A Year in the Life, Week 24: This is a Story About ...

Although I’ve been keeping up with my Year in the Life journaling, the last two exercises, which I wrote while on my trip to Puerto Rico, were not especially inspiring. Now that I’m home, today’s exercise helped me crystallize the experience in Puerto Rico. I find I often can’t or don’t write about trips while I’m on them. I know people who hardly ever write except to keep “trip journals,” who need something to shake them up a little to inspire them to write. While I’m traveling, I’m too immersed and overwhelmed by the experience itself to write about it — but that doesn’t bother me anymore, because now I know that the memories and meanings will continue to surface for the rest of my life in “ordinary time,” and that there will be many more opportunities to write about it, from a place that understands more.

This week’s prompt was to begin (and to repeat) your writing with the words, “This is a story about …” So, without further ado, my story about Puerto Rico.

This is a story about an airplane shaking over an ocean, and not knowing what I would find when it landed. It’s about the white-haired cabby who picked us up but conversed very little, and the way seeing Walgreen’s comforted me. It’s about my misgivings when I saw balconies and windows enclosed with iron bars, and how soon I was so used to it that it meant very little.

This is a story about driving around Ponce for hours looking for non-existent laundromats, and finally finding one manned by a teenager in Arecibo. It’s about saving chicken from Burger King to give to a frightened stray dog, and leaving our hotel room ate night hoping to find the resident cat. It’s about Church doors wide open, and how you were hesitant to go inside. This is a story about a world that smelled strange — fish and seaweed and garbage and sand and sun. It’s about huge metallic structures I never did understand, and some that I kind of did. It’s about being with you 24/7, and how hard being apart again was when we returned. It’s about fights while washing laundry in the sink, and the anger that propelled me all the way up to the Arecibo Observatory.

Arecibo Observatory, the largest radio telescope in the world.

This is a story about the beauty and terror of unexpected, narrow mountain roads, and the queasy mix of sadness and relief when it was over. It’s about people who buried their chiefs two thousand years ago, and the hurricane that revealed them. It’s about getting lost on public transportation, eating too much Mofongo, watching too much reality TV and Juno three times in one day. It’s about not remembering my Spanish until the very end.

It’s about the way I held your hand during the explosions in Iron Man, and how we cried watching a movie with English subtitles. It’s about how we couldn’t spend all our arcade tokens in time, and how I came home with a folder full of tickets and itineraries I can’t bring myself to throw away.