One Past Life (notes from the Puerto Rico journals)


To say I am happy here is not quite accurate. There is, still, the thought of a hand that flashes. (Will always be?) A mouth unkissed. And, yet, this is my home now. This is my place. Where I chose.

To say I am happy here is not quite accurate. I have found my path, a certain measure of contentment. I miss my human lovers, true, but I have found dignity through a choice. I have sought independence. I am now not a lover of a person but a place. This place. Most days, there is patience. Most days, there is peace. And each gorgeous morning cannot be denied. Nearly four months now, and there is not a morning where I fail to remember to stop, stock-still, and offer a prayer. This morning, it is the same. Before I begin my breakfast, I pause, breathe in a deep deep breath (very down, down into my belly) and whisper, aloud: “Thank you.”

This morning, it’s the same. Always the appreciation of the view. (Technically, it’s not “my” view, but a kindly neighbor’s view, with only a one-minute walk.) Always the slight peripheral awareness of the precariousness, the impermanence and slightly comical tininess of this body and life. This view never fails to do it. It’s a view to die for. (I’m sure some have.)

This cliff. Stretching half a mile down (with no clear path) through thick, spider-filled jungle—a dark tangle of fern, vine, flower, and tree—at an angle as vertical as it is possible to walk upright, and then another half mile walk across the open, scorched earth towards the Atlantic. And when you get there, it is a beach of rotting bamboo, half-eaten coconut, dead fish. Boulders so big and unforgiving that swimming is out of the question. Neighbors call it Playa Sobreviviente, Survivor Beach. No one much goes there. They say sometimes rapists do.

So it is a thing (mostly) to look at, then, this ocean. This non-human lover. This Atlantic in my backyard. A thing to see and hear and smell. So much. When I sold most of my earthly belongings, packing the remainder into two purple suitcases, the image of this view was on my mind. During those two years of transition, before getting the guts to leave Bowling Green, I could already feel my life over here. My new life brewing. I could feel the movement of it; roots were coming up. A strange sensation. Uncanny and, sometimes, undesirable…for I wanted to be where I was until I was there no more. But, no, at that time, for those years, I was in two places at once. Half here; half there. Not fully solid in both. Shamans have names for this, I think. Ways of describing.

Now, I am here…and, as it turns out, it never was a question of happiness. It wasn’t what I thought it was.

To love Puerto Rico, really love it, is to pretend not to see ahead. One must say: I don’t know—and mean it.


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