“They’ll bring me in.” José points to the two policemen standing in front of the building. He leans down to kiss her.
Jenna, the New Yorker, is directed into the screening cage of the American Consulate in Havana. The basketball-breasted guard holds out her hand. “Pasaporte.” Takes her passport, feels her up, checks for weapons. Her hands are sweaty, hot, and rough. She sighs out loud, purses her lips, lets Jenna through.
Jenna looks up each time the door opens. She is terrified they won’t be able to know which one is him, but they find him from the long line of Cubans waiting down the street, bring him in, sit José down next to her, ask him the required questions.
“¿Quién es el presidente de los Estados Unidos?”
The Consulate interviewer’s Spanish is terrible. Bad accent. The Cuban doesn’t speak any English.
“Felicidades,” the interviewer says after more such questions. “Tu estás en lo correcto, por ciento.” She almost cries. She had practiced with him—flash-cards, tapes, endless corrections and repetitions, games to keep his attention focused. It was so tedious. She wanted to scream, but she dreamed of their life together.
“Wait one hour; his papers will be ready,” the interviewer says to her. He won’t wait. The Cuban neurosurgeon is going back to the hospital to work, she thinks. In the States, she knows, he’ll have to take medical courses, pass the required exams, get his license, all in English. She can’t think of that now.
José leans down and kisses the top of her head. They part.
For two years they planned for him to come to the States—paperwork after paperwork, the same information repeated again and again, appointments, interviews, xeroxed photos, phone bills, medical exams, and money, so much money. How many times they wanted to touch each other. Two years of preparation.
Jenna stops a passerby, “Is this the International Waiting Room of JFK, Terminal 4?” The woman nods and hurries on, nose down, leaning forward. Its smell, like wet clothes, reminds her of Lusmilla’s, his sister’s bedroom in Havana with criss-crossed laundry lines she had to fight through alone to get into bed, waiting for him. It’s hard for her to catch her breath in the dank air. No windows, only boarded up squares along the opposite wall where an old man slumps, dead or alive, along a row of rickety wooden chairs. She takes out her wallet.
“Forty-five dollars coming here, forty-five more going home.” She clenches her teeth.
She looks up at the exit door and remembers the time he didn’t show. Said he got sick in the Havana Airport. She sniffs, rubs her eyes, shakes her head.
“Marriage in ninety days or back to Cuba,” the Consulate interviewer had said to her, handing her the Cuban’s treasured manilla envelope. Of course they’ll get married. She never thought she’d be here again, in love at sixty-three.
The door buzzes, opens, and he steps out, smiling his beautiful, shy grin she has waited so long to see again, swinging only one small, battered suitcase.
‘Where are all your things?” Jenna asks, her eyes wide.
“In Cuba, of course. Where do you think they are?”
He leans down to kiss her.