Dripping River Water


First Day of 2012 January 1, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Maceo Cabrera Estevez @ 6:53 pm
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This morning I woke up writing in my head.  That is a blessing.  I wrote a rough draft and cried a little.  It was a beautiful way to wake up.  My son slept beside me snoring between snacks of my milk.

One morning I woke up to a dream that I didn’t understand.  My son, not Omar Ali, but the first whom I miscarried, came to me in my dream.  If he would have lived he would have been almost 20 years old.  A young man with light brown hair and olive tone skin; he is handsome and likes to wear flannel.  He walked into my dream and said, “Mama, I am up.”

I awoke immediately and looked at Omar sleeping in my arms.  I knew this young man in my dream wasn’t suppose to be Omar older, it was my first, a soul who keeps on growing.  I keep thinking of him not understanding how he appears to me that old.  I don’t understand the spirits of the dead ones and the ones who were never born.  I don’t understand why he told me he was up.

There is an unseen world that many of us do not want to ever see.  I used to when I was a child but it scared me.  I forced myself to stop.  Now I try to imagine all the angels around me.  I try not to think of jinns that want to hurt me.  I don’t know what they look like.  I want to feel the angels.  When I think of them the world seems a little more peaceful with millions of angels spending their time in gratitude.

It is 2012, the first day of this gregorian year.  I knew I had to write down my goals quickly.

1-Be more grateful.  Find solutions to the complaints.  Love the moment I am in.  Be thankful first.

2- Write every day 5-60 mins.  Even a few words will be get me closer to completing a body of work.  When my heart gets all tied up, cry and keep on writing.  Be grateful for this gift of words.

3-Be gentle with myself and those around me.  I spent too much time last year hating myself for my imperfections.  They are all blessings that have built my character.

4- Run.   Physical activity is good for my heart and brain.  It is good for my entire body and spirit.  It is good for my family.

5- Love. This action stands alone and can make beautiful changes in one’s day.


the end.



What Luke said October 27, 2010

Filed under: life,religion,writing — Maceo Cabrera Estevez @ 5:58 pm
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There is a table in the lobby.  It is long and wooden positioned right below a big mirror.  There people leave things they no longer want: old fax machines, magazines, sneakers, books.  I am the resident manager and this leaving of things annoys me only when no one takes it.  I am left to throw away these items.  Things that could have easily been given as a donation, somewhere else, not in the lobby of my building.  There was a pocket sized New Testament once.  I picked it up.  This is a book I couldn’t throw out, I couldn’t leave it on the sidewalk, I couldn’t give it to a random person.  I had to keep it and for a year it lived between my Moroccan Arabic Phrasebook and El diccionario de sinonimos y antonimos bought in Venezuela when I was there in 1996.

My son is now 5 weeks old.  He has lived his days between arms of those who love him.  I have only been away from him minutes at a time, missing him and calling my mami to see how he is doing.  Yesterday I went for a walk with my friend.  I left my mami with 5 ozs of my milk.  I gave her instructions and hoped that it wouldn’t be too hard for either of them.  The sun was out.  Its rays hit my toes.  There was a chill in shady areas.  I was afraid to catch a cold.  I thought of myself confined in my bedroom pumping milk, sweating and sick, not able to see my son.

We went to Arizmendi.  I was treated to pizza and a root beer sitting outside.  I watched the beautiful people of Oakland pass by.  I saw the mamas pushing the strollers or carrying their babies on their backs.  I saw the dogs.  The endless amount of dogs take over the sidewalk.  I wondered if my skin would darken sitting outside of Arizmendi.  I have been home for weeks looking out the living room windows at the trees and the birds.  The root beer was good.  It became my new favorite.  There on the table was the cap.  It had writing.  In the inside it read, Luke 1:37.  I thought the root beer bottling was more hipster than religious.  Or maybe it was both.

For the past five weeks I have only written in my head.  I write books and plays while I nurse my son in his sleep.  I wish that the words would leave my mind and walk unto the page.  Any page.  Somewhere else.  But the words don’t.  They are locked away and I wonder if I will be able to write.  Then I read stories of writers who have shared similar nights.  Perhaps not nursing their sons but still in bed writing words on the walls with their pupils.

For the past five weeks I have begun learning what it is to be a mother.  I have learned what it is to remain still, to be totally dependent.  There is a scar above my bikini line.  It is black and sometimes it is sore.  All throughout my pregnancy I was pleased not to have any stretch marks.  Instead I got a scar where they pulled my baby out.  That scar reminds me of my imperfections and my failures.

I wonder sometimes why I couldn’t give birth at home.  Sometimes I have a hard time completing things.  The end is always so hard.  I go through my over fifty hours of labor at home and four days in the hospital.  I try to figure out what exactly went wrong.  I know everything is God’s will but somehow I feel at a loss.   I wonder if somewhere in back of my mind I was too scared to finish the job.  I couldn’t give birth naturally in a birthing tub, in my kitchen because it meant I actually had to complete something.  I needed help.  Like heavy drugs to soothe me, to make me relax, to actually fall asleep.  I went to the hospital, a place I still don’t want to give birth in again.  They helped me.  I had sweet nurses who gave me more pillows and filled my water bottle.  I knew that with a touch of button someone would be at my side.  So the whole time I had to not be upset.  I had to take everything in stride because I had my baby in my arms.  And if I got frustrated at the nurses constantly coming in and asking me the same questions, at them grabbing my breasts without asking me anything to see if my milk was coming out, at my son being picked up all hours of the night to be weighed, I would have made it worse for myself and I would have been ungrateful.  I still have to write about that.  All of that.  But I am afraid that it will make me cry.

On my bedside table there is a tube of Barq’s root beer lip balm.  I don’t like that root beer but I like the taste on my lips.  I put it on last night before getting into bed.  Then I remembered.  Luke 1:37.  I went to the living room to the shelf where the pocket size New testament lived.  I took it into bed.  My husband perplexed.  I have not read the Qur’an in weeks and here I was with the Bible.  I opened it to Luke right away.  There I read: “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Sighs and smiles.

the end.


Eid in Cuba 2009 part 1 August 30, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Maceo Cabrera Estevez @ 9:05 pm
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In November of 2009 I went to Cuba to visit my ailing Tía a week after I got married. Although, it was difficult at times; I would have rather been honeymooning with my husband. I feel blessed that I was able to make the trip to benefit my Tía Rosa’s health and I also had the opportunity to meet Cuban Muslims.  Before my trip to Cuba I searched online for Muslims through Islamic Finder.  There I found a masjid in Holguín, an hour away from my family.  I wrote down their info and called them when I got to Cuba.  The number I had was not of a mosque but to a lovely woman, Daisy.  Her husband was Lebanese and Muslim who ran a group for many years when he was alive.  She told me the Muslim community was small but active.  She would find Abdul Latif and leave him a message to call me.  Most people in Cuba do not have their own phones.  A few days later Aisha, Abdul Latif’s wife called me and my adventure began.  I was to visit them and for Eid al-Adha, the Muslim celebration after the pilgrimage, Hajj.

Here is my story, in parts, about my weekend in Holguín with Cuban Muslims.  Please be patient with me and my writing.  I am very pregnant right now waiting for the arrival of my son, Omar Ali João, inshaAllah.  My goal is to finish this story before Eid al-Adha 1431/2010, inshaAllah.  Please keep us in your prayers.

There were eleven of them.  I met them after a long car ride squeezed between a man with a big backpack and my cousin.  I did not speak.  If I did it was only in whisper.  Foreigners can not ride in Cuban owned vehicles that are not designated for tourist use.  They can not ride and pay the equivalent of two dollars like I did to go to Holguín from Victoria de las Tunas.  I was born in a Brooklyn hospital five years after my parents left Cuba.  In Cuba I am a yanquí.

When we arrived in Holguín we picked up our bags from the trunk of the old American car.  There we found my bag soaked with petroleum.  I was confused. Why was there petroleum in the trunk of the car?  In the US we don’t do that.  We don’t need to go from house to house while traveling with our own petro if we want to make a good meal.  One of the passengers must have been traveling with petroleum to use in the kitchen, I was told.  The container was not securely sealed.  She walked away before we fully realized what was happening.  There was no point in chasing her down and asking for an apology.  My bag was soiled, my best clothes was damaged.  I was going to Holguín to celebrate Eid with Cuban Muslims I did not know smelling like a gas station.

My cousin and I rode a bicitaxi to the address I had in my planner.  As we rode I put a scarf over my head.  It was thin and brown, a scarf my friend brought home from Medina.  It was light enough to deal with the Cuban heat.  In the days I spent at my aunt’s house in Cuba I did pray my five prayers a day but could not find the motivation to cover myself.  Every time I go back to Cuba I am stared at.  I didn’t want to give people another reason to look at me.  A few days earlier I had talked to Aisha, my contact in Holguín.  We made plans.  I would go on Friday and spend jummah with them.  They knew of a place I could stay.  I would learn from them and share Eid at their home.  I would give them 700 pesos to buy a lamb.  700 pesos is the equivalent of $29.  I didn’t have much money for this trip but I could do that.  It would be their first Eid even though they have been practicing Muslims for six years.  I made the mistake of telling her I was a part-time hijabi.  She told me she was going to get on my case about that.  She was Cuban after-all, I wouldn’t expect anything less.

My cousin didn’t know if we were on the right street.  I looked at the houses as we slowly rode by.  I always disliked riding a bicitaxi.  It seems a bit inhumane.  I’ve only been in one three times and each time besides the one in Holguín I got off half way through the ride and paid full fare because I couldn’t bear for someone to carry my weight.  I saw men in kufis in front of a house, they were waiting for us.  I was greeted by the brothers then the sisters inside.  We sat around in a circle I told them about the petroleum ordeal.  Right away Aisha’s mother took my bag and began washing my clothes.  She had a small washing machine.  I had never seen one in Cuba.  In my Tía’s backyard my clothes are washed over a board and hung up to dry.  In this new home there was potential that I would be able to wear something nice for Eid.

Aisha, her husband Abdul Latif and their daughter Maryam shared a house with her parents, her sister, brother-in-law and her six years old niece, Laura.  Although she was not Muslim she came home from school and shook everyone’s hand and said Asalaamu Alaykum.


I was sitting in a room filled with Cuban Muslims.  I looked at the corner of the room and saw a bóveda, an altar for spirits and ancestors.  I used to have one in my living room.  My mami has one, my abuela had one.  I come from a line of espiritistas.  There I was in a room full of Muslims who I didn’t have to explain my family’s spirituality to.  In that room lived two worlds.  Maybe even three.

There are no mosques in Cuba.  There are no structures that make you think you are in the Middle East.  There is one official space for Muslim prayer, La Casa de los Arabes, that is open on Fridays for jummah in La Habana for foreigners and diplomats.  Cuban Muslims pray out of their homes, they get together to read Qur’an and learn hadiths.  In Aisha’s living room we sat in chairs facing Abdul Latif.  Shaped like a crescent moon there were men sitting next to women.  He gave the khutbah, the sermon, his words lost in my head.  I sat there knowing that this was a unique experience and I would never have anything like it.  When it came time to make salat we all didn’t fit in the bedroom that they use to pray, eat and sleep.  There are more Muslim women than men in Holguín.  We prayed dhuhr first leaving the room after making dua giving the men space to be one with God.

They wanted to know about me.  I wanted to know about them.  We spent the afternoon giving each other brief bios on our lives and our paths to Islam.  In this room the youngest Muslimah was nineteen, beautiful Zaynab.  She met Aisha at the university, they were both art students.  Zaynab a lot younger than Aisha followed her around asking her questions about Islam.  She came from a home of atheist intellectuals.  Zaynab believed in monotheism and found comfort in Islam.  Her parents aren’t supportive of her faith.  She puts on a scarf after she leaves her home and turns the corner of her block.  Aisha has tried to talk to her mother.  It has not worked.  Zaynab loves her parents and knows that patience and respect is all she can give them right now until they come around, inshaAllah.  She is very shy and sweet.  When she talks she can’t look at you in the eye but you feel her heart beat and the light that beams from it.  I am fifteen years older than her and I wondered what it would have been like if my parents stayed in Cuba and if I would have found Islam at nineteen.  I wondered if I would be as peaceful as her at such a young age.


to be continued…


Making mix tapes May 6, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Maceo Cabrera Estevez @ 5:36 pm
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In my apartment on Ocean Ave, Brooklyn I used to light candles and make mix tapes for friends. I miss that. The double-deck. The stop and go. The listening to the entire song giving me a chance to find another that set the perfect flow. There was a fast side and a slow side. I danced to both. In the orange glow of dim lights and candles I danced with my shadow in the living room. I miss that.

I live on Alma Ave now. Oakland. The avenue of soul. It is here that I began to learn it: my soul. Set in me in my mami’s womb. My story already written. Pulsing through blood and heartbeats. I am a dancer. My body-the storyteller.

Right after I learned I was pregnant,  a positive sign on an old pregnancy test, I danced in the living room to Fela Kuti. I pretended it was louder. I pretended I was in a hot room. Sweating. Hearing horns and drums. Moving my shoulders and hips and feet in all different directions. I danced because I wanted to give my son the chance to dance even before he was a size of a blueberry. I knew he would be a boy. There are times that I truly listen to my heart.

Lately, my body has been tight. My knees hurt and my hands throb. I am thankful for the way I pray. My body stretches praising God. Relishing in the Divine. My time to feel relief. I haven’t been dancing. Not even in my living room. I worry that my child will lack Caribbean rhythm when I’ve forgotten how to move like a Cuban. And then I realize that I just worry. My hormones are out of whack. I end up crying if I think too long about Michael Jackson.

I just paused. Just enough time to hear the leaves rustling in the wind. The birds chirp. The cars go by on the freeway. The sun is shining in my living room. Lighting my plants. Lighting my heart. My pause, a reminder to be present. Not to worry. Not to stress. Remember that I am provided for. I have come to be thankful for everything. Even the sporadic tears. I have not fully let go, let myself surrender. I have to find a way to make mix tapes again even without the double-deck. I have to dance again with my shadow and feel that peace. There is beauty in this change. I have to remind myself. Preparing to have this child is building a foundation on freedom. Like arms and hips and feet moving to all or none of the beats.

the end.


rain in the jungle March 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Maceo Cabrera Estevez @ 7:27 pm
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It is raining.  We are now in the northern part of Guatemala where there are carpets of greens and trees to shade you.  We were on the Pacific Coast for some days.  The sun so hot it burned my shoulders.  I am brown again.  Brown like maple syrup.  The ocean’s waves were too strong for anyone to get in.  There was a pool in the hotel we stayed at where I did back strokes and floated.

One morning after fajr prayer we walked to the canal for an early morning boat ride.  It was dark.  We passed by a beautiful mango tree with birds singing their praises. They were so happy it reminded me of giving thanks each morning even if I didn’t sleep so well the night before.  Every morning that I wake up I am given another day.

I’ve realized that I’ve changed some.  I was so happy to wake up to the rain and cool air this morning.  By the coast it was over 90 degrees.  I’ve lived almost five years in the Bay Area and even though I complain about the weather not being hot enough, I’ve gotten used to it.    There are no seasons like in New York where I can appreciate the coming of spring and the love all around in the summertime.  I don’t want the steamy nights of Brooklyn where even an air condition wouldn’t help but I would like more than a hot day or two.  But the heat in the coast bothered me.  I was no longer used to it any more.  Not even my last trip to Cuba was that hot.

We are now in the jungle on our way to Tikal to see the Mayan ruins.  We were travelling for 15 hours yesterday to get here.  My tailbone hurts from the bumpy bus ride but my ankles are back.  My feet swollen for days in the heat and the sand walking.  My belly getting bigger, I wonder if blueberry is getting frustrated with me and all the traveling.  I talk to my belly and say, Be patient every moment is another story to tell you.

the end.


my test February 28, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Maceo Cabrera Estevez @ 7:14 pm
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The past two months I have spent on a couch with a sleeping baby on my belly.  He slept as my own little baby grew in my body developing organs and fingers, lips and a brain.  Every little part of him or her growing.  I call the baby blueberry because she/he was once that size.  Then a raspberry, a martini olive, a prune and now a peach.  I heard the baby’s heartbeat last week.  Blueberry hid for a long time and an image flew by- a flash- this baby is not going to be that mellow baby I’ve been praying for.  My mami laughed when I told her all the things I pray the baby will be.  She has this saying hija eres madre seras. I am definitely in for it.

These past two months I have not written more than a paragraph.  Movie scene are part of my thoughts.  I’ve been nauseous and tired and tired and tired.  How could this little blueberry already wear me out?  I haven’t written because I usually write about the transformations of my life and I was not ready to tell everyone that I had a baby growing inside me.  It’s now three months and there is a small bulge and my clothes definitely don’t fit me.  I need new pants, new bras, new shirts because mine don’t button anymore.  My life is changing.  Life is constantly changing.  A mother I will be, inshaAllah.

I was excited to write about this new transformation and then I was hit with the reality that my life is no longer private.  It is public on display.  I don’t write everything that my heart goes through, every detail of my life, but there are strangers that know about my life and I became of aware of why I write.  Someone wrote me who I’ve asked several times not to contact me.  She found my writing and made a comment.  One I haven’t posted.  Her comment was nice and thoughtful.  Even though the memories of our relationship are full of pain I have always prayed that she is in a better place and that she has been able to grow and transform, like me through out the years, pain serves as the best lesson.  I was taking care of my friend’s daughter, I was sitting in the darkness of her room when I read the comment over my little cell phone and I couldn’t believe it was still happening.  But it wasn’t still happening because it has been 10 years now and I have let go of some stuff and it has been years since I’ve heard from her.  I don’t know if she just forgets that I’ve asked her not to contact me or she just doesn’t listen.  I didn’t feel safe until I left New York.  Emotionally safe, I wasn’t being threatened or harmed, I just knew I had to physically get away to have more clarity.  But here we are in an age that distance no longer matters.  You can feel close to someone who lives 3000 miles away or across the globe because we can constantly communicate.

This is my test.  I got her message the last day of my job, a few days before a long vacation, the night that I began looking forward to hours of writing, inshaAllah.  I got her message and I had a choice either let it affect me and stop writing about things I care about and have my children wonder what happened to their writerly mother or I could just go on writing like I was looking forward to.  Life on the page.

It is beautiful outside and I wonder if I should take a walk or do my laundry.  I am on my couch, no baby on my belly just one growing inside me.  There are stories that need to be written.  Birds chirping outside love songs to settle my heart.  A walk sounds pretty good.

the end.


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.