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.