On Thursday, the day after our trip to Havana, we sleep in a teeny bit late and arrive at breakfast 9:25, five minutes before it says the restaurant closes.
The doors are huge and ancient and I try them but they don’t budge. Mom tries them too but they seem locked and we are a little sad.
We walk back to the hotel elevator (although I’m suggesting taking the stairs after Tuesday’s “elevator event”) and before we can hit the UP button a red headed woman with a blunt haircut stops us and asks if we’d wanted breakfast. Yes, yes, of course. She introduces herself as a manager and invites us to follow her back to the restaurant.
Our waitress is Yamila (remember her?) and she greets me with a well practiced “Hello SONshine” and we hug.
Mom and I go right to the buffet where cracked eggs and boiled bacon look ready to be interred.
I ask the chef to make me 2 fried eggs (huevecitos, of course) and to pan-toast the piece of stale French bread I hand her. Mom asks for her eggs to be scrambled with ham.
Even though there is a large black “regular” coffee urn, Yamila understands me. I did not come to Cuba to have bad coffee. Before I can ask, brings me a tiny cup of Cuban coffee and a pitcher of heavy creamy milk to mix into it.
Like the best service in the world, she knows to disappear until we need her.
We eat quickly, peacefully, almost silently.
Mom blurts out, “I remember this necklace… now that I think about it, I’m sure I do.”
I nod, take a few bites then blurt back, “I really snagged that iPhone, gangster style?”
We don’t really answer each other but continue to say whatever crosses our minds, mostly about paella and how lucky we are to have today together, just us. This is only our second trip alone in our entire lives and it is delicious.
Yamila clears the table then returns with two small white gift boxes.
I am beyond delighted; I know better (emotionally, spiritually, karmically, financially) to keep track of gifts and expect gifts (aside from love) back from people I give things to. I must put forward some image that I need ‘nothing’ because people generally give me no gifts. I’m beyond surprised and giddy with delight.
I open my box
I see a long thin silver strand connected to a thicker one with heavy balls at either end.
I look up at Yamila, puzzled. She waves at me to continue, so I take it out and try to figure what it is, then gesticulate (and my mom translates,) “Is it for a belly piercing?”
Is it for nipple piercing?
She laughs hard, no.
Is it for…???
Mom looks at me wide-eyed.
We don’t know what the heck this is.
Yamila puts an imaginary earring on, punctuating the click of two pieces with a clucking of her tongue.
Earrings!! I half shout (I had Cuban coffee, forgive me) and she nods her head.
I take my earrings off and slide her silver, hip, artistic earrings into the holes. I am monogamistic when it comes to earrings; I wear the same pair for months until I lose one or it breaks, then I wear another pair until they meet their demise. I loved these seed-pearl chandelier earrings, they were perfect, but now they are not mine any more.
I offer them to Yamila and she refuses, but then I insist and she takes them. They shake and shimmer and dance while you talk, I tell her (and my Mom translates) so she will love them. Mom opens her gift; earrings and a ring. Equally awesome. So thoughtful.
After breakfast we go back up our hotel room and try to prepare ourselves for what is coming next.
Mom asks me over and over what I want to see, but my answers are vague. I want to walk this way, then that way. I want to see the cathedral and the Statue of Liberty and whatever else we stumble on.
Besides that, Mom knows who I really am. I don’t plan things out, I like to follow whatever invisible strings present themselves and pull me.
If we plan too much we won’t be free to wander and feel and just be part of Cienfuegos, Cuba, today.
My mom puts on something comfortable and I commit the horrible sin of wearing the same outfit as I wore yesterday (who would see me??). I slip on my slightly broken sandals and then fix my makeup.
We count out an envelope of American-dollars-turned-Cuban-cash to bring – this much for incidentals; this much in case we want to buy something; this much for lunch. We both have purses, we both have hotel keys. Alright, ready to go.
Last year when I visited Cuba for the first time, the best I could do look out hotel windows and watch people on the street. Mom tried to take me for a short walk but after a few yards I begged to go back to the hotel.
This year, I’m ready for an adventure.