Azucar in the Guest House
“Sarita, I have a large package for you,” said Garcia the mailman. “I can tell by your obvious expression, this must be very important to you.” He hands her the box along with a few pieces of mail.
“Gracias Señor Garcia,” she responds looking at the address with a smile.
“I can smell your abuella is preparing dinner, please tell her I said hello.”
“Si, Señor Garcia, I will tell my grandmother when I go inside.”
Sara, or Sarita as she is known by friends and family in the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood, waited for Garcia to close the gate and drive to the next house. She glanced once more at the package and then ran toward the guest house in the back. In the process, she dropped the mail on the steps, and permeated the aromatic scent of jasmine bushes aside the narrow path of her abuella’s casa.
Inside the guest house Sara prepared to open the package that arrived from New York. First, she looked out the window to make sure her abuella didn’t see the contents of the package. She holds the highest respect for her abuella, now 78, who raised her since she was seven. Sara left Cuba on a boat with her mother and two cousins for the shores of Florida. They were fifty miles away from freedom when the boat capsized in a midnight storm. A line of pre-dawn pedestrian clouds were enhanced by bright flashes. Her cousin looked up and yelled to the sky where a United States Coast Guard helicopter spotted them. Soon a coast guard vessel arrived and brought them to Miami. On the ship Sara looked at her cousin to realize no one else survived. He held her as she cried aloud with the loss of her mom.
After high school Sara won a scholarship to a performing arts school in New York for dance. She made a lot of friends. One friend in particular told her about a burlesque show that was hiring. Sara declined several times, and never mentioned the idea to her abuella when they spoke on the phone. However, after going to see one of the performances, she was convinced that the idea wasn’t too bad for some extra cash. Still, she could never tell this to a woman who raised her with Salsa dancing on Saturday’s and service at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church on Sundays.
Four years later, she was back in Wynwood living in her abuella’s guest house. Sara looked for jobs at various dance studios as an instructor, and applied for positions in Performance Theater companies. She knew ballet, ballroom dancing, and even, burlesque, she just needed a job in a very competitive field.
One evening after dinner, she was on the phone with her roommate from New York. While on the phone she was looking through some boxes of albums in the closet of the guest house when came across a collection of Celia Cruz albums. “Do you remember the mixed compact disc of Celia Cruz’s, “Azucar Negra” I played when I danced burlesque?” Sara asked Julia.
“Sure, I still have it with a few other things, like your outfits,” Julia responded with a laugh. “I’ll send it to you, if you like. Perhaps you can find a job doing burlesque again.”
Sara paused for a moment while letting her fingers roll through her abuella’s albums. “Ok, send it. Just be sure to text me the day you mail the package.” The following day Sara received a text, and for the next four days she sat on the porch steps in anticipation. Although she knew her abuella wouldn’t deliberately open the package, she had been known to disregard the name of the addressee, mostly because of habit.
In the guest house, Sara pulled down the two blinds and locked the door. She pulled out one of the outfits, a corset, and the compact disc. Sara placed the music inside her portable compact disc player, turned the volume up, and with her burlesque outfit on, she danced.
Meanwhile, her abuella received a knock on the door from Garcia. “Buenos Tardes, Señorita Marisol. I was driving back and I noticed the mail I gave Sarita was on the porch and sidewalk. Is everything ok?”
“Si, I hope so. Muchas gracias,” Marisol said as she walked back to the guest house. She could hear the music as she approached. She knocked two times, but no response. “Oh Sarita, why must you play the music so loud,” she thought. Deep inside her apron were two spare keys that she always kept, one for the front door and the other for the guest house. She opened the door: “Sarita! Dios Mio! My God Sarita what are you wearing?”
“Abuella, I’m sorry.”
Marisol looked around and grabbed the comforter off the bed. “You need to cover up. I never taught you this…I knew New York was going to change you.” As she approached an embarrassed and petrified Sara, she stopped to look at the portable compact disc player. “Do I hear Celia’s ‘Azucar Negra’?”
“Yes. It’s a mix of that album with other beats I used when I—”
“When you what Sarita? You’re not one of those dancers who strip? Are you?”
“Well…Bueno.” The two hugged and then Marisol looked up the little girl she raised. “There is only one thing I can do now to correct this situation,” Marisol said with a smile. “If we’re going listen to Celia Cruz, then we must dance, but first put some normal clothes on.”
Sara and Marisol danced and yelled out ‘Azucar,’ in a spirited manner.
Azucar in the Guest House was a contest entry story.