Monday was the day we flew in, the day of the detainment, the day where our relatives ate at the hotel with us and each ordered a paella. I had spaghetti. It was awful, which was funny.
After kiss kiss kiss goodbye, Mom and I send them off. We agree to meet at 4pm on Tuesday at TiaLourdes house, then go walking around Cienfuegos.
With them gone, Mom and I go up to the rooftop bar of the hotel. The only other people there was a couple was having a private moment exactly in the spot I needed to stand in, so I walked right over there then called my mom over.
As they walk away they each give me thinly veiled dirty looks and whispered to each other in either English or German. Either way I don’t care; I’m here, this my Cuba now.
We lean over the edge and this time I point out the buildings. OK, there’s the cathedral, there’s the school of art, there’s the theatre. My mom laughs. We walk to the other part of the roof and lean over the other street, the one that is blocked off for pedestrian tourist traffic now that cruise ships are coming to Cienfuegos.
Yes, it’s all there, just the way I left it, only now it doesn’t seem so scary.
Then Mom and I sit down and have a glass of wine and let the wind blow through our hair and lighten our spirits. What a fucking day, what a crazy fucking day, one of the scariest days of our lives.
It’s over now, we laugh. The waiter knows us. I give him a copy of my book and take a picture. He brings us a signed picture of him with Raul Castro, and another with Chavez. This is awkwardish because I know he’s truly bragging but I can’t bring myself to say a single good thing about either communist fucker, so I smile and nod and let him share what he has to share. The bill is $8. We leave $20 and go to bed.
My mom is so cute. She has to sleep with the TV on and with her glasses on in case she wants to wake up and watch TV in the middle of the night. I turn my iphone’s white noise on LOUD and take a ZQuil because last time I took an Ambien I stayed up all night and was almost certain I saw laughing dwarfs running around on the curtains and the sofa looked like it was pulsing with a heartbeat. Enough said?
So we slept with CNN (in English!) on, and woke up with enough time to get the crazy European breakfast. If people really eat this crap in Europe I’m glad I’ve never gone and I’m thankful to all my ancestors who left there. Again there is this boiled bacon crap; this crazy vomit sausage crap; pitchers of yogurt with flies all over them; stale breads and cookies with bowls of jellies and jams. It’s exactly the same as last year, so I don’t even go near it. There’s a chef to make fresh eggs – I order 2 over medium, mom orders huevos reveultos with jamon. We both look for pieces of bread that might be good still and go to our table.
There she is. Yamila, our waitress from last year. Did I mention she was also my Mom’s waitress two times before at this hotel, and that she’s so endearing that when we came last year we surprised her by also flying her husband Yasser to Cuba from Las Vegas? Probably not. I haven’t read my book lately but I’m pretty sure it’s not in there because it would have been rude to write about such crazy generosity.
So anyway, we have a history. Now you know it a little better. That’s why she loves me – I helped deliver her a month of sex.
After breakfast we go back upstairs to get a little cuter and also drag our feet a little because we are expected at 11. We go through our gifts and repack them into the big gusano bag to bring to TiaLourdes house.
I packed heels this time and long dresses (ha!) but I wear a short dress and flat sandals.
Remember that, there will be a quiz on it later. I’m not kidding. It’s very relevant to future events.
Downstairs at the hotel we are directed to take the first cab in line. Yep. It’s the same old guy who drove us the three blocks from the hotel to TiaLourdes house last time. Same car, same dark Russian looking glasses. This time he didn’t seem scary or gruff; this time he seemed to be family. As he loads our bag he looks us over and before we can tell him we know him he proclaims “you’re back!” and laughs with delight. We only go one block up and two blocks over – easy to walk but not delicately with 100 pounds of crap slung between us – and in that short time he wants to know what I think of Cienfuegos, what I think of Obama, when I’m coming back again. It was delightful.
As we turn onto the Prado, I know where I am. There’s the Benny More statue. There’s that pizza place that looks like it would poison you. Theres… the red door. He stops and we unload. The sidewalk is 4 feet higher than the street; I can imagine that 100 years ago the street would fill with muck and shit and the people would walk on the covered sidewalks, pretending they didn’t smell anything.
This time, I knock on the door. This time, Olgita answers and its hug hug hug and oh her knee hurts and oh forgive her sweating she was just starting lunch for us. She shoo’s us in down the long hallway which is now ridiculously familiar. Not a thing has changed, not a thing has moved.
If we hadn’t have gone down the hall we would be in the main entry reception room, the one with the chandelier made of long glass lagrimas that came with my great great grandmother from Spain when she arrived her to live with her brother, the Spanish Captain and “marry well.”
We don’t go to that room or the other room which looks like it would be a TV room but go down the hall to TiaLourdes “office” and receiving room where she spends her days meeting people and doing paperwork things surrounded by yellowing pictures of saints and Our Lady of Charity.
Kiss kiss kiss hug hug huggggggg it’s so nice to see her and I want to open the gusano and start giving out stuff, but there’s someone there. I met her last time and she knows Mom because they went to primary school together. She tells mom something while I’m talking to TiaLourdes (don’t ask me what I said but my Spanish got so much better she keeps rubbing her ears teasingly saying she can’t believe it) then mom grabs my hand and starts pulling me away.
We just got here I’m protesting in Spanish and English and no one is helping me or explaining but for some reason we have to leave NOW.