Music Is

The other day in the middle of class one of my students commented that she likes Eros Ramazzotti. A smile suddenly came over my face--"I like him, too" I commented. Music is everything to me--like books, I associate music with certain time periods of my life. Ramazzotti's music takes me back to my childhood. Today, I purchased the "Musica 'E" album on iTunes...

When I heard the song, "Completamente Enamorados" I thought of better times--my brother, when he was alive, with his young wife and three small children. I thought of his smile and tears came to my eyes.

He had dark hair, like mine...and dark eyes, like mine. We have very similar mouths--full lips and a wide smile. My niece, his daughter, looks exactly like I do: tanned, thin, long dark hair, large eyes and round lips

I can't say much about my brother except that I remember how young he was: tall, tanned, and energetic and when I was little and my mom dressed me up in dresses and walked me along the streets of Guantanamo the women would tell me how handsome my brother was. After I grew up I of course figured out that he was also an active womanizer and most of those women were his lovers. But at four or five, I didn't know: I'd go up to him and say, "Jaime, everyone tells me how handsome you are" and he'd laugh and sit me on his lap and I felt privileged and proud to have such an amazing brother.

I remember his wife--light-brown hair, tall, thin, olive-skinned. Dorothy was beautiful and my eldest nephew has her clear green eyes and our charming, careless smile. We'd play until dusk on the seashore in Caimanera and I was afraid of the little crabs that scuttled across the beach and my nephew collected a few in a bucket and tried to put one on me. I began to cry. I was five years old and he was seven. I ran home, angry, and told my brother. Frowning, he called out to him, scolding, and picked me up and told me, "Don't cry...they're too small to harm you".

And so I wanted to be just like my brother--strong and brave and happy. But, he was too perfect--too beautiful and too energetic and too charismatic and too angelic for this world. Sometimes I fear that my brother was merely an illusion: a type of fleeting soul-candy. I could never get enough of him--my ideal image of what a brother should be. When I entered into the world of consciousness, all of my love and childhood awe was focused him. I always looked over my shoulder--searching for him and his smile...I've always done that, even after I left the country and had grown up. I had hoped that he'd be proud and happy. "You have to meet a man who loves you..." and I think that while he was a womanizer, he was also violently protective of any other man harming me.

Deep down, I'm still five and when I cry I want to run home and tell my brother. The problem is, that my heart is broken because he's not there and every time I look over my shoulder I can't see him. Even feeling him isn't enough...I need his voice and his smile and his laugh and I need him to carry me even though I'm too big for that now.

My protector is gone and I'm left alone and I've never felt so detached from the warm sugar-cane scent of the afternoons that I left behind or the breeze that caressed the palm trees in Manuel Tames and the feeling of the cool night or the tranquil morning as the rooster woke us up. I feel as if that life was centuries ago...I sometimes feel as if my brother was some idyllic figure that never existed, and just as he came briefly into our existence, the cold waters carried him away.

Henry has told me that on his last day here on earth, when he was still breathing in a coma, his face became swollen--monstrous-like.

Our preoccupation with our brother's face sounds superficial, but looks in this family carry far more weight than mere flesh. Beauty and a streak of self-destructiveness runs in our veins. We're proud, conceited, and brave...and being beautiful, in spite of cancer and communism and life's blows--as bad as this sounds to some--is our way of fighting back.

So when I got the call late at night from my mother, calmly telling me about my brother's face, I knew he'd lost his fight with cancer.

I'm not that unique--other's find me unique, though. I'm the only one I know who can walk in stilettos all day--in cobblestone and in the snow, and when I laugh and smile, it's intoxicating.

But I'm not unique...in many ways I carry my brother's soul within me. Maybe that was the plan, that he wasn't supposed to be here for that long and I'm supposed to somehow figure out toss my head back and laugh--like he did. We look so much like him--my niece, myself, and my nephews.

I imagine that he's watching me, silently, and I imagine that he's entertained by just how much I resemble him. He probably chuckles to himself at my strange mix of stubborness, aggressiveness, and debilitating sensitivity. He probably laughs at the fact that, like him, I can flirt and enslave and yet give myself entirely to one person. I imagine he likes Philip very much...I imagine he's proud of me and always has been since he found out that at the age of 20, he'd have a baby sister.

I keep listening to the album, and with each song my life in Cuba and with him doesn't seem that far...

aeka at 1:36 p.m.