Day #N We Become People Again

By Esther Santiago

It’s the second time this week I wake up thinking it’s Sunday, but it’s not. It’s almost a month now since I’ve been back home in quarantine, and many days feel like they’re meshing into one. We’re all adjusting to our new routines of staying home and coping with social distancing. 

In Puerto Rico, the island is on lockdown and under curfew upon strict order from the government. Who would have thought a  trip to the supermarket would be a risk? The lines at supermarkets and drugstores reach the parking lot, and once you’re in, the prices are inflated and there aren’t enough supplements. Then at 6:30 p.m. the alarm rings. Are we in The Hunger Games? CURFEW IN EFFECT 7 p.m.-5 a.m.. The streets are empty, lifeless. It’s like we have returned to Hurricane María. 

My fingertips are wrinkly  from extensive periods of handwashing, but I feel safer. It’s day #n since quarantine, and I begin to forget the azure shade of the sky, and the itchy smell of freshly cut grass. It’s 93 degrees in my hometown Arroyo, Puerto Rico, and I physically ache for a pool or a trip to the beach. It’s hard to study when the neighbors are mowing the lawn, playing music at top volume or their dog is barking. At home, I don’t have a library to lock myself in and study in silence.  I keep a to-do list, a different one each day, to stay in focus. Some days I have more energy than others. Some days I feel more emotional, and it’s okay. I’m trying. We’re all trying.

STRANGE PLANET by Nathan W. Pyle

To-Do List (not necessarily in order):

  • Wash my hands
  • Disinfect electronic devices (+EVERYTHING ELSE. Don’t spray your sibling with Lysol.)
  • Study
  • Call loved one(s)
  • Not touch my face
  • Learn a dance choreography 
  • Not obsessively read the news
  • Not have a mental breakdown
  • Play Animal Crossing: New Horizons
  • Wash my hands

Quarantine has made me more appreciative of the smaller details. In a way, it has made us more sensible.  My closest friends and I call each other more than we usually would. The other night I was able to see the full moon through my window. I’m learning cooking recipes with my mom. All this reminds me of  “The Night We Became People Again” (“La noche que volvimos a ser gente”) by José Luis González, a short story about a black out in New York City:

“The moon was this big, and yellow, yellow, as though it were made of gold, and the whole sky was full of stars, as though all the fireflies in the world had gone up there to rest in that immensity […] It had been so long since I’d seen the sky, because of the glow of millions of electric bulbs that are turned on here every night, and we had already forgotten the stars existed […] And that is, according to my poor way of understanding things, that was the night we became people again.”

The cricket outside my window chirps louder. I’ve named it “Pari”  because it is surely thriving at its own party latched on my window at 2 a.m. The coquí has joined Pari the cricket’s solo concert, and I am the audience as they serenade each other. 

Esther Santiago is the Long River Review Translations Editor. She can be reached at

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