By Alexis Bonoff
The first time I was in Havana I got lost. Not lost lost, but turned around in the wide streets and overgrown alleys. There was nowhere I needed to be, but I had planned to head back to the Casa Particular after my long walk down the misty moist Malecon, where the constant spray of the Havana Bay causes long green moss to grow on the seawall. I had thought it was right at the abandoned 50’s hotel, then up past the motorbike repair store and then to the left. But instead, I found a park full of young Cubans huddling around their phones. It must have been a wifi hotspot, since no one was playing soccer or flirting, but were holding their phones up high on video chats with faraway relatives and friends. A couple of girls were laughing and making silly faces; on another bench, a group of adolescent boys was crowded around a laptop watching something intently. Early afternoon, the strong sun wreaked havoc on those who were unlucky enough to be not in the shade, squinting as they tilted their phones in vain attempts to see the screens.
I continued down towards where I thought the house might be as children were released from school, dotting the streets with their dark red and white uniforms, a blue kerchief around their necks. Two boys strolled with hurry, climbing up on the crumbling stoop of a derelict palatial home. The taller boy, with tight black curls and a faded backpack, leaned down and picked up shards of broken brick. As they continued, he began to knock them together, clapping them in an easy off-kilter beat. Almost as if without thinking, the second boy, with shinier polished shoes and white socks nearly up to his knees, began to whistle. Together they made their way home from school, daydreaming to their own soundtrack.
Eventually, I too found my way back to the house. But the next day I set out to get lost again.
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