Mom: How was your trip?
Me: It was fabulous!
Mom: That's nice. What was it like in Cayo Coco?
Me: Paradise. I'm not exaggerating, it's just that gorgeous. It's a secluded island off the mainland that is virtually untouched, breathtakingly beautiful and serene, and the beach...oh my God, the beach it's...
Mom: It's better than Varadero?
Me: Better? It's what I imagine Heaven to look li—
Mom: Hand me my purse! I'm booking a ticket now!
So it's not really that difficult. My mom loves Cuba. She's been going there since the early 90s, when the country really started to attract foreigners for all-inclusive vacations, following the special period when they were barely surviving on fried banana and grapefruit skins, or whatever else they could eat to stay alive. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Cuba faced some severe shortages in energy resources and lost 80% of its imports. It was a time of absolute despair for many. Attracting tourists was one of the ways that Cuba saved itself from a complete collapse.
She's one of those tourists that thrives on giving to the Cubans and a favourite of all the hotel maids. She'll pack a suitcase overflowing with gifts of all kinds, and speak a mix of Spanish, French and Portuguese (sometimes even Latin...) to the locals who struggle to understand her, but love her nonetheless (maybe even more so because of her effort). She'll spend 85% of her time on the beach and in the water, hence the reason I sometimes call her The Dolphin Lady.
Like I mentioned earlier, it had been a tough year. We had all experienced the hardships of loving and living with someone who had an undetermined death sentence. We had weathered his rage, his fears, his many attempts to cure himself with the aid of chemicals, or naturally, with his macrobiotic diet, to the very end when he had started to let go and just accepted his fate. All this while trying to live our lives as best as we could and to overcome all the additional challenges that destiny throws your way.
I think that this was part of the reason that she got so ill, afterwards. It was, in a way, her body just letting go of everything, including its self-defense mechanism. Much like the country that had barely survived a rush of misfortunes, she would find an alternative way of persevering without what she had grown familiar to, and begin a new life. A different life, but a sustainable one nonetheless.
More after the jump...
She's punctual and that's an understatement. Whenever we travel together, we need to be at the airport early and by early I mean like five hours early. Even if she lives about twelve minutes away from the airport and we run no risk of getting struck in traffic or anything like that. By the time our flight departs, I've usually read two entire magazines back-to-back and seen every overpriced neck pillow that the airport is selling.
There are also the many just-in-case-the-seatbelt-sign-never-goes-off bathroom breaks before we board. It's like her bladder is in overdrive and has shrunk, and can only hold in about two teaspoons of liquid at a time.
"Where are the tags for the suitcases? Okay, fill them out, will you? I'll be in the bathroom!"
"Oh, look...a brochure on Jamaica. Those are some nice waterfalls. Ooh, that coffee went right through me! Going to the bathroom!"
"Did they call us to board yet?"
"No, mom, that was the flight to Varadero."
"Watch my stuff, going to bathroom just in case!"
"Those are some nice summer hats. Only five bucks...do you think I should?" hands me money, "Go pay for it, I'll be in the bathroom!"
"That's our flight!"
"No, mom, that's for Santa Lucia."
"What time is it?"
"Quarter past twelve."
"I haven't been to the bathroom is ages! Be right back!"
"Yup, that is us!"
"Look at that lineup! We can go to the back of the line. What's the rush? We're all leaving at the same time! Gives me the opportunity to go to the bathroom again...be right back!"
So, obviously dolphin people have a weird relationship with water.
|Ten trips to the bathroom, right there.|
At last we had boarded. Our carry-on luggage was tucked into the overhead compartment and we were fastening our seatbelts. I noticed a woman across the aisle from us. I don't know she stood out but she did. She was traveling alone, it seemed. While everyone seemed to be accompanied by at least one person and interacting with them, she was staring silently out the window. She would stay silent for the entire flight.
As soon as we had landed and everyone was pushing and shoving to squeeze into the aisle to retrieve their belongings, and rush out of the plane, the woman was busy turning on her cell phone. I heard her voice and it was loud and clear.
"Eduardo? Mi amor! Hello? Yes, I've landed, I'm here! Yes! Okay...see you soon mi amor!"
This is when I understood. Maybe I wouldn't have caught on or even noticed hadn't I read everything that I did online. She was a Yuma. She had a Cuban boyfriend. This was the future that I anticipated? The thing is, there was nothing glamorous about her life. She seemed tired and she seemed on edge.
"Did you just call someone in Cuba?" asked a female passenger next to her.
She appeared to be reluctant to answer but she finally nodded.
"Your phone works in Cuba?" the woman pressed on.
"Yes." lonely lady answered and relaxed a bit "My bo...my friend, I called my friend."
"Cubans have phones?" asked the first-time traveler to Cuba.
"Yes. Sometimes. I bought him his phone because they're expensive."
Uncomfortable silence. Judgmental looks. That was the end of that conversation.
I have no idea why destiny decided to give me a preview of what was to come, but it did. Sometimes life really is stranger than fiction.
We arrived at the hotel in the late afternoon. Alejandro was nowhere in sight. It was three days before August 1st. I just hoped that I was here on time.