On September 18, 2020, my stepfather’s older brother joined the Yola. It was the end of the hurricane season, with 700,000 people without electricity and 1.5 million people without safe drinking water. The boat, classified as undetectable at night by the Armada de Repùblica Dominicana, was an auspicious seawater blue and held a group of men inside who had paid thousands of dollars in hopes of escaping the island to the United States.
Not long in the journey that Yola was attacked by coastal pirates. Aware of the financial investment in migrations from the Dominican Republic, they attempted to steal the boat and confiscate its resources. The captain, avoiding the armed attacks, threw himself off the boat with the key fob in his pocket. The engine was no longer within range of its signal and switched off the engine.
Stunned, the men decided to make their way ashore. Perhaps it was the adrenaline that minimized the distance, or the ecotone that is indecipherable in the dark, but ambition is cruelest in the circumstances. It was clear that my uncle did not have the physical stamina to reach the coast.
As luck would have it, they reported a fisherman who was initially reluctant to help because of the approaching dawn and the risk of being named an accomplice by the authorities if he was caught.
I learned of his disappearance in a text from my mother, apart from a larger conversation: “… fyi, your uncle has been missing for 5 days. Dad is very upset and scared. “
After the news, my father coped with the pandemic inaction and his brother’s unknown whereabouts by restlessly cleaning the Bronx apartment. My mother shared about his projects, including mending and painting a ceiling that the landlord had neglected for years. The ceiling collapsed during one of the city’s heavy downpours. What remained were hanging plaster and water stains that had first turned yellow, then turned brown.
W.When I visited my family months earlier on March 4, 2020, before heading to London, concerns about the coronavirus increased but not enough to stop the movement.
“Yo no se po’que tu ’ta viajando“Said my father from a gray lounge chair, his concern masked in the judgment.
“I’m fine,” I said.
I was used to withholding relationship details from my family, just telling them that I was traveling to visit a friend. What I didn’t say is that after a breakup, I would strive for closure – even though I really wanted continuity. I had high hopes for this advertisement. By that point, I’d spent nearly a year and a half in Saint Louis on a suffocating graduate program. Our six month romance had been a balm for so much disappointment.