Connie Pertuz-Meza


Connie Pertuz-Meza writes stories about her life, family, and ancestors. Propelled to action as a Brooklyn public school teacher, and mother of teenaged daughter and middle school aged son. Currently working on a semi autobiographical YA novel. Documenting her life through personal essay on her blog, Staff writer for, a monthly online literary magazine. Essay published by La Pluma y La Tinta Anthology Titled Penate, and 2017 Brooklyn Non-Fiction Prize Finalist. 

A two time VONA Alum (2015 and 2017), participated in Christina Garcia's Las Dos Brujas (2017). Studied with Salvatore Scibona through the Cullman Writing Scholars Institute (2017). Tin House Craft Intensive (2017). Member of M. Colleen Cruz writing group for teachers that write based in Brooklyn since 2004.

Twitter @MezaConnie

What came with the rain

The summer of 1987, I turned ten in Barranquilla Colombia. A summer of heavy rains, created a continuous deluge of the coastal city, often called La Puerta De Oro. Nothing golden existed that summer, unless all the arroyos counted as abundance. Arroyos popped out like a deadly outbreak after torrential rain. Every downpour started the same, first the fat raindrops, then thick sheets, which pooled into ankle deep water. Mami insisted we were to take cover once the sky swelled with rain.  Didn’t matter if we were in the middle of El Centro ---the market plaza in Barranquilla, we had to get out of the way of arroyos. At first, I found this to be another example of how Mami hijacked any moment with her constant worry. Later, I realized Mami’s worry was a respect for mother nature. This reverence saved us from being swallowed by an arroyo that summer.

Every other year Mami, Joann, and I made the trip to Colombia, a year needed to lapse, in order for Mami to save the money for los pasaejes, and all the gifts we shoved into our suitcase. Gifts for mi abuelo Jose Angel, mi abuelita Repa, all my tias and tios, and an endless line of primos. All which waited for their gifts from Gringolandia with open arms and expectant eyes, every one of them. Even, mi primo, Armando, the fancy English professor in Valledupar, Colombia. While, they looked forward to discount t-shirts purchased by the dozen, cheap rubber sandals we grabbed from discount bins the summer before, in every color and size, and smelly colognes or perfumes sold for less at the pharmacy, due to the crushed boxes.  I looked forward to a summer of jump rope in front of Abuelo’s house, running back and forth on the dirt road, and ices made from frozen fruit juice with names like sapote, maricuya, and guava, sold for cents in plastic bags. Unable to play outside in Brooklyn, our neighborhood crawled with gente mala clase, Mami insisted. 

Summers in Colombia meant hours of freedom under palmeras, and not Mami’s eyes squinted with suspicion. Mami, Joann, and I always arrived to Colombia a few days after all the country’s school had were back in session. A cruel joke, Colombia’s school summer vacation ended days before New York City’s started. But, crueler was the downpours that summer, which came along the school dismissal most days. While my sister and I played jacks in front of Abuelo’s porch, ready to catch the first wave of kids headed back home. Mami called for us to head inside.

“Why?” I whined. The humidity wrapped itself tight around me, like those plastic sandwich bags the white kids in my school used, instead of the tin foil Mami had us reuse for the week.

“La lluvia,” Mami, answered her voice closer to the porch now.

Fear lept in my heart at the sound of her voice, a cross between news weather woman, and Walter Mercado announcement of the daily horoscope. Mami predicted both the climate and the future.

Joann and I looked down the dirt to see if any of the neighborhood kids were around the bend of the corner, by la tienda alta.  The corner store, nestled high above the street, forced to climb about thousands skinny steps before you got to the door. By the time I got to the counter my tongue was rolled out of my head, my hand outstretched for a cold bottle of Postobon flavored soda.

“It hasn’t started yet,” I craned my neck to look at the sky. A swirl of white and gray, the color of the buildings back home, I wondered how a sky once a brilliant blue was now a dark scowl.

“Entren,” Mami growled.

Joann scurried inside. But, I took my time to gather all the jacks in palm, the tiny ball last, as I searched the road once last time. A flash of blue burst through the corner, the uniform polo t-shirt all the neighborhood kids wore, I squeezed my hand tight, and with nothing left to do. I entered the house, and imprinted in my palm, a mark let by a spike of the one the jacks.

Caught at Abuelo’s when the rain came that summer, was unbearable, trapped indoors caused my heart to beat all frantic, like a salsa song by Joe Arroyo, it rattled for what seemed forever.  Mami and Joann busied themselves with the latest telenovela on the little screen. An old set, with dial up knobs, a hanger jammed in the back to make a new antenna, and every once in awhile a closed fist needed to bring it back to life. The image grew from blurry to a flurry of color, then a wave of colors, later a blackened screen.  I never bothered with novellas, unless I was bored out of mind, which meant I didn’t have a book to read at the moment.  Luckily, the spring flea market at our church provided me with new reading material, at ten cents a book, my suitcase was loaded with novels. Perched by the windows of the front room of the house, I watched the soggy world unfold. My butt on a mesedora, a copy of one of the Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? cradled in my hands, and a bottle of Coca Cola by my foot. And, in between chapters, sips of sugary drink, which tasted better here than back home, I glanced out the window. The neighborhood, kids, teens, and even some adults, ran out at once, and played in the rain.

The first time I saw people running around in the rain on purpose, some dancing, others failing their arms and legs, like upright snow angels only in the rain, I did a double take. I marveled as the people smiled despite being pelted by rain, and others howled with laughter, as if at a day at the beach, not a dirt road in the poor neighborhood of San Roque, Barranquilla. I had seen this type of neighborhood celebration before, back home. Except, it was not rain water, but a hydrant, and instead of houses the color of summer fruit, busted buildings and run down brownstones lined the street. On hot summer days when the streets were more frying pan, than a concrete jungle, some dad or uncle, even the super of one of the buildings opened the hydrants. And, all the kids ran to play in the gush of the water, the little kids in bathing suits, older kids in cut offs, and the teenagers ran in their clothes, later dried themselves on the stoop.  Always, I watched from inside, a book on my lap, as the world around me rejoiced, even if for a few stolen minutes.

Since they were neither hydrants nor a sewer system in Barranquilla, la lluvia contained both joy and fear, because with the dancing in the rain, also came the deadly arroyos. Up until that summer, I had not bothered to pay attention to the reasons why all the adults in Barranquilla worried about the arroyos, as if little flash floods were an army of deranged serial killer clowns. Arroyos, collected rainwater, which stopped vehicle traffic and foot traffic, but arroyos became fatal in the hills of Barranquilla, rapid created, and river whirlpools, which sucked cars, buses, and pedestrians. The real danger about the arroyos is once in awhile, they came quick, and without warning.

Exactly what happened when we went to visit family friends, which lived in El Norte, not only the most northern part of the city, but home to the rich. We spent the afternoon eating arepas and fresh caught mojaras, fried till the fish on the plate looked like one of those animals, which gets stuffed and preserved to decorate some old rich lady’s house. I ate around the head and tail, mostly the middle body of the fish.  After our lunch, Mami and Cecilia sat in the living room, sipped cafecito, and talked about the old days, while Joann and I played dominoes on the floor beside them.

The sun was bright when we hailed the taxi to head back to Abuelo’s house. Mid ride, the sky cracked open, and rain so thick and fast crashed down on us, I wondered if the sky grabbed the ocean to drown us. My head volleyed between the back of the head of the taxi driver, who slowed to a halt, and Mami’s eyes wide with fear. Within seconds the floor of the car filled with water, I watched the knock off version of my LA Gears disappear into the murky water.

“Vamanos!” Mami reached for both my hand and Joann’s. Somehow with our hands interlaced, Mami opened the cab door, and we fell out of the taxi.

“Senora calmase,” the driver looked over at us. His hands clutched at the steering wheel.

“No, me voy a dejar morir con mis hijas,” Mami screamed. She blinked under the rain, wrapped her hands tighter around us, and pulled us off the road, and up on a sidewalk.

Unsure where we were, I noted on the opposite street, a handful of small houses, a church on a corner, and an arepa stand.  On our side, a park lined with benches, and very little else.

“What are we going to do?” I cried. We watched the taxi roll away from us, the driver heaved himself out the door, seconds before his car drifted away. He limped towards the church, a hand up in our direction, before he disappeared behind the big doors of the Church.

“Los bancos,” Mami pointed to the benches.

Our hair plastered to our faces, our clothes stuck to our bodies, and our hearts soaked with fear. We climbed on the benches, stood side by side, Mami in the middle, her arms around us, as the rain threatened to erase us. 

It was hours before the arroyo resided, we watched sandals float by, a yelping dog, splintered wood from the arepa stand, and all the grief of a city. Barranquilleros often bragged that their gorgeous City was spared the troubles, which plagued the rest of the Republic: narcotrafico, guerilla, paramilitares, and a corruption on top of corruption. But, nature did not know to do the same.       


© The Acentos Review 2018