contraction of her cervix that reawakened my heart to what zealous youth can do.
I tried to keep from coming. I thought of baseball, of the European Common Market, of histology. I thought of Fidel; I thought of a hall full of agronomists falling asleep during El Comandanteâs speech on cucumber production, and nevertheless I succumbed. When I finished she kept going. Beneath her I felt like a dead thing, like I had gotten the life sucked out of me. There was something terrible about the way she kept moving.
When it was done, I could see she was weary and remote, and a tide of guilt washed over me. âI wasnât after sex. I just wanted to help you.â
âDonât be so stuck,â she said, with a swat to my lunar. âYou should have several girlfriends.â
Julia and I settled into the pile of cushions and blankets on the floor and stayed up all night. Each time she rose to go to the bathroom, the arc of her naked butt swung overhead like a churchbell. Each time I lit a cigarette, I lit one for her too. We made up a game called ImaginÃ¡riamericanos .
âIf we were Americans, Iâd have my own apartment,â she said. âYour turn.â
âIf we were Americans, Iâd practice medicine in a clean hospital.â
âIâd just show up with the money, and the landlord would let me move right in.â
âA sparkling, sanitized hospital, walls and floors that havenât even heard of bacteria.â
âIf we were Americans, Iâd invite you over for coffee, and youâd bring flowers.â
âIf we were Americans, Iâd drive to and from the hospital, and the gas tank would always be full.â
âThere wouldnât be any monotony. There would always be a choice.â
âIf we were Americans, Iâd save my money and buy a coffee plantation.â
We lay on the cushions silently for several minutes with heads touching, El ChÃ©âs beard and mouth, upside-down, looking like a black mountain looming above a dark lake. What they donât tell you about when you cheat on someone, even someone you donât like very much: For a long time afterwards the guilt can be like a dead body you carry alongside you. And when she finally leaves, the body becomes her, her memory.
Julia said, âYou feel a ghost, I know.â
âHow can you tell?â
âYou think I havenât felt her too?â
I lit a cigarette and lay awake a long time, awkward in my underwear, listening to her breath and watching my fingers twitch at my side.
12 August 1992
W ednesday after my shift I told Julia, âCome with me to the necropolis.â
âI want to show you something.â
âI hate that place. I hate all cemeteries.â
I said, âTodayâs my birthday.â
Julia frowned. âAll right, Iâll go.â
En Cemeterio ColÃ³n, workers with mops and buckets cleaned the stones on the main road. I took Julia to my motherâs tomb at the corner of H y 8. The sounds of cars and trucks so far away, we stood for a minute without speaking. Nearby, an old woman swept leaves off her husbandâs slab.
I told Julia, âIt was on my birthday that I got this lunar on my face.â
âI thought it was a birthmark.â
âThatâs the little lie I tell grown-ups, but birth-marks occur at birth. My mark was born of a small hemorrhage I survived as a child.â
âWhatâs the lie you tell children?â
âThat a bird dropped it on me.â
âFollow me,â Julia said. âThereâs something I want to show you.â She took me to a corner of the necropolis where Iâd never been. J y 14, a communal crypt inscribed: AsociaciÃ³n de Reporteros de la Habana . At the back of the antechamber was a wall of glass, still intact, two inches thick. A door of the same glass, hanging on rust-blackened hinges, led to a dark stairway. It took all my strength to pry