Sunday, March 25, 2012

No Island is an Island: Chapter 7: The Rest is Icing

Tia Lourdes listens to Mom's question then her eyebrows dart up and she looks me right in the face, since it was my question she was answering.


I want her to know, I have to tell her this. Crazy, huh? People are very much the result of the stories they tell about themselves to other people and out of every story from my whole life I ask her about one of my moment's of bad behavior.

Still, here at our sacred lunch table, I need to know, and now I do. 

I need tell her  how much I loved my cousin who was a 24 year old wife and mother of two young boys when she and her husband were murdered in Miami in 1984.

Miriam's husband Heriberto was killed -- gunned down -- in the doorway to their house.

Her body was found in the doorway to the nursery where their younger son was sleeping in his crib. 

Their bodies were discovered by her brother, my cousin Eduardo, who got a call from the older son's daycare to come pick him up.  I can't bear to imagine what Eduardo saw, what the boys saw that day.  I was 15 and could only feel my own loss.

I loved Miriam, my glamorous Miami cousin with long loud red nails and an even louder laugh.  She gave me makeup. She gave me my first bra. It was light blue and padded. I worshipped her. So being at Tiafi's house for a gathering after the funeral I was outside of any emotions I'd ever felt. I didn't know what to do, how to behave so I fell back on humor.

My brother and father and I sat quietly with Eduardo, Miriam's younger brother at a table with neat casseroles and desserts.

Abuelo and his two sisters received visitors and consolation at a sofa across the small apartment from where we sat.

Of course they couldn't see us. I feel better.

Now Tia Lourdes wants to know what happened so I give her the details which my Mom relates even though she knows it doesn't shine the best light on her daughter.

"My brother had a merengue right by his face, so I pushed it onto his face, like a pie... then Eduardo hit Dad with a handful of lasagne and we were laughing so hard because we couldn't laugh..."

She shakes her head, no, she hadn't seen anything. That's because Mom came over fast and made us clean up, I say to my aunt and my Mom translates.

Tia Lourdes says nothing.

Then she looks at me, and at Mom and says, "It was mistaken identity."

I look at Mom, I shake my head in shock, Tia Lourdes continues, relating the story she got from a friend in Miami.  Meanwhile, Olgita heaps more rice, more chicken and a banana on my plate.

I eat, I listen. Tia Lourdes continues and my Mom translates.

 Where Miriam and her husband had moved to had been a narcotrafficking house. But those people left. And then someone came to kill the former tenants and found these new people and killed them instead. It wasn't a robbery. They didn't take anything; no rings, no money, no valuables. Then they disappeared, no clues at all. 

Ten thousand pounds of sadness flies off my shoulders as I ask, again, "They didn't do it on purpose? No one hated her that much?"

Tia Lourdes shook her head, "No, no it was a mistake."

A horrible, horrible mistake, I know, but this piece of the story gives me so much unexpected peace I can only think that anything else that would happen in the next three days in Cuba would only be icing.