Tuesday Part 4: Case of the Disappearing Orgasm
We agree to split up for a few minutes; Mom will go to the rooftop bar and I will take my Cuban cousin and aunt to our hotel room and give them the goodies we brought for them.
When we get to the room, I notice my sandal is broken (take notice! This will be on your exam!) and decide to quickly change out of a short dress and flats into a long maxidress and wedge heels while they wait. I feel more like myself, more like what I would wear anywhere in America.
Earlier Mom and I separated the gifts we brought. One bag went to TiaLourdes and another bag stayed here. Inside this bag we had gifts for Mila and her family, and gifts to bring to Havana on Wednesday.
I wasn’t paying THAT much attention when Mom made the piles earlier but I knew which dresses and such I brought for Mayulis so I started pulling them out for her. Here is the gorgeous black and white sundress I love that (on me) shows wayyyyy too much cleavage. I entrust it to her and only her, knowing it will fit her perfectly. It is truly treasure. Here is the green print one. And here are the shirts and earrings and makeup palettes.
She takes all I give her then tries on some of my shoes. I’m a size 10; she’s a size 6 and she looks like a kid sneaking in her mom’s heels.
We pack all the gifts to them – again, I thought I brought more, I wished I brought more, I wished I could take them shopping in Miami so they could buy what they wanted instead of taking what they’re given - and head upstairs to the roof to meet Mom and her mystery guest.
The hot glass elevator takes us up quickly, and opens onto a breezy Spring evening.
I see Mom at a round table surrounded by two beautiful women, neither of whom I had ever met.
As we approach the table Mila and Mayulis kiss kiss and hug hug the women at the table. I stand back a little, wondering if I have more Cuban relatives, but quite sure I don’t.
Mom introduces me to the lady next to her – a doctor – and the lady’s young 20something daughter, a history professor. I take a good look at the professor and see myself as a graduate student years earlier.
She’s the first person I’ve seen in Cuba wearing a long sundress like mine – well, mine is blue with a watercolor splash print and hers is yellow and flowered – but still, our fashion sense unites us across the political and economic chasm.
We order drinks and a plate with cheese and salami. I still don’t know who these nice ladies really are or why they are here, but I’m more worried about Mayulis who suddenly needs to tend to a patient.
She has to go to the pharmacy and invites me to join her. I want to, and in another life I would roam these streets with her, but after being forcibly separated from my Mom at the airport for so many hours when we arrived yesterday, I was determined to keep my mom in sight as much as possible.
Mayulis left for a few minutes and the conversation went around in a circle. The lady was a doctor of energy healing and energetics. Her daughter confides in me in Spanglish that her mom swings crystals over people and we giggle a little.
It doesn’t take long for me to ask enough questions to find out if the daughter is a professor like I am (do you have a PhD? Do you teach college?) and it turns out she’s a graduate student who teaches cultural history of the Afro-Caribbean to rooms full of students who are more interested in math and science.
She sits back and takes a deep breath and then says in one long formal sentence that sounds like she must have written it down, memorized it and practiced it a few times. “I am very interested in comparing our pedagogy and approaches so that we can learn from each other. How do you keep your students engaged and interested?”
I shrug at her and say “I pay them. It works.”
Her eyes fly open and my mom laughs, and everyone else looks at each other wondering what they missed.
As I’m explaining how I pay my students in class money that they can turn into points (implying yayyyyy for capitalism!! Yayyyy paying people who work hard more than people who slack!!!) Mayulis rejoins us, flustered.
She forgot her stamp, she proclaims then goes through her purse to find it. I’m on my second glass of wine and quite intrigued. I have NO idea what she’s talking about. What stamp? I lean across the table to my Mom and ask for some sort of a translation but Mom shakes her head and asks Mayulis, What stamp?
Her prescription stamp, she explains, then stamps her stamp on my napkin. It has her full name and her physician number on. I’m so proud of her, and I tuck the napkin into my purse to keep FOREVER.
While she is gone I notice that Mila isn’t talking much. I still don’t know how everyone at the table knows each other, or if they really do know each other or just recognize each other. I imagine being on this small city on this island for all these years means that most people have at least glimpsed each other a few times.
Mayulis returns just as we order another round of drinks. My lips suddenly feel dry so I pull a beautiful pink-coral lipgloss out of my purse that Zoe bought me for Christmas, put some on and then pass it around. Look at the name, I say and everyone does.
The color is “super orgasm” – a name that transcends language, apparently -- and its from the NARS orgasm collection, a set of colors that can be worn alone or layered (“multiple orgasms”) that really looks good on everyone and every skin tone.
The conversation turns from makeup to men, from work to sex as we sip wine and finish the small plate of food under the setting sun.
That’s when Mayulis starts to excuse herself from our fiesta. She has to work tomorrow, and says she needs to go home. Mila agrees and I walk the two of them with their large bag downstairs and give them $20 to take a cab. I’m not sure if they walked home or not, but I know the more I give, the richer I feel.
On my way back up to the rooftop, I go back to our hotel room and grab a copy of my book to give my new history friend.
I slip back into the glass elevator and push the number 4. The doors close and the elevator does nothing.
I stand there for a few seconds, then for a minute. I’ve never been stuck in an elevator before, but I’ve seen it happen in movies all the time.
This elevator is glass and dangles over an open courtyard. I’m sure someone will see me, I think, and do my best to keep calm.
I push this button, then another.
I push the emergency button.
Two minutes, three minutes go by and suddenly the glass elevator feels like sealed up steamy terrarium.
I think to use my iPhone to call my mom and let her know what’s up, but no, of course American iPhones don’t work in Cuba. I’m on the other side of the Berlin Wall, trapped.
If this really were a movie I’d be worried for me. But this is Cuba and from what I’ve seen so far, everyone here bends over backwards to take care of American visitors. Someone will help me, I think again and again but nothing happens.
I push this button, then that one again. Nothing.
I push a button and hold it while counting to 10. Nothing.
I have one more idea. I try to wedge my fingers between the doors and open them manually. First a finger gets in, then a hand. I push my foot in too, and then pull it apart.
A whoosh of cooler air greets me and I half throw myself out of the elevator, then triumphantly trot up three flights of stairs and rejoin the table.
My new friend in the long dress is delighted by my book, the one I wrote about my first trip to Cuba. She asks what it’s about and our conversation twists and turns through Cuban history and American history and ends with the two of us agreeing that the most important figure in world history – at least the history of our corner of the world – is Napoleon. Cuba might speak Spanish, but Cienfuegos was founded by creole Louisiana sugar planters after the War of 1812.
They both have to work the next day, and Mom and I have to get up early for a long day day-trip to Havana, so we say goodbyes and warn them to take the stairs instead of the elevator.
I’m not tired, Mom isn’t tired. After all this day of people and sights and stories we need a few minutes of peace together. And besides that, we’re hungry.
The waiter brings us a little more wine and a big plate of French fries which we devour happily. Within an hour we are back in the hotel room getting ready for bed. While Mom called Dad (again) I looked at pictures I’d taken.
Here is the Bishop’s house; here is the Casa de Leones; here’s me and Mayulis on the stairs of the Liceo, pretending to descend like royalty.
Oh, and here is one of a book I saw prominently displayed in the Liceo called “La Madre Negra de Marti.” I’m sure Jose Marti didn’t have a black mother, and wonder if some revisionist historian didn’t make some big jumps to write a history that would be more inviting to a multi-racial readership.
That’s when I suddenly remembered something.
I bolted up and went to my purse.
Where’s my orgasm?I said out loud but my mom didn’t answer, she was busy with my Dad.
I dug and dug in my tiny wallet-sized purse, but all I could find was my backup pinky peach lipgloss.
I don’t know where it went, or who is using it, but my orgasm disappeared in Cuba that night.