By Leonid Lopez
The temperature was 2 degrees centigrade, the lowest temperature I’d experienced since arriving in Japan. I was in the town of Nagano, the place where my wife spent the majority of her early childhood and all of her school years up until the University.
As happens with many intelligent people, her dream from a very early age was to leave that remote town where nothing ever happened. Thanks to that dream, she went on to the University instead of remaining there and working in a little shop where she never would have met me.
My in-laws came to welcome us. From the beginning they’ve been very kind to me. Their first gesture was to present me with a coat, a scarf and gloves that were warm enough for winter. It was December 31 and I was hoping to see Santa Claus appear in a sleigh.
Everything there looked just like those postcards or photos of beautiful far-away places that always appeared dreamlike to us in Cuba. As a result, my feelings for that place weren’t the same as those of my wife.
To me, it seemed a paradise of cleanliness and tranquility. It was as if it were a present wrapped in a box and tied with white ribbons; my gift from Santa Claus that my own father would never have been able to give me.
Next came my first experience using chopsticks to eat Japanese food with all of its ordered plates and colors and forms that make of a meal something more than the obligatory satisfaction of corporal need, converting it into a celebration where the spirit can rise and rejoice on the basis of rites that give form and a name to its flight.
Later came the snow and the experience of walking in it, soft and hard at the same time; like the life I was just beginning, like life everywhere, but now with another temperature, with other faces and other rituals.
When we went to a supermarket to do the Christmas shopping, my father-in-law asked me if everything seemed large to me. It was the first time that I realized that the world of such varied offerings didn’t impress me much. I walked with confidence through those places as if I were merely in transit towards something larger.
The enormous words like liberty or happiness still didn’t enter my head. Of course, logic would dictate that I was living in a new world where the mind was still full of astonishment. But it wasn’t really astonishment that I felt most strongly, but rather something like a quiet hunt for the real experiences that would come later, when it was me, and not that other person, assuming the steering wheel of my new life.
But right now, the task was to keep the new boat afloat and find a name to baptize it with. I was still searching out the snowmen in the area around my in-laws house, when one morning I awoke with the cold and heard voices in a strange language and couldn’t recognize the room I was in, or the landscape outside the window.
I wasn’t in Cuba anymore and the snowman was me. Outside the house in the middle of the snow and part of a myth that was beginning to melt, like the dream in my head that was beginning to become a concrete, fixed reality.