Last Wednesday was a good, good day.
Kade is doing his project on recreation in Cuba, so it was only a matter of time before running into the ninos, the skate kids Mi les befriended who were the inspiration for Cuba Skate. I hung back and searched faces while Kade chatted them up and started taking photos. At first they seemed suspicious of us, but as soon as one kid saw a picture where he looked good, the entire mood changed. Suddenly no one was lounging in the shade, sitting on boards or staring lazily at the rollerbladers. Everybody was up and showing off, doing tricks and mugging for the camera. As Kade found a few guys who speak English, a familiar lanky Cuban skated up: Yordi.
There was no question it was him. Oye, Yordi. He stared at me like I was an alien trying to take his wallet. Que bola, asere? Now sure I wasn’t addressing him by accident, he squinted at me for a minute. The look on his face changed from suspicion to Holy Shit pretty quickly, and I got a big hug and a how’s everything? Suddenly we were talking plans, and this place feels a bit more normal. A bit more mine. He skated around, vogueing for my pictures and flirting for the camera.
Yordi looks so much older. Head of big blond curls, distinct angular face, still rail thin. He’s clearly looked up to, and he has even more swagger than before. I’m sure there are more tattoos, and more skipping school. It’s amazing to me how skaters have the same swagger, no matter where they are in the world, how much money or supplies they have, or even what they wear.
It’s nice to see somebody from before and not feel like it was all a dream. Hector remembers me, but I’m in his photos, he knew I was coming, and I saw him when he spoke on campus. But I ran into his son and was too timid to say hi, even though I’m pretty sure Gabby knew something was up. I took a picture of Rueben, and I’m pretty sure neither of us recognized each other. I haven’t yet worked up the guts to go to the corner of primera y a, or to go up Alex’s front walk. I expected Faya not to remember me, but that doesn’t make it feel any less weird to keep this place in mental amber and have it not remember me back.
The ninos, after all, were among some of the people I truly trusted and felt comfortable with. They reminded me of my cousins who skate and are a little older than them. More importantly, in a city where mostly I am seen as a woman, a tourist, and wealthy person, they made me feel like Delia.
There’s something comforting about finding my own way, chatting people up in Spanish, stopping for snacks whenever I feel like it, and seeing familiar faces that remember me back.