jueves, 10 de diciembre de 2009

Just an Ordinary Day

December 9th of 2009 was just another common day, nothing out of the ordinary. At 6:00 AM The Golden Mile, the business district of the Metropolitan area of San Juan, was still quiet, but the smell of cars approaching were enough to wake me up in El Monte Sur. I prepared breakfast and lunch for Carla at the rhythm of more cars approaching our building. At 7:00 AM, Carla, my brother Gami and I had breakfast, just before joining the stream of cars and horns on our way to El Condado, the tourist area of San Juan where Robinson School is located. While parents drive through the parking lot at the back of the school, pedestrian tourists enjoy the view of the school’s water fountain, the landscape at the front yard and if they are just waking up, they can see the open sea through their hotel room’s windows.

I did not have time enough to drive through Ashford Avenue as I usually do on my way home. So, I missed my morning opportunity to have a glimpse of the sea at “La ventana al mar,” the only little spot of Condado were a hotel or Condo had not yet interrupted our visual access to the wide open sea. Indeed, I also skipped my daily exercise routine at Gold’s Gym, my second private morning ritual. The first one helps me open my eyes to the infinite world beyond me. The other is an inward experience through the molding, contortion and masochist punishment of my own body. Whenever driving through Ashford Avenue, I hope to have a glimpse of the sea, but I avoid any eye contact while exercising. Whenever I dear to raise my eyes, I have the feeling that, right in front of the gym, people driving through Muñoz Rivera Avenue look at us as urban zoo inhabitants, a bunch of good for nothing playing at their monkey bars.

Yesterday I skipped my game of seen and being seen. Instead, I accompanied my brother Gami to pick up my parent’s cat at the vet’s office at 8:30 AM. Congo scratched my mother’s right leg, something very dangerous for a diabetic patient. We took the cat to a vet in order to remove its nails so that my mother could keep it inside the house. That trip to Roberto Clemente Avenue and Rolling Hills was an odd exchange. We returned the cat to our parents while at the same time they said good bye to Gami who was heading back to Boston, his own jungle habitat. At 11:00 AM, I drove back to my home at El Monte Sur. I wished Gami to have a safe trip to Boston and Jaime drove Danilo and I to the university around 11:20. My son went to his class. I stopped in front of the tower to attend for a little while to the peaceful demonstration against violence organized by the students from the School of Business.

I wore a white shirt and skirt as everybody else; a theatrical expression against the darkness of violence created by our own institutionalized evilness: injustice, greediness, and alienation from anything beyond ourselves. I stood for a while in front of the Theodore Roosevelt Tower, a Spanish “Renaissance” building which main hall has the emblems of all the Latin American Countries, the American eagle at the center of the front entrance, and the emblems of the oldest university of South America (Universidad de San Marcos), the oldest North American University (Harvard) and the University of Puerto Rico. The sculptures of a man holding a book and a woman holding a diploma represent the promise of education. Lady Justice is at one of the bases of the four columns at the front entrance of the tower, accompanied by Arts and Sciences, Education and Pharmacy. The dream of modernity stands still and petrified at that Spanish-American minaret tower, while the peaceful demonstration taking place right in front of the building still hopes for a better future, one in which a young female student can walk openly besides the walls of the university without confronting the cross fire of drug dealers that dropped out of middle school to play with guns. Lady Justice, Education, Arts and Science cannot compete with Lady Pharmacy. Harvard, UPR and Universidad de San Marcos are nothing to those kids who see no other light, but pharmaco-“blimblines” at the end of the tunnel. We have all failed in this world with so many open eyes seeing and being seen, and so many other walking in the shadow. I wonder if some day those teens playing with fire have even had the chance to look beyond the walls around the campus of the university, just as I struggle to have a glimpse of the sea that has been covered by condos, hotels and casinos, all of them so tall and brightened by electric flashing power. The Roosevelt Tower at the University of Puerto Rico with two statues holding a diploma and a book are pale icons difficult to sell in Disney or Las Vegas.

From 1:00 to 7:00 PM, I taught three undergraduate classes while Jaime drove Gami to the airport and picked Carla at Robinson School. It was the last class of the semester and I discussed "Candide," by Voltaire. I spent some time comparing the common grounds of different narrations, from Genesis, the Golden Age, El Dorado, and Trapalanda, to the myth of modernity. Needless to say that Candide’s adventures were widely enjoyed by my students precisely because it reminded us of our own fallen world.

At 7:00 PM, Jaime drove Danilo and I to El Monte Sur, and I took the wheel to drive towards Punta las Marías for the last 2009 Council meeting at the Union Church of San Juan.
All the documents of my committee were approved, and I drove back to El Monte Sur around 10:30 PM. It was raining cats and dogs and I decided that I will not return home through Ocean Park, my last chance of the day to have a view of the open sea. I returned home through the Teodoro Moscoso Bridge. It was so dark that I could not see the lagoon. Back home, I opened my Facebook and found out that Jaime was celebrating with Carla my second year as a cancer survivor drinking a glass of Chilean pisco sauer. Two years ago I was unconscious for six hours. I have to admit that although I might never recover those six hours, I have gained my ability to live, enjoy and remember every detail of an ordinary day, nothing extraordinary.