We get back in the Kia and a lightness settles between all of us as we leave the cemetery behind. Mom and I share sips of water and for the first time I have a deep craving for diet coke. There really are no Circle K’s or MiniMarts or vending machines or drive-thru-s other modern capitalistic comforts and conveniences. We have this bottle of water to last us as long is it can. Period.
As Machete brings drives the narrow road to exit the gated cemetery a Soviet looking car turns in and almost crashes into us. Machete held his ground and the smaller white car backed up and pulled over a little so we could exit.
A parade of athletic Europeans wearing a rainbow of biking shorts and biking bras and biking helmets and other “gear” swooshes in front of us on light lean bikes. Their bus follows them. Neat arrangement. They are in a completely different Cuba than I am, one with mountains to bike up, friends to laugh with, tour guides to help you connect to “the people.”
Who ever they are I hope they love it and they come back, wherever they’re from. When they do, I hope they wear a lot of sunscreen, especially that super white lady whose top was so small I’m not sure I can confirm she was wearing one.
We pass a few tall thick Soviet-era apartment buildings with large bus stops in front. It’s hard to tell if the people sitting on the benches are waiting for to be picked up or if they’re just sitting in a cool shady spot. There are revolutionary slogans, socialism slogans, painted here and there cheering the residents on through hardships and shortages. My eyes are thirsty for a Billboard, for that lizard insurance thing, for someone selling me something.
A woman in a halter top and white shorts riding a fat wheeled bike pulls into traffic and settles into the middle of the lane but weaving erratically a little to the right, a little to the left, , completely blocking anyone from passing her.
Machete honks and rolls down the window to ask her to move, please.
She does, while giving us a huge dose of the stink eye as we pass.
I pray she never tries this in Miami.
If she does, I’m sure it’ll be on the news, and maybe there would be helicopters hovering over covering ever second of the saga.
I hope if she ever comes to the US someone will tell her something helpful along the lines of “forget what you heard about freedom, there are rules rules rules and lots of cameras watching all the time so behave.”
We drive towards the house my Mom’s family lived in for only a few years. It was Abuelo and Abuela’s dream house, the one on the point lot on the bay, the one Castro took and turned into a military installation because its view of the bay was unmarred and its amenities were so awesome.
On the drive to this house we pass under an overgrown iron gate entrance which once said “Playa Alegre” and now only has a few vowels left. There are no gates blocking the way so we drive in Machete idles the minivan taxi in the little park that is right next to my Mom’s house which we can’t see because it has 8 foot tall opaque sharp thick hedges.
Mom and her cousin sit on a bench in the park with their backs to the house and I pretend to be taking pictures of them but I’m really taking as many pictures as I can of the house behind them.
No armed uniformed men come out and protest or try to us away so we get bolder.
Mom walks to the water – which is right there, right at the end of the sidewalk, and then she keeps going and is officially on the “beach” behind her old house.
See these palm trees? Abuelo planted them.
They were waist high when we left. Now they are shade trees, sitting where they were left, not caring to whom they belonged.
See this sand? Abuelo had it brought here to make it their backyard beach.
I’ve seen my Abuela in pictures from here, always taking, always happy. That same wind is blowing through my hair now, here in her favorite backyard, and I let it bring me a piece of her happiness.
I reach in and touch Cuba’s water for the first time. I dangle my fingers in bay and wiggle them like a toddler trying to figure the ocean out. It feels warmer than I expected, and calmer.
I see Mom is sitting under one of Abuelo’s palm trees and I take her picture. She is looking off into the wind, smiling. Here, at this house, she is 10 again, she is 11 again, she is 12 again, she is safe again, or at least the safest she remembers feeling for a long time.
We get back into the car and as Machete passes the almost overgrown gates I get a peep at the architecture.
I couldn’t have seen what I just saw. STOP! I have to get a picture, please, I beg in Spanglish and he indulges me.
Did you see THAT? I ask Mom, and she throws up her for real because I’ve been obsessed for hours with seeing that symbol, that sign, that whatever it is, over and over and no one can tell me what is or why its there or what its called but I need to know and I will find out and then I’ll explain it to everyone and until then I can’t rest. Got it?
I hold up my iPhone, open the pictures up and show her.
You have to look hard because its green wrought iron with dark green hedge weaving through.
But there it is. Bingo.
All over Cienfuegos I’ve seen the same pattern and I half hoped it would be here.
Twisted into architecture of this house is a pattern I haven’t seen anywhere in Cienfuegos, but one that I knew in a heartbeat.
Two small circles over a larger circle. Repeating over and over.
See it? Two small circles over a large circle.
Do I need to draw it for you?
Can you draw it yourself?
Two small circles over a large circle.
See it now?
Mickey Mouse ears, that famous logo that you can spy woven into the architecture and intricacies throughout Walt Disney World, having been waiting at Mom’s house in Cuba, hiding in plain sight. Hidden Mickeys. Next time you go to visit WDW look around; there is a Hidden Mickey on the ground of Rock n' Roller Coaster, where the microphone cords roll casually into two small circles over a large circle. Look inside the arches you walk through. Look on the bridges, look in the rides. Hidden Mickey's everywhere to keep you happy and busy and hunting.
I tell my Mom this is a big deal, that this means something. She was destined to be an American, a Florida Disney Annual Passholder, right here, marked in her architecture.
Hidden Mickeys. In Cuba. A professor once taught us that the two most important people in Florida's history are Walt Disney and Fidel Castro, even though neither of them ever lived there. The more I think about it, the more right that man seems.
I check my iPhone; its at 40% so I it off and save it because we still have four more places to visit before dinner.