Friday, June 30, 2006

The Lost City, a Continuation - Chapter 8

Index of Chapters

Chapter 8

The doorbell rang as Aurora was washing dishes. She had been living in this Little Havana home, renting a room from an elderly lady for a week. She didn’t have any money for a deposit but the owner had let it slide. The first month’s rent was paid for with by the Church. She didn’t know where the second month’s rent was going to come from. She knew going to see Fico had been a foolish and destined to fail but it was her only hope. Now she was desperate, but still hopeful. She had finally been able to escape Cuba. Twenty years before, Fico had all but begged her to stay in New York with him. They had loved each other but Aurora didn’t feel comfortable with leaving everything she knew. And the Revolution was creating a whole new Cuba, one where democracy and the blessings of liberty were finally to be bestowed upon the island nation. That dream rapidly devolved into a nightmare.

As an early critic of the young government Aurora found out harshly that dissent was not tolerated. After being arrested she was subjected to a humiliating strip search by a female guard that enjoyed the experience a little too much. She was put in a cell with no bed and no running water, only a hole in the ground that served as a latrine. She was given a hospital-type gown and left to shiver in the cold. After what must have been 48 hours without food, they came for her again. They gave her no explanation and loaded her on the back of a truck along with several other women. They were driven to Mazorra, a notorious mental hospital.

Aurora would learn later that the ordeal that she went through during the subsequent year is called reeducation. She had become counterrevolutionary and thus according to Fidel Castro and his followers she required an attitude adjustment. The adjustments were obtained through a series of electroshock sessions. When they dumped Aurora on the street in Havana 12 months later, she couldn’t remember large stretches of what had happened to her. They had taunted her and abused her physically and mentally. They made her repeat Revolutionary slogans and if her responses were not deemed fast enough she’d have a date with the electroshock machines. Each electroshock session ended with Aurora losing consciousness faster and faster as her body’s tolerance broke down.

Her mother in-law, Doña Cecila, had taken her in and nursed her somewhat back to health. But she left for the States shortly afterwards. Aurora would have left too but she was denied an exit visa each and every time she applied. She was being punished. She couldn’t live within the system and she couldn’t leave. She was a persona non grata. The jewels Doña Cecilia had left her were valuable but on the black market it was hard to obtain a reasonable price for them. She soon ran out of money again. Then one day she noticed a man in a fancy uniform, or rather he noticed her. He was a Soviet officer. He immediately started flirting with her. That night, she put on her best dress and joined him in the Soviet Officers Club. Even through all of the torture and humiliation Aurora was a beautiful woman.

For the next 15 or so years she lived with two different Russians. They weren’t bad men. They were lonely and they were affectionate. The first, Sasha, was a young captain. He was blond haired and blue eyed. Aurora had fond feelings for him but never love. Then in 1972 Sasha was sent back to Russia for good. He wanted to take her with him; he would leave his wife back home and marry her. But Aurora refused. She didn’t want to be a home wrecker and besides she knew she didn’t love him. She had only loved two men in her life and she knew they would be the last two.

Yuri was a Colonel. He came into Aurora’s life shortly after Sasha left. He didn’t have any illusions about love. He was a homosexual living a secret life. A dangerous secret life, because the official Soviet stance with regards to homosexuality was that it was a sin against the people. Aurora was a perfect living companion for him. She’d take care of the household and appear with him at official events. Meanwhile they slept in separate rooms. She, by herself and Yuri with his companion Oscar, who was officially their cook. If Aurora’s past as an undesirable counterrevolutionary was known to the Russians, they never held it against her. Eventually she confided in Yuri, who was not surprised by what she told him.

When the Mariel boatlift came along, Aurora saw her chance to finally get out. Yuri had already told her that he’d be returning to Russia later that year. Oscar had left Yuri for another man and besides Yuri was eligible for retirement after 30 years in the Soviet Armed forces. He agreed to try to help Aurora get on a boat. He’d have to call in some favors from some Cuban army officers but he thought it could be done. Then one day he came to Aurora with a smile and said, “today is the day. You can’t bring anything with you.” Two days later she was on a fishing boat rated for 20 passengers, along with 60 other Cubans and 4 crew heading for Miami. It was a terrible voyage. There was no room to move and the toilet quickly became clogged with feces and vomit.

They never made it to Miami. The Coast Guard stopped the boat and the passengers were transferred to a cutter that offloaded them in Key West. They were counted and put on buses to Miami where immigration officials processed them. Aurora told the interviewer about her past persecution and requested political asylum. Yuri had instructed her to ask for asylum. He said her political problems in Cuba would help her in The States. He also said that she should never mention her relationship with any Russian. That would only raise suspicions. Yuri was right. Aurora was released to the Church after one day in a detention facility. The beds were needed for the thousands that were coming, many of which had considerably more question marks surrounding them than this woman who had been tortured by communists. The interviewer gave her a quarter and the phone number to a priest who could help her obtain food and shelter.

So even though Aurora had “been to hell” as Fico had rightly said in their brief encounter at the University of Miami, she was optimistic. After all she had finally made it to America. She had ridden through beautiful Coral Gables on a bus when she went to visit Fico at the University. She had seen that the United States was a place where one could make a future for oneself. Better late than never.

Aurora went to answer the doorbell and there was a beautiful blond woman standing on the porch holding a bag of groceries.

“My name is Susan, and a priest at the archdiocese told me there was a woman here who needed some assistance. Are you Aurora Fellove?”

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