de Las Pisadas Del Insomnio / from The Footsteps of Insomnia

Translated by JENNIFER ACKER

An English translation follows the Spanish.

Día 29 desde el huracán y sin luz.  Todavía las jornadas en mi trabajo, por la falta de energía, son más cortas. Mi oficina, a la que llamaba (y ya todas mis amistades conocían como) las catacumbas jurídicas, se perdieron, por lo que nos reubicamos en la biblioteca. Intento llegar lo más temprano posible, para traerle agua fría a mi querido amigo y colega Francisco, para preguntarle a los demás cómo están, si han dormido, a Pabsi si tiene gas y saber cómo siguen su mamá y Lalo (el gato), y a la vez contarles o contarnos todos a modo de terapia de grupo que seguimos a oscuras, que algunos no tienen ni techo, que el gobierno nos amputa las esperanzas en pequeños trocitos, que muchos se han ido, muerto, enferman, emigran, permanecen….

Llego muy temprano al trabajo, como de costumbre, después de una noche más de insomnio posthuracán. A cierta distancia veo una silueta de mujer por el antiguo parque Muñoz Rivera (ahora cementerio de árboles) hacia la entrada del tribunal. Está envuelta en una bolsa negra de basura. No tiene más de 27 años y su cabello recortado de peluquería hace no más de un mes, luce saludable en términos físicos. Según se acerca y ve algunos empleados y alguaciles, se quita la bolsa, se queda desnuda y balbucea: “lo perdí todo” y se tira a un gran charco de fango. Una de mis compañeras de mantenimiento, bastante mayor, corre a buscar ropa en una oficina. Llegan unos policías, pero no quieren mancharse las botas. Los dos alguaciles hablan con ella, en lo que llega una ambulancia. Ella no quiere salir del fango, no quiere salir más a la calle, no quiere salir más de su mente ya perdida. Poco a poco la logran sacar, al menos su cuerpo, mientras ella se resiste. Finalmente la visten con la ropa conseguida y la logran subir en la ambulancia. Los que hemos ido llegando al tribunal vemos la ambulancia alejarse con la pobre joven.  Permanecimos en silencio unos minutos, mis ojos tratan de contener las lágrimas. Nos miramos con los ojos vidriosos, nos abrazamos en silencio…. Ya son 29 días del paso del huracán. Puerto Rico: dolor fango incertidumbre empatía lucha camino…No es un cuento… pasó esta mañana pasadas las 7 am, una joven desorientada y destruida por el parque Muñoz Rivera; al menos el grupo pequeño de empleados del tribunal supremo consiguió algo de ropa y una ambulancia. Y el resto del día con el corazón partido, como el fango adonde la joven quiso refugiarse.




Day twenty-nine without lights since the hurricane. The lack of electricity means my workdays are still shortened. My office, which my friends and I call the legal catacombs, was wiped out, so we relocated to the library. I try to arrive as early as possible to bring cold water to my dear friend and colleague Francisco, and to ask the others how they are, if they’ve slept, to ask Pabsi if she has enough fuel and how her mother and Lalo (the cat) are doing; at the same time to tell them or to go around telling each other, as in group therapy, that we are still in the dark, that some people don’t even have a roof over their heads, that the government amputates our hope bit by bit, that so many have left, died, fallen sick, emigrated, stayed….

I arrive at work very early, as usual, after one more night of insomnia post-hurricane.  From a distance I see the silhouette of a woman near the ancient Muñoz Rivera Park (now a tree cemetery), toward the entrance to the court. She’s wrapped in a black garbage bag. She isn’t more than twenty-seven years old, and her hair has been cut in a salon no more than a month ago; she looks physically healthy. As she draws closer and sees some employees and bailiffs, she takes off the garbage bag, stands there naked, and babbles, “I lost everything,” and then throws herself into a big lake of mud. One of my older female coworkers runs into an office to find some clothing. Police show up, but they don’t want to dirty their boots. The two bailiffs talk with the woman, and then an ambulance arrives. She doesn’t want to leave the mud; she doesn’t want to go closer to the street; she doesn’t want to stray further from the mind she’s already lost. Little by little they’re able to remove her, her body at least, though she resists. Finally they dress her in the found clothing and load her into the ambulance. Those of us arriving at the court see the ambulance retreat with the poor woman. We stay in silence for a few minutes; my eyes try to hold back tears. We look at each other with glassy eyes; we hug each other in silence. …Already 29 days have passed since the hurricane. Puerto Rico: pain mud uncertainty empathy struggle path… This isn’t a story… it happened this morning just past 7 a.m.: a disoriented and destroyed woman was found in Muñoz Rivera Park. At least the small group of Supreme Court employees found her some clothes and an ambulance. And the rest of the day with a cleaved heart, like the mud where the young woman tried to find refuge.



Ana María Fuster Lavín is a Puerto Rican writer, editor, proofreader, and cultural commentator. She is the author of a dozen books, including the story collections Verdades Caprichosas, winner of the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature Prize, and Réquiem, winner of the PEN Club of Puerto Rico Prize. Her poetry collection El Libro de las Sombras also won a prize from the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature. Most recently, she published the novella Mariposas Negras.

Jennifer Acker is founder and editor-in-chief of The Common. Her short stories, essays, translations, and reviews have appeared in LitHubThe Washington Postn+1Harper’s, and Ploughshares, among other places. She has an MFA in fiction and literature from the Bennington Writing Seminars and teaches literature and editing at Amherst College. Her debut novel, The Limits of the World, will be published in 2019. 


[Purchase Issue 16 here.]

de Las Pisadas Del Insomnio / from The Footsteps of Insomnia

Related Posts

Poetry Feature: Poems from the Immigrant Farmworker Community

Days into the promise of a new year, resolutions plentiful, blossoming, / seven farmworkers were shot and killed harvesting mushrooms in Half Moon Bay. / Those of us who sprouted from families, whose hands and backs worked the land, / waited for news of our farmworker siblings.

The Bee-Eaters

The teeth of the excavator are wet. The cage opens, hovers, and grips a mouthful—some floor, some outer wall, some window frame, the glass disappearing with a tiny, tinkling sound.

Headshot of Ana hebra flaster

Excerpt from Radio Big Mouth

On that last normal afternoon in the barrio, I was where I always was after school, chasing skinny hens in my Abuela Cuca’s yard, the smell of hot rubber wafting from my grandfather’s stamping machine in the shed. I played at Abuela Cuca’s house every afternoon.