Something about the lack of cell reception allowed her own vibration to increase. It warmed her and rose to a dull hum in her ears–that and the constant soundof LOUD!
Damn, Cuba was loud. Music everywhere; scratchy love songs blaring from 1952 Chevrolets; Cubaton on mindless repeat in every restaurant; Spanish classics blurted from an ancient trumpet by a leathery man with round cheeks. Sound followed you with every footstep and mixed in the heavy breeze of the Gulf with the constant weight of diesel and dust.
It was dizzying. It was…
Small pleasures; dollar Cristal beers full with amber, not thin and heartless like their cheap American counterparts. A five dollar bottle of Havana Club to swing around your newfound group of friends. (The girls always mixed it with Coke, which was sweeter there.) Thick tobacco on the tongue of a cat call:
“Ah! Que linda…”
You met deep brown eyes in mutual acknowledgement. Yes, I am woman, you are man, and in the natural order of things we would…
It was all so palpably out in the open. No need to hide your small, swelling frame. This is not the place for modesty. You, here, on rapturous display and in full force. You must give everything it is that you’ve got because the world around is unforgiving. And tomorrow is a distant place.
(“Americans, you pay for your expensive healthcare and schooling out of pocket, yes. But here in Cuba, we pay for these things with our lives.” She had been told not to talk of politics, but she could always listen.)
Nothing made sense but night.
The days were long and night came suddenly. Hit you hard. The moon is out –now you find a place to dance. Warmed with rum she roamed the streets, fumbling through Spanish like someone trying to see in the dark; feeling for familiar words, stubbing a toe trying to conjugate a verb in past tense. No, she was bound to speak only in the present.
But on the lips of others–oh the delicious intercourse of oral expression! Like a Spanish she had never heard before–soft, round words sagging with sweat. She heard it for days after returning, that Spanish was everywhere. Coming from the mouths of Asian undergrads, and Middle Eastern deli clerks, and WASPY stroller pushers. She responded to the Heights Falafel waiter in kind, and he looked puzzled and continued in English.
Of course the Spanish hadn’t followed her back to Brooklyn. She was hearing things. Her ear had momentarily been trained to a different tune, a deeper tune, and had to now readjust to the harsh, nasal assertions of New York.
And maybe it all only felt like paradise because she left; could leave. Unlike so many there. (For even Utopia darkens when one is confined.) Having settled back into her normal life she had to ask herself, had Cuba even happened? If not for the sunburnt skin and stream of photos she’d have thought not.
It felt so distant, so far away, so unimaginable now. Like… the other thing. She had forgotten all about it. It too felt unreal. Like some distant time in an unfamiliar place. But unlike Cuba, she had absolutely no desire to return.
Sometimes to move on you have to actually move. Move through space. Move across the earth. Move physically elsewhere. Move your body, make it sweat, make it taste new things and new people and the saltwater of the various seas.