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Tales From Puerto Rico: The Mist

A rainy baptism takes place on a beach in Fajardo.

For Frances, my tía cariñosa.

The first time I went to Luquillo was during a storm. My aunt told me that it was the most beautiful beach in Puerto Rico, and the fact that this still held true as we walked holding our soaked sandals only drove her point home. It was a silent kind of rain, the kind that's aggressive and feels piercing on the back without it being painful. I was warm with beer, with good company, and had hopes to soon be warm with sun.

We set up our umbrellas, took out the can openers, and I turned on my phone. I showed her the music. Devendra Banhart. Manu Chao. We talked about my writing and about a cousin that I wouldn't get to meet but would have loved to. We talked about how lonely the east side of the island was, and how happy she was that my grandmother and I had come to keep her company for a few days. She squeezed my hand when I looked dizzy from the beer.

The sun came out, and the children rushed to the water with their grandparents. There weren't a lot of people my age on the beach. I decided to take a long walk, and explore my new surroundings. I remember how slender the palm trees were, how all the old women scraped sand off the soles of their wet feet, called me guapo as I walked by. And I did feel handsome; I was drunk on a beach with a nice tan after months upon months of metropolis.

At the edge of Luqillo, where the clouds began to darken, I felt the first touch of rain, and noticed that I couldn't see the end of the beach through the mist that had formed. I felt, for the first time on the entire trip, the solitude of a traveler, the kind of excruciatingly gorgeous loneliness one can only feel upon finding new surroundings, and feeling safe in feeling lost.

And then the lightning. And then the thunder. I extended my arms toward the rain that formed, welcomed droplets into my mouth like sacred fruit, and I closed my eyes as the monsoon formed around me. It sounded less quiet. I was still drunk. I felt the water go down my back, drip down the front of my face, felt a secret power I had not before encountered.

It would rain for the rest of our beach day, and I would still run, yelling, into the battering tide.

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