Even before reaching the shoreline, once near, people grabbed their wet clothes while others helped some of the more desperate,
and almost every one rushed to jump out of the yola. They could touch the bottom
when they fell. But because of the movement that they provoked as they jumped
out, the boat turned onto one side. But the passengers managed to get out of
the boat and headed towards the shore even as the water slapped up against them. They
continued to pop up out of the water; they looked something like a huge anthill overturned.
Cries and laments were still heard.
I felt that in a matter of few seconds, my dreams were destroyed. The others may have been tasting the same bitterness that I was, seeing that Puerto
Rico was getting farther and farther away and imagining returning home defeated. I
heard the waves continue to roar and the wind howling on the large palms of the coconut trees.
The moon and the stars were no longer bright and shining; the clarity of the morning was now a fact. Among all those wet people who were chilled to the bone, confused and still frightened, I intended to find
---Juan! ---I shouted, as I emerged from the water.
---Raul! ---I heard him say, about ten meters away.
---God Damn..! ---he commented
---Where's my bag? ---I interrupted him at once.
I hadn't heard Juan stutter very often, (he would do it when
angry) but when he answered me, he said:
---I I I I I know know know know no no no nothing about a bag!
The trembling of his wet body still drizzling became more visible
as I reproached him because he saved his belongings while neglecting mine.
Just a few seconds had gone by since the yola approached the
shore. We were still in the same place.
The yola, on its side, was twenty meters from the beach. I made my way
there among the others who were looking for their things. Some articles of clothing
were floating on the waves. I couldn't see mine; I didn't find them close to
the yola, nor at the shore, nor on the sand where I saw other abandoned clothes. My
efforts to find my things were in vane, so were Leo and Pedro's to rescue the yola in order to restart the trip. In the attempt to straighten out and put afloat the boat, it broke into two pieces. They had to satisfied themselves by just saving the outboard motor, completely soaked.
Under the coconut trees, and close to the last large gate that
we had come through, there was a very poor wooden house towards which many of the passengers were headed for warmth and refuge. That was the only house in this uninhabited area.
The breeze increased the cold. And, even without having found my bag containing
my wallet, my radio and my other possessions, I headed towards the house, accompanied by Juan.
Among those walking to the house, we heard a young woman that lamented and cried:
---Some one must have stolen it in the confusion..! Such an expensive camera, a gift from New York...- God damn
The house was inhabited by a fifty-year old man and a woman
of about the same age who became aware of the disaster. They made a fire. On the three stones that sat around the fire, they placed an old can and made coffee. It was shared among those who wanted it. Most
of the people remained outside the narrow house. I came out when the man took
out a bunch of clothing and handed some out to those who were the most cold. Although
ragged, the clothes were welcome for they were dry and warm. One of the men thanked
the old man by telling him that all the clothes that he could find on the beach were his and that with them he would be paid
for his kindness. But the man did not comment on that, instead, he opened his
mouth and, quite nervous, warned:
---You've got to get out of this place as soon as possible. Not far from here, there is a coast guard station.
They come around here several times a day looking for the people that tried to flee the country as you have.
And here we were, without transportation or money, coming from places as far away as El Cibao and the Capital. But
I was helped with my basic needs: one passenger gave me a pair of sandals so that I did not have to go barefoot and my companion Juan offered to pay for my fare to Santo Domingo.
"This is, I thought, the least that Juan should do for me, after having lost my money and the rest of my things".
Some of the passengers began clamoring for their money back. But Leo and Pedro repeated the same thing:
---We have no money with us.
We'll make another trip. Return home until further notice. No one is going to be cheated.
Leo and a few passengers stayed there. The rest, in small group, started to walk the four kilometer that separated us from the road. I left together with Juan and two other young men. With quite a lot of difficulties with the transportation, we arrived in Santo
Domingo at eleven o'clock in the morning.
When I arrived at Las Caņitas -my neighborhood, first I directed
myself to Luis' house. He was a very close
friend who, because of lack of money, could not make the trip. Carlos,
other to me no less special friend, four years before had traveled legally to the United States. He was now residing in Chicago. My goal was to get to that
Luis and I had attended high school together. If I had had enough money I would have paid for his fare. My
friend's house, like mine, was reached after going through several narrow alleys
bordered on both sides by ramshackle huts. I found Luis in front of the house washing his motorcycle with a pale and a rag
in his hand. He turned to look at me as I approached. He must have imagined what had happened and his laugh sounded to me like a plate broken against the wall.
---Raul, but what happened? ---he asked; and still laughing
---If Doņa Blanca sees you like that, she'd have a heart attack! But tell me, what the hell happened?
I knew well that laugh and good humor were very much a part
of Luis, in the good and in the bad; but I was not in condition for being laughed at. With clenched felt- an a bitter tone,
I answered him:
---I did not come here to see your clown face. Why do you think I'm here.
His facial expression changed and in a serious tone he said:
---There is another can of water in the latrine. Take this pitcher, get rid of all of that salt and sand...- I'll
get you a comb and some of my clothes that might fit you.
----Try to find me something to eat. I'm starving! ---I
said to him after having given him a few details of what happened on the beach.
I took a bath and settled down a little with what my friend
provided me. He returned from the grocery store with bread and canned sardines. I fed the hunger that had been bothering me for quite some time. And, feeling less miserable, I said to my friend:
---What happen to you?
You looked so serious. Were you offended by the rude way I spoke to you?
He said smiling:
---Oh No, my dear friend!
It's just that I had the dream that when you arrived in the United States you would send me the money to pay for my trip in the yola; but I can see that the game has ended forever here. What do
you say about it?
I answered him with a smile (that turned to be -saltless because
of my big discouragement). Then, without fear of scandalizing my mother, as I
did not look so disheveled any more, I started on my way home.