There are some things that are not to play
Winner in the category of Short Story, Havana Streetview first award 2014
Since I got divorced, this is the first weekend that turned out perfectly. I’m the typical vocational pessimist, but there are days when luck strikes and you have to make a good use of it.
So, when Ricardito, the cousin that works on a foreign company and lives splendidly, suggested me about a car and the upsetting assignment, instead of cursing and grumbling of envy, I told him yes and looked at the subject from a convenient point of view. I mean, I forgot I should spend half Saturday as a lousy driver of his mother-in-law and I focused on the other part: the fair afternoon enjoyment of air conditioning and dark glasses of the Toyota.
I just left her with her hairdresser´s in the Focsa building. They are rebuilding it at an amazing speed. Stones and belaying pin are falling constantly from that magnificent building and it’s difficult to park. But today… today is my day: just arriving I saw a perfect parking space in the shade and in a zone not crowded by the plague of parking attendants that infect Havana city with their greed for coins.
I park and I observe, leaning on the car, the restoration of the building. The ocean breeze, the proximity to the seafront, makes me feel almost euphoric. It isn’t a plan yet, but in my mind it starts to shape the possibility to spend the afternoon with Lali in the beach and to calm her down, to take her away the complex of me wanting her just for venting my problems.
But the vision of Lalita’s salted body full of promises is polluted by the first mad man of the day. Bad signal, I say to myself while I contemplate his lethal anger. He comes walking down 17th street, against the traffic and turning his head towards the ocean constantly. “There are some things that are not to play!”, he repeats compulsively when he passes by.
Well, I say to myself, you have to respect others’ feelings: that’s true, there are some things that are not to play; who knows what happened to him. But, the hell with him! My thing is to focus on the perfect weekend, because Ricardito has said: “you can keep the car and use it for a while”. So, easily angry men whom life treats badly are not of my business.
The girl that appears on the ground floor of Focsa twisting her neck to passers-by and arousing the most different exclamations, she is of my business. She is a specimen at her twenties that seems to be running away from a harassment of a man older than her; he is strong and anxious and he finally shouts some imprecise accusation and walks on an opposite direction at a high speed turning his head from time to time.
She stands like a paralyzed nymph without knowing what to do with her body. Because such a delicate anatomy is not carried through the world spontaneously, the women blessed with exact proportions need to ponder every step, every location on the space; they use to be like portable earthquakes and must consider the immediate consequences that they provoke. I guess that when they lose their partners the calculations of their immediate existence go wrong. Women like that neither know how to be alone nor deserve to learn how.
Then she looks northeast. No, I’m neither a captain nor a meteorologist. I seldom have awareness of cardinal points, but now my suspicious mind look for tricks against the threat of her look. For her almond-shape eyes address towards where I am standing and her body adopts a posture on the same direction. I suspect that behind me, on the sidewalk, there is a good-looking man. I try to find answers for the persistent feeling of her gaze fixed on my eyes. I turn my head and look (on this glorious Saturday everybody seems to have a strong need of turning around) to check there is nobody behind me. It can’t be possible, I repeat to myself confused. But, here she comes!
The Toyota, I said to myself on a flash of logic. The keys of the attractive emerald-green car are hanging noticeably on my hands and its irresistible temptation becomes capital of generalized infantry. This is the magnetism that makes her swing towards me among whistling and toots of cars. In nature everything tends to leverage. Toyota like a goddess is the formula that solves every uncertainty.
So, when she gets to the distance of my breath, I already believe it. The set of her angel face, bulging pointed breasts, buttocks like an airy angel and her long graceful legs, are an idyllic chance to substitute the repetitive and ordinary Lalita’s body.
— Yours? —she asks with the voice of an amazon.
— Ah…—she murmurs letting me see her mischievous saliva on her mouth— and …Are you busy?
Her daring fingers play with one of the stirrups of my pants.
My heart pops out of my breast.
— I was busy… — I answer her playing with the stirrups of her pants.
She smiles and (another one) turns around for an instant. From one of the cars that drives along M street somebody shouts at her “Little devil!” and everybody bursts out laughing at the same time. The roar of the crowd encourages her: now her hand touches my skin.
— Take me to enjoy, come on…—she begs me half-closing her eyes.
The keys of the Toyota tinkle because of my nerves. Crossing the street, it appears the threatening figure of the dude that was with her before. She notices it from my expression and turns around enough to see that he’s coming aggressively.
— Don’t pay attention to him! —she asks me getting closer to me.
The dude, really strong, gets to us and hits one of her porcelain shoulders with his rough worker fingers, while our eyes spark as they meet. I have never been brave, but circumstances mean everything.
— I told you to piss off! —she says showing me her strong will to share my perfect Saturday.
The dude snorts and touches her again harshly. I hug the backside of her wasp waist —Oh god, what a moment! — I turn her and put her between the green Japanese temptation and I, facing the angry monkey.
— You heard her! —I state dreadfully— piss off immediately!
I haven’t finished my last vowel, when I feel grabbed by my shirt collar with a telluric and firm strength. “Fuck!”, I scream alarmed, nearly to ask him better manners. Just on that second I realize that perhaps I’m involved on a life or death fight and hesitation only encourages my opponent. I grab him by his collar too.
The world stops.
— Let’s see if you’re ready to do anything? —I hear the scaring and psychopath voice of the enemy, while his saliva splashes my face. Behind my back I no longer feel the smooth and promising support from the apple of discord, but Ricardito’s cold green car.
— Whatever! —I respond with a little conviction.
Threatened by his angry look and the growing pressure of his strong hands, I also start to feel a different pressure. Another bony and feverish hand pulls me by the shirt. And a disgusting sick-sweet voice with a booming tone asks me to give it up.
— Leave that, Ricardito’s cousin, you have to take me back!
The horrible mother in law of my cousin, with a Cleopatra’s hair style, beaten by a storm in the middle of the ocean, demands her driver to end the fraternity waltz and gives himself to the servility of her departure.
— Piss off, old lady! —I shout on a rage and feel how the pressure loosens on my neck— what you think, you crazy bitch, that I’m buttoning up this giant?
She backs up scared and annoyed, stumbling among the nosy crowd that enjoys the show. The people waits impatiently for my immediate action.
But when I turn around to my epic destiny I find the clear and disappointing smile of my rival who also arranges my wrecked shirt after letting me loose.
— I’m sorry, dude —he apologizes smiling, while behind him I see a lot of sympathetic smiles— Look over there!
All the audience is watching the light on a window at the Focsa building.
— It’s a hidden camera, man, a hidden camera!
The general laugh gets inside of my body like a knife. I think of the old lady, with her horrible hair style waiting for me angry, in the trinomial of happiness: Toyota, Lali half-naked, Santa María del Mar beach, and the absurd and inexcusable way in which luck (also) turns around its face. I remember a victim face that passed by my side early in the morning; that poor man was shouting “there are some things that are not to play”.
Antonio Carballo Calderón