“Macundo” in the Havana Countryside

Ariel Glaria Enriquez

Foto: Nike

HAVANA TIMES — There are some memories which Time makes appear less real. One of these memories was in the early morning one day, on the wall of a bridge that crossed a river. Back then, I was doing my military service, I had escaped the afternoon before and was returning to my unit.

The bus I was waiting for stopped at the last lit-up corner of that remote town, more than an hour away from Havana. Opposite, there was a concrete wall that served as a barrier between the stretch of river that ran alongside the main street. It wasn’t very high and it finished on the bridge like the town did. 

I could see the entire wall from the side where I had stopped to look out at the river, stained by bright yellow at times, coming from the streetlights. The main street was empty. The never-ending buzzing of crickets, a dog barking in the distance and the river’s continous murmor below my feet, prevailed in the silence.

The brightness of the lights near the bridge gave the river a coppery glow. There were many banana trees among the vegetation there; their large leaves hung off their stalks like tongues on the current.

There was someone else on that bridge. She was carrying a backpack made of Andean fabric, a book in her hands, and she was pacing up and down looking from the river to the street where the bus would appear. We were on the same part of the bridge, not too far from one another and completely visible under the streetlight’s permanent glow.

In the moments that the light hit her face front-on, I could clearly see her big black eyes, her mouth and the dimples in her cheeks that gave her a distracted and sensual expression. She wasn’t very tall, she was dressed casually and she had her hair tied in a ponytail between her back and the backpack.

I imagine the first words we said to each other had something to do with the time the bus was supposed to come. I also imagine that the next thing that happened was that I found out that she was studying at the San Antonio de los Banos International Film School and that she was called J.J.

From the minute we started talking, she sat down on the wall, resting the book on her legs. I remained standing up, in front of her, watching over her head to see when the bus would come. I could see her eyes better like this; they had a wild glow like those dew drops that stick to leaves like pieces of glass and her tongue kept poking out between her thin and not very well pronounced lips.

She listened more than she spoke. But, she was worried about the consequences I would face if my escape was discovered.

“It’s all a question of time,” I told her, “if the bus comes quickly and I manage to get back while everyone is sleeping, I won’t be in any trouble.”

“Can you really get in without anyone seeing you?” she asked with that gesture of always showing her tongue.

“There’s always a risk, that’s why we have several ways in without going past the command post. And you, have you escaped too?”

“No,” she smiled. “Today, I felt like walking around in Havana. I left school early with some friends and I ended up alone. Where is your unit based?”

“It’s a bit hard to explain from here. The nearest thing to the unit is an Eastern town which people call Macundo…”

“Macondo,” she corrected me without letting me finish.

“You mean the town in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s book?” I said with a certain arrogance.

Her eyes lit up even more.

“Yes. Have you read it?” she asked, her eyebrow tightening slightly, licking her lips with the tip of her tongue.

Foto: Ariel Glaria

I nodded. She put the book she was holding to one side and she leaned back on her tense arms without taking off her backpack, exposing herself even more to the light. Under her blouse, her breasts were compressed so they were nearly exactly the same in shape.

In a pause, I leaned towards her and kissed her. First, on the lips without touching her. Then, holding her face with both of my hands, I kissed her eyes. I immediately discovered what her mouth wanted.

In the end, I hugged her even tighter. I felt her small tight breasts against my body and I kissed her eyes again. 

During my years of military service, I would wait for her on that bridge many times and at different times, but I never saw her again.

Some time later, one night, I was waiting in the anonymous crowd there was in line at a film festival in Havana when I easily made her out among the select group of guests who arrived indifferent and went into the movie theater as if the rest of us didn’t exist.

A few extra pounds had made her lose her attractiveness. She wasn’t dressed casually anymore and the dimples in her cheeks were just another detail in my memory or imagination. Like that wild glow that I have never seen in her eyes again every time I see her on TV.