On the evening before the early morning fire, Maximo looked up at the black Florida sky littered with diamonds and shivered in the January cold. The wind hurtled off the churning waves in Miami’s Biscayne Bay and ripped through his corduroy coat. The links of his 18-carat gold chain felt icy against the coarse black hair on his chest. He remembered the winters back home on the island; they were never quite as cold as this one in exile. Not so cold that he had to turn on the electric blanket and plug in the floor heater before diving into the sleep that left him feeling more dead than alive.
He reached inside his shirt and touched the carved gold medallion of San Lazaro, patron saint of the sick, the lost, the woebegone, and offered a quick prayer. Standing in the evening wind,he wrestled with the details of a plan growing like a reckless monster in his head. Each time he thought about it, he felt more certain he would go through with it: call Ana from a phone booth, tell her he was ready to leave his family, pick her up at her apartment and begin the drive north to a new life. There had to be something beyond what he wasdoing: selling toys seven days a week. He needed lightness of being,and he had to take the first step to find out where it was.
Cecilia M. Fernandez is the author of Leaving Little Havana: A Memoir of Miami’s Cuban Ghetto, selected as a finalist in three categories at the 2015 International Latino Book Awards, one of the top ten nonfiction books by a Latino author (2015) and a finalist in the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Book Contest (2011). She is an independent journalist and college instructor with a passion for literature. Her work has appeared in Latina Magazine, Accent Miami, Upstairs at the Duroc: the Paris Workshop Journal, Vista Magazine, and Le Siecle de George Sand. A former reporter for The Stockton Record, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the Miami television stations WPBT, WSVN, WSCV, and WLTV, Cecilia is an Emmy nominee from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences; she received Dartmouth University’s Champion Tuck Award (Honorable Mention for Television), the Scripps-Howard Award: News Writer of the Month and a Fellowship for Independent Summer Study from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Cecilia earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida International University and an MA in English Literature from the University of Miami. Her undergraduate degree in journalism is from the University of California-Berkeley.