Cuba chases me around. I never really expected to be back here again before all hell breaks loose, but here I am. I’m glad today went well, because I needed a win this afternoon. This morning I tried to take some photos of Coppelia (the famou ice cream shop of Fresa y Chocolate fame) then wandered accidentally toward the US Special Interests Section and from there I fell into the old neighborhood.
I stood outside of Casa, my old school for a while. I didn’t go in. I walked past Alex’s house without noticing. I didn’t go inside la esquina de primera y a. None of the ninos were by the fuente. I didn’t stop for croquetas de pollo y una naranja. The woman at the gas station had to count out omy change for me, and even bought a goddamn fiesta cola. Light. Two of them, actually. Goddamn they taste like crap.
Everyone was probably with their madres today anyway. Sometimes I dislike how easily I go unrecognized. I have the same shoes, beach cover up, and tshirts. I go to the same beach and speak the same fractured Spanish. But I have red hair, bangs, a hoop through my nose and 15 fewer pounds to show for the last two years. A lot of the same people are important to me, with a few notable exceptions.
Everything is more affluent this time around. We had lobster my first night. It was the only option, so bottoms up for me! Luckily it was the first food I kept down all day.
There are two channels of HBO, as well as multiple ESPNs. Breakfast is an actual buffet, with real options and more than enough for everyone. Multiple types of bread, plenty of butter substitute. No fighting over the cocoa powder or Nescafe.
There was hot water in the shower. I turned on the cold water anyway. I guess I’m old fashioned like that.
It’s strange not living in the Real World House, or even a reasonable facsimile. I only share my bathroom with one other person. No one barges in unexpectedly. We don’t have the internet, but more importantly, there is no music. There is no dancing. There is no drinking in the shower, no Try a Little Tenderness, no swimming off the Malecon, no practicing drums in the living room.
There are the same flat pillows and scratchy towels. The threadbare bedspreads and choking old guaguas. The politics are the same, although mis compadres know far less about it now than those who came before them. Instead of my balcony, I write from my artificially condicionado’d room, about the same size as the one I shared with four other girls back in the day. Everything is either exactly the same, or exactly different. Are we sure I came back to Cuba? Or is this some other isla?