Waiting

Waiting
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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
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“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.

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