I’ve lived here and there. I’ve been a voice asking permission to leave my country and an exile waiting for permission to enter. The machine has crushed me between both sides of its serrated cogs: for being outside of, and for deciding to stay in, my Island. I went to the consulate to pay the high monthly tariffs to stay in another country, and have also faced the costs of return, the enormous personal sum of being a returnee. For two years I looked at the Island in the distance and faced the dilemma of whether I could drink the “Coca-Cola of forgetting” or the “cane juice of nostalgia”, but neither of the two went down my throat. I preferred the bittersweet taste of this reality.
I have nightmares where I go through Cuban customs and someone in uniform leads me to a grey room. Surrounded by unpainted walls and a huge photo of Fidel Castro, they take my passport and tell me that if I come in I can never again travel to another destination. All this is explained to me by an official with a sweaty face, a pistol on his hip, and a ballpoint pen sticking out of his pocket. I have a presentiment that I will spend eternity facing this being of sullen words, with no opportunity to pass through the door into the room where my family is waiting for me. The anxiety rises to the point where I wake up and verify that I am in my house, still prey, but happy to be back.
This obsessive dream alternates with another where they will not let me fly to my own country. I am in a far away airport, trying to board a plane destined for Havana. The girl who checks the tickets tells me I cannot depart. “We have orders not to let you board”, she concludes, without the dramatic weight of someone who has just notified another of their expatriate status. There is no one around to appeal to while the electronic blackboards display the next departures for New York, Buenos Aires, Berlin. I sit and put my suitcase between my legs so I can lean on it and try to sleep. This can’t be true, I tell myself, I have to rest and when I wake up I’ll be in the cabin thousands of feet in the sky.
I’ve tried tea with lime, reading stories of pilots before going to bed, playing relaxing music in the room. But the only thing that will end this oneiric sequence of being shut in and forced out, is the end of the immigration restrictions for Cubans. I want to have the right to travel, like I want to be able to sleep without seeing someone in uniform taking my passport, and without hearing the roar of an airplane as it takes off, leaving me in a foreign land.