Dripping River Water


14 of December, 2009 December 14, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Maceo Cabrera Estevez @ 9:03 pm
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I’ve been meaning to write about my uncle.  The one that died.  The one who was serving three life sentences.  The one I visited in Butner, North Carolina last year.  I’ve been meaning to write about him but I’ve been waiting for him to come into my dreams.  I’ve been waiting for him to tell me stories.  He hadn’t until early this morning.  After Fajr, after my husband went to work I went back to sleep and dreamt the most vivid dreams.  Of my aunts and cousins, of me trying to find clothes to wear so I wouldn’t be naked in the street, of Pakistani women wondering if we were trying to apply to be substitute teachers.  We said, no.  We didn’t say no, we’re here so we can get permission to see my cousin in jail.  We said, no, and they smiled.

My Madrina was happy in this dream.  She looked young and wore a wig like she did in the 70s.  She was going to work for my cousin, not her daughter, my other aunt’s daughter.  She was going to take people’s blood pressure with the same stethoscope and a sphygmomanometer that my mami used during my childhood.  It was blue, she was full of smiles.  It is close to a year since my cousin has died, my Madrina’s son.  Time flies.

In this dream I took my Tía Marilu to an altar, one for San Lazaro.  She slipped a note and she cried.  There was green all around, candles and food.  I stood outside the curtain of the altar and wondered if the note was really to God and not San Lazaro.  My Tía Marilu doesn’t have an altar and went to one in a building near the state office where we were trying to get permission to see my cousin in jail.  In real life my cousin isn’t in jail.  He hasn’t been for a long time.  Now he’s married to a woman named, Angela.  What’s her name again, I asked him.  She’s my angel, he said, she saved me.  Angela, I remember it now.

Somewhere in my dream between my Madrina being happy and the Pakistani women wondering if we want to be substitute teachers my mami told me that my uncle died.  And I broke down and cried.  I cried wearing a trench coat that wasn’t mine because I couldn’t find the clothes I walked into my dream wearing.  I cried and woke up realizing that I haven’t written about him yet.  Haven’t written about the moment we passed by Butner, North Carolina while on tour in October.  My heart felt a pang, my eyes wanted to water but couldn’t.  There was gay boy club music playing, my travel companions talking and me in the passenger seat looking out the window remembering visiting my uncle, remembering his laugh, his rough voice, remembering that even though I understand death it still hurts to feel someone pass on.

* * *

I am sitting in a café in a town that has 311 people.  I am up north with my husband.  He is at work and I am finally working, writing, over a café au lait and a canteen of water.  It is quiet here.  I no longer sleep with ear plugs, no longer need to wear an eye mask.  I sleep.  I had been trying to write everyday.  Two paragraphs and I would get bored.  I found my writing to be so awful that I couldn’t even save it.  I tried to find inspiration in the trees, the robins outside, the sounds of the roosters.  But I couldn’t.  I needed people around me.  I used to want a quite place to write, so I could write for hours but it has become difficult and then I am hard on myself for wasting this time.  But I am not wasting just learning about myself more, learning about this world and how everything works.

My husband took me to this café last night.  A date over tea and hot cocoa.  There was music playing and chatter, I needed that.  I needed the chatter to fill me.  We went home and he played me songs on his guitar.  Such a sweet man.  Music filled me as much as the chatter.  I want to learn how to play an instrument or I need to paint.  Like I used to.  Paint murals on big walls.  Long strokes, bright colors, stories off paper, off blogs, out of my mind.  Sometimes I need more to write.  Not just a quite place, not just the chatter, colors flowing in notes and brushstrokes.

This mornings I woke up to vivid dreams and words.  These words no longer want to be in my head but want to be written.  On paper, on this Mac.  All of these words and I still haven’t really written about my uncle.

I must do this in private.  I want to write more than life under three life sentences.  But that is what I remember the most: his years in prison, his years in solitary confinement, his calls every month when he could.  He made me smile each time and made me cry even more.  I want to write about his heart.  His beautiful heart. I want to write about that.

the end.


Coming Home December 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Maceo Cabrera Estevez @ 12:06 am
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I no longer get emotional leaving Cuba.  I read the signs, look up at the sky.  I talk like a Spaniard to make my cousins laugh.  I sit in the passenger seat counting the hours to board on the plane.  I don’t cry.  I don’t ache.  I realize more and more that Cuba has never been my home.

I slept on a bed with holes and bumps.  It was soft like a pillow.  Overused over the years.  I thought it was new at first.  I didn’t see the dent on the left, the dent on the right, the bump in the middle to signify that my tia and tio never cuddled.  I didn’t see it because they flipped over the bed.  It was still as uncomfortable as before.  The fan was too far away and I got bit by mosquitos.  No one else got bit.  I told them I was just donating my blood so they won’t have to.  My tia in Miami told me the mosquitos were anti-american.

I do love Cuba.  Don’t get me wrong.  It is there that I find stories.  Ones of my mother.  Ones of my father.  I ask over and over to know how they lived, what they liked as children.  I wanted to know every detail even the color of my mami’s dress.  Only there can I understand them.  I woke up in the middle of night and was thankful that they left Cuba.  I never gave thanks for that.  I spent so many years hating that I was the only one not born there.  Over the last few years I have come to terms that I am American.  I felt so blessed.  I grew up in Brooklyn surrounded by people of every culture.  I hopped around each neighborhood and each borough.  I didn’t stay in one place.  I wouldn’t of learned a sprinkle of words in Hebrew, Greek, Farsi, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic and whole sentences in Italian in Cuba.  Every night after that I contemplated whether I would have survived growing up in Cuba.  We all have a core.  One that doesn’t change.  Would I have tried to leave by any means possible?  Would I have been able to transform and change and grow in the same way there?  I wondered.  Every night.  I wondered what about me would have been different.

I have been told that I am simple.  Sencilla.  My family and my friends in Cuba expected someone different.  I explain how I live.  How I have lived.  I tell them that most of my clothes were hand me downs.  I tell them that the only thing I have of material worth is my computer.  I don’t have a TV.  But I tell them I have my lujos.  I like expensive organic products.  I only eat certain foods.  When I get a chance I go for a massage.  I don’t tell them how much I pay for a haircut.  I don’t tell them about that month in Brooklyn that I survived on yogurt and granola.  I don’t go out to eat like I used to.  Not like in NY.  I eat at home unless when I am having sushi.  My cousin asked what I miss from home.  I told him the foods I eat and the cleanliness.  I brought Comet in ziploc bags and I don’t think they used it.  I was constantly dumping out the buckets filled with water to clean the dishes.  It was dirty but they still wanted to use it.  I dumped them out over and over again and explained you can’t leave the sponge in the water or else bacteria will accumulate.  Sometimes I wondered about my simplicity.

When I got to Miami International Airport I was greeted with a “Welcome Home”.  That is when I teared up.  The United States of America.  This is home.

When only a few words come out of my mouth I am told that my Spanish is perfect.  But there are times that my mouth does not want to move the same way as a Cuban.  My mind forgets words.  I make up words and say disparates.  When we want to pay something with moneda nacional I am told that I can’t speak.  I whisper and pretend to lose my voice.  Only a few words I am allowed to say.  I covered my arms so my tattoos won’t show.  But more and more Cubans are getting tattoos.  I am no longer the odd ball.

In this trip I learned more about my lineage.  I learned that on the Estévez side we are Moroccan.  I thought so.  When I looked at a book on Morocco and saw a picture of Berber women I thought, “those look like my tias”.  I learned on my papi’s mami’s side we are Dominican.  Her grandparents on her mother’s side came from there.  All I knew before is that her abuelo was a slave but I couldn’t ask anymore questions.  My abuela is 107.  She is thin but she eats a lot.  Her mind somewhere else.  She gave me lots of kisses and tried to eat my finger.  She no longer has teeth so I was not worried.

I stayed almost everyday with my Tía Rosa.  She said the same things over and over again.  She walks with a slide but she doesn’t want to use her cane.  There were moments we made her laugh.  There were moments she cried.  She told me once that she wished we would wouldn’t come because afterwards it is so lonely.  I knew what she meant and I didn’t remind her that every time we call she asks when we are going.

I wrote a lot in Cuba.  I didn’t use a computer.  My stepsister’s laptop kept on freaking out.  I can’t write like that.  Like old times I wrote in a book with a pen.  My penmanship no longer worthy of any celebration.  At first my hand hurt. I am not used to writing like that.

I came back home to the news of Obama wanting to send more troops, to Tiger Woods getting caught doing something that I am still not understanding and to Facebook status updates.  I came home to my love.  Sigh.  I came home.

I am cultivating a plan.  No more writing on inspiration.  No more dilly dallying.  There is lots of work to do.  2009 was hard and beautiful and full of growth.  This time last year I was a hot mess.  I am thankful.  Even for the hot messing moments.  I am thankful.

the end.