There is a false impression, quite widespread, that lovers are people with their heads in the clouds, oblivious to practical details. But there are romances that owe their survival to carefully calculated actions, organized from the beginning. In the city where I live, for example, couples will consider in advance whether they are going to live with his parents or hers, given the poverty that prevents them from having a nest of their own. They know that the decision to live together involves a lot of red tape, such as the complexities of changing one’s address and registration in the rationed market.
And then there are people like Ricardo, who for years managed to avoid complicating his life with a stable engagement. But, his intentions notwithstanding, the summer before last he met Niurka and all his plans gave way before this 20-year-old from Santiago. They lived intense days in a room borrowed from a friend, and nights on the benches of dark Havana parks. He said he didn’t want commitment, but with one kiss from her his strength failed before this new relationship. From September on, they couldn’t be separated, even for a day, without talking at length from the congested public payphones. He changed his plans and proposed that they emigrate together, because neither had any property or projects to hold them here.
In December, Ricardo married an Englishwoman nearly six feet tall, with Niurka as a witness at the opulent wedding. While the official bride entertained her friends, both Cubans threw each other glances, and promised themselves a more beautiful ceremony in the future. He left on a plane before Christmas, which took him off to a language of which he barely spoke a dozen words. With the first money he earned he called his brown-skinned lover and told her of all the things he was seeing. He had started working in a bar and saving money for the coveted project of reunification with Niurka. His legal wife barely noticed that Ricardo spent a lot of time staring into the distance.
Meanwhile, in this eclectic city that is Havana, the grieving ex-girlfriend was looking for a springboard to take her near to London where he lived. She bought some very short skirts and began to frequent the places where tourists go to look for sweet beautiful girls. She said nothing to Ricardo, because they had both agreed to forget the crooked paths that would lead them to be together again.
“We will start from scratch,” he had said, and the detour of his current marriage would be erased in the happy life that would include them both. Thus, she swallowed hard, and began dating a 60-year-old who lived on the outskirts of Paris. It wasn’t difficult to adore her, because the agile girl gave him a lot of love in the four weeks he was in Havana. When he left for the airport she told him, in clear and slow Spanish, “I can’t live without you,” and the lonely European imagined an upcoming wedding.
In early March the enraptured Frenchman returned to the arms of Niurka, with his birth certificate and all the papers required to seal the union legally. The night it was announced, she managed to get a few minutes alone to send an email to the anxious Ricardo. “I have the ring. You and I are about to embrace,” she wrote. They signed the marriage certificate on a grey day, which she would never mention to her future grandchildren. The visa arrived three weeks later and in her last days here she nostalgically visited the places where she had begun her love affair with Ricardo.
Niurka and Ricardo have managed to get close to each other near the Mediterranean, where nothing reminds them of the Caribbean where they were born. He will tell his wife that a friend has invited him to go fishing, and she will lie as well, saying that she’s going to visit a relative who emigrated. Neither of them knows how they will fix the legal mess in which they are trapped, but those details can wait for later. Now, they only have time for love, while — in different cities in Europe — two deceived people have been the bridge for their reunion.
November 22, 2010