The Island of July
One afternoon, after I finish with the fragile documents I’m consulting in Cuba’s national archive, it’s past the cut-off time when I can request more materials. A satellite without a planet, I meander the streets aimlessly until I am due to meet up with another foreign researcher. Lush gardens grow in the cracks in the sidewalks. My new friend and I go for mojitos and pay to swim at the pool of one of the hotels. Later, I will feel guilty about this, but in the moment all I feel is relief from the heat and squelching humidity.
After we swim, I need to exchange currency. My friend is a Canadian and forgets for a moment that I can’t just use one of the banks, as she has been doing during her time in Havana. Because the cadeca turns out to be closed, she trades me a bit of money, so I can make it another day or two. Then, we decide to visit one of the city’s many churches. It turns out to be closed, but we circle the white and yellowing ivory exterior so that I can see the bronze statue commemorating Cecelia Valdés, the main character of Villaverde’s great novel. I have been reading this critique of slave society in nineteenth-century Cuba a few pages at a time on shaded patios and in bed before I drift into troubled slumber.
a millipede emerges
I dream of scorpions or maybe I am one. Quizás, quizás, quizás. Opportunist feeding on the past. I have spent the average monthly salary of a Cuban in three days on cocktails and internet cards.
Come out of each with less
than what you took in
Ray Ball and Caroline Streff Collaboration