On hurricanes and open heart surgery
In this post:
I am a happy person, not a inherently happy person but a person who has worked hard for her happiness. Naturally, when life sucks big time I am as despondent as everybody else and I haven’t been able to catch a break since at least 2013. But the end of 2017 was particularly nasty; I was still living in Qatar and my family was trapped in a hurricane zone on the other side of the Atlantic ocean. Curious? Read on.
The following is a summarized account of my experience as a Puerto Rican American expat during the days before and after hurricane María. My family weathered the hurricane in the island and as of this post are still there.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
My brother is in the hospital recovering from open heart surgery, I am stressed because of that. I managed to call him and speak with him for about forty minutes, that is better, he is in a really good mood considering the big surgery. I haven’t been able to talk to my mom. There was a hurricane a few days ago, hurricane Irma, but it appears that Puerto Rico was mostly unscathed. Anyway, electricity is always bullshit after hurricanes.
Thursday, September 21, 2017
In here there is the same dusty sky, the same inclement and dusty sun that paints everything beige, but I can only see images of floods and uprooted trees, the rain that doesn’t stop. This is overly melodramatic and I am not complete comfortable with the language. On the other hand, I just feel like that. I am waiting for somebody to tell me that my parents and my older brother are OK. But of course, Puerto Rico is almost completely off communications after a direct hit by hurricane María. I think my uncle still has his landline working, and I will call him later today, but how much information he could provide, I don’t know. He lives about a five minute drive from my parents but the roads are probably impassable and my parents might not be able to go anywhere. That is, if my father stayed home with my mother and did not go to the hospital. If he went to the hospital my mother is alone and that really bothers me. Let’s hope for the best.
It is OK if I have a baseline feeling of anxiety, after all, my country just got hit right in the middle by a category 4 hurricane, it is totally without electricity and communications are minimal to non-existent. My brother just got an open heart surgery and is in dialysis, and I cannot really communicate with him. It is OK to be anxious.
I have to stop my compulsive checking of FB. Maybe I will have to wait at least until tonight to get a better sense of what is going on with my family. I guess my brother can say that he will never forget this birthday. Fuck! Open heart surgery and two hurricanes back to back! Irma was just a scare but María, as I have said repeatedly, has been a big shit. And we are just halfway through the hurricane season. And if you like to cultivate the ultimate apocalyptic sense of doom, you can just think about the earthquake in Mexico, also a couple of days ago. I will have to stop thinking about all these things if I want to survive this extremely end-of-the-world week.
I accept my discomfort and my anxiety, but not everything has to be completely wrong.
Later that day…
I was finally able to talk to my younger brother.
Me: Brother2!!! OMG! I am so happy to hear you!
Brother2: Sister!!!! Me too! Me too!
Me: How are you guys?
Brother2: We are well…―static―electricity…―static, static, static―…
Saturday, September 23, 2017
I have difficulty concentrating. I am living mostly in the background noise of my head that keeps repeating, distorted, fuzzy: Puerto Rico, hurricane, square houses without roofs, blown away, sad broken trees, thirsty people, sick people, heat that seeps up from dirty water.
Monday, September 25, 2017
I was thinking that natural disasters and times of crisis are bonus times for politicians, especially those in power. They get to be on TV and to appear heroic just by showing up and saying a few pretty words, and invoking the particular deity of their constituency. One day I would like to write an essay about this but not now. I’ve been thinking about it and the phrasing that comes to my mind is particularly hateful, I don’t think that is good for me or for anybody so I will postpone the writing of these things until such a time as I can make gentle fun of it.
Date: Sometime at the beginning of October 2017
Dates do not make any sense for me now. The news pass in a whirlwind, I call several times a day to every land line and mobile number I have in my list. Sometimes I manage to connect to my older brother, most of the times not.
Me: How are you doing?
Brother: I am tired, I’ve been in a gas station line for five hours.
Me: Should you be doing that so soon?
Brother: Who else? It needs to be done.
Me: You sound like a real president, not like some mother fu…―static.
Puerto Ricans: We are dying.
The clowns up in Washington: You owe our rich friends a whole lot of money.
Puerto Ricans: We have no electricity, no communications.
FEMA: Please, go to this website and fill up your claim here.
Puerto Ricans: We’ve got no internet (and no food).
FEMA: In that case you can call this phone number.
Puerto Ricans: We have no phone service. Sin teléfono, ¿entienden?
The clowns up in Washington: You want everything done for you? Lazy!
Maybe the same day:
Puerto Ricans: We have not enough food or water.
Elon Musk: Here, take some batteries and solar panels. Our batteries will save you!
Puerto Ricans: Yes! We are so grateful!
Communications are dead for three days. When they are somewhat restored:
Puerto Ricans: Thanks for the help, we just have one question: How do we eat them batteries?
Saturday, October 7, 2017
Cousin: You cannot imagine how horrible things have gotten in Puerto Rico, we are leaving and I don’t know if we will be coming back.
Me: I’m glad to hear you have an escape plan. I wished my parents would too, at least until things would get back to normal.
The clowns up in the White House: Our response has been A+. We are so smart! As a matter of covfefe, there is no one with a bigger, yuge smarts than us!
My spellcheck refuses to add covfefe and yuge to its dictionary.
Later that day I managed to speak to my older brother and my parents:
Me: How are you guys doing? Are things improving?
Brother: We got water yesterday, the government says not to drink it.
The clowns up in Washington: We toured the island for five minutes, they are throwing off our budget.
Mother: I am alive! I got my insulin yesterday.
Father: I have never seen something like this. The generator exploded in Centro Médico de Bayamón and a dozen patients in ventilators died.
The clowns up in Washington: Only 40 deaths! We are awwwwesome!
Father: They say that these deaths are not due to hurricane María.
Me: I’ve got to get you all out of there.
Father, brother, brother2, mother: We cannot leave now, there is too much to do.
My yoga and meditation finally kick in and I am able to sleep. If things get worse my family might change their minds and get out.
Until then, I remain truly and hyper-consciously hysterical,
A Puerto Rican American Expat
References and Resoures:
1. Do you want to see some really depressing post-hurricane pictures? Check out this article from the LA Times.