By Afua Osei-Bonsu (2009)
25 Barbosa Esquina Recreo, Catano, Puerto Rico
They Flew in quietly, through the window and circled gracefully around the light, luceros. I turned out the light in my bedroom and turned on the light in my office and the luceros followed the light, dancing in circles around it. I turned off the light in my office and turned on the light in my kitchen and the luceros followed the light. I turned out all the lights and the luceros disappeared through the window.
I lived in a 4 room house, mint green on the exterior. In my bedroom I slept on an air mattress and there were two suitcases. One suitcase was filled with my work, a portable office, my writing, sole prints, a book about New York, collages, books and journals. I had with me to read Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus, Oludummare, Jose Saramago’s El Elephante, Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You, Oscar Wilde, Bessie Head, Ionesco’s The Rhinoceros, Indian Holidays, Essays on the Divine, Mahabarata by William Buck ,The Prisoner of Zenda, The Kama Sutra unexpurgated version, and a Spanish dictionary. In the other suitcase I had my dress collection, flower dresses, one turquoise with bright red flowers, another like a field of butterfly attracting flowers. I packed my electric blue lace ups of soft leather from John Fluevog and my sock collection.
I listened to music on my clock radio. I had no refrigerator or stove. My diet consisted of fresh fruit and nuts, “The Light.” I ate foods that absorbed a lot of light. I ate with my hands with no need for silverware or plates or pots or pans. Everything I ate was fresh and raw. My food I kept in a small cooler, to prevent the sweet ants from eating it.
The houses and businesses are painted bright colors and they keep their windows open, casi afuera. All along the edge of the island there are docks, rocks, boats and people fishing. Umbrella tables filled with lovers line the playa. Barcardi Rum makes its home in Catano.
The mosquitoes in my room flew in a “W” formation. The cockroaches ran in an “S” formation. Since then I have found sharks swimming in circles “O” and birds flying in “V”. I combined all my sacred letters to form VOWS. I have another “O” from the birds which circled slowly over the playa like vultures looking for prey. I have an “S” from the snake.
The streets are tropical, lined with palm trees and coconuts can be found lying around. I saw two rainbows in Puerto Rico. While listening to karaoke, I ate chicken and platanos-mashed and fried plantains at El Faro. El faro had an alligator; I’m not sure now if it was real or pretend. I met Ray at El Faro and Rana danced like a slippery frog hopping across the floor.
One day the sweet ants crawled into my purse sending me a message. There were also four tarantulas. The first tarantula the biggest and hairiest talked to me and left peacefully. The second tarantula was young, quick and aggressive. The second tarantula ran into a room and hid frightened behind a door. That one was killed by Monchi with a sandal and swept out the front door. The third tarantula tried to attack me and was killed with a broom swiftly. The fourth tarantula was very small and quick; on it I put down a sacred book and sent it to the ancestors. When I lifted the book nothing could be found.
I planned to redesign my house and paint it pink, carve my bed, desk and shelves. I designed a pool area covered in a mosaic tile pattern. My desk chair with tricycle wheels and feathers, “la serpiente enplumada.” I wanted my furniture filled with water and sand. In my journals I wrote Billionario and thought about high frequency conversation with talking parrots. I created the ideas around social companies and Profit Sharing Foundation, PSF. I thought of social companies called Air, Water and Bici. Bici was inspired by the cyclists I saw in New York from Puerto Rico with streamers and radios and all kinds of things attached to their bikes and also a man who rode around Catano with a bicycle that had a roof top. I researched the numbers from million to centillion. I researched perennial flowers and came up with a formula for perennial league schools. I assumed a perennial name, Babiana Nana Vielchenblau. I decided all of my children will be named after perennial flowers. I painted sea houses, like Atlantis living below sea level in glass structures with sea life all around. I finished editing my book New York 2005-2009. I wrote Dos Caminos, Infinito, Blainwashed and Proverbs in Puerto Rico. Hasta Mourir, until death was written as a poem and later developed as a law firm and organization.
The tickets on La lancha boat between Catano and El Viejo San Juan across the ocean were dos por uno. I took la lancha across the water to El Viejo San Juan and ate chicken curry, mint tea and baklava at a Turkish restaurant. Another day, I ate Mofongo, soul food, and I also ate at a restaurant named after breast nipples, “Aereola.” I went thrift shopping and found a beautiful vintage tan printed dress that I imagined myself wearing getting off a steamer with a trunk in tow, and a birdcage. The tan dress had spots, so I had sewn by a tailor doily patches -in a chaos theory fashion- over the random stains on the entire dress. I bought from the same store a wooden origami necklace and a sleek, powerful red dress, I wore to call attorneys.
En El Viejo San Juan there was a café I frequented for Chinese milky black tea with maple syrup. Another café I went to for fresh squeezed orange juice and fruit salad. Often if I ate heavy meals I was prone to pass out. My body became accustomed to my diet of “The Light.” I ran around El Viejo San Juan with my little push cart of things. I bought a fan from the hardware store to cool my room and keep the mosquitoes from biting me. Mosquitoes do not like cold or strong winds. In Mexico, they hang bags of water to show the mosquito their enlarged reflection. The mosquitoes become scared of themselves and fly away.
I desperately wanted to learn the sacred art of fishing. I imagined the design of a fish restaurant where you spend the day fishing in Catano and show up to the restaurant and they prepare your fish for you. Besides fishing, people lined the plaza playing dominos. At the gymnasio they were belly dancing-everything is like the ocean in Catano-people belly dance making themselves like waves, and they drink a lot filling themselves with waves.
There’s a congero family. The father taught all his children to play congas and they play out together. Cotilla run around on the street. One Cotilla came walking in my front door. Cotilla’s look for mosquitoes, while mosquitoes are looking for human blood.
En el Viejo San Juan, gigantic tourist ships arrive to the port. All of a sudden tourists run about the place having their picture taken with parrots on their shoulder. There was a butterfly store and in the plaza lots of pigeon. Someone walked by and put money in a sleeping homeless person’s hand. There’s a castle way up on the hill with dungeons where people were tortured. I found a large grass field perfect for picnics. El Viejo San Juan was lined with rainbow colored houses and patterned mosaic tiles. There is not a lot of grass. Streets are narrow. Up a hill, you can find a little shop frequented by revolutionaries that serves 3 Medalla beers for $5.
People sing out frog sounds-Coqui- in Puerto Rico. The coqui are sacred and they live in the rainforest. The Indians in Puerto Rico were subject to colonial brutality. Many Indians were buried squatting in a birth position. In Puerto Rico- rich port- where did all the gems go? There are caverns where colonial powers dug and removed the riches. When I was there, there was still modern colonization, high taxes, stolen resources and a military base in Vieques.
En el Viejo San Juan I found an antique store that had a lot of interesting vintage maps of different countries. I collected them and planned to travel across, up and down countries to measure them. I found a lot of inconsistencies in the sizes of countries on maps. I called this project Mapas del Mundo. I wanted to piece together the countries as they were before platetechtonics as one Gondwana. Gondwana was my organization that gave out round world tickets so that people study and share their gifts. In that same antique store I bought a round shakira Masaai necklace and a woven hat. Later I photographed myself in a mirror wearing the necklace, my dresses and my woven magenta reboso from Pano wrapped around my head like a queen.
I bathed in the shower with bottles of purified water, after my water supply had been contaminated. Outside, I sweat in the heat profusely, sometimes my hair and clothes drenched. I sweat so much I went to the hospital to ask if I was okay.
I purchased a broken fan and horrible polyester sheets from the discount store. I also bought three pillows. I had a difficult time getting everything home and one pillow was dropped in the street that I never recovered. I went to the dollar store where they sold bath mats, butterflies and fish. I picked out one butterfly bath mat for my bathroom.
Music could be heard everywhere. Houses were decorated with baby dolls, ornaments and miscellaneous paraphernalia. I ate star fruit, oranges they called china and banana. I bought from the Salvation Army, a popcorn air popper, but could not find popcorn to pop in it. I eventually ate popcorn sitting next to Catano’s mayor at Lucha Libre in the gym.
I tried to open a bank account and no bank in El Viejo San Juan would open one for me. In Puerto Rico they spoke fast and they cut their words-Tres was tre and gracias was gracia, boyfriends were “mi macho.”