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We Are Fearless

July 8, 2014

She and I stood amid the swirling gaggle of strangers. The fragments of conversations in a foreign tongue reinforced the feeling of being completely, hopelessly out of place. I concentrated on the glass display case in front of me, replete with baked goods, and studied each hand-lettered label in a desperate attempt to locate a recognizable root word to identify the contents on display. The harder I concentrated, the less the room tilted and skewed.

If you were to visit only one Cuban bakery in this city, this should be the one, the online directory had proclaimed. Well, here we were. She wanted an authentic Cuban coffee, and something sweet and yummy to go with it. This place sure looked like it could fulfill that need, if we could only communicate our desire to one of the bustling ladies working the counter.

She stood beside me quietly, taking in the whole scene. She was calm and seemed totally relaxed in her environment as I tried not to get trampled by determined, enthusiastic patrons. Almost before I knew what had transpired, she turned to a lady beside her and asked if she spoke English. Her gentle manner and sweet smile invoked a returned smile and a friendly response- “Yes, a little!”

Through broken, halting, and over-simplified English, my dear wife enjoyed a full, flowing conversation with the dear lady about what pastries she recommended, how many children she had, where she was from, how long she had lived here, and what her husband did for work. She then was introduced to the husband and obtained recommendations on how to order her coffee. Just when I thought our encounter with the local residents was over, he reappeared and handed my wife a torn scrap of paper with a telephone number scribbled on it. “Call us anytime. You need anything, you call.”

We leave the bakery with our selections (a slice of Key Lime pie for me, ’cause it was labeled “Key Lime pie”, and I recognized that.) and I shake my head in near disbelief. “I can’t take you anywhere!” I joke with her. “Whaaat?” she responds in mock defensiveness.

She is a mystery to me. This fascinating woman that I am married to. She has no fear. How does she do it? How can she just strike up a conversation with a stranger? Not only a stranger, but a stranger that speaks limited English? Amazing. She has abilities that are far beyond me, and for which I am quite envious.

As we step off the elevator to our fifth floor apartment, an idea suddenly comes to me. “Hey, lets go check out the roof!” We are new tenants in the building, and have been wanting to explore. However, she is not completely sure of my idea. She pauses noticeably, somewhat frozen by this new idea sprung upon her. I breeze through the stairwell door with a “C’mon, it’ll be fun!”

The final flight of stairs end at a door that is held ajar with a brick. It’s practically an invitation. There’s a sign beside the door that says STOP at the top of it, so I don’t read the rest. I push the door open and stride out onto roof. The oppressive heat and humidity of the day have passed, and the lights of the city twinkle all around. The view is amazing. As my eyes adjust to the night, I begin navigating around the various pipes and things mounted to the rubber mat covering.

She cautiously steps out onto the roof and looks around. Her shoulders are hunched. “Is…is the building…swaying? It feels like its moving.” I assure her that the building is definitely not swaying as I circumnavigate a puddle and head toward the front of the building. Guys on third shift are working on the high-rise being built two doors down. Flickers and pulses of light are cast on the surrounding hotels and office buildings from their welders. I can see shadowy shapes of hard-hatted workmen among the structure. I wonder if they can see me, their night-time rooftop accomplice. I reach the front of the building and marvel at the view of the street, the marina, and the vast darkness of the ocean beyond.

Then I realize that I am alone. Sigh.



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