by: Hojat Salehi
There was the usual crowd of pushy working girls already hanging just outside the cafe in the blazing afternoon sun, trying to woo the single male tourists. I felt lucky I had not known any of them though many of them had spotted me before. I downed the rest of the mojito and the ice water in a beat and briskly walked out, turning the corner to avoid any encounters. Soon the mojito and the sun hit me and I began having random thoughts while wandering the already familiar streets and alleys of the decrepit Old Havana. I blamed the absence of machismo in my upbringing for my reluctance to indulge in the oldest profession. On a more mindless note, I wondered if one could actually fry eggs, sunny side up, on the sidewalk.
In the midst of my lightheaded rambling I caught sight of a stunningly beautiful young girl. She wore a loose floral mini dress with shoulder straps and flip-flops. She had a delicate, slim figure with beautiful curves and smooth dark skin. She looked graceful and innocent, not at all like a working girl.
Casually adjusting my pace, I began to keep her in sight. She turned a couple of corners and paused by a storefront where she sensed my gaze from a distance. Her eyes avoided me and for a moment she frowned in pride.
Later she walked into a pharmacy and I sat a distance away on the shady side of the street and lit a cigarillo, concentrating on not inhaling. I wondered if I would ever have the luck to meet her and if my chances would have been better had I been born and raised in her neighborhood, in one of the dilapidated tenement houses of Old Havana. I had not yet met such a beautiful girl in my whole life.
As I blew the second puff of smoke, Euclide showed up, parting company with some other boys and riding his little bike over to me. Euclide was a 12-year-old black kid who worked as a hustler, guide and errand boy. I had met him on the street on my first day in Old Havana. He had politely introduced himself out of the blue and spent a whole day insisting he keep me company and patiently following me around until he finally won me over with his charm. So it was that the handsome and enterprising boy earned himself a lunch and a few bucks for showing me around Old Havanan. He became my occasional sidekick and I began to call him the wonderboy.
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