I’m in the car, on the way to an apartment with a perfect sea view. I’ve spent the day in what would be considered an undesirable area of the city. The electricity we consumed today came from a small power plant used to barely keep the fridge running, a few light bulbs and a lonely fan that tries its best to cool down a small house never intended to hold so many memories or so much love.
Every day that I have made this trek I am amazed at the duality of life these days. There are lessons here.
But, all I can feel is the exhaustion. And the hot tears that I fight to hold together, at least til the Frog Princess doses off in my arms, exhausted from playing with her primos all day in a house that has never seen central air conditioning. She sleeps quietly as the scenery changes right before us. Some days our car has AC, some days it does not.
I stare at the changes. The dilapidated houses behind bars that hold treasures that can only be found by those that have little possessions, turn to condos, then residences behind gates, high rises.
There are lessons here. But, all I can think of is how I have always felt at home in all the spaces. The one where I have carried my own water to bathe with and the one with the infinity pool across from the blue ocean that has always beckoned me home.
I will be leaving this place shortly. All these places. I imagine it will be as it always has been. But so very different at the same time. Filled with tears that can no longer be caught by either of my mothers’ hands or comforted by their arms. Trailed behind by promises of calls and return trips, with thoughts of the memories I have made not just on this trip but since the day I was born, 43 years ago, on this very island.
This is no longer my home but it will never be anything else.
I live in the folds of the waves of the ocean, in the veins of the leaves of the flamboyan tree.
I see lack and lush grounds. Privilege and those that will never truly experience the meaning of that word. I see it all on my drive. It is both overwhelming and humbling. Duality showing up at every turn of my travel. The sun rising and setting. The old couple walking hand in hand and the man that has paid for his date. The well-fed man on the beach and the starving dog at his feet.
I navigate these roads but it is not without a cost. I need a new phrase to replace emotionally spent. I feel as if every night, my heart is rung out and put out to dry only to be thrown in the spin cycle again the next day.
I am child and parent. Giver and taker. I am happiness and tears. I am a tale of two Silis coming together at the intersection of responsibility and grief, duty and love.
After arriving home, I sit in silence for a bit. The frog princess stops by to hug me, having been on high alert with my soft heart most of the day.
She hugs me as if giving the tears permission to exit their station. When she notices them she asks disapprovingly how long I’ve been feeling this way.
I do not lie. I explain it’s been a difficult time for me. She says she’s sorry I’ve been feeling this way and why hadn’t I told her. I think because, dammit! You’re a kid and I don’t always want you to carry the burdens of my heart. But instead, I tell her it just is and that I am working through it. As much as I do not want to upset her, I’ve learned it is important for her to see my emotions and to hear how I process some of them.
Then I say, “Thank you for loving on me.”
And she quietly, confidently and with her arm still wrapped around my head as it lays on her shoulder, says: “You’re welcome. But I’m not done getting all the emotion out of you.”
Neither is this island, baby. But I’m grateful for it and humbled for each and every experience.