Like a Whisper…

Ariel Glaria Enriquez

HAVANA TIMES — The photo on the tombstone of the family grave had been wiped out a while ago by the natural elements outdoors. Those who saw her didn’t hold back in telling others about how incredibly alive Ariadna’s gaze and smile seemed to be. What would you expect from a young 17-year-old girl?

Ever since she was a little girl, she stood out from the rest of the white and red uniforms scattered about the primary school patio and her laugh could be heard among the racket at breaktime.

What else can I say about her before her body began to develop and her long, black hair took on that natural fall that covered up her breasts and gave her a precocious and insecure sensuality in secondary school?

Being two years younger than her, I was also witness to how her personality developed, although from an anonymous standpoint.

The last friends she had on her senior high school got tired of her easy-going nature, always telling her off for that laugh she used to have for everything, without understanding that this was nothing else but the traces of her childhood which were abandoning her without her wanting them to. The school principal didn’t understand this either. She was an honorable person who was surprised over the years by life without a husband or children, and ended up raising her nephew alone, the only child of her brother who had died in the Angolan War.

In the short time that Ariadna and I were at high school together, the director’s nephew, who was about 25 years old then, used to work as our school’s plumber and janitor.

This gave him a guaranteed customer base among the student’s parents, and even though the school was falling to pieces and blockages in the bathrooms would last seemingly forever, he was known for being a good plumber. He wasn’t very tall; skinny and, from what I remember, he always had a cigarette hanging between his lips.

One morning, in the first month of that academic year, Ariadna was called to see the director.

The school’s solemn facade without curves and heavy bars on the windows, as well as the hallways, columns and handrails on the second floor which surrounded the inner patio, were all proof of the building’s old function as a convent. The principal’s office was located in the mezzanine, squeezed into a break in the staircase.

Ariadna went up the stairs leisurely. A boy who was running down, stopped suddenly and gave her more space than she needed just so that he could look at her.

The director was sitting behind a heavy mahogany desk when she received her, a kind of bastion between her and the fleeting temptation of the perestroika that was about to begin. On the wall, a portrait of a Cuban internationalist soldier hung above her head, next to the national emblem.

“Maybe my words just slip right off you,” the woman said to Ariadna, leaning her elbows on the desk, “that’s why this will be the last time we speak. Not only do I not like how you use our uniform, how you do your hair and the comments I hear about you, you rub me wrong too…”

“None of that is my fault,” Ariadna said.

“Oh no? You aren’t a little girl anymore, but you aren’t a woman yet eeither…”

Ariadna didn’t let her finish her sentence.

“Yes, I am a woman and your nephew is the one to blame.”

It was an unexpected reply, which I would have never have guessed or said anything.

A week after that conversation, coming back home from school, Ariadna was murdered by the janitor in the hallway of her building.

All of the evidence proves that the girl had never engaged in sexual relations and that the man had just kissed her on the mouth, without forcing her to do so.

It happened one morning, during the last few days of our holidays, in her living room, when her parents weren’t home. When the academic year began, she gave him a note. It was a sincere and abrupt note. “Kissing you made me sick,” she wrote to him.

All of the details and shadows of the event went around the school quickly. Except, Ariadna had passed by me on the staircase, before going to the principal’s office, and for the first time she looked at me, smiled and called me by my name. It was like a whisper… or maybe that’s all it was.

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.