Motherhood: an island

 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.
 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.

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