Sure, I’ve been to places. I’ve traveled by car and plane and ship and train. I’ve experienced new cultures, tasted their food and danced to their music. But, even after visiting the most amazing cities in the world, I return to my birth place with an indescribable feeling of joy and yearning, which I keep to myself.
You see, I don’t want her to know how much I love her, for she will start taking me for granted. Even when returning from a long trip and she envelopes me in a suffocating bear hug of humidity and sun, I don’t let her see me smile. Instead, I bend at the waist and pretend to have a heat stroke. And when I drive over the causeway that lets me see her expansive flatness, I look away in the hopes that she will feel insecure and regret not having implants…or hills.
There are only three cities in the world that, if the circumstances were right, would cause me to pack pictures of the downtown skyline and a year supply of the locally produced merenguitos and mariquitas that Publix displays on those metal trees by the check-out line. Just three.
But, really, who am I kidding? I could never leave her…at least not permanently.
It’s more than nostalgia. It is more than the proximity to the island nation that I’ve never stepped foot on, but I claim as my true nationality. It is more than the rampant corruption and the sports teams that cause more stress than distraction. It is certainly more than the traffic and the drivers that use a “blue toof.”
It’s my home. It’s where my skin doesn’t fall off. It’s where I get sand in my shoes, instead of yellow snow. It’s where, if I don’t like the weather, I can just cross the street. It’s where hurricanes, the real kind, bring us together. It’s where police officers make more money than news anchors and celebrities come to get photographed accidentally.
During one of my recent departures from my beloved metropolis, I made my normal mad dash to a dining establishment in the airport. I always order the same thing: a small espresso with milk and a guava pastry. It’s a ritual I take very seriously do to the fact that (a.) no place has these items readily available at a piping hot temperature and (b.) if something, God forbid, were to happen to me, at least I had my absolute favorite snack in the world.
As I took a bite out of my flaky piece of heaven, it hit me like the first time I walked through a famous Las Vegas hotel and wept when I realized that finally, someone had thought of my wants and needs. It hit me that Miami is exactly like a pastelito de guayaba from La Carreta.
It is pretty from the outside of a glass casing. It sparks curiosity, “will it be good?” “Is it hot?” “But how hot?” Only, once they toss it in a white paper bag, it loses a bit of its allure. And then when you stick your hand in the bag and get it full of stickiness, you realize this endeavor is more complicated than you thought. It’s not until you stick the thing in your mouth and let the flavors swirl around – and let half of it fall on your shirt that you fully understand that, although painfully awkward and inconvenient, that was the best shit you’ve ever had in your life.
Bienvenido a Miami.
(Originally posted July 11, 2010)