I met Yoilan in one of those brief periods when he wasn’t in in jail. Our relationship wasn’t really what you’d call a friendship; it was more like company, or guys who’d occasionally hang out on the corner together.
I was on night-watch duty at a restaurant of Guanabo and he stopped at the door to talk with me about “how hard things are in the streets.”
At first I didn’t know who he was, but later people told me that he’d spent more than half his life in prison. Fraud, accosting tourists, theft, strong-armed robbery, contempt of authority and public disturbance: these were some of the charges for which he’d served time.
He himself talked about his life as if it were an adventure. But to tell the truth, I kind of liked him – despite his record. Maybe that was why I didn’t predispose myself with him, not even when in the middle of one of our inconsequential conversations he blurted out that he didn’t mess with anybody but that he wouldn’t spare the life of anyone who messed with him and got on his bad side.
Yoilan was tall and thin, though not skinny or bony. In his face you could see the signs of someone who had lived a life on the fringe and behind bars. He didn’t show any scars but he had lots of rings under his eyes; plus there was a certain ferocity in his look and he had aged prematurely.
Many people in Guanabo respected him – or they feared or hated him secretly. He owed money to numbers of people but he didn’t seem to have the intention of returning any of it.
A while later he stopped coming by the entrance to the restaurant. To tell the truth I never saw him again. Nonetheless I continued hearing comments about his misdeeds: about how “Yoilan pickpocketed a Yuma (foreigner)” or how “Yoilan has owed me $40 CUCs for a year now,” or how “Yoilan sliced someone today…”
The jinetera (prostitute) who told me about that last incident did so with much nonchalance that I was taken aback. It was as if to “slice” someone was a sport and not a threat to the life of another person by cutting their flesh with a blade.
From that day on I began to hate Yoilan, maybe because up until that moment I hadn’t been aware of the danger that any relationship with him had posed.
Then I remembered when he warned me about anyone messing with him…and I thought that on any given night Yoilan might just think I was trying to mess with him and then I’d find myself in hot water.
A few days later Yoilan “sliced” someone else, but later the manager of the pizzeria next door “sliced” Yoilan in the head. After that I decided to quit that job and move out of that neighborhood to the east of Havana, where things are dealt with like in the old western movies.