Blue-finned cars with white walled tires roll down streets that rumble in protest against years of use with no nourishment. Walls are decorated with bright scenes of dancing figures and the music that floats down the alleyways seems to accompany the slow swaying of their hips. The smell of the sea carries on it the promise of change.
This is you, Cuba. At least it is in my imagination.
Will I ever be able to truly know you? Will I one day get to drag my toes through your warm sands? Will you tousle and caress my hair with a sea breeze whose winds dance in a cadence as lilting as the Spanish secrets that it whispers?
When will I know your warm touch on my face? Will we ever meet in person? When will I, that adoring American who spent their teenage years alternating between stories of the horrors of Cuban communism and worshiping the movie Dirty Dancing Havana Nights get to meet you face to face?
Will I ever get to decide for myself if I love you?
Despite your proximity and your familiarity you are the forbidden lover. The one who is perpetually kept at an arms distance, but the one who has lit a fire in my heart. If I touch, will I get burned like you burnt the others?
People left you floating on rafts. They sunned themselves as they were leisurely washed onto the shores of Florida. They traded their ham sandwiches and sweetened words for hospitality on other shores. But I know it wasn’t you who drove them away from your warm embrace.
It was forces beyond your control. It was embargoes, political systems, and misallocated resources that were held above your head and manipulated behind the curtains. You were merely the stage on which the marionettes danced. And they danced. They danced until they severed their strings, fashioned their own legs, and buttressed their lives independent of the influence of others.
So here we stand. I know you’ve changed. Your fire flows through the veins of those who dance with you. Their legs hardened from balancing in the ebbs and flows of your tide. They, sway in rhythm to the ideologies of their time. Like a mistress waiting backstage to emerge and claim her dance.
They come, they stay, and some they go away.
But will I ever get that choice, Cuba? When will I meet you face to face? The forbidden lover. Never hemmed in because you never play by the rules. When is it my turn to love you?