No Island is an Island: Chapter 30: My Hole

(From 2012)

The plane ride was quiet and uneventful. I tried to read my new Marian Keyes book. I tried to play solitaire. I thought even to pick up a pen and write something, anything, but my brain was still stuck in "record" mode.

 The crew spoke English amongst themselves and spots of Spanish to passengers here and there.  They brought cups of soda, not in a cart, not with bags decorated by dancing nuts, then collected them back up.

 I shouldn't tell you that a lot of us started pulling out our electronic devices and checking email and voice mail. I shouldn't tell you that I saw texting and emailing going on from up in the sky, because you might then think of these post-Cold War warriors as not obeying the rules.  Forgive us, forgive them, the pull of a first world nation, of connectedness on Facebook and Twitter and gmail and iMessage after such deprivation was too much.

When the plane lands and the pilot announces we are in Miami, the plane bursts out into a Superbowl celebration. We did it. Together. Alone. All of us. Up and over the Mount Everest Berlin Wall Cold War Hologram that separates Florida and Cuba, and back to tell the tales, or free to keep it secret.

Being in the back of the plane, Mom and I are among the last to disembark, leaving the ones who are waiting for wheelchairs and attendants and all the things they need to get into and through the megalopolis Miami Airport.  We catch a train to another area where too many people are funneled into a small space, like on Haunted Mansion at Disney.  Mom says she wonders what Ellis Island was like, and I don't even answer, leaving that off for another day.

  After passing through that narrow area we are fed into lines. Everyone goes into the longest lines, those must be the right lines.

Again, our Disney training comes through; we seek the shortest line, go to the right, all the way over there, and step into a spot with no line.  An unremarkable pass of our documents, a smile and wave, we are through to baggage claim, which is so big and bright after Cuba that I almost need to shade my eyes. We have no luggage and go on further, out the gate, out to meet Dad.

I recognize this gate from years ago. One day I was at my Abuelo's house when he got a call that a relative had landed in Miami. He was practically 90, and in no place to navigate that airport by himself, not with me around to help.  Where do we pick her up, I asked, and he didn't know. He really didn't know.  I needed to know where to park, what part of that megalith to aim at, but he couldn't tell me.

So I called the information number to the Miami International Airport. I didn't think anyone would answer, I thought I would push 9 and then 6 and then whatever whatever.   A man answered. I wasn't ready.  May I help you, he asked in English and Spanish.

I, um, I just got a call and um, I need to pick up... a Cuban? I can't believe my English is suddenly as bad as my Spanish.

Silence on his end.

Gate E.  

Gate E. Thank you so much.   Abuelo is ready, we go, we pick up a cousin that miraculously arrived here from there.

Now I'm coming here from there, and even at Gate E. Mom and I walk over and around and we can't find Dad. I start to text him. Then I realize I'm standing next to him.  Hugs, hugs, he gets us right out the door and two steps to the best parking. The parking fairy loves my Dad.  As he packs our bags I ask please are we really going to Versailles? Or was he just teasing?

Yes, he was really taking us there. It wasn't that far, but I can't tell you how long it took because I just stared at all the lights. All the cars. All the bright electric everything on and going that was buzzing around us on our way to Versailles. No horses, no meandering bikers, almost no pedestrians.

We park and pass the spot, the famous spot where Abuela threw her fit many years ago, way back when we used to be able tell secrets out loud in Spanish in South Florida except in a few pockets here and there.  Here, outside the restaurant, we pull up. Dad, Mom, my brother, myself, Abuela. Maybe we were in Miami for a concert. Maybe we were visiting Tiafi. I can only tell you that whatever the occasion was, it drove Abuela to wear pantyhose with her pretty skirt.

Pantyhose that ripped as she slid indelicately out of the car.

My Dad was standing there, holding the door, offering a hand to Abuela to help her out of the backseat. She refused and screamed, AYYYYYYY, My HOLE,  in English, followed by a stream of Spanish expletives I wouldn't dare to translate to any language, peppered with LOOK AT MY HOLE in English.A man walking by with his son covered his son's ears and crossed the street to get away from whatever was going on.  I stood there and laughed and laughed and laughed until Abuela figured out how to rip off her pantyhose instead of wearing them.

This tale comes with us every time we come to Versailles, reminds us of Abuela, of how she was here and now she isn't.

 I see this restaurant with new eyes. I understand why Cubans from Cienfuegos would have a restaurant based on a French palace. Now it makes sense. Before I thought maybe the place just happened to have a lot of mirrors.

pepsi, a grilled sandwich with turkey, jelly and cream cheese.  The drink is so good I want another and another but I stop after one.

The people at the table next to us appear to be from China. Two businessmen across from me speak English (loudly) and keep checking their phones for something that still hasn't arrived.

Quickly enough we are back in the car and heading for Abuelo's house. I stare at the maze of lights, I see the food, the stores, the car dealerships like flowers now, flowers that weave on a long vine twisting us all together here. It doesn't even seem fair Cuba is left out of all this fried chicken.

My timing isn't perfect. I arrive while Abuelo is watching his favorite show, so he stays in his chair a minute and I drop my bags and pour myself a normal, American size glass of red wine then join him.

Have you seen this before, he asks, pointing at the screen.

Yes, it's a pawn shop in Detroit, I tell him.

Gosh, these people, Abuelo says, fixated at the goings on of bargaining and haggling and loaning and buying, spectator sports in America.

I think to tell him about Cuba about everything now - his father's grave, his sister's wisdom, the views, the people. But it's too much, not now, I can't even do it justice now.

I love this show too, I tell him, and we spend the rest of the evening completely happy in each other's company.