By Pedro Pable Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – Mandy was (and still is) a man with light eyes and attractive features. He was about 20 years old back then, and he had a life mission: Leave Cuba.
It was 2005 and his method to do this involved waiting under a traffic light and stopping tourist cars, to “hitch a ride” apparently, although his main objective was to meet a foreigner and use his social skills to charm them, seduce them, make them fall in love and enable him to leave the country.
One afternoon, a car pulled up with three women inside. They were all Spanish, doctors, middle-class, bored with their lives, and it seemed they had come as tourists looking for male company. The only thing Mandy had of macho was his genitalia, but he didn’t have any problem in playing the role of a man if it would enable him to fulfill his migration dream.
They picked him up and asked him about Viñales along the way, Mandy offered to be their guide.
When they reached Pinar del Rio, Gretel, the liveliest in the group had set her eyes on him and decided that they would stay at the Hotel Pinar del Rio, which was somewhat unlikely during a time when Cubans didn’t have the right to stay with a foreigner.
As it was already well into the evening, the group, at the request of the Cuban, decided to stay at Monica and Boris’ home, a couple of two young painters who were renting a small apartment in the Calero neighborhood.
That’s how Mandy’s love story began, and the friendship with host couple, which was set in stone after the Gretel returned to the island a month later.
Gretel was a doctor from Barcelona, she was around 45 years old, with an adventurous, liberal and hedonistic spirit that gave her a youthful aura that made her an even more mature, attractive and not at all wretched for somebody even like Mandy, whose preferences were closer to the phallus.
However, in spite of his efforts, Mandy was unable to cover up his effeminate moans during sex, so much so that a confused Gretel asked Monica about his likely homosexuality, but she pretended she had no idea, whether it was out of loyalty for her friend or for not wanting to get mixed up in a matter that had nothing to do with her.
That morning, Gretel wanted to visit Cienfuegos, this beautiful city in the country’s interior, which was founded by French tenant farmers, and is so beautiful that it is called La Perla del Sur (The Pearl of the South) for good reason. She didn’t want to go alone, so she invited Boris and Monica to soften her disappointment.
That’s when Loidel turned up, a young visual artist, a friend of all three who Gretel was introduced to. He needed to go to a small town before going to Havana, in order to pick up some money, and he’d carry on his journey from there. So, she invited him and he agreed to go with them, why not?
But picking up that money became a real odyssey, the hours in the afternoon passed by and by the time night fell, they had no other choice but to stay at a house. There was only one room for the couple, but the owner found a way to give the rest of the companions some mattresses.
That night Mandy, who had no interest in Gretel other than getting a visa to travel to Barcelona, decided to go to bed earlier than the rest, in a moment of carelessness. Feeling a storm brewing (they had picked up on some looks, and some whispering here and there), Boris and Monica went to their mattress in the corridor and Loidel was left alone with Gretel.
Loidel the real man, Loidel who wouldn’t be forgiving either because he was also looking for his ticket out, Loidel the latin lover…
Monica, curious, pricked up her ears, but she could make out unintelligible whispering, until she saw some panties drop to the floor in the corner of the corridor just as she began to hear moaning coming from the kitchen.
Everything became clear at dawn, Gretel would leave Mandy for Loidel.
“I don’t like Mandy, Mandy is gay, I want to be with Loidel but he can go with us if he wants to,” she told Monica and Monica told Mandy, who in spite of his resentment, took it “musically” (well) as we Cubans say and went with them to Cienfuegos. Mandy was very pragmatic, of the creed that: if life gives you lemons, make lemonade, or: if Life turns its back on you, smack its bottom.
Months later came Loidel and Gretel’s wedding at the registrar’s office in Pinar del Rio and everyone was invited, including Mandy, who also went, civilized, happy, content because he had hooked up with a French guy a week before in Viñales. Mandy has always been a fighter.
Loidel still lives in Barcelona until this day, even after getting divorced. Mandy lives in some European city, he was somewhere in Spain the last time anyone heard from him. Boris, the craftiest of them all, also had his plan and linked up with a German woman.
Monica didn’t want to wait for him, she didn’t agree with his decision. She told me everything. Out of the four friends, she was the only one who wasn’t willing to prostitute herself in order to leave the country. But they wanted to escape hell however they could. Who can judge them?
Note: Names of protagonists have been changed to protect their identity.