As we sang God Bless America I became aware of forms beneath the water. It was land beneath the water; my new land. My eyes began to scan the horizon looking for Miami. No signs of land above the water yet.
I looked at the top of the head of the little boy beside me. His sobs had subsided and now he stared straight ahead at the back of the seat in front of us. He had told me his name was Ignacio and I remembered my American friend Marilyn who called her neighbor Ignacio “Ineichio”. I wondered if this child would ever hear his name pronounced correctly again; I wondered if he would ever hear his mother calling his name softly to wake him in the morning for another day of school; if his last memory of his mother would be the woman with the jerking shoulders – human turned marionette by the force of her grief. He had screamed for her helplessly as a militiaman pulled him away from the glass of the pecera (the fish bowl) and led him towards the door in the opposite direction smiling like Tom the cat when he had Jerry the mouse just where he wanted him. This little gusano was going to pay.
The cabin became quiet. To our left ocean turned to city in one moment, catching us all off guard. Flat land. Strange land. Oh my God! No turning back! No turning back! Somebody help me!
I know what it feels like to lose my mind, for I lost it descending the airplane steps; metal steps leading to concrete.
I was to look for a man named George. A stranger. Fourteen years of protection from strangers and now my life was in a stranger’s hands. Look for George. Look for George. How do I find George?
A place full of children; girls in a cafeteria; a chain link fence; boys on the other side of the fence. Some girls and boys holding hands through the fence. Brothers and sisters who had just lost their parents being separated by a fence! God help me please! So much pain! God where are you? I want to go back.
I don’t know how long I was out of my mind, out of my body, but somehow someone made sure I got to my final destination, Clarita and Ruben’s apartment in Miami’s Little Havana. My new foster home. Why did they call it that? It looked NOTHING like my Havana!
Half a century has passed and Cuba is again becoming a tourist destination though nothing has changed. The Cuban people are subjugated by a merciless regime that once purported to be Communist and today seems to be flirting with its own version of Capitalism- Capitalism without a shred of democracy.
I say to myself, enough already! Quit looking backward! There is nothing to be gained. For the most part I manage. I stay in the present. But sometimes…the scab comes off and oozes the accumulated pus of decades and I find that like Sara in the bible, a part of me is frozen, like a pillar of salt. It is a child standing still in the desert, craned neck looking behind her with a longing that only a child having been stripped of everything can know.