Soon the evening would start to darken the wet panorama, hence,
up to it was within sight, the sun's clarity was despairing between the water and the clouds.
Although the waves gave us no rest, with each roll they became smaller and less frequent. Forced by the scarcity of plastic containers, to empty out water, some of the passengers used the
cans in which they had brought food and a few used their hat. Nevertheless, it
seemed, as time passed, there were fewer containers to empty out water and fewer people willing to do it. Many refused to replace those who were doing this work. Those
who had cooperated the most, complaining of fatigue and lack of help gave into the inertia of apathy and would not extract
any more water. To empty the yola of water meant to continue afloat, to hold
on to life. As it began to grow dark, only four of us continued to empty the
yola of water and insisted that more people should cooperate; but they paid no attention.
I found it incomprehensible that they would prefer to die rather than to extract water; I found it unbelievable until
I became one of them. I thought it was illogical to take that attitude, but I
took it: I decided to die. Up to that moment, I had been proud of being the one
that emptied the most water. Leo and some of the passengers had recognized me
for that. But I decided not to extract any more water. With such a decision, I felt that I was getting my revenge on those who had never helped.
-"It's not worth it ---I said to myself--- to continue struggling.
It's probable that, no matter what, we wont survive. To die shouldn't be so bad
at all. Indeed,it may be a relief. Yes.
That's right. It's a relief... a few minutes of agony but after that...-
Only three passengers continued to empty the water. I laid down under the benches among the feet of those who were sitting. I laid to rest with no fear of
death. I stayed there for a quarter of an hour.
I was resting on my back when I felt something warmer than
sea water running onto my face. I opened my eyes already suspecting what was
happening: A fifty year old woman, without a doubt the eldest of all the passengers,
was relieving herself as her warm urine dripped directly on my face. Very angry,
I leaned my head towards her having decided to insult her. But the old woman
looked at me with a pained face and eyes full of tears. She said nothing. I felt
pity for her and did not say anything. I intended to lie down again but the water
continued to come into the boat; those who were scooping it out were begging for help, and with this, they disturbed the tranquility
that I wanted to obtain. Leo was the one who insisted the most that water needed
to be emptied out. I saw that he himself replaced one of those who was working
and began extracting water. I remained still and thoughtful. I was more fatigued than hungry; I was thirsty, exhausted,
beaten up. In my foot, I felt a sharp pain and my sick stomach throbbed. I felt angry and without any will to live.
But, after a while, I thought of life out of the sea; I focused on how young I still was, and I was afraid of death
again. I began to believe that not to be afraid was indeed to be a coward because
it was the easiest way out. Therefore, with bitter but complete resignation,
still angry with those who attached themselves to the attitude that I shared for a while, I said to myself:
-"I'll do what I can, while I'm able to. If I die, very soon nothing will matter; but if I save myself,
I'll have an entire life before me and when all of this has passed, I won't ever find myself again in a situation like this
with any of these wretched people. People who don't care about their own lives
nor others' are fools. I should never have gotten myself into this mess. I shouldn't have believed that it was going to be different from the other trips. I should have done what Juan did. He
was intelligent indeed. But I'm already here; I should fight until the finish"-.
Afterwards, darkness painted everything one color. At eight o'clock, we completed seventeen hours at sea; but we had not seen even a small island where we
could have landed the deteriorated yola. As well, the initial doubt returned
as to whether or not we were traveling in the right direction. I thought: "With no compass and the motor having turned off
several times, a cloudy sky can't be a guide to direct us in this brave sea".
But our guides, facing the complaints of some, insisted:
---We're traveling in the right direction. We know this route like the palm of our hands. God willing,
any moment, we'll arrive at Mona Island. There we can rest and then continue
The night advanced on us getting darker and darker. It was a night with no moon, with no stars in the sky, full of dark clouds.
It became impossible to see one another. All around us the night gave
us the impression that we were surrounded by a an immense forest. The waves roared
here and there. Both under us and at our sides water continued to penetrate into the yola.
We had to keep up our continuous effort to remain alive. Leo, just as
in the beginning, continued to encourage the most hopeless among us. At nine
it rained again for about an hour. The night breeze tormented our already exhausted
bodies. Our clothes, which never dried out, pricked our skin. When the rain ceased, one of the woman, with a weak and weeping voice said:
---I'm starving! Can't any body give me something to eat?
Most of the food that we had brought was the cheapest and easiest
to get: bags of bread, crackers, salami and cheese. But before noon, we had already
noticed that no plastic bag had survived the invading water. The bread, the crackers,
the pieces of cheese and salami had been destroyed by the salty water. They had
been washed out together with the excrement, vomit and some personal items, cast out in desperation. Despite this, we heard the voice of one of the passengers say to the woman:
---Doña, here you are, a can of sardines! I have not even gotten hungry yet.
At midnight, we began to make out a tiny sign of clarity on
the Northwest. Almost at the same time, we could see some beams of light rotating
on the horizon.
-We must be almost there; those are the ship lights of coast
guards ---said one of our guides.
---Oh God, help us that we are not caught! ---exclaimed Jose,
the accountant, while neglected for a moment the extraction of water.
The rotating beams of light intensified. Short thereafter, the lights announced the presence of three vessels, in all. A great distance separated one from the other, but with their lights illuminating the restless surface
of the water, they seemed to cover all the area that we saw in front of us. Little
by little, we found ourselves in the radius of light of the nearest ship.
---It's very hard for them to see us -said Leo---, this is
a very low boat. Besides, the sea is very rough and the night's too dark.
Nevertheless, after a short while, we noticed that the ship
was approaching us. She was moving from South to North searching to the East. This brought it closer and closer to us.
---Back up, back up! ---Leo urged. Frank, who was guiding the yola stared it to the South. Pedro
----Those mother fuckers must have seen us!
---I don't think so! ---said Frank.
Leo said nothing. A
woman, after coughing with a severe cold, murmured:
---Well, if they get us, it is not a complete disgrace. I can't endure this any longer.
But the motion of our boat managed to evade detection by the
coast guard ship, since it did not change its direction. That made us believe
that we had not been seen.
---They must have been only covering their area ---guessed
one of the men.
Little by little, Frank guided the yola in its initial direction
again. To our left, the ship was fading away; and very far away we could see
the lights of the other two ships. Papín murmured:
---It doesn't matter
if those are coast guards or marine police ships, it won't be easy for them to discover us.
They might not even believe that any one had dared to throw themselves into this rough sea.
To the East, as far as our sight could reach, the reflection
of other lights became more intense.
---Those must be the lights of Mayagüez ---said Frank. Leo and Pedro confirmed it.
Clarity seemed to emerge from the water with more intensity
than when the dawn sun disposed to rise. Some, quite astonished, ceased emptying
out the water. And many began to celebrate.
---Oh God, it's seems that at last we're gonna make it ---said
a woman, crying with emotion.
The reflection that was just barely clearing up the horizon
became more intense. The uproar and the joy overwhelmed our hearts. Exclamations of satisfaction came out effortlessly. And with
the hope of an impending arrival, fatigue and quarreling were forgotten. There
was even more cooperation to extract water.
But whole hours went by without our seeing more than the reflection of the lights.
---This piece of shit is in the same place! ---complained a passenger, despairing because the progress in the yola's motion was hardly perceptible. At four in the morning we found ourselves with the sensation of having advanced very