I approached the counter at the DMV smiling and said, “Good morning!” Well, actually, “Muy buenos días.” or VERY good morning. I asked the clerk how she was. Did she have electricity? Water? No, no electricity, only water. “Gracias a Dios,” I said. At least. That makes me happy. I told her that I hoped she’d get electricity soon. I was still smiling. I explained why I was there, what I had, and what I needed.
I have to be aware how I come across. I am impossibly physically large for Puerto Rico. I look like a big white American gringo federal agent, and that can immediately put people off for their assumptions of how I will act based on how I look. I don’t want to traumatize anyone. Yes I speak Spanish, no you don’t have to go find someone who does.
I slouched to make myself smaller, fumbled with my papers, and dropped the pen. I filled in the wrong field and then made a self deprecating remark about not being good at following instructions. She chuckled, and told me not to worry about it. When she finished with the computer, she passed me my activated RFID sticker, and I paid the small fee. I thanked her profusely for her time and wished the people in line a good morning as I made my way to the parking garage. I waved at the parking attendant and thanked the cashier for taking my parking fee, paying with exact change.
I queued up a gentle string quartet on the car stereo, nudged the car out onto the street, and waited at the non-functioning traffic light to let some cars pass. They were in a hurry. I wondered what their lives were like, how they were, what they were feeling, what they were going through. No aggressive moves. There is no hurry for me, just go with the flow, be in the moment. Let others go first.
Puerto Rico is a nation in crisis. We are a people in crisis. Every individual is in crisis. We are all aware of how delicate our state is, and there seems to be some sort of tacit understanding that we must treat each other delicately, because we could lose it at any time. We are all broken, held together by a revisited gentility post María.
But we know we may crack and shatter at any moment for the loss of our livelihood, a loved one, the care for elderly relatives, for living without electricity, and worrying about the future. In the dark after the sun goes down and the hum of generators drowns out the night creatures we find ourselves alone. What about our hopes and dreams, our utility, our self? Where will I go? What will I do?
Maybe tomorrow, when the sun comes up, it won’t seem so grave. Things will seem brighter, more hopeful. Muy buenos días. ¿Cómo se encuentra? Very good morning to you. In what condition may you find yourself? or How are you?
Perhaps we can hold each other gently enough and for long enough that we may not fall to pieces.