Maria Matienzo Puerta
Anytime anyone mentions reincarnation, I immediately think of the experiences my girlfriend and I have gone through for more than six months. We’ve had to haul boxes over here and boxes over there. When we couldn’t stay at one place anymore, we’d have to look for another place to rent.
‘Sleep a few days in the living room of my house until you find something,’ we were told more than once. Then there was the aunt who could have offered us six whole months of tranquility – but that didn’t happen.
We’ve seen the face of compassion in a few friends and even acquaintances, as well as that of a granny, later transformed into a witch. Then too, there’s been wearisome hard labor to earn a little money, and always the same question: “Are you from Havana?” followed by the same tired reply: “Yes, we’re from Havana.”
I’ve opted for a mystical religious explanation, because I couldn’t find one in worldly reality: It must have been that we -in previous lives- were gypsies, or heretics fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. And now, dragging debts behind, we continue living like nomads.
We were both born in the most beautiful capital we’ve ever seen (given we haven’t visited any other). One of us was born near the Vedado neighborhood and the other one in the mythical community of Luyano. However, neither of us was graced with an inheritance or the legacy of an aristocratic last name.
She has a college degree, like me. She is a sensitive woman, like me. We were both wardrobe coordinators with an aquatic ballet company. But don’t be misled by that title, indicating that we were somehow the designers and tailors of swimsuits, or had the pleasure one would associate with working with dancers; that’s to say, nor did we get to help them dress.
Our job was simply to load up bags full of wet clothes and towels every time they completed their performance, and then put the soaked swimsuits up to dry in the place where we slept that season.
The pay? A fortune of thirty dollars a month, which didn’t help us out too much, because what we needed was a place to live.
By this time I had left the yoke of a violent husband and my girlfriend’s grandma welcomed us into her home in the Guanabacoa neighborhood of Havana. There, we believed our story would lead to a “happy ever after” ending. The plan was to help out and make our home there together with the old woman.
But then one day we discovered that we were living with Snow White’s evil stepmother, and that -in addition to wanting us to take a bite of the poisoned apple- she was trying to squeeze everything out of us that she could, to the point of breaking us up and leaving us bitter.
We took off, and again found ourselves in the middle of the street.
Luckily though, several friends allowed us to crash with them a few days here and a few days there. Some of them had space for us to rest our heads and to store our belongings – which while indispensable, doubled our physical space.
Our relatives, absent or embarrassed over our illness of loving each other, could do no more than observe how our soap opera existence would conclude.
My girlfriend and I -doubles for gypsies at some moments or heretics at others, sometimes exhausted, other times irritated- preferred to preserve our infatuation over the negative thoughts and all the emotional contamination. We wanted to make looking at the sea or the stars become a habit and to find comfort at the same time.
We have almost gotten through this pilgrimage, and though we’re still unable to fulfill some of our dreams, I believe that we’re coming close to settling our karmic debt, though we’re paying our weight in gold.