The Balcony – A Personal Essay


Lauren Valentin, Guest Writer

I used to go to my tio and tia’s house in Puerto Rico nearly every summer. Their house is two floors with a huge backyard, connected to my tia’s sister’s house, nestled in a small valley in the mountains. My tio used to have tall panna trees and short acerola ones. There were thick banana trees and the parcha vines intertwined themselves around the wire fences and crawled into the neighbors’ yards. Roosters were chased by cats who were chased by the dogs while the rabbits and parrots watched. While the animals ran, my tia gossiped, and my tio talked to the neighbors, I could always be found sitting on the balcony with my brother. I stared out at the green mountains in the background, speckled with vivid houses, becoming more densely packed as they got closer to me. At night, I watched the baseball games across the street while the old guys played dominoes and the other kids rode past our house on their bikes. Everyone would see me up there and say hi, or ask me where my tio or mom were. It was also the perfect place to spot when the piragua or helado guy was coming down the block. I could see him pedaling up the hill before I could even hear the music from the back of his bike and I would already be running downstairs to tell everyone he was coming by. The hours I spent on the balcony were peaceful ones. I didn’t need to worry about school or issues with my friends and family that were waiting for me at home. My brother and I would never fight or argue with each other. We could just sit up there and eat our quenepas, not even worrying about the juice that would dribble down our chins.

I haven’t been there since before the hurricane, but from what I’ve heard, it isn’t the same place it used to be. No one lives there actively anymore except for my cousin. The green mountains are brown now and houses are all masked by the blue tarps that are supposed to be their roofs. Much of the neighborhood was destroyed for a while and a lot of people still haven’t been able to rebuild their houses completely either. I wonder what my balcony looks like today; if someone cleans it, if the plants get watered, if the paint still looks fresh. I miss having a place like that. The closest thing I have to it now is the window in the corner of my room. It’s closed-in and dark, and the big, heavy, beige curtain makes it feel even more cramped than it already is. When I open the curtain, I look out and see the blue sky, completely covered by trees. The sun gets covered by houses and the busy highway is to my right. Everything is busy. There are no open spaces where I can just look out and pause for a second. I wish I had taken advantage of the time I had when I was younger where I could sit and enjoy myself, not have to do work or go rush a game or practice. To be able to have my balcony and that feeling of time being stopped is all I could ever ask for now.