Havana Lunar

Havana Lunar by Robert Arellano

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Authors: Robert Arellano
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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 Comandante’s 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. “I wasn’t after sex. I just wanted to help you.”
    â€œDon’t be so stuck,” she said, with a swat to my lunar. “You should have several girlfriends.”
    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 Imagináriamericanos .
    â€œIf we were Americans, I’d have my own apartment,” she said. “Your turn.”
    â€œIf we were Americans, I’d practice medicine in a clean hospital.”
    â€œI’d just show up with the money, and the landlord would let me move right in.”
    â€œA sparkling, sanitized hospital, walls and floors that haven’t even heard of bacteria.”
    â€œIf we were Americans, I’d invite you over for coffee, and you’d bring flowers.”
    â€œIf we were Americans, I’d drive to and from the hospital, and the gas tank would always be full.”
    â€œThere wouldn’t be any monotony. There would always be a choice.”
    â€œIf we were Americans, I’d save my money and buy a coffee plantation.”
    We lay on the cushions silently for several minutes with heads touching, El Ché’s beard and mouth, upside-down, looking like a black mountain looming above a dark lake. What they don’t tell you about when you cheat on someone, even someone you don’t 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, “You feel a ghost, I know.”
    â€œHow can you tell?”
    â€œYou think I haven’t felt her too?”
    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, “Come with me to the necropolis.”
    â€œWhy?”
    â€œI want to show you something.”
    â€œI hate that place. I hate all cemeteries.”
    I said, “Today’s my birthday.”
    Julia frowned. “All right, I’ll go.”
    En Cemeterio Colón, workers with mops and buckets cleaned the stones on the main road. I took Julia to my mother’s 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 husband’s slab.
    I told Julia, “It was on my birthday that I got this lunar on my face.”
    â€œI thought it was a birthmark.”
    â€œThat’s 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€œWhat’s the lie you tell children?”
    â€œThat a bird dropped it on me.”
    â€œFollow me,” Julia said. “There’s something I want to show you.” She took me to a corner of the necropolis where I’d never been. J y 14, a communal crypt inscribed: Asociación 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

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