The city is warm and sticky, the way a one-night stand is, lying beside you in bed. It doesn’t look like you thought it would, but still there are remnants of the magic you imagined before you got here.
The old colonial architecture and classic Chevy’s hint at what things used to be. Your memory knows there is more, but this is not a memory you have. It is a memory that has you. You aren’t in bed with a lover. You wake up and you are in a city: wide, and panged with time, resistance, and forced limitations; a city that has found its own way to survive.
Wandering through the streets of Havana you’re reminded again and again that you don’t know this city like you thought you did. This city…this country is anything, but predictable. The streets are crowded, and then they are not. At one club it’s high fashion and the service makes it feel like the 1950’s – on another corner it’s a casual watering hole with a mixture of tank tops and bow ties; it’s construction in the middle of the street with workers passing around a bottle of rum. A country frozen in time is not what this is. This is a country moving through time at a drastically different speed than I am used to. A country that has been forced to prioritize and evaluate itself and what can be made from limited resources. What does it mean to be Cuba in these times? – I think the answer for what Cuba has been for me lies in the question: What does it mean to lay in bed in the hot, sticky mess of an idea? There are some things that will never fit, and some things that will never change, no matter how much time goes by, leaving incompatibilities that we see over and over again in each other. Hurt feelings and harsh words cannot be undone – or in this case revolution and embargo, but getting back to the metaphor of a lover…
Havana is dreamy, but didn’t make my body tingle and enchant me in the same immediate way that only a couple places have. Havana has a lot more chaos in her blood than I know how to keep up with. She doesn’t like to communicate or let on what she knows. She is dancing wildly, and does not need a partner to satisfy her or keep her company. This place has the best poker face I’ve ever seen. There are so many rhythms happening at once that I never know where I’m meant to be. Everyone is in this storm of rhythms lighting up in a fiery night of sound and fury. The time capsule of this country’s heart was never buried. It was smashed open and put on display in poor weather, left out to rust in the rain. But God, is it hard to take your eyes off something that can still stay standing, no matter how hard the wind sways or how loud the battle cries are. Cuba is beautiful this way, in a way that says, “I know who I am” – and doesn’t offer any explanation.