Thursday, June 7, 2012

Chapter 31: After the Honeymoon: Make it Strong. I'm Cuban.

During the  7 hour drive to Tallahassee the day after flying back from Cuba I have wave after wave of patriotismgasms and have to keep tweeting how I love the obedient modern traffic in America, how I love toilet paper, the gas stations, the billboards.

Halfway up the Turnpike I get sleepy so sleepy my eyes start to close themselves. I pull over to Dunkin Donuts and buy the biggest plastic refillable cup they sell and ask for it to be filled with espresso and just a little milk.  Make it strong, I'm Cuban, I tell the happy worker. When he finishes I tip him $2.

 I've never tipped at counter service before, but after Cuba I feel rich, incredibly generously rich.  I make it home safely and keep the huge tumbler with me as I write the beginning chapters of my Cuba journey.

Meanwhile I walk around my life like I've come back from a Honeymoon alone.

I'm starry-eyed in love with something I can't articulate, something no one else can see.

This gets tiring and I think I'll feel better, relieved when I finish the first draft of the book I feel compulsed to write.

 I write the entire story out, long hand, sipping big Dunkin Donut sized glasses of red wine and sometimes diet Margaritas (yes, they exist, look them up, but don't ask me what a serving size is) and type them up in windows of time between grading, lecturing, cleaning, Finals.

Each time I finish a chapter I send it to Mom. She proofreads it, prints it out and takes it Abuelo, who reminds her to remind me where I left TiaFifi out, where I called something the wrong thing. How I got the shark catch all wrong.

I want to finish writing about my 3 day trip quickly, so I cut out the center of it, like a donut, and let the story stand alone, sticking things here and there in the stories to say here is where I had a profound moment I can't just casually toss out to you, not here, not now, it's too precious and sacred.

So with the hardest stuff left to the side I write and write and write.  I finish it all and send it to my Mom on Mother's Day, then realize I left out one story I meant to tell you.   At the 1940s-era airport in Cienfuegos there was a uniformed "attendant there" laying out lines of toilet paper on the counter for women to use after washing their hands. Next to that was some coins and  dollar, seed money.  I had my own tissues, my own wipes, my own hand towels. I didn't leave her money for laying strips of toilet paper out, and I still feel a little guilty about that.

Now that I've written the first part, the Honeymoon feeling is ebbing.

That's OK, that happens with love. It mellows, sweetens, quiets.

I'm not worried about that, anyway, because these days  I'm lost in time, walking back and standing reverently at moment that I'm sure, absolutely sure, is the real true beginning of this story