I was born in Cuba back near the start of the century when the world was just starting to turn properly to caca for most. One of my earliest memories is ma madre telling Eduardo and I just what she had sacrificed to bring us into the world and how we were a disappointment and her shame.
I guess I should explain, Eduardo and I were such disappointments as we were both born dwarven and it was just at the time where we were first generation freaks rather than the kids today. We got stared at a lot as children and I could not help but notice their shame. There were endless visits to medical facilities, to try and correct and when it became obvious that it wouldn’t work there was the hurt of being a secret hidden from view. I still wince at the memory of the curl of barely disguised disgust of her upper lip. The knowledge that we were the scandal that was holding her back. And she had already achieved quite the climb. The youngest minister in generations, a party hero, her influence in the Carib League expanding every year. We were the blot on her perfect copy book, the blemish she couldn’t erase.
Eduardo and I were inseparable – we could bare it because we had each other. Twins we were almost mirrored images and we had that and our faith. Our other beacon of hope was our Abuelo, Abu for short. He would always spend as much time as he could with us and he would send me recordings of his from all over. I spent so much time just breathing in his flavour of Jazz. I learnt all my skills from Abu, the best of my early memories is sitting next to him at the piano and watching ad listening to everything he did. His playing soothed my anger and gave me an opportunity to process feelings I couldn’t tackle in any other way.
By the time I was a teen I’d spend as much time working on riffs as I could. Tutors would try and get me to pay attention but my head was always somewhere else working out something new, or revelling in Abu’s latest gig he’d sent.
I was not yet 16 when my life changed forever. Eduardo and I were in the same wing of the house, in the secure area kept away. I’d not seen Madre or Padre for some weeks at this point a welcome respite if I say so myself. Madre sent an assassin after us. I was playing keys, noodling with a riff that just wouldn’t quit. I didn’t hear what happened to Eduardo, I was too self-absorbed. But this man appeared in my room.
I can’t quite remember how it happened, what he said but I ran from him into Eduardo’s room. I was being allowed to escape, I packed what I could into a bag and I never looked back.
I worked my passage out of Cuba and the Carib League and made my way to New Orleans. Abu played there from time to time and I had a feeling it could be a home.
I arrived with very little, naïve and no experience of the world. My Loas kept me safe allowed me to make a living through my muscle when times were harder and music when I could. I’ve been here most of my life, I keep Eduardo with me every day, I wear his cygnet ring on my pinkie. Abu passed on, I mourned, but couldn’t go to his funeral. There’s things that hurt and it’s a good hurt you know because its something purifying about it, and things that hurt that fester because they’re poison.
I drink to remember and then to forget.
I see a kid who needs a hand and if I can do something I try and to help. I got my friends now, I got music, and I got rum. Welcome to New Orleans, I’ll have some of that Cuban rum now.