“It’s a good omen,” she said, but that’s the only kind of omen she ever saw. Trevor envied that in her. He saw only the other kind. He was young then, trying to find his own voice, to get out from under the influence of great writers.
They were in Havana, their first night in the forbidden city, there by way of Cancun, and then to check into the hotel and see that.
“We could have at least unpacked,” she said.
They walked without a map, sensing their direction. On San Ignacio a young Cuban man named Renaldo invited them into an entryway, a crumbling paseo leading to decaying apartments. Renaldo had set up a business selling hand-made percussion instruments to tourists from the entryway of his building. He urged them to try out the instruments, to play along with him, to make music together. She enjoyed it more than Trevor did. As residents of the apartments came in and out of the paseo Renaldo introduced them: This is my mother…my wife…my brother…my cousin. His house was their house, he told them, now and whenever. Trevor wondered how sincere that sentiment was. If he told Renaldo he couldn’t spend one night at that hotel would he still invite him to take possession of his own place.
“We’re at the Ambos Mundos,” he said, a bit uneasy sharing that much with a stranger in a communist country.
“A fine hotel. I have never been inside.”
“Room five-thirty-seven,” Trevor told him.
As though that should mean something to Renaldo, she thought. That doesn’t mean anything to Renaldo and she didn’t understand why it should mean anything to Trevor. It meant nothing to her. Why does he find every reason to torture himself? She knew he would be telling everybody here and at home of his ironic fate.
Renaldo turned the conversation back to his native music and said in a confidential whisper, “For us, you see, music is a refuge. And sometimes rum. And always love.”
She bought an instrument that you rattled, something for her toddler niece, and then they walked a long way down Obispo, away from the hotel.
“Honestly, I’m tired,” she said. “Let’s go back and unpack and go to bed. We can make Cuban love.”
They turned around and walked back toward the Ambos Mundos.
“I’m sure he did not write ‘A Farewell to Arms’ in that room,” she said. “They’re just saying that.”
“No, he did.”
“We can switch rooms. Or we can let it ruin our trip.”
They did neither, credit to Cuban rum, Cuban music, Cuban love.