HAVANA TIMES – I’m waiting for a friend on the steps of the Yara cinema. A man with a mustache and cigarette sits in front me and the game begins.
The rules are basic: he will persistently try to make eye contact and I will employ all my talents to evade it.
I start scribbling some ideas in my MADE IN CHINA notebook but the April heat will not let me finish even a phrase. I keep trying.
He takes my measure and sizes me up with his look. I start to feel as if I’m suddenly in the middle of a telepathic interview. The smoke drifts up from his cigarette and I sense his desire to shine a yellow bulb in my face.
At this stage of the game I have to repeat to myself mentally and for a few seconds: don’t let him come close, let him clear off, don’t let him come close …don’t let him torture me with those phrases he’s taken straight out of the manual:
What’s a pretty girl like you doing on her own? Do you have a boyfriend? Can I invite you out?
The man, a compact copy of so many other gentlemen, youths, adolescents and old men of this city / country, smoothes his hair, stops smoking and focuses on the seam of my skirt and the twisted strap.
I want to continue on my own, completely alone on this corner of Vedado. I don’t want to relinquish this square meter of shade that is one of the few oases on the Rampa at noon.
I resist the desire to run off. I continue the game: if I look at his eyes, I lose. I give him permission to execute a feline leap onto the step I’m standing on.
His gaze continues fixed on my face; I look at the sky in response, the roofs, the ground, even the traffic lights a block away.
It’s my turn to prepare the sharp responses, responses that are always more effective when pronounced in a phlegmatic tone:
I really like women: slim, no butt, black hair (any other combination is just as effective).
My husband will be in a few minutes; yes, I am a married woman (the status of boyfriend is usually not taken too seriously).
Another way of countering the attack is to pretend to be deaf or autistic.
Then my friend arrives and releases me from the final stage of the game. The one in which the man is undeterred and insists on his slimy approach and I wish to hit him, strike a final blow to leave him speechless, unconscious, in pain.
I’m tired of playing, of just accepting the pressure without any chance of coming out winning. Of feeling an illuminated sign screwed on my shoulders saying something like “available meat”.
The rules of the game preclude the possibility of a break or downtime.