This writing was inspired by a dream I had last night. And by my life.
I walk alone in the old city. I walk past the immense still factories, abandoned and lifeless. I walk past black boarded up windows. I know he is here somewhere. I walk past the colorful graffiti splattered walls. I walk past the barbershops, the bass from the music reverberating my bones. The snip snip of scissors dancing with the cilia of my inner ear, pulses of electric sound synapsing to my brain. I know he is here somewhere. I look inside. I see blurred faces. I see brown curls swirling and falling to the floor, covering the linoleum like the dusting of snow before a long brutal winter. A caress before sleep. He is not there. I step over the litter decorating the cracked sidewalks. I walk past a homeless man on the street. I look closely to make sure he isn’t reflected there in the man’s desolate face.
Children in their school uniforms parade past, lips shades of red and blue stained by sugary water consumed from plastic barrels, their shoes worn. I stand in front of a restaurant and look up to buzzing electric light radiating from a street lamp. I hear the beat of the clave,* the scratching of the guiro*, the sexy rhythm of the tambor.* I look through the dirty smeared window, I see no dancers. I know he is in there. I float in. The booths are empty, bathed in golden yellow light. It’s too fancy and I am confused. Buena Vista Social Club music seeps in from an unknown place. I can now hear the melancholy tune from the cuatro.* Does her singing belong here? The waiters stand still like wax statues in tuxedos with bow ties but I order at the greasy window. His name is not on the menu. I know he is here though. I am alone waiting. I see a doorway in the distance, a stranger stands wearing a hat, his face masked in darkness. He is not my friend. My basket comes; mountain of rice and beans, cilantro steam rising, slippery pieces of chicken, sweet platanos maduros.* They start dropping the crumpled tinfoil into my food. I know there is something hidden in the irregular balls of metal, lurking. He is here and appears in the doorway half smiling, staring. I wish to no longer be alone. I don’t want the shiny wrapped powders, my gut aches, but it is not hunger. I am afraid. He is there cloaked in darkness, half hidden. Me sitting on the edge of longing so deep and lonely, the shudder rushes up my spine. He does not come to me. No, instead he rushes back into the dark shadows.
*Clave: Instrument that is a pair of hardwood sticks when hit together create a hollow sound and heard in Latin American music.
*Guiro: Latin American percussion instrument consisting of an open-ended, hollow gourd with parallel notches cut in one side. It is played by rubbing a stick or tines along the notches to produce a ratchet-like sound.
*Tambor: Spanish word for drum.
*Cuatro: The cuatro is a stringed instrument similar to a guitar found in Puerto Rico, Cuba, South America, and some countries in the West Indies. Originally it had four strings hence it was called the “cuatro”.
*Platanos maduros: Sweet fried plantains