Linda

My beard is getting longer. I’m almost 34. In nine days I’ll be 34. It sounds so old. Thirty-four. Thirty. Four. Four plus thirty. Ten three times plus four. Who knows how many days, how many seconds, how many moments lived, and how many moments to be lived. Hopefully the best of my life is in front of me. You always hope this. How could you hope for anything different?

I submitted a piece today about Cuba to a magazine called Odyssa. I think it’s a magazine geared toward women. The piece is OK, it’s about the Danish girl I met in Cuba and traveling around with her. Her name was Linda and we met at the bus station for foreigners in Havana. I think I asked her for a light, or maybe just sat down next to her and started talking to her. We sat on the bus together and talked most of the way. Then when we got to Viñales we stayed in the same place, shared a beautiful room with two beds with a brand-new air conditioning unit that looked like a scud missile.

“Don’t use it during a lightning storm,” the lady told us who rented the place. “It could short out.”

The air conditioning unit cost them something like $1,000 dollars. Her husband, Pedro, kept wanting to show me his tobacco leaves. And for me to smoke cigars. He didn’t want to charge me, he just wanted me to smoke cigars.

On the second day Linda and I went to the pool and got fried to a crisp. I don’t think either of us used sunscreen. I remember Linda’s chest, it looked red before we even left, which of course meant the next day she looked like a cherry tomato. But she didn’t want to get out of the sun. I swam a bit, and then we had sandwiches, and then we lay in the sun some more. I felt comfortable around Linda. She was like a sister. She was also attractive, though, and later that night, or maybe the next day, we went out together, first we watched live music, then we went to a tiny place where we drank tray after tray of mojito. It was hot and we were drunk. There was a French guy next to us and Linda seemed interested in him, but then he floated away with his family. Eventually we went home and opened the door to our apartment, which was like opening the door to an ice cave. And then we lay in bed, not talking, just enjoying the cool air and the murmur of the machine.

The next day we traveled back to Havana and the car smelled like gas — there was a leaky gas tank in the back — and Linda was terrified we were going to hydroplane. We drove right into the heart of a storm. In Havana we shared another apartment, had dinner together at a Persian place, had cocktails at a bar I’d wanted to check out, walked down to the malecón and sat next to each other, watching the waves.

It was dark and the black expanse in front of us felt infinite.

This is the moment when you kiss her, I thought.

I looked over at her and then straight ahead. She was looking into the distance. A car drove by behind us and it’s whir mingled with the sound of the ocean.

This is where you kiss her, you jackass.

The silence became longer. Time felt momentarily slowed, looking out over The Strait of Florida, seeing the black clouds, the spray of the waves dancing at our feet.

This is where you kiss her.

****

The next morning David and Elizabeth, the Air Bnb hosts, picked me up at 4:45am to take me to the airport. I don’t remember if I said bye to Linda or not. If I did it was brief and perfunctory and then I left Cuba.