It turned out that we had a lot in common: I was going to
Cuba because I had nothing better to do; he was going to Cuba
because he was divorcing his wife and had no one better to
do. But he wasn't into gringas, he informed on the taxi ride
to our hotel. Or smart women, he added, rolling his eyes at
what I assumed was my intellect.
Luckily, I had ruled him out as a potential romantic partner
hours earlier. It had happened sometime after we had met and
sometime before he began yelling "Death to all Americans!"
out the window of the cab. One minute we were driving along
discussing Cuban food and beaches and the next minute, he
was shouting with his fist in the air: "Yankees go home!"
Needless to say, his outburst had come as a bit of a surprise.
Luckily, he noticed my startled expression and quickly explained
the reason for his outburst: "Don¹t worry, I don¹t
think that way at all. I was just reading that sign over there."
I looked over and caught a glimpse of anti-American slogan
spray-painted on the wall.
"I¹m Mexican," he continued. "And we
like Americans. It¹s just the Cubans who are against
you. It was just a sign. There, you feel better now?"
"Umberto, what country did we just leave?"
"And what country are we in now?"
"Do you really think I feel better now?"
At that moment, I suspected that hanging out with Umberto
was going to be one irritating incident after another. Sure
enough, by that evening, this premonition could no longer
be ignored. It was annoying talking to him, it was annoying
being with him and it was annoying having to hang out with
so many hookers.
An authentic Italian meal, Umberto had promised me. And my
first night in Havana, there definitely was a pizza on the
table, but with all the prostitutes in front of me competing
for a place on Umberto's lap, it was hard to concentrate on
picking off my anchovies.
Umberto grinned over at me, happy as a boy in a Nintendo
"Which one do you think?" he whispered over at
me as a peroxide blonde in a tight orange dress ruffled his
"So many to choose from - difficult, isn't it?"
"Yes. I¹m so glad you understand. A Latin woman
would never understand. Take my wife for instance. She would
never be sitting where you¹re sitting now."
"I imagine she wouldn't."
"Are you having a good time? I want you to be having
a good time, you know."
"Umberto, if it makes you feel better, I'll tell you
that I've never had more fun surrounded by prostitutes and
anchovies than I'm having right now."
By the time I had gotten rid of all my unwanted toppings,
Umberto had whittled the women on his lap down to just one.
One was fine. I could deal with one. I just didn¹t want
to have to deal with her alone.
"Be right back. Have to go to the bathroom. You girls
sit and chat."
So there I was: eating pizza in an Italian restaurant trying
to find something in common with a fifteen-year-old prostitute
from Havana. But it turned out she liked anchovies so she
filled the remaining time (and her mouth) by plopping one
hairy fish after another in between her well-defined lips.
the writer Wendy Dale's website