Cuba was vividly alive … the people, the flowers, the ocean, and also the experiences that came my way. Sometimes the contrasts were huge, and took my breath away.
One day I went on a catamaran trip. On the outward leg, there I was in my Speedo, watching the waves and talking to a delightful woman. All was good. I had developed a pinched nerve in my neck a week before flying, but big drugs seemed to be doing the job. I had a delicious lobster lunch with another woman and her daughter, and then settled in for the return trip.
Then the pain. Starting in my left shoulder and then blasting down my arm. On the scale of pain, where 0 is nothing and 10 is excruciating, mine started at 5. No sweat. Half an hour later, it was steady at 7 with bursts to 8. Up and down my arm. My face was a grimace. I just about crushed my upper left arm with my right hand. I moaned inside. And I rocked forward and back.
The depth of these moments was the fact that no one except the captain came over to see how I was. None of the folks I had talked to. No couples. No pretty girls. No friendly senior citizen. No one. Within the physical pain was a horrible loneliness, an abandonment. I knew that there really was nothing medicinal that anyone could do. I just had to wait the rest of the four hours between allowed medication consumption. But I needed a friend, someone to touch me, hold me, talk to me.
Could it be that everyone was so tied up in their own world, so engaged with their loved ones, that no one noticed my agony? I don’t know. I guess that’s possible but I don’t believe it. That sunny Cuban afternoon I lost some faith in my fellow man. And I was so sad because of that. To feel such sorrow that could outstrip my 8 out of 10 was remarkable. Stunning. Moments somehow to cherish.
Day two. The meds had done their job. It was evening. And there was a street carnival in the village beside my hotel. Maybe 200 of us dancing and getting soaked by the foam machine. My newfound Sudbury friends were there, and we boogied. One precious woman, Liz, was trying to rein in my dancing. Such fun. I tend to close my eyes and throw my body parts every which way. Liz would take the first two fingers of her right hand and point them at her eyes … a gesture to get me to open the lids. Again and again, she pointed. I kept my eyes open for awhile. I’d close my eyes. Liz would say “Bruce” and start pointing again. Then she’d gesture to have me contain my wild flailings, to dance like a normal human being. Such a great person, that Liz.
After the festivities wound down, it was time to walk home and I set off. I had had just one drink but I was tired. In the village square, I had a few steps to climb. It was dark and I missed a step – my toe hit the riser and I flew forward, schmucking my head, elbow and hip. For a few seconds, I lay on the cement, stunned. I saw blood. As I tried to come out of the swirl in my head, I heard for the first time in my life my name yelled: “Bruce!” It was Amy, another lovely Sudbury friend. The next thing I knew, hands were under my arms, dragging me to my feet. I slumped to a bench. And then Amy, Angel and Tristan were right beside me. They were going to walk me home to my hotel bungalow.
Amy held my left hand in her right one and I stumbled along the path to my bungalow. The pain and the wooziness opened me to my sorrow, and I cried for Jody. Sob after sob. My loved one was no longer touching me. I was alone. And yet these new friends buoyed me up. They loved me. They would not let me fall. They saw who I was.
Eventually we reached my bungalow and climbed the steps to my room. Amy, Angel and Tristan sat me on my bed and said they wouldn’t leave until they were sure I was all right. Amy got some toilet paper for the cut on my hand. I hugged each of them. “Thank you for helping me.” I think they all smiled. And then they were gone … but their kindness lingered for hours.
So there you have it. Two days in the life of this tiny human being. Loved and lost. Life displayed in rich colours. Both days to be cherished.
Thank you, Cuba.