Five Days on a Havana Balcony

Ariel Glaria Enriquez                                                                                          

HAVANA TIMES — The first time I saw her, she was talking to her cousin on the balcony in front of mine on a Monday afternoon. Then, I kept watching her, alone on the balcony, every afternoon that week. She was very young, short with round arms and shoulders, pale skin, thick hair, dark eyes, long eyelashes and pronounced and thick lips.  

She would come out just as the sun would beat in earnest on the old chipped facade of her building, at sunset. She would always wear the same dressing gown, which was transparent and she had nothing on underneath.

During the time she spent on the balcony, the narrow doors with blinds that led inside the house were kept shut. Behind them, her cousin used to watch everything, I have no doubt about that.

She began by looking up and down the street in a distracted manner with her elbows leaning on the balcony, her body leaning forwards slightly. Her wet hair covered her shoulders and her breasts. The sensuality of her mestizo profile was accentuated in the shadow projected onto the chipped wall.

With her hair still wet, she shook her head backwards. The vitality of her small body and the clear nakedness of her skin were left on show under the transparent damp fabric.

After shaking her hair about, she would turn her back to the street and dance to the beat of a song I never heard, she began to dance until her shadow was wiped off the map of those bare bricks on the chipped facade. Then, the narrow doors with blinds would open and she would disappear.

This happened every day until Friday that week.

On Saturday morning, from my balcony, I watched the cousin leave a building and go inside another. Soon after, he knocked on my door. He looked older than her but he was still very young. He was asking for five dollars. That’s when I found out that they were cousins.

Nothing was ever heard about them again.

Ariel Glaria

Ariel Glaria Enriquez: I was born in Havana Cuba in 1969. I am proud bearer of an endangered concept: habanero. I don’t know of another city, therefore life in it along with its customs, joys and pain are the biggest reason why I write. I studied mechanical drawing, but I am working as a restorer. I dream of a Havana with the splendor and importance it once had.

One thought on “Five Days on a Havana Balcony

  • You lost me on the last paragraph, Ariel! Why did the cousin want the five CUPz (CUCs)? Was he trying to blackmail you for being a voyeur? Was he just trying to raise some dough? Not clear.
    Actually, the foto accompanying your story provokes my own memory. As Nabokov once said: “Speak Memory!” During my last trip to Cuba in 2015, I was fortunate enough to rent a room in a casa particular just across the street from the old Hotel Roosevelt, on the corners of Amsistad y San Miguel in Centro. I stayed at this Hotel (until recently, a residence, now condemned due to structural insufficiency). Every day, during the five days I was there, I looked up at the balcony of the room where I stayed during June, July and August of 1959. Although the windows to that room were shut, others in the building were open, and the balconies being used, so I observed them on a regular basis. Fifty-six years before, I had often done the same thing, looking down at the balconies of the apartments across the street (including the very one from which I was now observing my old hotel) as the residents hoisted up baskets from the vendors on the street below, eating their evening meals at tables in their dining rooms just inside these balconies, etc. etc. It was strange and disorienting now being on the other side, and 56 years later! Fortunately, I still had one last look at the Hotel Roosevelt. It may already be rubble by now. Another place I visited in 1970, the Hotel Internacional in Varadero, where I and other Americans were serenaded by a Cuban Tony Bennet, with such covers, in Spanish, as “Strangers in the Night” and “I Left my Heart in San Franciso” was recently demolished to make way for a larger, more luxurious version of same.

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