Aedan enjoys the last sunset before he leaves Cuba.

All Things Must End

Aedan enjoys the last sunset before he leaves Cuba.
Aedan enjoys the last sunset before he leaves Cuba.
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on tumblr
Tumblr
Share on email
Email

The ride to the airport seemed to take forever. Thankfully, the driver wasn’t particularly talkative which was fine by Aedan because his mind was busy considering why Noel might have left without saying a word when she seemed full of excitement about going out sailing with him and the Carlson’s the evening before. Never letting his guard down, he had been holding some internal reservations about their chance meetings among all the extraordinary events since leaving Seattle for this trip. However, those concerns were washed away in the many hours they had spent together yesterday. Now he found himself wondering if she had possibly become a target because of the secondary reason he was in Havana – to collect information about the case he was trying.

It seemed the taxi every red light during the 15 minute trip to the airport but each time the driver looked into the rear view mirror to check on his passenger, Aedan was looking out the window, deep in thought. When the taxi pulled up to the curb, before the driver could say a word, Aedan had already stuck his hand over the seat back to hand him the money for the fare while simultaneously opening the door.

Aedan jumped out of the car and headed immediately through the glass doors. Once inside he stopped and scanned left to right looking for a flight information board. He quickly spotted one down the hallway in front of him. He was looking for flights that had departed early in the morning since Noel had checked out so early. He saw nothing. Nothing on the boards went back that far.

On his way to read the board, he had passed a counter for the airline that he had arrived by earlier that week. Knowing that the attendants there spoke english very well, he approached the counter and asked the young attendant if she could tell him any flights that left between 5 and 8am. The attendant looked curious but without going into details he told her enough that she typed onto her keyboard and within seconds had a list of five flights that had departed during that window. Four were to various locations in Central and South America. One was to Miami.

Aedan stopped the attendant when she mentioned Miami. “Which airline was the flight to Miami on?”

“Oh, that was our flight, Senor” she quickly responded. “It left at 5:25 this morning and was right on time.”

“Can you tell me if there was a Noel Jensen on that flight?” Aedan took a long shot. He figured he knew the answer but had to ask, anyway.

“No Senor, I’m not allowed to give that information to you.”

Aedan was putting together his angle of attack, family…emergency…call for a manager. There must be a way to find out if she was on that flight. As he sifted through the possibilities his phone rang.

He pulled the phone from his pocket and saw Noel’s number. Thanking the attendant, he stepped away from the counter even as he was pushing the button to accept the call.

“Noel, where are you?” The concern was evident in his voice.

“Aedan, I’m sorry. I tried to call but…”

“Are you OK? Where are you?” He didn’t realize he didn’t let her finish her sentence.

“I’m at the airport in Phoenix, waiting for my mother to pick me up.”

Knowing she was safe, Aedan felt a weight lift from his shoulders. He made his way to the door to find a quieter spot to continue the conversation.

Noel had tried to call several times after she got a call from her mother telling her that her sister wasn’t expected to make it through the day, but the calls went straight to voicemail which told her his inbox was full. She hadn’t considered texting. Even while she waited to transfer planes in Miami there was no answer.

Aedan nodded as he listened to her. He was probably just waking by the time she reached Miami. He would look into his inbox being full after they talked. He hadn’t received any calls at all today.

Noel didn’t know the full extent of her sister’s condition yet. She had been ill for several months now but everyone thought she was doing well with the treatment. Noel promised that once she knew more she would call again.

The next two days were full of relaxation and exploration. Aedan enjoyed another relaxing evening with Ms. Romero, her family and others that came to relax and play games. The following day, he made it out sailing with the Carlson’s. The relative silence and power of using the wind to propel a sailing vessel through the water is mesmerizing and once again whetted his appetite for finding his own boat

On his last day in Cuba, Aedan found himself on the beach taking inventory of all that had happened since he left on vacation which felt like months ago. He had all but forgotten the huge change in his physical appearance. Or perhaps he hadn’t. Somewhere along the way he had decided to let his beard grow out as a possible way to distract attention from looking 20 years longer than when he left. He knew it wouldn’t be that easy but it was all he could do for now. Then there was the matter of the key and cryptic message from the theater and what that could possibly mean for the case he was trying.

He had come to Cuba to get an answer. Whether he found that answer or not he couldn’t know yet but he knew that he was possibly returning with more questions than answers.

 

Sail Away

Aedan tries yet again to call Noel before the boat leaves
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on tumblr
Tumblr
Share on email
Email

The sun hadn’t been up long when Aedan first opened his eyes. He laid flat on his back and thought about the coming day. He hadn’t been sailing for a while so there was a bit of excitement along with good memories that found their way to the surface. The couple he met two evenings ago, the Carlsons seemed competent and friendly. Since he was always keeping his eye out for his next boat he was anxious to see theirs. He was familiar with the model but had never been aboard one.

Beyond all of that though, what he was most excited about was having Noel along. Assuming the weather cooperated, sailing with another couple would be a great time to relax and have fun with no pressure and for sheer pleasure it is difficult to beat a beautiful sunset at sea. The thought of the long day ahead reminded Aedan that he needed to gather a few things to take along to eat while they were out. He built a list in his head of what he would take along,

Curious of the time, Aedan reached for his phone in the charging cradle but it was empty. He rolled over and found the phone beside his pillow. He must have fallen to sleep while catching up on the news. He muttered to himself and pressed the button on the side but nothing happened. Again he pressed but the screen remained blank. With words reserved only for himself when he does foolish things, Aedan set the phone on the cradle and immediately it began charging…from 0%.

Fully awake now, he glanced across the room to the clock radio and saw that it was nearly 8am. He had woken 30 minutes later than intended but there was plenty of time for a shower. He would call Noel after the phone had recharged to make sure she was up and getting ready.

 

With anticipation of the day ahead and the shower behind him, Aedan went through his normal morning routines. Shaving, brushing teeth, crunches and push-ups were all routine though truth be told, he did extra today. Noel would be there.

Once he was ready to hit the road and dressed, he grabbed the now partially charged phone, went to his call history and called the last number – Noel’s. After three rings, it went to voicemail. He would try again later.

The homeowner, Ms. Fernandez was busy in the kitchen when Aedan came down the stairs. Always pleasant, she offered Aedan coffee and breakfast. He took her up on the coffee and a couple pieces of fruit. They talked about his plans and other things to do in the same area of Havana. Aedan was anticipating spending some time with Noel after they returned to port.

An hour had passed with no response from Noel so he called again and again ended up in her voicemail.

“Noel, it’s Aedan. I just wanted to be sure you’re up and will meet us at the marina at 11. I’ll grab some things to eat while we’re out. Just bring yourself and plenty of suntan lotion. It looks like a beautiful day. Oh..and call me when you get a chance.”

Ms. Fernandez was smiling when Aedan put the phone down. “Please take some of this fruit with you! It will go bad tomorrow and I need to get more.”

Aedan suddenly felt a little embarrassed.

“Thank you but I can’t do that!” He responded.

“Nonsense“ was her reply. “It will go bad soon.”

Sensing this was a losing argument, Aedan agreed to take a few pieces and she nearly emptied the fruit bowl into a bag as he watched.

For thirty minutes more, the two of them sipped coffee and talked until Aedan decided he needed to get moving. He was concerned that he had not yet heard back from Noel but knew she was excited about going out. Perhaps she too had forgotten to charge her phone.

As they neared the bottom of the coffee cup, Ms. Fernandez called for a taxi for Aedan. He noted that she truly did bend over backwards to make him feel comfortable. Ten minutes later, a horn sounded from outside. Aedan grabbed his own bag in addition to the one that Ms. Fernandez had prepared for him, wished her a good day and headed out the door to the waiting taxi.

Along the way, Aedan asked the taxi driver to stop at a grocery store where he grabbed a few more things to take along. The Carlsons had already volunteered that they had plenty to drink so he grabbed more water before returning to the taxi and completing the trip to the marina.

He was an hour early but that was by design. Walking the docks to look at the assortment of boats has been something he has done frequently in the last few years. It is said that the best days of a boat owner’s life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it. He had experienced both and though he often tells himself it is foolish, he still looks for ‘the boat’ that will draw him back.

While walking the piers, Aedan tried again to call Noel but once again got her voicemail. He was now starting to worry a bit. He hadn’t known her long enough to know if being late was a habit. Of course, she wasn’t late yet but why hadn’t she acknowledged his calls?

As he neared dock “D”, Aedan saw the Carlsons toward the end unloading their cart that sat at the end of the finger pier. Mr. Carlson noticed him and waved.

“Oh, great! You’re early so you can help me load the boat!” His laugh was unmistakable. Aedan assured him he was eager to help.

Together, the two of them pulled grocery bags, beach bags, a coolers and a plastic gas can from the trunk of the car. The walk from the car to the boat was over a quarter of a mile which gave them plenty of time to talk about the day’s plans. The weather forecast was near perfect. It would be a bit warm but there would be enough breeze to keep them moving well and cooling the cockpit. They would anchor for a bit to eat and swim and be back to the mouth of the port to see the sun set before returning to the slip before it got too late. It had been several years since Aedan had been out and he was eager to experience the power of the wind that could simultaneously bring a calmness encapsulated by silence yet create moments of excitement if one let their guard down too far.

Once everything had been loaded onto the boat and put into it’s place Aedan offered to help with rigging the mainsail but to no surprise, Mr. Carlson thanked him and suggested he relax while he and Mrs. Carlson completed their preparations. This was not unlike Aedan himself – there is a connection between a boat and it’s captain. Some things the captain wants to know are done a certain way while others just fall into part of a routine and upsetting the routine during preparations inflicts a bit of uncertainty. To be fair, Mr. Carlson did offer a few small errands for him to take care of while he watched.

With little else to do and it now less than thirty minutes from the time that they intended to get underway, Aedan called Noel’s number once more but again his call went directly to voicemail. He was growing more concerned by the moment.

“Have you heard from your friend, Noel yet, Aedan?” Mrs. Carlson may have seen Aedan looking at his phone or perhaps she was simply noting the time also.

Aedan signed and shook his head. “No, I haven’t. The hotel is just around the corner – well, maybe two corners but in any event it’s only about ten minutes away. I’m going to go check on her. They all agreed that at this point he should. Perhaps she had just gotten lost and was walking the docks.

Aedan looked in every direction as he made his way out of the marina hoping to see her on the wrong pier. There was quite a bit of activity this morning as people were taking advantage of the beautiful forecast and getting out on the water or simply spending time on their boats doing maintenance and socializing. In all the activity though, Noel was nowhere to be seen.

Arriving at the hotel, Aedan scanned the lobby both for platinum blonde hair and the check-in desk. It was a small hotel that was decorated comfortably but not lavishly. The desk he found easily but still no trace of Noel. At the desk, he made his best effort in Spanish to ask for Noel’s room number. The look of frustration and confusion on his face prompted her to repeat her answer in English.

“I’m sorry sir but I can not give you that information.”

Aedan explained that she was supposed to meet him, that she was late and that he hasn’t been able to reach her by phone.

The clerk shook her head and was about to say more when Aedan pulled his wallet out.

Please sir, I can not tell you her room number but“. she hesitated and looked to either side of her. Only she and Aedan were in the room. “Ms. Jensen checked out very early this morning.”

Only confusion remained on Aedan’s face.

“Checked out? Are you sure?”

“Yes sir.” She looked back at the book behind the counter “At 4:30 this morning she turned her key in.”

“Did she say why? Was everything OK?” Aedan was grasping for an explanation.

“It was before my shift, sir but I think Maria is still here, she would have been working the desk then. I’ll be right back.”

A couple minutes passed that seemed much longer to Aedan. The clerk returned alone.

“She had to catch a flight and seemed a little rushed but that’s all I know.”

Aedan still couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

Did she say where she was going? Was she alone?” He asked.

“No, I don’t believe she did and there was nobody with her.” she replied

The front door opened and both looked to see a couple loaded with suitcases coming in.

“I wish you luck sir. Please excuse me.” Her attention shifted to the newly arrived guests “Bienvenido!”

Aedan thanked the clerk and stepped away from the counter. He pulled his phone out and tried to Noel again. This time he received a voicemail box full message.

Still confused and wondering what he should do next, he called the Carlsons and told them that he wasn’t going to make it out with them today. Perhaps they could go out another day but he was going to to see what else he could find out and didn’t want to keep them waiting. Mr. Carlson expressed his understanding and that the offer still stood when he was ready. Since the boat was ready, they were still going out.

Outside the hotel, Aedan flagged down the first taxi and headed for the airport.

Sunset

Havana Sunset

Sunset
Sunset at Morro Castle
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on tumblr
Tumblr
Share on email
Email

Even the creeping sun that had found its way across the floor, up the side of the bed and slowly to Aedan’s closed eyes struggled to get him to move this morning. If there was to be a match of wills and patience though, Aedan would surely lose. He rolled over to get out of the glaring beam but the damage was done and he had no intention of wasting the day away…though at the moment it was quite tempting. He was out much later than he had intended the previous night.

Before he finished his second and intended to be last drink the previous night, the waitress set another before him. He began to protest but she only smiled and pointed to an older couple sitting at a table overlooking the deck. Aedan turned to thank them and tried to determine if he knew them or if they had ever met. He didn’t recognize them. The man appeared to be in his 60s, bald, tall and lanky with a mess of a beard that was mostly white. The woman, with strawberry blonde hair pulled into a ponytail flashed him a cheerful smile. Aedan guessed she was more than ten years younger than the man. Both were dressed casually in shorts and t-shirts. Both were quite tanned. Both sported sunglasses pushed back on their heads.

Aedan thanked them for the drink and they immediately invited him to come sit with him. With two drinks already behind him, he accepted the invitation. It would be nice to have an extended conversation where he wasn’t feeling guilt for not knowing more Spanish and to take his mind off of other things he couldn’t do anything about right then.

The couple had sailed their boat to Havana from St. Petersburg in Florida. Several years prior, Aedan had missed his chance at such an opportunity but hadn’t given up entirely. Once they learned that he too was a sailor, the conversation and rum continued for two hours and ended with an invitation to go out with them later during the week.  Of course he couldn’t refuse the invitation.

This morning, Aedan was remembering why he hadn’t had rum for a long time – well not since his first night in Havana. He was scolding himself for his indulgence when his phone began ringing.  He reached for the phone with his eyes still closed. Finding the phone in the charging cradle, he opened his eyes and saw the number. He didn’t recognize the number but the area code he did from his time at UC Davis School of Law in California. Nobody had called him from Sacramento for a very long time. 

Still half asleep, Aedan debated about answering for two rings before giving in. The quiet was so nice.

“Hello?”  There was certainly a question mark to his greeting.

“Aedan?  It’s Noel.” 

The fly on the wall smirked at how quickly he sat up and opened his eyes.

“Noel! I’m glad you called. How are things?”

“Oh, everything is fine.  I’ll tell you later if you like. I’m back in Havana and was wondering if you’d like to meet me for lunch.” 

Aedan was on his feet and wiping the sleep from his eyes, for the first time noticing how high the sun was.

“Sure. Do you have a place in mind?”

“Actually, I noticed a place around the corner from my hotel that had veg options on the menu. We could try that if it’s not too far for you”.

They talked for another ten minutes and agreed to meet in a little over two hours.  The restaurant was across the way from Morro Castle which was on Aedan’s list of things to see. It was a date and Aedan had an hour to pull himself together.

Ten minutes ahead of time, Aedan hopped out of a taxi at the place that Noel had told him about. He was able to get there with only the name of the street and restaurant since Noel hadn’t noticed the address. She was already there and sitting at a table outside. They had agreed to dress casually for walking and exploring but as he looked at her from the distance, he wondered if it were possible for her to dress casually. As he got closer he assured himself that she would look great in whatever she wore.

They shared a pleasant lunch and filled in a lot of blanks that were left from their first meeting. She had divorced a few years earlier and now enjoying her life doing as she pleased after a long, tumultuous relationship.  There was much they had in common. No, she wasn’t vegan as Aedan had hoped but receptive to the idea which was enough to keep his interest.

“So, what do you think about the place you saw yesterday?”  Aedan was truly interested in learning what her plans were.

“Oh, it was nice but..” she paused “It’s really tough finding a place here with all the restrictions.  I’d be relying on the owner and that is concerning me. I need more time. Otherwise it would be perfect. I love the simplicity of things here.”

“Yeah, the people are friendly. “  Aedan replied without acknowledging his secondary purpose there – to gather evidence of a crime.  “But I’m sure you’ll find something that suits your needs. The first challenge is knowing what you want and you seem to have that in the box. There’s nothing wrong with perseverance.”

“Speaking of that.” Aedan nodded toward Morro Castle across the way but perfectly visible to them, “Are you ready for a walk?”

It was a good walk to Morro Castle but today was also a bit cooler than the day before and without realizing it, he had acclimated to the Havana climate. It was also a slow, relaxing walk with Noel. Aedan was feeling a good connection with Noel and thought for certain that she was also. Words flowed like wine.

Morro Castle has a long history. Actually, several structures share the name “Morro Castle” with refers to the rocky point that it is built on. The true name is Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro which refers to the three Magi of the bible.  It was first built in 1598 but has seen many changes and hostility since then. It once imprisoned the Cuban poet, Reinaldo Arenas. Today it primarily a historical structure and tourist attraction though the Harbor Master keeps a presence there.  The lighthouse was added in 1846.

Noel appeared to enjoy the tour self-guided tour and exhibitions as much as Aedan did. He gathered that it wasn’t the history that interested her but the art on display and watching her painstakingly noting every detail made him look a second time to see what he had missed.  It was one of the guides mentioning that the gates would close in fifteen minutes reminded them they would have to leave soon.

Aedan and Noel made their way back around the bay to where they met. Like a child, Noel was on and off of the stone wall along the walkway until they reached point across from the restaurant where they met. Her playfulness made him smile. That is where they sat and talked for another hour as the sun fell from the sky.

In that hour they shared more deep thoughts…more small talk. The similarities were many and for the most part, the differences were minor or things Aedan just hadn’t given much thought to. He has always seen the world from the big picture and was quite set on his ideology. Some things he felt were unimportant and yet when she talked about them he could see their value because he could see how she lit up.

As the sun set over the ocean Aedan remembered his invitation to go sailing the next day and told Noel of his chance encounter.


“I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if I brought you with me. 

There was no hesitation.

“Of course I’d like to go. My uncle had a sailboat and I used to love going out with him…and best of all, I have no plans for tomorrow.”

She went on to tell  how her uncle later went on to be a Zen Monk and how she enjoyed spending time with him.  This peaked Aedan’s interest but it was beginning to get dark now and he wasn’t pushing his luck. He stood and offered his hand to her though she had been jumping on and off the wall with little though.  She smiled and took his hand.

“Yes, I nearly forgot that I need to call my sister.  She’s not doing well.” as she stepped down from the wall.  “What time tomorrow and oh! Where is the boat?” Noel asked.

“We’re heading out around eleven and should be back in time to watch the sun set again.  He said the Marina is right here in Old Havana. Now that I have your number, I’ll give you a call as soon as I know for certain.”

The walk back across the street to Noel’s hotel went faster than Aedan had expected. Had they not agreed to meet the next day it would have been more difficult to say goodnight but they had and so they did.

Big things in little packages

Show Time

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on tumblr
Tumblr
Share on email
Email

Aedan looked at the note passed to him along with the photo on the beach then looked back up to verify the address. He knew he was on the correct street. Now he stood in front of a movie theater. There was nothing on either side that looked like a better place to meet someone so he accepted this was the correct place but now what?

The bus ride back to Havana was without incident though he had stayed out in the sun a bit too long and his burned back refused to let him get comfortable during the entire trip. It was a 15 minute walk from the bus station to where he now found himself excluding a stop for a bite to eat along the way. Similarly, it was now fifteen minutes before 9pm when he was supposed to meet…somebody.

The theater looked as though it were pulled from the 1950s and stranded in that time. It was clean, well lit and according to the sign, showing only one movie which happened to start at 9pm. Operating under the assumption that whomever had asked to meet him here wasn’t planning on meeting on the street, Aedan joined the line to purchase a ticket.

Ten minutes later Aedan was handing his ticket to the smartly dressed young man controlling access to the single movie room. Once inside the room he was only slightly surprised to see the condition of the room. It was fresh and clean if a bit small compared to what he was used to but it also looked comfortable despite the smell of cigarette smoke. There was a decent crowd of people already inside but still plenty of seats available. He chose on that was in a more sparse area which happened to be near the back.

Aedan took his time sitting. He knew he was walking a fine line between being visible to the person he was meeting while attempting to not be too conspicuous to anybody else. He estimated that if their meeting wasn’t supposed to be quiet, it would have been in a different place but nor did he want to sit in the middle of a crowd of strangers. Once he was sitting and comfortable, there was little else to do but wait for the movie to begin. Wait to be contacted. He scanned the crowd around him but saw nobody that appeared to be paying any attention to him.

At 9pm the lights dimmed and the screen came to life. Aedan mused at the lack of commercials he was used to seeing for 15 minutes before a movie. He also mused that smoking was permitted here and hoped it didn’t get too heavy while he was there.

For the next 10 minutes Aedan focused on trying to keep up with the movie with his very limited grasp of Spanish while simultaneously maintaining an awareness of his surroundings. His attention switched back completely to his surroundings when there was movement and whispers in the aisle behind him. He turned slightly to see a young couple passing behind him and continuing to the center of the aisle.

As he contemplated his actions and how much longer he would wait, a masculine voice spoke quietly into his right ear “Don’t turn around, Mr. Charron. Don’t draw any attention to us.”

Aedan nodded slowly and whispered back “Of course, though maybe we could have met at a different..”

“No, this is fine. We’ll talk more later. Right now I just want to give you this. At 10pm tonight you will receive an email with more information about the contents.”

Aedan felt a tap on his upper right arm and without turning, reached to blindly accept what was being handed to him.  It was a small envelope. He took it and slipped it into his pocket. “I’d like to ask some questions after making the trip all the way down here.”

The man quickly responded. “Not here. Not until after you have read the email.”

The journey that brought Aedan to Cuba began with an email from a generic looking email address. After digesting the significance of that first email, he first wondered how anybody outside the legal system obtained his work address. That remained a mystery to him. That this person that he still hadn’t seen implied that he knew the address was now assuring to him that he wasn’t being lead on some wild goose hunt.

Still, there was some lingering doubt. “Can you at least tell me who I am speaking to?” 

“Good night Mr. Charron. Don’t forget to look for that email” 

The sound of the man standing and walking away before Aedan could get in another word was unmistakable. The temptation to turn and get a look at the man passed quickly. Obviously the man was concerned about being seen and with the envelope now in his pocket, whatever it might go to, Aedan too felt more pressure to be discreet.

For fifteen minutes he watched the screen but barely heard a word as his mind raced. He had hoped to have some answers after this meeting. He was promised something for the case he was trying and all he had now was a small envelope. It’s contents were as yet unknown to him.. What he did know that he had lost the plot of the movie but had thirty minutes to kill and this was as good a place as any to see it pass.

While watching the movie, like a kid Aedan slipped his hand into his pocket and squeezed the envelope between his fingers looking for a clue to it’s contents.  It was unmistakable. Inside the envelope was a key but to what He didn’t know.

 

As Aedan left the theater, the key in his pocket seemed to gain weight. He scrutinized each face that he saw looking at him. He was looking for something familiar or for some hint that they were aware of what he now carried but to his relief he saw none.

He guessed that the walk back to his room would take more than twenty minutes which would have him knocking at the door just when he would be expecting the email about the key.  Not knowing what to expect when the door opened or from the email, Aedan stopped for a drink at a place along the beach.

Right on queue, the waitress brought his drink right when his phone beeped.  He pulled it from his pocket and checked the time. His phone read 10:01pm. He recognized the sending email address as the same that he had been communicating with and eagerly opened it.

The email left him with more questions than answers.  It contained a website address with instructions to click on the link. It went on to explain that clicking on the link would identify his phone and nothing more.  The website would not be accessible to him until he left the country and would now respond only to his phone and no other device.

With everything work related achieved that could be at this time, Aedan set the phone down in front of him and picked up his drink.  A quick inventory of the people around him returned happy faces. The live band was backed by the sound of crashing waves and the moon was just rising above the horizon to light the night sky. The rest of his time in Cuba would be the vacation he had been waiting for. The rest would wait for him.

Waiting

Waiting
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on tumblr
Tumblr
Share on email
Email

From the street below, Aedan heard the sounds of glass bottles crashing upon each other. It had grown from a barely discernible ringing and clanging up until now when it seemed to be directly below him. From the rhythmic repetition he guessed it was trash pickup day though he hadn’t heard the telltale stops and starts of a large truck as he might in Seattle. In fact he had heard no vehicle what must have been three stops prior to now.

Aedan had been laying there for at least thirty minutes now. Perhaps closer to an hour  He had always been a morning person and a few late drinks with the family that put him up wasn’t going to change that. Nor did the previous evening’s gathering seem to hold anybody else back.  From the comfort of his bed, Aedan listened to the banter around breakfast and subsequent opening and closing of the front door as a new day set in.  

Today would be Aedan’s first full day in Havana and the day was completely unscripted until 9pm. At 9pm he was expected to be at the address on the note that was handed to him. He was filled with anticipation because the real purpose of his stay in Havana was to gather more information about a case he was in charge of back in Seattle. However, the circumstances of this evening’s meeting were concerning. He didn’t know the person he was supposed to meet. He hadn’t been on the radar and the stranger made the first move by contacting him a month ago, promising to have important information while dropping just enough bread crumbs to get Aedan on the plane. The man insisted that he would meet only with Aedan.

Of course, Aedan couldn’t know for certain that the note given to him came from his contact. He didn’t know the man. He didn’t know why he insisted on meeting Aedan. He did know that the circumstances around the hat, though unlikely, seemed to go as planned and that he had worn it nearly every moment he had been outside. To get the answers he was seeking, he would be there though with an abundance of caution.

No longer hearing voices and the clanging of glass on glass, Aedan swung his feet to the floor, stood and stretched then headed for the shower.

With only a towel wrapped around him, Aedan stepped out of the bathroom with a toothbrush busy in his mouth.  More than once had he been told that he would wear the enamel off his teeth because he brushed for too long. Little did it deter him from following a set pattern of brushing that he had done since he was a kid. Then he couldn’t brush enough and with each cavity filled he was told he needed to brush more. Now it was just an old habit that he would walk around for an easy 5 minutes brushing. 

Seeing a note that had apparently been pushed under the door, he retrieved it. It was from Ms. Fernandez letting him know that she had to leave but there was fruit on the cabinet and food in the refrigerator for his picking.  The fruit might come in handy as he was contemplating taking a Guagas, or bus to a beach away from Havana. His evening plans were set but he had a full day to explore and walking the streets of Havana once again today wasn’t high on his list.

Thirty minutes later, Aedan was floating down the stairs, dressed for the beach. Passing through the kitchen he happily grabbed a couple pieces of fruit and put them in his bag for later, added a short note of gratitude to the back of Ms. Fernandez’s note and mentioned that he expected to be out late that evening then set it on the counter. He was headed to one of the beaches that she had recommended, some place off the beaten trail and away from the tourist rush.

The two hour bus ride along the northern coast out of Havana reminded him of how surreal this entire trip had been. Nearing the bus ride he had heard not a single word of English since an older couple stepped off the bus in Matanzas 30 minutes ago. He might have  been more anxious had Ms. not been so helpful with suggestions and detailed directions. When the bus driver called out “Veradaro” Aedan knew this was the end of the line for this route and gathered his bag and hat. 

As the bus pulled into the terminal Aedan glanced at the map Ms. Fernandez had marked up for him and plotted his path to the rental shop less than three blocks away.  Thirty minutes later, he was on the bike and headed toward the Reserva Ecológica Varahicacos. There were shuttles and taxis that would have taken him there faster but they would go right past the spot recommended to him and even then he would need to walk another 25 minutes. The bicycle was a perfect answer and would leave his options open.

The ride to the beach took a bit longer than expected. Not because Ms. had given him bad directions but because Aedan was engrossed in the sights all the way to the beach. He stopped several times to more fully appreciate what he was seeing.  He had all afternoon and no reason to rush as long as he was back to catch the 6pm bus back to Havana. It was barely after noon when he found the head of the trail to the beach and dismounted the bike.  

From the trail, Aedan could hear the waves breaking on the shore and nothing else beside the occasional traffic on the highway nearly one half mile away..  As he pushed the bike down the trail toward the roar of breaking waves, they grew louder and drowned out all other sounds. It was exactly what he had asked for.

Once he had reached the beach, Aedan used the cable provided with the bike and locked it to a palm tree. With the sun so bright, he removed his shirt and tossed it into the bag he brought with him which also contained water, towels, fruit and a book he had been toting around for months but had not yet started. He looked both directions up the near empty beach then opted to go east, away from the city with the hope that he would be less likely to find large crowds.

For thirty minutes Aedan walked the beach, inspecting interesting shells in the sand, trying to not disturb wading birds following the water line in and out, looking for anything interesting to photograph on his phone…simply enjoying the solitude and wonder around him.  Once he decided he had gone far enough, it didn’t take long to find a spot that appealed to him. The sand was white and the water had taken on more of a blue tint as he neared the river that fed into the ocean.

Aedan opened his bag and pulled the folded towel from the top of it. It was a huge beach towel that he laid down on the sand and then sat on the edge to wipe the sand from his feet before moving up. This would be the perfect spot to contemplate the upcoming evening or read or just close his eyes and again consider all that had happened to him since leaving on this trip though the latter he tried to avoid because it left him in an odd state of mind which he had no time for with the planned meeting with whom he hoped to be a valuable informant.

Over the next hour, Aedan actually managed to read the first chapter of the book he had brought, had called his assistant Cathy to let her know of his planned meeting that evening and went into the water several times to cool off. He had turned back to his book and had become lost in the plot when he detected motion in his periphery.

The number of people on the beach was sparse enough that nearly every person that crossed his field of view got his attention momentarily. Now approaching from the east came a woman wearing a black sun hat and matching sorang. The long blonde hair beneath the hat was the first thing that struck him. She seemed oblivious to the hair in her face as she walked slowly with her head down and stopping frequently to dig shells out of the sand.  She seemed to be in her own world and gave no indication that she even saw Aedan as she walked past him. Her hair and demeanor were similar to the woman from the diner but he couldn’t see her face and he reasoned that the chance of running into the same person at this remote location was slim and yet he had to know.

“It’s a lovely afternoon, isn’t it?” Aedan spoke up before she got out of range to hear him.

She looked up from the sand and back over her shoulder at him.  Aedan could now see that in fact it was the same woman. She looked at him puzzled at first but slowly an expression of recognition spread across her face.

“Hey there. Didn’t I see you in Havana?“ she responded with a smile.

In the thirty minutes that followed, Aedan and Noel had a relaxed and friendly conversation. He learned that Noel had come from California to Cuba to explore the possibility of a business partnership with the friend of a family member. She had also come to Matanzas to find a quiet place that was still easily accessible to tourists and was looking at a place later that evening after dinner with her friend. He learned enough to know that he’d like to talk to her again but she was guarded with her phone number and where she was staying. She did however take his number and indicated that she would contact him when she got back to Havana in a couple of days. Perhaps they could meet again then.

Aedan walking the beaches of Havana

On The Beach

Aedan walking the beaches of Havana
Walking the beaches of Havana
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on tumblr
Tumblr
Share on email
Email

“May I take your dishes, senor?” 

Aedan looked up from the tourist guide he was reading to the friendly smile of the waitress.

“Yes….si!”  He corrected himself, leaned back and held the flyer against his chest as he endeavored to stay out of her way. She asked about refilling his glass of tea but he declined. He had finished his meal some time ago and then leisurely sipped his glass while looking for places to visit. The little ice she had scraped up to put in his glass had melted some time ago and he was now ready to start exploring again.

He gazed curiously at the woman in the booth adjacent to him.  She too had wrapped herself up reading while she ate and never looked at him again. A glance from here would have been enough for him to try to engage in small talk with her but it never came. Even as he gathered his tourist fliers and stood, she remained engrossed in what she was reading.

He observed the man sitting near the door looking his way a couple times. Each time Aedan caught him looking, the man looked away and turned back to the paper he held before him.

While paying his bill at a vintage cash register at the end of the bar, Aedan asked the waitress about things to see that might not be so popular for tourists. He was interested in getting off the beaten trail and seeing more of the authentic side of Havana, the less crowded beaches. She happily pointed out a few places and marked their location on the map that he was carrying. 

Closing the door behind him, Aedan quickly realized that though it wasn’t especially cool inside the diner, it was much more pleasant than the heat and humidity that pounced upon him now. He wasted no time in donning the straw hat he had purchased earlier that day, looked to his map then, with his goal in mind set out to find it. 

He planned to be in Havana for a week so there was no need to see everything today. What he really wanted today was to feel the sand between his toes, hear the crashing of waves on the beach and to feel the ocean breeze. The waitress had told him that the beach near where he was staying was indeed a popular place for tourists but it would also leave him but a few steps away from his room and the long day was catching up with him. 

Aedan stopped at a couple stores along his path. There were a few things that interested him but not enough to buy anything…nothing beyond a new shirt which seemed much more fitting for the weather.  The shirt also better matched the hat which he was quickly becoming fond of.

Thirty minutes later Aedan felt the caress of the warm carribean water on his feet. The breaking of waves drowned out the traffic noise on the street above the beach.  It mostly drowned out the yelling and laughing of children and teenagers. Aedan was again alone with his thoughts and it felt good.

He walked along the edge of the water for thirty minutes before turning around. The sun was well into its decline by now and the hottest part of the day was past making the return trip even more enjoyable.

Between watching the small birds staying ahead of him while simultaneously zig-zagging  and forth to stay at the edge of breaking waves and watching hermit crabs run for cover as he approached, Aedan found himself thinking about the events of the last couple days again.  He had now become quite comfortable in his younger body but he knew there would be explanations needed when he returned home.The notion that this was all a dream had faded away. It was much easier to not think about the return home for now and so he didn’t.  To take his mind off of that as he walked, he gave some time thinking about Louise and if he should follow up to learn more about her story and what he should do if he was right about his suspicions. Surely they were just coincidences but then he was certain about nothing anymore.

“Senor, senor!”  Aedan hadn’t even heard the voice until he felt someone tugging on his hand. Bringing himself back to the present, he looked down to see a young boy walking beside him.  The boy was holding in his other hand a photograph. Around his neck was an old polaroid instamatic camera. 

The boy held the photo up for Aedan to see. It was of him walking the beach, alone. From his cursory glance, Aedan saw nothing special about the photograph and he attempted to wave the boy off. In previous trips, Aedan had experienced the onslaught of merchants attempting to sell their wares to tourists. He had a distinct memory of being surrounded by half a dozen boys of similar age trying to sell him something.  When he refused to buy it, the boys moved in and began reaching for his pockets and tugging at his clothes. Bewildered and outnumbered, he tried to defend himself by pushing them away but there were too many. Fortunately for him, Aedan spotted a policeman on a corner and moved directly toward him. The officer did nothing but watch but as Aedan got closer the boys did break up and leave.

Aedan looked around and saw no other kids paying attention. He saw no police. Giving in to the unavoidable with the hope that the boy would go his own way, Aedan took the picture from him and reaching into his pocket, retrieved a couple pesos that he handed to the boy who seemed more than please. With a huge smile and intense brown eyes the boy thanked Aedan and disappeared as fast as he had appeared.

Aedan continued walking as he looked at the picture, trying to determine from where it was taken. While studying the photo, he felt something attached to the back. He flipped it over to find a white post-it note stuck to it.  In english, the note simply said “Tomorrow at 9pm “ and went on to provide an address. Nothing else.

Immediately, Aedan stopped and looked back for the boy. He was gone. He scanned in all directions around him but found nobody that grabbed his attention. Nobody was staring back at him.

The sun had just set when Aedan knocked on the door of the house that he was staying at. He heard several voices inside including that of the woman that had led him to his room earlier that day. She opened the door with a friendly smile. “Mr. Charron, please come in. There is still some food left if you’re hungry..”

Aedan politely turned down the offer but did accept the invitation to join them for a drink before heading to his room.  

Though the conversation was entirely in spanish and Aedan struggled to follow along, he was able to keep up enough to join the others in laughter. On the occasion that he was totally lost somebody would do their best to explain it to him. There is much to be said for the closeness and comradery displayed in cultures that are lacking in monetary wealth.  Of course, there are similar situations in the US but there is something unique about experiencing that in cultures other than our own.

An hour turned into two. When Aedan finally said goodnight and headed to his room, he was extremely relaxed. He hadn’t had a rum and coke for years…tonight he had two cubatas and he was feeling it.

We are using cookies on our website

Cookies are used to help improve the usefulness and attraction of this site. Please confirm, if you accept our tracking cookies. You can also decline the tracking, so you can continue to visit our website without any data sent to third party services. Thank you.