Looking out the dining room window I catch a glimpse of Piti’s house. Our friendship thrives to this day and to our amusement and despair we have begun to resemble our now dead mothers. I can hear our little girl voices singng “yo me llamo Sin, yo me llamo San, yo me llamo SinSan que casualidad”. And behind us always the shadow of our very own Angel, her cousin Angui, who to this day is like the glue that holds all the Cuban friends togehter, scattered as we are in our interminable exile. Living proof that love can last forever.
Turning away from the window I glance at the house’s innermost room where all of us gather to escape the bombs and bullets. We have agreed that when the bullets and the bombs come we will crawl here from wherever we are in the house and meet in this room. Breathless minutes pass as we all scan the darkness making sure no one is missing. Finally, all are accounted for; nine adults and a child lying guiltily in their midst knowing she has stolen chemicals from her school’s lab and helped her friends’ older brothers make the very bombs that now frighten them all. My heart drums in my ears and I rely on the hardness of the tile and the thickness of the walls to keep us safe. Gratitude washes over me when the silence comes. We are all safe. The house isn’t always so lucky.
I stand up and continue down the hallway, my senses overcome by the smell of Lola’s cooking. The cook from heaven! Alas, I was never allowed to step into Lola’s kitchen. Any attempt to cross the threshold was immediately thwarted by some voice screaming: “Sal de ahí que te vas a quemar!” (Get out of the kitchen; you’re going to get burned!) I was an excellent audience, though. I would stand outside that kitchen with my feet right on the tile line that separated it from the butler’s pantry, and watch Lola cook. I can see Lola standing very still, her arms rhythmically whipping eggs in such a way that they appeared to be suspended over the bowl she held. Lola could work magic in her kitchen!
Mimi’s bedroom beckons and I dare not not enter the room of my mother’s madness. I force myself to stand on the doorway and see my mother rigid against a wall with hatred filling her eyes as she glances my way. Then, with a determined look she faces the opposite wall and takes off at a run. She purposely hits that wall head -first and the sound is much like that a coconut makes when it falls from a beautiful palm tree. Her demons are back and yell at me. The Revolution has been too much for such a fragile mind.
I run to the safety of Aunt Isel and Aunt Celia’s room where I first found refuge in the writings of Dostoyevski, Tolstoy, Dickens, Twain, Alcott, and Dumas, but on the way there the sight of another door almost makes my heart stop. I halt abruptly as I see three militia- men armed with rifles dragging a naked man. I have never seen a naked man. The naked man is my father who has come out of hiding to attend his father’s funeral. I remember running yelling “nooooooo! Hijos de puta, ese es mi papá, suéltenlo cabrones!”, and hanging on to one of their beards while I kicked whatever body parts I could come in contact with. At first, the militia men laughed. When I wouldn’t let go, one of them hit my face with the butt of a rifle and I fell. My father made a move to help me and they struck him hard. They laughed again as they led my father away to Mimi’s bedroom. They came back out a few minutes later. They had allowed my father to dress. My father made eye contact with me, and I saw in his eyes a warning to be still, and in his bearing a mixture of fear, anger, and courage. I recognized one of the militia-men as a man named Fermin; a man who had once been my father’s friend. I am alone except for Lola who helplessly watches the unfolding scene from the kitchen powerless to help. The family is at the cemetery and left me behind fearing that saying goodbye to my grandfather would be too difficult an emotional strain at my age.
The memory becomes so vivid that I lose touch with my surroundings for a moment and then collapse on the floor and weep. I can feel the pain on my right jaw as I did then. I wonder if whoever lives in the house at San Mariano 102 can sense my presence, feel the destruction of my child-heart.
I smell the scent of my first perfume. My tata irons a beautiful blue dress for me. I am no longer a cross-eyed child but a beautiful fourteen year old that has garnered the attention of a hero of the Revolution. His black limousine drives by my house almost daily hoping for a “chance encounter”. Pleasure and terror become one as I go to my room and open my nightstand to find the three bullets from Ché. The telegram that makes me disappear is not far behind and I cannot bear to look further.
I lie on the floor remembering how good the orange juice in my bottle tasted as I watched my toddler toes make wiggles in the air. I run to the yard with my bottle, my tata chasing me afraid that I will stumble and I finally find a resting place on the grass under a zapote tree. I am safe, enchanted by cloud shapes, in a place where the vendors call out their cantos and the Caribbean sun’s caress is its own lullaby.
Finally, I grow tired and assuming my current form walk reluctantly through the porch surrounded by the Greek columns, catch the subtle scent of the roses bidding me good-bye and walk out through the iron gate. I am back “home” now where I live cradled in the arms of the man I love surrounded by the fog and the rain of the Northwest.
End of The Dream.
Copyrighted material 2008 Adrianne Miller
So vivid and tragic. Storytelling at its best, told with real life, heart scars and non-fiction. Wish we could help others avoid the same mistake. Thank you Yoli.
Thank you, Ana. Interestingly, after I wrote The Dream I never felt a need to “time travel” again. A little narrative therapy.
This is too familiar since my own memories recall similar events…the fear, the betrayal, the humilliations our families were subjected to, the invasion of our sacred homes, the loss of childhood fantansies all at once….
Well done Adrianne.
by: Emy Botet
Oct 9, 2010
Thank you, Emy. I think of my granddaughters at age eight in all their innocence and am so grateful that their childhoods look so different from ours. Carlos Eire made a comment once that the Peter Pan children were the opposite of Peter Pan. No never ending childhood for them. It ended in one fell swoop when our planes landed here. I think they ended long before that for most of us. On the other hand, all that we lived through forced us to look inward and spirituality became important in whatever form it took for each of us. I appreciate your company on the journey.
Tocaya del Alma: You have made the dream and the reality come to our eyes and hearts. We have smelled the scents, felt the pain, endured the fear and the sadness along with you. I return to Now with you to rejoice being in the embrace of your friendship and in the light of your talent. Gracias, hermanita Pedro Pan. Sigue adelante.
Knowing your own talent first hand your compliment means much. Knowing your heart- even more. Thank YOU hermanita Pedro Pan. As the song says, p’a tras ni pa coger impulso! Thank you for gracing my blog with your presence.
Yolandita, I have been reading your blog for a few weeks now and they bring so many memories that were long forgotten. Thank you for bringing them back. I remember so vividly your grndparents house, the parties, your bdays, the “escaparate” full of beautiful dolls.
The way you write makes me feel like I am there. I love it.
Sonia! Welcome!! I am so happy to hear from you! I’m glad you like the blog posts. Another lost cousin found after all these years. I hope I’ll get to see you at the Pedro Pan reunion. The “escaparate” full of dolls….when the family left Cuba they left the dolls with Dania Fandiño, a neighbor across the street. When they left Cuba who knows…I hope other children were able to enjoy them. I remember the names of Canay and Roberta, the ones that appear in most of my childhood pictures. My birthdays were torture for a little shy girl. Remember when they hired Gaby, Fofó and Miliki?
I sure do, I was so much “in love” with Miliki, I took a picture with him and he hold my arm, I didn’t wash it for a few days. How funny.
I will be going with seida to the Pedro Pan reunion. Yo voy colada since I am not Pedro Pan. See you there.
I can’t wait to see you both. Miliki was my first crush, I think. He and Roy Rogers. I have pictures of that party. I’ll take them to Miami!
Again, an awesome piece. It leaves me speechless: the horror, the pain, and yet, such beautiful prose. I just have a confession to make: I too stole chemicals from the lab at the Ursulinas de Miramar. I remember it as sulphur: yellow, smelly sulphur. I remember giving it to Elsa, one of our classmates, who would give it to the MRP (Movimiento Revolucionario del Pueblo) or the MRR (Movimiento de Rescate Revolucionario).
Elena, I didn’t remember Elsa. I remember sometimes giving it to a really cute guy dressed in a Colegio de la Salle uniform.
Were you with me and Mari Tere Ajamil when we would leave school to distribute propaganda papers through the neighborhood around Las Ursulinas and the milicianos saw us? We ran and caught a city bus and ended up at my aunt Gladys’ house. Little patriots….the things my parents never knew!
I remember distributing the propaganda papers on the street on my way to the Ursulinas. But I don’t remember being with anyone else. I lived a long block north from the Ursulinas, and Che Guevara had a home on that street. I used to drop the papers on the sidewalk by his house. I remember walking to school very early in the morning, still under the cover of darkness, and I think that is why I dared to leave the propaganda by Che’s house. I don’t think my parents ever knew about this.
I do remember Mari Tere Ajamil, but playing kickball at the school during recess.
Mari Tere, myself and someone else would sneak out during recess. For the life of me I can’t remember who the third person was. Under cover of darkness or not, you were one brave girl!
I used to love kickball! I was so disappointed when I got to my school in California and no one knew how to play…thanks for sharing, Elena.