When I was much younger, a cousin came from New York to visit.
I thought she was the coolest.
She had this amazing style. Somehow she could wear black and not look like some gothic anything.
This was pre-Matrix, but she didn’t look like she came from there.
When I grew up, I wanted to be her.
I became enamored of all things New York and fell in love with the color black.
As I grew older I found my own style, but always held a special place in my heart for that mysterious cousin in black.
Eventually, she became a distant memory that came flying forward during one of my trips to Miami.
She and I met for breakfast at Versailles on Calle Ocho and spent the day together.
She was still so New York.
She was exactly the way I remembered her.
I still thought she was super cool.
When I was in Miami preparing for my trip to Cuba, she was there for me asking about what hopes and expectations I had for my trip.
When I came back, she was there to ask how it went.
When I wanted to move there, it would have been to her house.
(If I can find a way to move there in the next few years, it will be to her house first while looking for a place of my own.)
On this latest trip, it was her house I stayed in.
She went out of her way to make me feel comfortable and welcome and at home.
And I so did.
She gave me so much more than a place to sleep in between my many Miami adventures, she gave me her time and her energy and her ears.
She has this line she says (with all the excitement you can imagine) that I just love: I am going to say nothing and you tell me everything!
She is super thoughtful and aware and gives so much of herself I was overwhelmed by how loved I felt.
She took me to breakfast (at Versailles on Calle 8, of course) and we talked.
She took me shopping to be sure I would have my café in the mornings when she wasn’t there.
She took me to the beach and we talked.
Not just any beach, either. She took me to “El Farito” (The Lighthouse) on Key Biscayne which is “a classic Cuban beach” because she understood how much I love doing Cuban things.
We talked A LOT. About everything. She asked me HOW I could POSSIBLY read at the beach when I was surrounded by such beauty?
She asked what it was like for me in California.
She asked if I wanted to go to South Beach.
She shared her life experiences with me.
She is fiercely Cuban and fiercely American and fiercely New York and … well, she’s fierce.
She still wears black. In Miami.
I love that she has maintained her New York cool in one of the hottest cities in the continental U.S.
There were moments when she made me want to cry because she recalled something I had said years before and asked me how I felt about it now. Deep things and how had they changed for better or worse?
Sometimes she didn’t agree with something I said, but it didn’t matter because I knew she was still hearing me.
I didn’t realize what a rare thing that was for me until I was presented with it.
She worked hard to ensure that my trip was everything I had hoped it would be.
There were moments where it was almost difficult for me to receive such an outpouring of “What do you want? I’ll try to make it happen.” Not that she ever uttered those exact words, but there were moments that I would just be sharing my reflections on one experience or another and, like magic, she could see past the thought into some deep desire I had and would try to make it happen for me. I can’t even explain it. Sometimes she could see what I wanted even better than I could.
She was telling me about a place that had “Cuban Sushi” and my face must have lit up because later she asked if I would like to go there and when we tried to go and the place was closed, she found another place with “Cuban-inspired Maki” and we went there instead. While we were there, I asked what Sake tasted like because I’d never had it. She described it to me, but then ordered some for us to share so that I could try it. It was such a small thing, and yet it was huge.
She had never been to Carnaval on The Mile and was happy to join me for part of it.
She felt comfortable enough to leave me enjoying a band while she went to check out a few different vendors (including her landlord who makes jewelry and had a booth there). She patiently sat on a bench while I danced to my heart’s content to the band I had flown across the country to see (Conjunto Progreso).
I find her incredibly inspiring. She is amazing in ways that I can only hope to be.
She is genuine and sweet and beyond intelligent.
I consider myself lucky to be related to her.
I had plenty of other magical experiences on my trip, but if all I had done was spent the few days I did with my Prima then I would have considered it a wonderful trip.