Friday, July 6, 2012


My co-worker and I, along with a couple new friends we'd made on the trip, had not wanted to let the trip end. On the bus, in the airport, on the plane, we kept the party going with Cristal (the Cuban beer...not the champagne), Bucanero and Pina Colada juice-boxes. The rest of the plane didn't seem quite as impressed with us as we were with ourselves but our transformative week in Cuba had taught us not to worry about the judgment of others (or had taught us to be oblivious, drunk tourists...the jury is still out on that one). But when we touched down in Toronto at 2am, tired, sunburnt, hung-over and cold, we had to admit the party was over.

When I rolled into my apartment, I was hit with a feeling of total emptiness (and not just because my roommate had already gone home to Calgary for the holidays). This was an emptiness that was new to me at the time but that would become an all-too-familiar post-Cuba-feeling over the years. It felt like somebody had simultaneously hit me in the stomach with a wrecking ball, turned my skin inside out and filled me up with a frozen yet completely effective painkiller. I assumed this strange combination of extreme pain and total numbness was just a symptom of exhaustion and flopped into my bed. But every time I closed my eyes, Juan's cheshire-cat grin floated up out of the darkness. I cursed his 200 glowing teeth and waited for them to fade away so I could fade into sleep. Sleep eventually did arrive (and lasted well into the afternoon of the following day) but the visions of that ridiculously charming smile of his were not going to be wiped away so easily.

At about 3am, the smile-visions transform from happy memories to toothy hauntings
The following day was a back-and-forth mess of emotions. I played my resort cd on repeat at full-volume, hopelessly trying to remember all the dance moves I'd learned. I posted all my photos on facebook and looked at them over and over and over. I thought about Juan, I told myself to stop thinking about him, I thought about him some more, I told myself to pull myself together and remember that he works at a resort, my 'most amazing week ever' was his week after week after week, a little part of my brain piped up with 'maybe this was different, maybe I was special', my brain's steering committee not only shot down that idea, they shot the little part that dared to think it. I emptied the sand out of my suitcase and a small thistle stuck to my hand, this made me think about when I accidentally got stuck in a patch of beach thistles and he was laughing too hard to help me. I wondered if I should keep this thistle as a souvenir of that time. My brain actually slapped itself at that point.

After a few hours of this I decided I might as well try emailing him, just to say hi, tell him that our time together honestly meant something to me, that I seriously wanted to come back. I knew that he didn't really have much access to email, just a very occasional visit to the 6CUC an hour computer at the resort. I reminded myself that he only made a few CUCs a day, that a lack of response wasn't a sign of anything other than the reality of his financial situation. That I shouldn't be surprised or hurt if I never heard from him again. That I should just enjoy the memory of him and not ruin it by hanging on.That I should...

He interrupted my thoughts with an email. A run-on sentence clearly written at top, limited-internet-access speed. He told me he'd be waiting for me, that he'd make my next trip even more perfect, that he missed me.

I jumped up happily and ran to retrieve the beach thistle from the garbage. At that point I had no idea what I should be clinging to... I just knew I wasn't ready to throw anything away.

1 comment:

  1. OMG I love your blog, especially because I'm going through the exact same thing as your discribing. It's crazy. I'm missing Cuba so much that I've already booked my next trip.