La Cubana

(for Silvia)

The woman on the corner sells trinkets. Her name is Maria. Maria Guadalupe Rivera (named for Maria, her great-grandmother, a negrita slave woman who worshipped Oshun or as Oshun is known to Catholics, Santa Maria de la Caridad)

The stoops on this block are marked by passages better left unremembered or reimagined. The stoops are filled with many myths of passage from the islands. Maria has always said that it was raining the day she left Cuba, it was in fact sunny. There was no fogged cloak in which she escaped under. Her journey was marked by the sun.

English has no words for that feeling between love and mere attraction. In Spanish, it is  simply querer, a love less strong. Whatever that word may be, that is how she felt when she reached Miami, the first stop on her journey to New York. Maria did not struggle to find that word for Jose, her intended. Instead, it was for Juanita, but those things were not talked about then.

Maria is also known as Abuela. Abuela who prays the rosary and fasts on holidays. She is a woman who was known to be as fertile as cabao. It was the Taino who named the island before Cristobol Colon. Caobana did not roll off of Spanish tongues like cuba.

On the islands, the name for women who cared for each other has been lost to time. Sometimes, Maria called Juanita mi cielo, my sky.

The bus has no marked point of departure (or for that matter, entry). It simply leaves when it decides to and hopefully you are on board. Jose has long passed. Maria, who prays the rosary, is going to Miami.

There is no English word for lost love. Or perhaps the word is regret. To love with everything even through mere pressed ink, paper, envelopes and stamps  is amar in Spanish. There are decades of letters between Maria (who prays the rosary) and Juanita. Juanita (who pours libations on the altar of Shango)  lives near the beach.

For Maria, who once mourned midnight dreams, there is a word for love.