It was the Ides of March when we flew. I was wary if we deserved the privilege and burden of vacationing in another borrowed paradise. I was nursing our son through a bad cold when we arrived to the heat of Santo Domingo. A rental car was not waiting, despite the reservation. We waited instead at empty desks as it grew late: you pushing for attention, chasing service while I chased our child. Two hours later, changed for the night and wrapped to my chest he fell asleep under a strange moon. Still waiting, I stood facing the rental car parking lot, out of place and almost alone, club beats blaring through open car windows, doors slamming, men laughing raucously, paying no heed to the gringa and sleeping boy. Finally, you get a car, the one we should have claimed and boarded much earlier. Time is of the essence only because our son is sick, I tell myself, trying to justify my exasperation, my own throat burning with a budding virus. Life breaks down into moments, hellish and precious and many shades in between. Moments constantly passing. Yet, in this moment, I can’t stand being here. I recognize my weakness: gold must be strained from the sediment of experience. I resent myself and our presumption of easy gain, blame you for this discomfort. As a new mother, need I prove my sense of adventure? I can’t remember if I chose to come here or decided to float along without resistance, swallowing an instinct. Bumping through the night over rough roads toward an uncertain bed, motorcycles weaving around us like hornets, I am aggrieved. Why? I want to point my finger like a dart at you, doing your damndest to bring us relief, to arrive at our destination. Every step forward costs effort, is not habitual, here on this island. We have to call the owner of the apartment, to let us in, secure a safe parking space through handshakes and special deals with the night attendant. The need to get our child to bed blinds my mind and permeates my muscles. I’m taking my surroundings in, but they are tainted by tension, a peculiar kind of entrapment: the desired turned despicable. Most of all, I berate myself. This is only the beginning. This trip will undo me again, flaring up ancient bruises and fresh cuts. Our son’s even breathing will be broken tomorrow, his ankles raw and puffy with the toxins of countless mosquitos. Inconsolable crying and itchy agitation spike my worry, raising animal ferocity. Over the roar of air conditioners and noise machines snarling marital anger: a new beast. We disagree over how to care for our cub. We cannot hear each other and are past trying. I am a searing iron, emanating dumb heat, glowing with loneliness. I talk myself through the steps: nurse him, rock him, cool the bites, but my ache takes precedence, drawing a thick red line through patience and sacrifice. A deep sadness curls in my pit. Not a good mother, still a bad child. One moment, one night, but it spreads like oil, contaminating clean water. Later, in the aquamarine shallows, we splash and float with our boy, the night’s crying jags smoothed over by liquid satin. Hard to tell if my weightless body has been robbed or flushed. The usual shame, my baggage disgorged onto this picture postcard backdrop. Life’s a beach, life’s a bitch. We are tourists, still wanting a piece of what is not ours. We are the good kind, we insist: open and empathetic. We want to know what happened here, acknowledge the injustice. But how can we ever pay our respects? Colonization: made slave in your own home, whipped into a foreign order, exploited and raped. All we do is visit museums and read books, then bow our heads for a moment, for an irreparable time in history that spreads like oil, contaminating clean water. I take and I give, and I bring my own expensive baggage, stuffed with issues puny compared to the pain shored up on this land. But I drag other histories and traumas, invisible to the naked eye, like the blood and oil in the ocean washing white beaches. Does it help more or hurt more that we suffer together, so far apart? I identify with the stray mother dog scurrying across the street, swollen with milk, sick and worn out, pursued by the revving of dangerous engines, trying to survive and return to her young. I feel guilty, ugly, drained, uncomfortable and alien and offensive, ashamed and undeserving, misunderstood and sad. You post pictures on Instagram of someone I hardly recognize, lucky bitch on the beach, picture postcard perfect. Flaming duality: a moment precious and hellish and many shades in between. I came to this place with reservations: reservations in holiday apartments and reservations in my bloodstream. It was a portent to fly on the Ides of March: an unstable, shadowy day. No tragedies befell us, but I fell into the crack between dark and light. As a child, I dreamed of islands. As a mother, I’m marooned on a distant shore, returned to myself, naked and aching.