Friday, May 30, 2014

The City of Waiting

They lounge at bus stops beneath palm trees – waiting. They stand in the doorways of shops that contain no goods and wait for banks to open to receive money from other places. They sit on benches, linger on street corners and while their time away walking all the time waiting, waiting for their lives to begin.

The slap of rain drops summons the earthy smell of damp from the buildings, buildings that are waiting – waiting to be repaired, to have new life breathed into them, Lazarus’ of stone and marble.

The weight of waiting hangs on me and I take a pull on my cigar, a Romeo y Juliet no 3, it numbs my tongue and tingles my cheeks. The cigar waits while I top up my Cuba Libre. I take another pull and make the embers glow in the half-light of my room. I wait. For a woman, the reason why I am back in a room I should have vacated months ago. I step onto the balcony and hear the cars below me roar like the waves against the malacon. I stare out across the city towards the sea and see her face before me once again.

Twenty five years younger than me but she seemed to hang on my every word as I talked about my home over the sea. We talked of the pine trees, the snow in winter, fishing, food in the shops and freedom. A smile of pure white cut across her pecan skin. She touched my hand and gave a little sigh. That was the first time we met. After that my life was filled with sweaty afternoons, furtive ‘phone calls and snatched moments – the heat of love suddenly in my life. She had given me her heart.

She wanted a life that didn’t involve waiting, to that end Estefania had married a government official, he worked up in the mountains. That was four years before she met me and although she told me the marriage was cold and loveless she could not easily escape from him. So we planned and we waited.

The waiting, as it does, took time; time to arrange a fast boat from the Florida Keys, time to speak with a friend in the State Department to smooth Estefania’s papers, time to find an isolated beach. I down the Cuba Libre and set about making myself another.

Estefania has waited long enough, waited for a man like me. I take a glance at myself in the mirror on the wall taking in the grey hair and rapidly creasing skin. I run a hand over my face and pull the flesh back until I stretch ten years off myself. Might have to think about a little nip and tuck when we get home.

I check my watch for the hundredth time. She should’ve been here ten minutes ago. The car is waiting in a side street nearby, outside a paladar, fast enough to get us clear of Havana and out to the beach within two hours. Where is she?

A knock at the door makes me jump. I open it. A package lies on the floor outside the door. The box is small, white cardboard. I lift up and take it to the table. I open it and stare at the severed ear and fingers within, an ear and fingers that I had kissed. They have been removed with a surgeons care.

After I have stared for minutes I close the box, open the cupboard and put the box with the others. There are six now; ears, fingers, toes, a nose, an eyeball. I know if I wait that he will send me bigger pieces of my love. She is up in the mountains with her husband now. He keeps the peace in the lonely places out in the hills with his own brand of justice.

And so I wait. I wait for her limbs, her head, her body but most of all I wait for my love’s heart.