Curled into warm, comforting arms, I feel safe, calm and nurtured. He is quiet, still and fearless of the fever that has taken me over today. Nothing to do, nowhere to go, and completely at peace as thunder trembles across the late afternoon sky. Roosters call out to each other in orchestras of dogs barking, birds tweeting and the powerful breath of Oya moving through the trees. I am alive in my sense feeling as if my body is dying in it’s fight. I’ve been fighting a low grade fever all week, and today, my fever went up from 99 to 102 within a few hours. When my friend heard, he came immediately to be with me. My sister from another mister, who owns the casita where I am staying comes in with water and a thermometer. They are both obviously concerned watching me shiver, then sweat, being hot and cold and completely out of energy. We discuss if it’s gripe, or dengue fever, both of which are widespread in Trinidad at the moment, but no one mentions CoVid of course. When she leaves, he gently strokes my hair as I close my eyes to try to rest.
Being sick here is not fun, it’s never fun to be sick. Yet, I can’t help but reflect on how many times I’ve been sick and alone at home, with no one to bring me tea or stroke my hair. The contrast to this and other moments I’ve had in Cuba being sick is impossible to miss.
As he touches my head, I slip into the fever and focus on my breath. A cascade of visions finds me in the stillness: memories of lost loves, faces of people I love who have left the planet in the past few years, moments cherished, gone forever, but still alive inside of me. Flashes of faces and places, life passing in front of me once again in the raging fever that is taking me over. I feel his hand touch my face and wipe away a single tear. I inhale deep and resolve not to let the grief take me over as I choke back the tears. I know he feels me, but he says nothing and asks for nothing, as always.
He pulls me close to him and sits watching me. Even being sick, I wish time could stop here for a very long extended pause, but time waits for no one. It’s been so long since I’ve felt this safe and nurtured by a man. There’s an easy friendship with him, tender, and absolutely free of expectations of any kind. We share something beautiful and magical in the dance that connects us deeply. He has had complete respect and honored my boundaries without any kind of pressure which is just refreshing on so many levels. Opening my eyes and looking up at him, I find him gazing at me with what seems to be an amazed wonder.
“Porque?” (Why?) he says to me with an almost sad look in his eyes.
“Porque que?” (Why what?) I respond closing my eyes again with the pressure behind my eyes hurting too much.
“Porque eres tanto bueno,” (Why are you so good?) he responds, putting emphasis on the tanto, as I open my eyes again a little surprised.
“Eres buena, buena, buena, me encanta todo contigo,” (You are good, good good and I enjoy everything with you.) he continues in English. “I wish I had met you before. I feel so good with you.”
I don’t really know how to respond, so I close my eyes again not wanting to sink into the emotional rollercoaster those words start to stir up inside of me. For the past 10 days, he’s been my dance buddy, and a very attentive companion, walking me home at night to be sure I am safe. My hero coming to find me to walk with me during night time black outs and late nights out dancing; my teacher, friend and partner in the dance, always on call. We’ve enjoyed a week of dancing and becoming friends, but in a few short days I’ll be leaving the island. After the horrors I went through with my last Cuban partner, and the years it has taken me to recover, I’m not at all ready for more than friendship with any man in Cuba. More so, we both know he’s already well in motion to leave Cuba for a country very far away. His big opportunity to leave Cuba is finally on the horizon. I’ll miss our long talks and walks under the moonlight, and more than anything the dancing.
I don’t want to talk or think about any of that. I just want to savor these moments: the way he smells, the tender strength of his hands, the sounds around me, the companionship and comfort he’s offering me, and the memories of our shared dance passion swirling around inside of me as this fever does it’s job.
My first visit to my heart’s home in over two years since CoVid is coming to a close and my heart feels like it’s breaking. The ache this place leaves me with is profoundly painful. The sounds, the energy, the connection to nature at every moment, the sensuality, companionship, and playfulness that is so present here is at the core of who I am. When I leave, I feel lost, isolated and empty.
Thanks to the Biden administrations changes, at least now coming to Trinidad may be easier and more affordable next time if flights again begin coming into Cienfuegos and Santa Clara again, but as more and more of my friends leave Cuba, I wonder how it will be when they have all gone. Love and friendship are forever. They never change through distance and time, but it is the sharing of these special moments, being there for each other that creates comfort and unbreakable bonds together.