Down K Street
My father had died, the good Armenak (1918-1998).
They laid him out at the funeral home at Calzada and K Street, not far from the municipal maternity hospital: the América Arias hospital.
Chapel K: it was my mother who chose the letter. It reminded her of her homeland, Armenia, which in native Armenian is actually spelled Armenika. It reminded her of my own father, the recently turned-into-cadaver Armenak. It reminded her of herself; a sudden widow named Takuji. In both cases, Saroyan.
My parents were cousins before being lovers. The Saroyan family excommunicated them: they did not tolerate such liberties within their clan. But they insisted.
Later, it was the occupied Armenika who excommunicated them: they didn’t tolerate liberties either within their false frontiers imposed by the Russians, the Turks and the Iranians. They insisted.
They crossed the continent and the ocean in one thousand and two layovers, until their ship wrecked by chance in another little homeland called Havana, bringing along with them Armenika as a stowaway, folded one thousand and two times along with the worthless currency in their pockets.
They insisted. But this time death at last excommunicated these two cousin-lovers from their so insistent passion for freedom.
At the most luxurious and lonely funeral home in Vedado, Havana, Cuba, my mother Takuji warned me:
Do not cry for your father, the good Armenak – she said. Cry for me, for not knowing how to die with him. Cry for you, for the shame that your parents have brought upon you; first, without a homeland, and now, without a family.
My mother Takuji pronounced it all in Armenian smooth and fragile, like her, a language that could not be any more dead even if no one in the world remembered it. It is the language of forgetfulness and of frustration as home: the same in the homeland as in the family, we no longer knew anything of our fate, uprooted with a country but without a destiny. Continue reading