I’ve been losing my patience. I’ve substituted water for café negro. I’ve had my first piece of organic fruit since I’ve been in Miami. My first fruit since Sunday. There wasn’t even kale in the store. I am sure in other places in Miami I could find kale but I am in Little Havana. I don’t even know how to say kale in Spanish. I walk down the stairs and cigar smoke and Florida water lingers. It is like childhood. All I need is to chase lizards and catch fireflies.
Lizards were my friends once. Outside of my Abuelo Alfonso’s shack. I played in front with my cousin Victor Hugo. We knew we were good at catching lizards when their tails didn’t come off. My fingers were small then. Now I look at my hands and I see my mami’s. Just a little bit smaller. Her hands have made thousands of empanadas. Mine have only made like ten.
Abuelo Alfonso only wanted my mami to clean his shack. In the summertime. Sweat and dirt dripped down her face. It was always dark in there. He was saving his money for the day Castro would fall and he could go back to Cuba. He did give me $20 bills. My other cousins got fives or tens. A secret between my Abuelo and I.
He once gave me a bag of dolls. They were not packaged nor pretty, not even dressed. Their hair was all tangled and had dirt stains on their faces. I loved those dolls for the seven minutes I had them. We drove off from Abuelo’s house. Mami and Madrina up front. Victor Hugo and I in the back. Our hands burnt from hot seat belts. They drove in zig zags and circles, blocks away from Abuelo’s house. Mami got out from the car with her Virginia Slims hanging from her lips. She took the bag from beside me and walked away. Mami! I don’t even think I got a ssh. She went to a garbage can, opened it and dumped my dolls. My beautiful dirty dolls. A mixture of black, brown and white dolls. Blondes and redheads and brunettes like me. I wondered if their eyes still winked in the darkness of the garbage can. No more dolls for me.
I love the heat and how the humidity makes my hair all wild. I love speaking Spanish every second, arepas sold in stores. I love that there are twelve different brands of Malta. Not just Malta Goya or Malta India. I know we don’t need twelve different brands. Capitalism comes out of me once in a while. I am going to Cuba in a few days, inshaAllah. I am annoyed by this trip. My family without realizing are putting the fear into me only because they talk loud. So, they shout Dengue! Pink Eye! Swine Flu! Of course in Spanish but I can’t remember the words for those either.
The lack of water and raw foods has made my writing all bitter. I don’t think I could ever survive in Miami. California has been good to me with its farmer’s markets and hills full of trees. I walked the other day and talked to everyone who would talk to me. Here I am with a Cuban rooster.
I didn’t talk to the Cuban rooster but to the man who took the picture of me with the Cuban rooster. He kidded around and said that it would cost $20. I told him, Que Dios te bendiga. Then he asked if I was Christian. No, soy musulmana. Then he told me his grandparents were Muslims from Lebanon and became Christians in Honduras. He told me his two last names one in Spanish and one in Arabic then we parted ways.
Everyone is getting older. Including me with my grays. My Tito came over and I showed him pictures of my wedding. Who would have thought that my niece would come here and say that she was married, to a Muslim, named Adam, and she doesn’t eat Cuban bread because it’s made with lard and can’t eat pork and has to go up and down five times a day, who would have thought. Thank God you don’t have arthritis, he tells me. My mami says she could never make salat. I told her she could do it sitting down in a chair and she said, oh ok. In Spanish this was all in Spanish but I have the bad habit of translating everything in my head. She agrees that even though she is not Muslim she has raised me to be Muslim so praying in between the couch and dining table is not a big deal. People seem to assume my family would have a difficult time with me being Muslim. Some assume that they are such religious Catholics that they would be mad. They don’t understand that my family has had El Coran years before me. They got really into finding out about Islam when they watched a Brazilian novela called El Clon about Muslims and cloning. I don’t think it was about the cloning of Muslims but there were Muslims and there was cloning. The novela ended and so was their interest but not their acceptance.
I feel better now. I think it was the Cuban rooster. Oh, alright it was the water. I really don’t have to substitute it for café. And I think it was the writing. No longer words in back seats of cars in my head.