I was eight years old when my parents decided that we would be safer in Miami, even though they had no clear idea what actually awaited us there. At the airport, my father, very serious but still managing to smile, handed us each a box of good Cuban cigars. My mother was straining to hold it all back, her face quivering like a rain drop that’s about to burst. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I began to understand the power of all that water she was holding back that day.
I tried to act nonchalant, cool like my older brothers, but when they opened the door to the runway the fumes and noise of the airplane engines came roaring into the waiting room like an angry animal. My cool started to melt.
As I ran across the hot tarmac, trying to catch up to my brothers, my legs went numb, feet left the ground, I was rising. Floating behind them, pulled along like a balloon, I floated up the stairs to my seat, to Miami, past the man who took my box of cigars and then gave me ten dollars. I floated into camp, to my uncle’s house, through schools, jobs, a marriage.
Then one day I floated back to Havana, and as I walked the resonant brittle streets, I felt a strange sensation buzzing up my legs, shooting arrow straight to my heart. Laying in bed that night I remembered that before we left, my father had taken us to a moonlit beach where the sea turtles bury their eggs. He was hoping that we’d get to see them hatch. He told us that the peseta sized sea turtles will float away on the restless current and then years later return. I realized then that the feeling coursing up my legs was the same magnetic pull of true home that will guide the wayfaring turtle back to the same grain of sand on the same beach, and the same brittle empty shell where it all started. With my feet firmly planted on the ground, I came to understand my need to float, and the reason I became an artist.
And for the first time, I was conscious of the slightly bitter taste of the exile’s nostalgia I was raised on. I found this poem in the journal I kept on that first trip back to my magnetic home.
paper thin walking bones.
All that remains in this sinking reliquary,
are the hushed amber memories of honey flesh,
and the ghosts
With their satchels of sighs
they brush my cheek as they whisper by
to scribble over thresholds stuttered monologues
that rustle the veils.
And the translucent walls speak,
of chance encounter, sudden rains,
a fist in the pocket, a cloud of cologne.
Dropped coins, and youth in the gutter.
The broken hearted pray for redemption,
but they’ll settle for revenge,
luminous confection in this carnival of dust.
THANK YOU TO ENRIQUE FLORES GALBIS, A TALENTED CUBAN PAINTER, TEACHER, LECTURER, AND NOVELIST AND FELLOW PEDRO PAN FOR GRACING THE PAGES OF MY BLOG.
ENRIQUE IS THE AUTHOR OF TWO YOUNG ADULT NOVELS. HIS FIRST NOVEL TITLED RAINING SARDINES WON THE AMERICAN AWARD FOR YOUNG ADULT FICTION BASED IN LATIN AMERICA. HE RECENTLY PUBLISHED HIS SECOND NOVEL TITLED 90 MILES TO HAVANA.
Yoly, No te puedo explicar porque he perdido mucho de mis recuerdos: pero leyendo tus paginas me estan regresando imagines a mi memoria y eso te lo agradecere toda la vida
Gracias Dulcita. Y gracias a Enrique por ayudarnos con su bella escritura y su poesía que viene directa de su corazón a la página.
Like Dulcita, I have been amazed at how many memories of my earlier life in Cuba I seemed to have lost. The stories of other people have provided flashes of light that illuminate those dark corners where the memories were safely hidden until I was better prepared to handle them. The beautiful images and symbols Enrique has brought out of his heart evoke many memories and emotions. Even when our experiences are different, they are all interconnected in the web of our human existence where nothing is alien to any of us who are paying attention. Thanks to Enrique and to you for making the lights keep shining.
I absolutely agree Yoli. This has been a good week with your story and Enrique’s story that speak to the extraordinary experience we lived through as children. I am grateful to you both for contributing to my blog!
This is a great piece….and I particularly like and “share” the feeling of “float”….because that’s what I felt after I left Cuba…got to Florida City….bonded with my home’s group…and 17 days later was shipped out in the first Pedro Pan flight to Chicago to an unknown destiny…I had not been able to describe the feeling of those hectic moments ….and “float” is right on target for our Experience as Pedro Pans…. Enrique is a great writer and hits the nail “on the head”.
by: Emy Botet on October 14, 2010
Unfortunately for us there is a name for that “floating”. It’s called dissociation. Symptom present in certain psychological disorders including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which I suspect many of us suffered/suffer from. It was all a lot for such little kids!
Thanks for your comment Emy. Enrique is an excellent writer- a source of pride to the Cuban community and a gift to the world at large. Have you seen his amazing artwork??