An Excursion that Ended at the Beach

Erasmo Calzadilla
Erasmo Calzadilla

In commencing this story, I will first present Abel. “Abelito” is what we call this less than 25-year-old kid who touched the hearts of the few old friends of mine who are still in this country.

He is a unique young man who is at the same time tender and aggressively sincere, insecure but very penetrating. He has the habit of bombarding you with questions, and he sometimes reminds me of that stage of childhood when we drive our parents crazy with the weirdest questions.

What particularly brought me close to him was our sharing three healthy loves: the countryside, women, and the pleasures of those intriguing themes that are sometimes collected in philosophy books.

Trying to kill three birds with a single stone, Abelito tried to come up with a short trip that didn’t require us to leave the city. According to his plan, the journey would consist of an early morning adventure along one of the rivers that flow to Guanabo Beach, east of Havana.

We would then look for a pretty place to sit down to talk about whatever we pleased, given that we never run out of topics. There, we would have a snack and later continue down the river in search of new adventures. By mid-afternoon we would return to the beach to refresh ourselves with the view of the sea and the charms it attracts.

Things didn’t turn out like we expected. The snack wasn’t enough to fill us, the river lacked the sublime scenery that we had imagined, and the conversation went a bit out of control; it ended in silence, upsetting and with tears in our eyes.

At the end of the journey, when the river finally went underground, awaiting us was an extensive prairie rich in weeds and marabou (a thorn bush that is quite abundant and ugly), which by no means inspired us to go on.

We then decided to return by another route at the risk of getting lost but with the hope of finding interesting things to save the trip. We wanted to go through some hills, but even the peaks of those places were boring and desolate.

As we had secretly yearned, we got lost. Emotion returned something to our faces, but only slightly, because we suspected that soon we would find our way out of there. While we strolled along those sunny paths, we told stories and passed the time throwing stones, like children.

In the distance we sighted a farmer’s house and headed in that direction with the encouragement of discovering what route would take us back to the sea.

A guy -white as milk, fortyish, with light and robust eyes- came out of the house, which looked worse as we got closer to it.

As a person accustomed to walking through the country in Cuba, I frequently run into people with these physical features, women and men who could easily compete in a beauty contest or a health expo. Naive and beautiful girls living in the most remote corners of the island have tempted me to leave the city permanently, though I know that if I were to live there long enough, my eyes of an urban tourist would eventually become disenchanted.

That gentleman invited us to enter, kindly offering us water and food, and later showing us his DTI police identification card. We stood there openmouthed.

He requested all of our data and warned us saying, “This area is bad, and (we) should get out of here immediately. Animals have gotten lost, and other things have happened here.”  He told us how to get back, and without saying a word we followed his suggestion, understanding that it would not be very pleasant to spend the night in jail.

Along the road we found other fascinating things, but regrettably they were those types of things that cannot be told without getting into trouble.

We made it to the beach very tired as the afternoon fell; nothing had turned out as we expected, but it was much better. We gorged ourselves on bread and croquettes, since we didn’t have a lot of money, and without taking off our clothes we threw ourselves onto the sand for a nap, which was ruined by a cold front that had already begun to move in.

When we woke up the magic had not ended. We found ourselves along several kilometers of beach that not a soul could have been expected to discover; nonetheless, two girls had in fact selected a site close to ours to set up camp.

To be continued…