I had escaped with Puzzle and we were still alive. We were free now. I held onto Puzzle.
Free. It was all I could think of at first. I lay in bed quite a bit.
I have memories of Miami. The hotel and the kind people there. It was hot outside. Summer would soon be coming. I told Puzzle I needed to rest and heal to be ready for the next plane ride. She knew just what to do. We lay together for almost the entire time I was at the hotel. You could say I felt as though I was in heaven there.
We had a large, king-size bed. I told myself how amusing it was that I felt “entitled” to take up only a tiny portion of this bed and leave the rest free. Why? Why did I feel that I was no one in this world, that I had been told, over and over, that I deserved so little in life that I should take up no more than I possibly could? This is that mentality, that had been hammered into me over the years that I had lived in public housing. You deserve the bare minimum, Julie. You are worthless. That ever-present drone.
Now, I was leaving it all behind. My body needed to heal very quickly because the next plane ride would be eight hours in the air. I had severe swelling, especially in the area of my ankles. It was frightening that this was happening to me. Beginning I’d say around the start of May, the swelling had gotten so severe that the skin had begun to become painful from the stretching of tissues. When cells can stretch no further, they snap. You feel a stinging sensation, and too much of this is rather painful. Your skin turns red. When this occurs on the surface, you end up with sores that can become infected. I’d had this happen to me in the past. Sometimes I don’t even see that the open sores are there until after they’ve been there for days because they are underneath my clothing. Sometimes the skin isn’t broken, but what appears is “stretch marks” on my ankles. I’ve had such stretch marks in other places on my body due to this swelling, which is also called edema. In the last few days I had to endure in Watertown, every time I stood or even got into a sitting position, the water in my body would go right into my ankles and I would literally scream sometimes from the pain.
The night before my departure, I arrived at my friend’s apartment. I felt a burden lift just to get away from the noise at Woodland Towers. My friend begged me to remain lying down as much as possible. Honestly, I was scared about the plane ride. Getting to Miami was really tough and that plane ride, just sitting there, wasn’t easy. I reminded myself I’d only have to do this once. Having Puzzle right there in the plane with me was a comfort. She enjoyed herself throughout, probably figuring she was on just another MBTA bus. Where were we off to? Another errand? Did it matter? I think Puzzle rather liked Miami except she didn’t like that the pavement burned her paws during the heat in the middle of the day.
So I was in Miami and didn’t have to tell Puzzle what to do. She knew. Guess what my little girl did? Yep. She lay right down on top of my swollen ankles. You’d think this would hurt, but we were on a nice soft bed and we lay there for hours while Puzzle did her magic. She’s so, so incredible.
I know now. If I have painful, cramped hands at night from electrolyte imbalance, I lay with Puzzle and nestle my hands around her. It’s about all I can do to relieve this pain. Does it work? Absolutely!
The plane ride from Miami to Montevideo was in some ways easier than the ride from Boston to Miami. However, I had a yucky person sitting next me. I have never encountered such a yucky plane mate as this one. In fact, since my arrival here I have not met one single jerk! Imagine that! I told myself, while sitting there, “This is the last jerk I will have to encounter.” I was right.
Only really, I was so scared I was gonna die on that plane. The man sitting next to me was truly mean to me. I was so scared and I couldn’t even get up or complain or ask to change seats! He was rude, and if I moved my arm or sleeve too much toward him, he shoved it aside and told me I was “in his space,” did I mind keeping away, etc. This was an overnight flight. For the entire time, I hoped he’d get up and go pee so I could get up, too, but darn, he didn’t! While he slept I hoped he’d awaken because I was so scared he’d blame me if I disturbed him. I was wondering if he had some chip on his shoulder due to a missed flight. Meanwhile, I had to pee, I wanted desperately to stretch my limbs to get circulation, and to keep myself ALIVE! My ankles were red and swollen and I was scared to death that Puzzle and I, one or both of us, were not going to make it. It was only a stroke of misfortune that I ended up sitting next to this grump.
Then, of course, we ended up okay. And alive and we’ve been together and free now a full month.
It hasn’t been easy. No way. I knew what I was getting into. This isn’t the Land of Luxury and I’m not here for the Good Life of Happy Retirement. I am a refugee and I am not certain folks back in the USA understand the meaning of this. I was persecuted where I came from. No, I wasn’t legally booted out. I was bullied in my community. I had to leave and cannot go back.
I have very little money. Actually, I have negative money. Amenities? I am barely getting by. Then again, I wasn’t getting by in the USA anyway. I have no need for TV or radio, and I really don’t care about style. I worry about basics. Food, shelter, clothing, how to stay dry and warm and not bug-bitten. Are you worrying about what brand to buy or what movie to watch? Sorry, I can’t relate and really, never could.
It took me a full month to get my Internet and phone straightened out. I was just beginning to feel discouraged and again, almost as socially isolated as I’d been back in Watertown. Oh, the irony! I’d left Watertown, for one thing, because my former friends had refused to speak with me. It was like I had become a raving beggar, desperate only for someone to spend time with me or even speak with me beyond a brief exchange lasting a few seconds at a cash register now and then. This went on not for hours at a time, but for weeks on end. Whenever I’d get into an actual conversation, I’d drive the person nuts because it was like I’d latch onto the person and beg them, “Please, don’t let this end! I will be alone again for weeks again!” and then, it would end in a flash. I doubt anyone truly understood the extent of it because others had spouses and families, or at least a relative they could call or actual caring therapist. I didn’t.
Now what? I was here in Atlantida and suddenly alone in a country where the English speakers were rarely to be found. The so-called “expats” lived in pairs, that is, couples, and had their farms and such. They mainly seem to live out in the farming areas or in Montevideo. I need to travel into the city at some point and check it out for sure. I’m not ready to branch out that far yet. It’s like I haven’t ventured that far out of my cocoon.
Me, becoming a butterfly. Imagine that.
Okay, teary moment aside, I heard about a man who came to a place where you could sit and have coffee. It’s an inexpensive restaurant here called Barny’s. There’s free wifi here. It’s only a ten-minute walk from my home. About a week ago, this man came to my home and told me that the fellow who comes to Barny’s comes daily and speaks English and would love company. I was told what he looked like and when he arrived. Another person told me other information, that this man came only once a week but I have no clue which day.
Yesterday, I came to Barny’s and just sat. It was like I suddenly realized something. I had a table. A chair. My laptop. Two laptop batteries. What am I doing here. I am writing. I am writing in a warm, dry place. And…..
They don’t blast loud music the way they do in each and every American Starbucks restaurant I’ve ever been to. Geez, that made WRITING darned impossible in any Starbucks! In Barny’s I can write just fine. There’s conversation here and there, and I can hear the bits of muzak coming from Tienda Inglesas next door, but it’s not much louder than the Watertown Free Public Library where folks play their headsets and that’s far more obnoxious.
And so, I feel more and more as if I am becoming who I am here. Creating a life for myself. I even had a conversation with a dear friend today in the USA, that didn’t turn into a fiasco of “you’re breaking up” all over again. It was a free conversation, free being very nice for both of us. I’m done with breaking up for sure! Breaking up being hard to do, and so on.
I sure love you all, anyone that’s put up with reading to the end of this! Shall I do Nanowrimo this year? Hey, why not? I got a writing space now. Julie and Puzzle