you from life, your idiosyncrasies, or from the quirks of a friendship or relationship. If you can travel with someone you love and not fight or find your nerves thoroughly grated upon two days in, you must be some kind of alien. Take me to your leader—she knows things I want to learn.

Yet despite us being people and life being life, we had some fantastic experiences. On day one, we killed time before our Airbnb check-in by hoofing it around town. We checked out some predictable spots, like Condado Lagoon next to Dos Hermanos bridge. We marveled briefly at the beaches nearby and walked through the parks near our neighborhood.

After getting Mofongo to-go from Lola’s at the Caribe Hilton we got groceries at Walmart in Santurce and caught an Uber to our place. The driver seemed intensely quiet, and he quickly shoved a bulletproof vest under a blanket as he made room for our groceries in the trunk. But the ride was short, and we made it to our Airbnb without incident.

Next, we showered up and played at the beach at Balneario del Escambrón. It was a ten-minute walk down the street and had a lovely park-like feel, with palm trees offering plenty of shade and places to hang hammocks.

Later that night, we happened to cross paths with another American couple from the DMV area. They were staying on the floor beneath us and had also just arrived. We all immediately hit it off and they told us about a strip club they were planning to go to that night.

Now, I know that the strip club is one of those things modern women like to boast about being into so they can prove they can do everything a man can do. They also do it to prove they’re secure (whatever that means in a world where makeup trends have natural women competing with trans women and risking their lives for the next silicone shot in the ass.)

It’s one of those weird perversions of feminism-gone-awry that forces us right back into the male gaze and into the very twilight zone of male-centered sensuality that we were supposedly seeking to balance out.

But, I had fun anyway, despite the fact that I’m a bit of a sportsman and a purist at heart who’s seen much better pole performances on YouTube. When the mediocre acts and the flashing lights failed to hold my attention, I resorted to booty popping with our newfound friends, laughing and enjoying the scene with Bae.

Over the next two days, we all checked out more of Old San Juan. We returned to the beach, and I took a big step in overcoming a fear of the water. I previously learned to swim back in 2014 when my kids were toddlers and receiving swim instruction at the Y. A mama can’t have her babies in the water and not be able to properly accompany them.

I learned to float and swim freestyle then. Yet being in the deep end with my body upright and my head barely bobbing above the surface still made me a little panicky. Somehow this time, Bae was able to put my mind at ease. I got used to the idea of my feet not touching the bottom and finally learned to tread.  

The last two days, it was just me and Bae exploring Piñones and Canóvanas. We no longer had our new friends to hang out with, as they had caught a plane back to the mainland.

With reality in full view, it was just me and Bae now. And even though we had packed lightly for the trip with only a backpack each as personal items so we wouldn’t have to pay extra for carry-ons, we were pretty heavy-laden with the baggage of our connection.

There was no other couple to laugh and joke with, to provide a buffer and a distraction from us. We had to work together, and find our way around town together, and make decisions like when and where to eat together. At times, we disagreed every step of the way.

I almost wanted to strangle him. I, instead, chose to simply walk away—many times, leaving him to stew in whatever bullshit he’d conjured up in his mind. We must have been a sight to behold from afar. There may have even been moments when he would have been content to toss me in the ocean and let me find my own way out.

But on Piñones Beach, there was crystal blue water set against barrier reef and mangrove forest. There were empanadas packed and seasoned to perfection and mango smoothies to die for. There were families tucked in the hiding spaces under slouching palm trees, just feet away from the sunny, rocky shore.

An array of jet skis sat waiting in the distance next to yachts that rocked from the sounds of Reggaeton. The weekend traffic was a nightmare, but the food, the ocean, the people, and the culture were worth it.

With the hazy mountain view from Sierra de Luquillo Mountains and El Yunque National Forest in the distance to the east, we walked through a park next to the Rio Canóvanas. I spotted an Iguana chilling in a tree canopy and wondered why someone had carefully placed pineapple tops along another tree trunk. An offering? Santeria?

At Cemeterio Nuevo de Canóvanas, we had seen candles and a pile of various items beneath a dead black bird on one of the graves. A wall of temporary tombs at the back of the place had names and brief details of the deceased spread across their surfaces, many informally scrawled into concrete. On the ride back to San Juan, our uber driver claimed there is no tradition in PR like Day of the Dead in Mexico. He said, “we honor our people while they’re living”, but we knew that wasn’t completely true.

People always try to find ways to cling to those who are no longer with them, even if it simply helps them to release what’s gone on their own terms, in their own time.

(Written May 2022)

What do you think?

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

You are commenting using your 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

%d bloggers like this: