Prayers on a Runway
As I touch down on the gray runway at San Juan, I hear people clapping. It is mainly the older persons; some of the children, grinning and straining against their seatbelts, clap high above their heads, as well. They pray out loud, a chuckling chorus of Thank you, God, thank you Jesus, praised be your name, down the seats. None of the Americans have done this, though one has clapped. It is the people from the island. They do not glare, those descendants of transatlantic trade, if the others do not pray; and yet, if I, who live between worlds, were to say, There is no need to send up prayers because an airplane has landed where it has landed every day for years, there is a chance I would find something of mine besieged when I return home: a poisoned dog, a defaced gate, an emptied house, a father with crushed ribs.
When we were still on the plantations, in chains or like monkeys in suits in the Big House, the bible gave us hope that those same slave masters, blind fools, would burn in the same hell they warned us about. We would be saved, not them. Or, if they were saved too, they would be our equals.
But now, when we need a hope that is not holding a saw, when we can fly on the same plane to the same place high above the clouds we were told held angels with six wings—now, I sit on the plane, listening to the happy claps, and wonder why nothing is any different.