The sounds of voices and cars on the street woke Aedan. He was disoriented when he opened his eyes. Nothing seemed familiar. It was hot. Slowly he remembered where he was. It was still hot.
Other than being on the edge of sweating, he was quite comfortable on the bed he had laid down on for 30 minutes…three hours ago. His unexpected morning nap had been filled with dreams about the day before. He relived his meditation, of seeing his new, old face for the first time, of his conversations with Louise which him wondering if her mother was who he thought she was…if it was possible.
Suddenly and without warning, he remembered that his sponsor, Ms. Fernandez had told him she would have Cuban coffee waiting for him. He glanced at the clock on the wall and deducted that since the sun was shining outside, it must be 1pm and not 1am. He felt bad for having stood her up but at the same time felt happy about having had the opportunity to get some rest. He also felt that his first day in Havana couldn’t be spent sleeping even if he did need it.
With that last thought, Aedan sprung off of the bed and dug through his clothes to find some shorts and a light shirt. The shirt was a little wrinkled but he calculated that fifteen minutes in this humidity and it would be hanging from his shoulders without wrinkles.
When he reached the bottom of the stairs, Aedan stuck his head into the kitchen and saw the small coffee pot on the stove with the even smaller cup on the counter beside it but there was no flame. He called out for Ms. Fernandez but not too loudly and only once, it was truly too late for coffee in his mind and he was thankful he heard nothing back.
Stepping out the front door and closing it behind him, he took a deep breath of the warm, salty carribbean air brought in by the waves breaking across the street. He debated about just walking across the street to enjoy the beach but knew that once he planted himself, he would stay. Besides, in this sun he might actually need a hat and that was number one on his list. It also occurred to him that he hadn’t eaten a full meal since hs lunch with Louise.
Aedan pulled out his phone and retrieved the note from Cathy with the address of the store and committed it to memory then promptly put the phone back into his pocket. Had Ms. been available, he would have simply asked here which direction he should head in. The fact is that he had no idea of where he was going or if it was even within walking distance. What he knew was that he truly enjoyed exploring new places and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. He had all afternoon to find his way around so he shrugged his shoulders, turned to the left and began walking.
He walked several blocks with the sea wall and waves across the street. The side he walked on was lined with older houses, all of which appeared to have been refitted to accompany guests. Many desire to travel to Cuba partly because of the mystique of a placed closed off to much of the world for so long. Recent thaws in their relationship with the U.S. brought the promise of increased tourism and those who could positioned themselves to benefit as much as possible. More recent hardening of that relationship by a new administration disappointed many and brought hardships to those who had spent their last peso trying to be ready but most believed this was a temporary set back and hoped for the best.
There were also many stores and restaurants on this street. Aedan stepped into several of the stores to look around and paused ot look at the menus at the restaurants. Some seemed promising so he made a mental note of his location before moving forward.
Upon seeing a street sign with the name that was the same as the street that the store he was looking for was on, Aedan made the turn away from the beach and pulled out his phone to remind himself of the address as he continued to walk. “One eleven or uno once” he voiced to himself in a meager attempt to practice his spanish.
Looking up he saw “115” above a door and then “117” on the next. He had already missed the place and turned promptly around. He saw a hat in a window and looked up at the address. 111. This was the store he had been directed to. There wasn’t much to it. No wonder he had missed it.
Aedan pulled the door open and as he had experienced in other stores, in his room, no blast of cold air met him. The side door closed as a woman left the store just as he walked in. It was cooler than outside but not by much. There were no lights on but enough came through the windows to suffice – at least at the front of the store. At the back of the store sat an older man behind the counter. The old man was friendly and quickly started talking faster than Aedan could possibly understand. He used to joke to himself that he knew just enough spanish to get himself into trouble but not know why. He nodded and faked knowing what was being said but it didn’t take long before his cover was blown and the old man was laughing as much at him as with him.
He looked around but saw no other hat than the one in the front window. He did his best to explain to the old man that he needed a hat but either the man didn’t understand or simply had no hats. After several minutes of this, Aedan pointed at the hat in the window.
“Oh no, no. No parla la venta.” claimed the old man.
Aedan looked around the stoor again. There wasn’t much there…clothes, household items, even some food items but not a single hat besides the one he first saw. He hadn’t exchanged his money for pesos yet but he knew the Cuban peso was pegged to the US Dollar and guessed the man would accept his money. As he pulled a twenty dollar bill from his wallet, the old man was watching and laughed “No parla la venta” he repeated.
Without blinking, Aedan pulled a second twenty dollar bill out and simultaneously wathched the old man’s laugh turn to a smile as he held out his hand. Aedan was actually prepared to pay more but wasn’t disappointed that he didn’t have to.
With the money in his hand, the old tried to sell more to Aedan, a beach umbrella, flip flops…some things Aedan might have actually needed but he remembered that he was to buy nothing but a hat and so he did.