It is a gray afternoon in which I take the phone and my mother tells me that the neighbor was murdered. I ask for details. My mother is in Cardenas and I am in Centro Habana. He was found dead two hours ago. They found him on the jetty of the flags, with a broken forehead, the car doors open and three deep wounds in the body, one of them in the heart. They killed the man from the third floor, the bald man with dark glasses.
He worked in Varadero and represented a foreign agency. He is bequeathed by a wife and two children. His widow, they say, is a lesbian. If not a lesbian, at least she looks the type. She has always been a sad person. She does not work. When she goes out her house and run the errands in the store, or buys avocados from a vendor, she doesn’t even look up. Her broad shoulders, masculine demeanor, her obvious grudge against the world. The world: the hostile and darkened room. The world of provinces that made Emma Bovary to take arsenic to her mouth. In my childhood, I tried to say hello to the lady. I was attracted to her roughness, her maddening silence, the calm she showed when executing common chores, the delicacy with which she shunned folklore. I always tried to make conversation , but she always cut it close .
One son is contemporary with me. We were almost rivals, did not get along too well. Now, as seniors, we greet with affection, not an intimate affection, though perhaps exaggerated affection is a definition. I mean, we greeted with complicity, as it were good, we are not friends, but we share childhood, we fought in childhood, there is power there.
His father, people say, was queer. He paid a lot of money and hire blacks vigorous to be flogged in the back seat of his Mercedes Benz. The popular feeling says that somehow he deserved their fate. I every time I have to do less with popular sentiment, whether the public mood is right or not. I think my father is not dead and the father of my childhood companion is. It’s not something we would have liked even in our worst brawls.
My mother keeps talking but I did not hear the details. A hundred miles away I get neighbors clinging to their doors, the boys looking at it with dismay, the old noisy ladies and the condolences. Three days will pass, then four. If they are brave, the children will seek the murderer. The police have caught him, but if they are brave they will bring him out of jail and settle the score. It can happen. History tells about spectacular acts of revenge.
I hang up the phone with a bang. I hear the chatter around and think of those subways. I do not know what does a phone when no one picks it, fixed in contemplation of silences.