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As I left him, I passed a line in the pavement where the blasting sun crossed into shade once again. I looked back and the man was in the middle of the street winking and prancing in one spot like a horse in a march. He had grabbed a white handkerchief and was waving it at me. He waved vehemently, as if vigorously flagging me down would somehow motion the breeze’s strength enough to pull me in his direction. I turned, pointing my finger at him again, and continued to walk.

That is when I saw the most beautiful graffiti I had ever seen. I stopped immediately. I no longer cared that the man was still calling after me, waving white cloth, or that my feet were slipping and

sliding in my sandals. I read the graffiti and was dumbstruck by my own rushing thoughts.

“Mientras la ciudad duerme, yo pienso en ti.”

I kept thinking about the person who wrote that beautiful line on the wall and wondered how dark the night must have been to actually write it in the middle of the city. I wondered how quiet the streets must have been in order for the person to be able to paint these words on the side of a building in a city that snores as it sleeps (despite nightfall, a whistling hustle is always present). I wondered what type of courage it took for the artist to sign their signature at the bottom of the piece in a country whose government officials are fiercer in their laws against property destruction than those in Singapore.

I immediately contrasted that imagined moment to the instant I was living – a moment so loud and bright (given the screaming man and the brutal sun). My mind whispered to my subconscious and brazenly reminded me of my own love: something I’d hoped to forget through hard work and isolation.

I promptly sat on the curb and took pictures of the quote. I took pictures of my grandfather’s old office from the area by the graffiti and I lingered. I pouted and I smoked. After 20 minutes, I noticed the man had stopped screaming for me and the street’s normal bustling sounds continued, hushing the city with noise. I wondered what my love was thinking about in that moment.

A year later, and my experiences in Cuba – and the sentiments of love that I dragged around that island – only exist as hazy memories: a fog that every once in awhile opens between the reflections of sun and shadows in the pavement.

The breaks in my haze have come to me through dreams. I had many dreams with my love in them – back turned, only to quickly walk away. Only the gasp of exasperation could calm this love of mine, followed by a shake of the head. Eyes fluttering, I would know not to speak. In my dream, I knew silence was golden and while the city slept, I dreamt.

1896 in 2013

In the winter 2013, I wrote the poem Anochecer and I realized that it greatly reflected the style of the Cuban poets who admired their lovers from afar. Those loves were often unrequited, but loved nonetheless.

In the spirit of those great writers, as a dedication to the Cubans on the island and abroad, and because of the courageousness of the graffiti artist of last summer, here is my Cuban love song.

To S. R.:

How woozy my breath and heavy my heart; I loved you so. But it's over now. You never looked back.

Anochecer

Antes que anochezca
el cielo abre y rompe.
Por el piso todo los vidrios
del horizonte quedan caídos,
cortados como diamantes,
pedacitos de navejas.

Sepas que te amaba.

Te amaba incontrolable
quieta, por mucho tiempo.
Mientras que mis pies caminaba
por los diamantes cortos rudos
de nubes, sol e azul –
no me querías.

Sin cielo
las estrellas, la luna, las galaxias
no existen.
Las cometas, los satélites
no vuelan,
pero no importa sin tu amor.

No había vista,
aire, noche, día.
No había un arriba.
Miré enfrente
pero mi cabeza
pesaba, cerré los ojos.

Por eso insinué,
más plantada,
mis pies por las joyas
las cuales cortaban los pies.
Caminaba,
ojos cerrados.

No me quieres
porque te amaba.
Eso fue mi error.
Y me castigas
por quererte en el pasado
y por siempre decirte la verdad.

Por el cielo, ando.
No hay estrellas, cometas, galaxias
y respiro la materia oscura.
No veo vista, polvo de luz,
siembras cósmicas
y yo miro ciegamente.

Para que sepas,
I give up.
I give in.
I'm done trying.
Hay agua en el aire,
y me llena los pulmones.

La realidad me habla.
Me dice:
“Quieta.”
Camino,
sin dirección.
Antes que anochezca.

I know now that the Cubans who wrote poems in 1895 did so to calm their ever-beating hearts.

They walked quietly, under shady trees and bar-laden windows, in noisy spaces, to contemplate their loves and then, through published words, express their pointed affections to their lovers in a public forum. As I end this article, I remember walking along the streets of Havana in sun-bursting heat, experiencing quiet in noise, finding constancy in a love unrequited, and trying to calm an ever-beating heart. This article is my expression of pointed affection – to a lost love, to Cuba, to the past, and to the unknown.

I wonder if love and struggle will always be a constant for all Cubans.

I wonder if I, a Cuban with no land, will ever love without struggle.

Mientras la ciudad duerme, yo pienso en ti.

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