Lost in Salsa fever - Eva Kowalski - ebook

Lost in Salsa fever ebook

Eva Kowalski



Cuba, Havanna, Berlin, Crime, passion, Salsa, dancing. For a long time her passion for salsa has dictated her life. Simone and Julia enjoy island life in the Caribbean, go for walks on the Malecon, listen to one of the best Cuban bands, travel by bus through Havana. When during the last hours of her vacation Simone meets a nice attractive young man, who is also virtuoso dancer, she falls head over heels in love with him. The fact that he wants to marry straightaway is flattering for a woman in her late forties and spontaneously she decides to embark on an affair with the salsero. Just a few weeks later the wedding takes place in Havana. In her excitement over her new relationship she neglects her friend Julia and doesn’t notice that Julia has very mixed feelings about her friend’s plans. After arriving in Germany Simone and Orlando face exactly the same problems as innumerable other couples who come from different cultures. But their love is great and they’re willing to make it work together. For a time everything goes well, but then Orlando starts leaving his wife alone night after night and finally begins a relationship with an attractive young businesswoman, Veronika Pieler. One day all four of them meet together and fate runs its course. A crime is committed. Detective Inspector Ela and her colleague Singe try to shine a light into the darkness of this confused story. In the course of the investigation the two charismatic detectives not only draw the readers with them into the salsa scene and celebrity venues, but also turn into guides through the new cosmopolitan Berlin.

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I would particularly like to express my gratitude to my mother, who is a gifted dancer and has passed on some of her talent to me, to my brothers and sisters and to my friends, who make it possible for me to enjoy a beautiful life.

On my own behalf: I look forward to your visits, comments, likes, shares and tweets on my pages - and to lively interaction with you.

Regards, Eva Kowalski

The plot and all characters are purely fictitious. Any similarities with real events or persons are coincidental and unintentional


Cuba Malecón

An evening full of surprises

Out and about with Orlando

The flight home

In Berlin – back in the daily routine

Back in Cuba – for the wedding

The wedding

Half Cuban

Back in Germany

The friends from the Malecón

Orlando’s arrival

Looking for work

In a dead-end


A new life

The first wedding anniversary

Julia in the bar

The day after the first wedding anniversary – the deed

The detectives

First interrogation in the hospital

Second interrogation of Orlando Sanchez

The report

Day 3

Girls‘ night out

Julia visits Orlando

In the office

Cuba Malecón

With satisfied faces they sat on the wall and passed the rum back and forth. This time it was one of the better brands.

“She gave me all her change and all the notes she had left. She wouldn’t need them anymore anyway and changing the CUC1 wouldn’t be worth the hassle,” he said casually while looking down at his brand-new Nike trainers.

“I brought mine to the airport and then I explained that I didn’t have any money for a taxi. She really thought that you could only get into the city from the airport with a taxi and that at tourist prices. Me a Cuban! She gave me 25 CUC without batting an eyelid. And then she finished by saying she’d fallen in love with me.”

They all laughed as the rum was passed round again. “And what did you say?”

“That I’d like to write to her, but in Cuba that wasn’t so easy. The Internet cafés are so expensive. An hour costs 10 CUC and on top of that the connection sucks. You have to pay a lot even for a little letter. She asked me something about whether they still work with modems or something like that and then she pressed another 100 CUC into my hand. I gave my neighbor’s phone number, maybe she’ll want more after all. But I know all about that already, after a month at the latest she’ll have forgotten me.”

Orlando poked his buddy in the side. “Not bad, your tip about the Bachata songs.”

His buddy gave him a puzzled look.

“Yeah, that I should take the lyrics and pretend they were my poems. She believed everything. And do you know what she always said when I read my poems to her? I was romantic and so talented!”

The young men roared with laughter.

“I’ll have to try that sometime.”

“Me too.” Ernesto took off his sunglasses and shoved them onto his head. “Miguelito has really made it, he’s even picked up a young one.”

“Yeah, but she doesn’t have any money; so how’s he supposed to get to Sweden?” Orlando waved the bottle about a bit.

“Because she got pregnant on the very first day. She’ll manage to get it done.” Ernesto shoved his sunglasses back onto his nose.

The good rum was soon finished and full of energy they got up and headed off to the concert. Life could be so beautiful.

On the bus

Julia and Simone got on the bus and stayed standing behind the bus driver. That was the place with the best view.

The driver had a leisurely driving style and through the bus windows they were able to look at the many old houses with their faded weathered façades. Only a few of them had been lovingly renovated with fresh paint. Small groups of children in beige school uniforms stood in front of tables that had been set up and were stocked with homemade cookies for a couple of Pesos Cubanos2. Again and again you could see sales stands with hand-painted price lists that looked a bit makeshift. Here coffee, local fruit juices, buns and fried plantain were on offer. In between there were craft services that were often carried out right outside the houses, the workers surrounded by inquisitive people and old pensioners still participating in social life. “In Cuba nobody has to feel alone, that’s what’s nice about life here,” said Simone looking at the men repairing bikes and car tires outside the shop.

She was impressed by the Party’s billboards calling on people to defend socialism, the Che Guevara pictures and the exhortations to hold out written in gigantic letter.

Curiously the two of them looked at Cuban women wearing figure-hugging, colorful outfits and elaborately styled hairdos; the women obviously took great care of their appearance. Most of them were probably coming from work or shopping.

The men in the bus liked to get close; they stood right behind Julia and her friend and were pleased when the bus braked, the two tourists swayed backwards and they were able to touch their arm or tummy. It smelled of soap, perfume and sweat – no wonder in this heat. All the windows were open, but only hot air came in; nevertheless it was still fresher than the air in the bus.

“Can you let us out just after the tunnel?“ Julia asked the bus driver of the P1 in Spanish.

“Where do you want to go?,” he asked back.

“We want to walk along the Malecón.”

“But it’s a very long way to the downtown area, about 5 miles,” he tried to explain to them. “That’s too far to walk.” His dialect was more or less understandable, only the s was missing most of the time.

“Yes, we know, but we want to do it.” Slight grins all around them, an older woman also made a barely comprehensible remark and everybody laughed.

“I think they think we’re crazy. No Cuban would willingly walk so far, particularly not when the bus is traveling the same stretch,” Julia explained to her friend.

“Yeah, I heard that too, Jules.”

When they got off, the bus driver again asked: “Are you sure?”

“Yes.” He let them out into the humid sea air.

In front of the fort with the circular grounds, the Torreón de la Chorrera, there was a restaurant with a lovely view of the sea and the Malecón, possibly the most famous promenade in the world. On the right a stairway led into the old walls. Simone was absolutely set on climbing them to take some photos. “Maybe we can get a picture of the whole promenade.”

But they decided to wait a while before taking a break and started off straightaway toward the Old City. Simone considered walking the whole way along the top of the wall. But a short distance ahead she could already see that the spray was shooting over the wall and even across the sidewalk onto the road. The cars were driving through the puddles and little jets of water were squirting into the air.

“If you turn right here into the street Calle 6, you come to the Palenque. There on Saturdays the Conjunto Folklorico National performs Cuban rumba; maybe we can also ask there again about dancing lessons. I’ve always wanted to learn the rumba. I got this tip from a Cuban guy, one of our landlady’s neighbors,” Julia explained, proud of her knowledge. She wanted to take back a lot from Cuba.

For the next few yards there was nothing special to see. On the right there were a few sport facilities and occasional houses. A few vintage cars with a taxi sign on the roof or behind the windshield, full of Cubans, honked at them to indicate that they were prepared to stop and give them a lift. The two of them used hand signals to indicate their refusal of the offers. “Those are Chevrolets and Buicks from the 50s. Back home they’re in museums and here they’re driving round all over the place. Isn’t that fantastic?” gushed Simone, clicking away with her camera.

After only a thousand yards Simone started to complain that she didn’t have any sun cream with her and the left half of her face was getting red. The late afternoon sun was still scorching hot and they could still get sunburn. Simone stopped the next coco-taxi. They sat down on the padded seat of the coconut- shaped yellow vehicle, the driver stepped on the gas, turned up his little radio a bit and with the wind in their hair they drove along beside the sea.

“We want to go to somewhere in the middle of the Malecón,” they shouted to the tanned, very slim boy. “Si, no hay problema.”

How pleasant and relaxing. Simone took out her camera again and took pictures of everything that passed or drove by. At a fascinating, magnificent statue they asked him to stop and gladly paid him four CUC. “So what’s this statue called?” Simone asked him good-humoredly. “Monumento ao General Calixto Garcia. He was a leader in the three wars of independence against the Spanish colonialists. In 1898 he made the preparations for the landing of US troops. I can also take a photo of the two of you. I can show you lots more of Havana, too,” he explained in a businesslike manner, happy for the opportunity to earn an even bigger tip.

They gratefully accepted his offer of a souvenir photo. But now they wanted to experience the flair of the Malecón again on foot. Meanwhile things had started to hop.

“Of course the USA doesn’t have an embassy here – after all there’s still the embargo – but they do have a sort of representation here,” explained Julia as they passed a six-story building. “And precisely for that reason Castro has always arranged for the loud rallies against the US government to happen right here, looking Goliath in the eyes.”

“How long has the economic blockade been going on? For that matter, you could expect of Obama that he would not just loosen it, but do away with it altogether. Things would be much better for the people here. How can America feel that such a small country is a threat?“ Simone asked full of interest.

“The embargo was imposed when the new Cuba seized the estates and factories in Cuba that belonged to the big landowners and the Americans. I think it was in 1960. Our landlady explained to me that there are still lots of exiled Cubans sitting in Miami and the US waiting for the country to collapse so that they can get back their old property. There are politicians, and they aren’t all Republicans, who would never vote to end sanctions. And those are powerful people who also support artists, even celebrities from the salsa scene, people who’ve got lots of money and influence. Since then Cuba has been allied with countries whose governments are more or less active opponents of the USA.”

“You mean like Russia and China and now Venezuela.”

“Right. I can still remember postcards where you could see Russian Ladas on the streets of Havana between the vintage cars.”

“And our landlady’s pressure cooker comes from China. She got it from the government a few years on Mothers’ Day, just like every other Cuban woman.”

“Nowadays Cuba survives mainly on the tourists and the dollars sent by Cuban exiles. Sure things would be better for people here if there was no embargo and they could trade normally. It’s hardly possible to do business with Cuba. That’s why there’s so little modern technology here. At the moment only certain groups of Americans are allowed to travel directly to Cuba. A few years ago there were posters hanging here showing US President Bush as a murderer or a vampire. But since Obama has been in power there’s been a sort of ceasefire between the two countries. Only occasionally do you see posters of the five heroes who were given long sentences for alleged espionage.”

“But I’ve met Americans in the hotel. How come?“ Simone asked.

“Well, maybe they’re social workers or belong to a church. A while ago there weren’t even any direct flights from the USA to Cuba. Americans traveled to the country via Canada or Mexico. Obama has already changed a few things.”

Soon a large square, La Piragua, appeared on the right – here a large music festival had taken place the week before. It was mainly young Cubans who met, performed their own music, showed the latest dance steps or simply enjoyed themselves with rum and music. Salsa was something you heard fairly rarely, most of them preferred techno, house or reggaeton.

“Do we want to buy ourselves another bottle of water at the gas station? I really fancy having a couple of chocolate cookies.” Sure, Simone had planned to avoid eating candy and stuff while in Cuba, but sometimes she just couldn’t resist. For a while she didn’t want to depend on her beloved chocolate to provide her with feelings of happiness, she’d sworn to her best friend two weeks earlier as the two of them got off the plane. Julia had pulled her leg a bit at the time and said to her “All that’s missing now is you wanting to fall to your knees and kiss the Cuban ground.”

They paid one CUC for the cookies and one CUC for the mineral water, which was bought exclusively by tourists – and no wonder at those prices. Otherwise tourists risked catching diarrhea and fever if they had a drink with ice cubes outside the hotels. In Cuba people drank water that had been boiled for at least 20 minutes.

On the right a bit further on appeared a large rocky crag with a bubbling waterfall pouring down the middle. The crag bordered the grounds of the Hotel Nacional, a huge neoclassical building complex that from the distance was already radiating elegance and grandeur.

“We really must go back into that hotel – you feel like you’ve been transported back into the last decades of the 19th century; classic pictures of Cuban and world-famous celebrities, actors, singers and so on hanging on the walls. Magnificent mirrors and furniture, such a fantastic atmosphere. And huge grounds with a view of the Malecón and the sea. I once saw a photoshoot of wedding outfits for a magazine, a bride with windswept hair, her veil fluttering in the wind, a dream in white.”

Again and again they looked out to sea at the tube fishermen, the pneumaticos as the Cubans call them, who were catching their dinner or some fish for their neighbors near the shore, right beside the rocks. This was more than a little dangerous. When they were further from the shore with their big truck tubes, you could only see them as black dots and some of them were paddling back just using their hands. Two lovers walking in front of the friends were wrapped around each other. A guitarist and two boys were singing a romantic song: enamorado en ti. Simone would have loved to stand near them much longer, it touched her heart; what warm voices; who were they possibly thinking of? An older man everybody here seemed to know was offering little bags of peanuts. A group of young men were drinking rum and dancing to reggaeton – wow, they could really move! Julia and Simone stopped and were immediately surrounded and addressed in Spanish: “Where do you come from? Do you want a shot of rum? Do you want to dance?”

Within seconds they were the focus of attention of the small circle. Everybody laughed. A really good-looking guy was moving his body in time to the music, dagadagadada, dagadagadada. It was just like a movie. The week before Simone and Julia had attended a dance course in Havana, reggaeton had also part of it; they showed straightaway what they’d learned, letting their hips swing in one direction and their shoulders in the other. The guys were enchanted: “Just like a Cuban woman. Where did you learn that?”

Julia pulled at Simone’s dress: “We still want to go to the concert, let’s go.”

“Do you want to come with us to the Casa de la Musica, there’s a concert there, Charanga Habanera are playing,” Simone asked the guys.

“Oh, Charanga, que bueno, pero no tenemos dinero,” they replied with a laugh holding the bottle of rum up in the air. Simone had already guessed that they had no money.

“Come on, Simone,” urged Julia.

The guys shouted declarations of love after them: “Hola! Lindas.”

On the right there were a few beautifully renovated houses. Next to them a modern hotel with lots of glass and a small restaurant in front of which some Cubans were standing on the street and listening to salsa.

“I’d move right away into one of these colonial buildings with a direct view of the sea. Imagine drinking a mojito in the evening, daydreaming, watching the action and then rounding off the evening with a spot of dancing, knowing you can dance the whole night through. Nothing in the world could be nicer,” gushed Simone. The next house, which looked as if it came from the century before last, was supported by wooden beams, the façade eroded by wind and salt. UNESCO World Heritage Site said a sign. They had to cross to the other side of the street – an old truck emitting a thick cloud of diesel fumes approached them and then the street was free.

“It isn’t far now, we’re already in the Centro, in the middle of Havana,” said Simone with a touch of relief. Their bottle of water was now empty. They turned into a busy side street.

“Well, I wouldn’t like to run around here alone at night; the area isn’t exactly well cared for. The state of the houses is much worse than in Vedado, and the Old City looks prettier too,” commented Simone gesturing again with her camera.

“Maybe you should stop taking photos for a while, it makes us stand out as tourists,” suggested Julia carefully. “They know that anyway; you only have to look at our skin color and our gear,” replied Simone. “I need some water.”

1CUC (Peso convertible) is the Cuban currency linked to the US dollar that is used to pay for imported goods and services for tourists.

2 CUP (Peso cubano) – Cuban domestic currency used for paying for state subsidized goods and services.

An evening full of surprises

The Casa de la Musica in Calle Galiano looked almost the same as the other houses; only the posters on the outside walls with pictures of groups and ads for gigs showed it was a concert venue. The salsa rhythms from the speakers next to the ticket office sounded loud and inviting, at last they’d be able to see one of the best timba groups that Cuba had to offer, David Calzado y su Charanga Habanera; tickets cost 20 CUC for them, about $ 20, for the natives there was another price, 100 Pesos Cubanos, about $ 5, which was rather prohibitive.

“The price is irelevant; I’d also be prepared to pay more,” commented Simone taking the bills from her purse. “My treat.” Both of them were crazy about the group and crazy about dancing. You didn’t often get a chance to see them, even in Cuba, because they did lots of foreign tours. Beside the ticket office a few Cuban beauties were standing, wearing short tight skirts and glitter.

“Incredible, what a sight, almost like models. I’m sure they’re waiting for a tourist to invite them in,” said Julia turning to Simone.

“I hope they can’t understand German,” she responded with a grin.

On the other side of the street a large police car was parked; beside it were standing a few Cubans, mainly young men wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Charanga in large letters. They probably wanted to go to the concert too. “Why are their ID cards being checked, is that harassment or what?“ asked Simone; she just couldn’t look away. Two of the guys were put into the car and driven away.

Inside ice-cold air awaited the friends. “The Latinos probably think it’s cool to have the air conditioning on at full blast, I should have brought a jacket,” complained Julia wrapping her arms around herself as if to protect herself. There were already a few couples dancing to the music being played.

“Do you want a mojito too?“ asked Simone. Two other women joined them at their table, also tourists. Julia asked them in English where they came from. From Denmark, and this was their first concert, they’d gotten the tip from a guidebook. Salsa fever had already grabbed hold of Simone and she looked spellbound at the dance floor; some of the dancers had some really artistic moves and the Cuban women were showing with graceful hand movements and a couple of skillful rumba turns that they were enjoying every moment.

“Where on earth do they get such muscles and that lovely brown skin and this style?“ gushed Simone. “That guy’s a really super dancer; I’ll ask him in a moment it he’ll dance with me.”

As a tourist you never got a refusal, even if you were already well over 40. Being with a tourist was like a free ticket to going out; it meant going on excursions with a rental car or a taxi, getting a new outfit, invitations for meals, trips to discos, getting a few odds and ends for your apartment or, if things went very well, getting a present of a ticket abroad – at least that’s what many people in the dance scene thought. Even if his own girlfriend was standing next to him, no Cuban man would refuse an invitation to dance from a foreign woman. Julia had experienced it often enough herself.

“Hey, Simone, he’s just over twenty.”

“Well, I don’t want to marry him, I only want to dance. Take a look, he looks real good, a bit like the singer 50 Cent, and he’s a real salsa expert; he’s got lots of real good moves.”

Shortly afterward the object of their conversation was standing beside Simone; he’d noticed that they were talking about him and eyeing him up. Simone turned away ostensibly indifferent.

“Why are you looking away? Don’t you like me?” he asked in Spanish.

“Are you talking to me?” asked Simone innocently.

“Yes, do you want to dance with me?” he asked already taking her by the hand and pulling her onto the dance floor.

Simone had become quite good in the course of the years; after a few Cuban vacations with dance courses she had something to offer. Skillfully she knew how to move her hips sexily and her flowing movements looked natural, almost like those of a Cuban woman. He was probably astonished that she could dance so well. Yes, indeed. They looked like a stylish couple.

On the stage the lights went up; four guys were standing there with their backs to the screaming crowd. All of them dressed in black and with large belt buckles. Top of the range for style and sexy. That they were bodybuilders was obvious, you could sense the sixpacks under their shirts. David Calzado, the leader of the band and the lead singer, sex appeal personified, started off with a ballad; then the mood changed, with a rousing bass line and the deployment of horns the guys turned round, their movements synchronized. A group like this was unique. One of them took the mike:

Dime cuanto ella vale

Que yo la voy a comprar

Si no la quieren conmigo voy hacer lo prohibido

Me la voy a robar

He ripped open his shirt. More devotion was impossible. The chicas screamed. Julia was drawn to the front row, she wanted to be near the guys, she wanted to smell their perfume. Euphorically she sang along with the crowd: “Porque yo soy un charanguero.” All at once Simone was standing next to her, hand in hand with Orlando, as he later introduced himself. He whispered something in Simone’s ear and she turned to Julia: “I’m going home with him for a while; he wants to show me where he lives, it’s around the corner – I’ll be right back. If I’m not back in half an hour, you can call the police.”

Horrified Julia looked at Simone’s sweat-soaked face.

“Hey, you’ve known him for just 10 minutes – have you lost your mind?”

But nothing could stop Simone.

“I want to experience something special, to do something off-the-wall for a change, I’m sure it’s not dangerous.”

Orlando noticed Julia’s misgivings and took out his ID card. “So you don’t have to worry,” he said trying to calm her down. Quickly Julia memorized the name on the carnet de identidad, the Cuban passport. Now Simone felt even safer and went off with him.

Still shocked Julia ran after them just a few seconds later, out the door into hot Caribbean air, but she couldn’t see them anywhere and full of anxiety she went back in. She wasn’t really able to enjoy the concert anymore. The guys in the band and David Calzado were pure joie de vivre, the Cuban women were really out of it. The singing was fantastic, taking turns the individual singers conjured up passion, love, the simple Cuban life, poetically and with lots of pride and devotion.

And then the dance numbers! Each singer gave you the feeling you could have him, with all his zest for life, with his perfect muscular body; you’d never regret the time with him for the rest of your life, you’d always be able to dream of it. And already he was winking at you. One singer blew a kiss at a woman evoking enthusiastic cries from those around Julia. Another threw his tie into the crowd; now Julia wanted something too.

Suddenly Simone tapped Julia on the shoulder and grinned at her. “It was super with him.”

“I don’t like what you’re doing,” said her friend still truly pissed, but the band was playing one of her favorite songs: “Yo tengo tu amor” and she wanted to enjoy the rest of the evening. Orlando offered both of them a drink, but Julia politely declined. Where had he got so much money from, she immediately wondered; normally she refused all such offers here. Not out of arrogance, but because Cubans earned so little except when they worked in the tourist business and pocketed enough tips, or if they benefited from having well-heeled relatives abroad. From the side Julia saw the two of them dancing again. Orlando didn’t let Simone out of his sight anymore. People danced up to Julia from behind and the atmosphere was great. The light on the stage went out slowly, more than anything else she’d have loved to go backstage, but already there were a number of Cuban women waiting there. She peered behind the stage; “should I go there too?” she asked herself. Then Julia remembered that she didn’t even have her camera or cellphone with her, she’d checked them in with the woman in the checkroom. What she’d give for a photo together with the musicians! Two Cubans asked Julia if she’d like to come with them to the Florida, the party would be continuing there. But she’d planned to take part in a grand tour of the city in the morning, she tried to explain to them. “Today is today and tomorrow is tomorrow,” remarked one of them smiling and laying his hand on her shoulder. There was no better way of explaining that you should enjoy life; sometimes complicated processes could be explained so simply. She felt torn, deep down inside she thought she wouldn’t like to get involved in an affair, even if the idea was really exciting, and the later it got during the night the greater the temptation would be. With a heavy heart she declined. Orlando stood before Simone and gave her a warm embrace, they were making a date for the next day, as Julia heard while half-listening to them. Simone whispered something into his ear. Orlando then brought the two of them to the bus stop, where they waited for nearly 20 minutes. Julia couldn’t at all understand how the two lovebirds had so much to talk about and instead she thought about the concert and about the musicians, particularly one of the trumpeters she’d taken a fancy to. Eventually, the P1 arrived, quite full for the time of night and they traveled back to Miramar to their little casita. Simone smiled happily. She grabbed a place by the window leaving her friend standing in the middle. She didn’t really want to speak German, it wasn’t necessary for everybody to know that they were tourists. She didn’t want to be attacked or hassled, it was late and she was a bit anxious about the lonely streets on the way from the bus stop to where they were staying.

At the Hotel Panorama in Miramar they got off with five other people, all laden with shopping bags; they looked harmless so she didn’t worry anymore. Immediately Simone started to talk: “Orlando’s asked me out tomorrow. He was blown away by the way I can dance. He says he feels attracted to me, he can’t stop himself, he’s never experienced anything like that before.” He showed me where he lives. You can’t imagine how people can live there. Downstairs lives a normal family, the apartment looks more or less OK, it’s all just so cramped. He’s a subtenant, in a loft under the roof that looks just like a construction site nailed together with planks of wood. Electric cables all over the place simply tied together. There’s a window without any glass and through it you can hear people talking on the street and the cars driving by. And he’s only got a few pants and shirts, he wears the same things nearly all the time. Next to the bed a small table made of wooden boards. A booklet, a notebook, cream, a couple of condoms, razor blades, a couple of photos. So all the odds and ends he owns would fit into a traveling bag. He doesn’t have much.” After a short pause: “I went to bed with him too.”

Julia didn’t recognize her friend; how could the man turn her head like that? They walked past well-kept single-family and row houses, sometimes they were also villas, most of them with small neat front yards; sometimes they looked like more money and sometimes less, but all of them were fenced in and had bars on even the smallest windows. Everything was tidy, the lawns were trimmed to an inch at most; even the sidewalks were planted with large palm trees and flowers and were well-maintained. Simone stopped for a moment by a bottle palm tree, one of her favorite plants. They walked in the light shining from the houses, the streets weren’t always lit.

“I really can’t understand how you could do something like that,” the exasperated tone in Julia’s voice was unmistakable.

Simone ignored the remark. “He has to pay 40 convertible for the rent, and, since I was there with him tonight, he had to give them an extra 10 CUC, more or less as danger money, the police mustn’t discover him there, nor me under any circumstances. Spontaneously I gave it to him.”

“Tell me, don’t you feel bad that you’re paying him for a few hugs and kisses?” Here she remembered the drink he wanted to buy earlier. Now it was clear where the money had come from.

“Yes, I also gulped, but it wasn’t for him after all, but for his rent. It isn’t bad that I paid my share,” said Simone justifying herself.

“You know the Cubans pay hardly anything for rent and water and electricity cost only a couple of pesos, it’s hardly worth talking about,” Julia reproached her. But Simone didn’t answer any more and Julia pondered what she would probably have to expect in the last few days, you could almost say last few hours. She had a bad feeling about it all.

Out and about with Orlando

The exotic fruit breakfast with mangoes, papayas, pineapples and freshly blended guava juice simply tasted beyond all comparison and conjured up good spirits. Their landlady listened raptly to the account her two guests gave of their outing. She was in any case also a Charanga fan, but she didn’t like their fans. There were too many jineteros, people waving money about, among them. Secretly Julia agreed with her. Simone didn’t say anything about Orlando. Now it was time for them to hit the road, Julia heading toward the pickup point for the tour through the Old City and Simone wanted to meet Orlando at home.

In the evening Simone arrived at almost six on the dot in the palm-fringed courtyard of a restaurant near the middle of Calle Obispo. In this wide backstreet you could see tourists strolling about at almost any time of day or night. The dishes smelled extremely tasty, the spices of Creole cuisine performed exotic magic on the food. A small band – a bassist, a guitarist, a male singer with claves in his hands and a gorgeous female singer – ensured a relaxed atmosphere. They played son. Julia recognized the music, they were songs that were also played in the movie “Buena Vista Social Club”: “Una rosa para ti…” Julia remembered scenes from the movie, the old musicians whose lives had been so passionate, their desires and emotions had touched her deeply. Some of them have died since then. Cuba had produced many talented musicians.

“Hi, Simone!” Julia was relieved to see her. Her face was flushed and had probably gotten a bit too much sun.

“Come, let’s have something to drink, I’ve got so much to tell you,” Simone blurted out.