He was out of breath when he reached the doors. He opens them slowly as if being afraid not to attract too much attention, as if being afraid that people could see how late he was. It was the first time he came to this place. She suggested it.
“Isabel’s” was the name.
For sure not a high end restaurant he thought, but a cozy one nonetheless.
The bar was stretched against the wall on the left side, from the entrance until the end of the room. Around 15 tables were scattered around, all covered with tabletops in white and light blue stripes and each had a vase with one rose inside.
There was space for more tables but probably there was no need for them. Even now, on a Saturday evening, only two of them were taken. A middle age couple occupied one and an older man smoking a cigarette the other. There was a small stage at the far end of the room where three to four people could performed. It could be seen that it hasn’t been used in a long time however. He briefly imagined how a concert would look like in this place since he was a musician on his own, but then he remembered himself and why he was here. But most of all remembered that he was very late.
He went at the bar and approached the bartender.
“Good evening. Have you seen a beautiful woman in the last half an hour, waiting for an idiot like me?”
“Sorry, but nobody came or left in the last hour.”
“Perfect. I’ll have a glass of white wine in this case.”
This changed things of course. He was not the one that is being late anymore. But how come she is? This was one of the few moments when he regretted his decision of not wanting to own a phone. He thinks that phones limit your freedom and kill your creativity. He still thinks that, but he had to admit that today a phone would have been useful.
He took a table in the middle of the room, pulled out a cigarette from his pack and was searching for a lighter. He realized that he doesn’t have one.
Two tables away from him, the old man was still smoking.
“Excuse me mister, may I borrow your lighter?”
“Of course” he responds, “but smoking is not a healthy habit, you know?”
“We all have to die of something, or for something.” he said, smiled and took the lighter from the old man’s stretched out hand.
“I guess you’re right. We do.”
He handed the lighter back and return to his table. The old timer was still looking at him as he was taking his seat.
“I overheard your conversation with the bartender. I’m also waiting for someone. What if we are waiting together. Time could fly quicker.”
“A conversation never hurt. Why not?” he said to him then took his glass of wine and moved to the old man’s table.
“Who are you waiting for, if I may ask?” he said.
“Do you hear this song?” the old man asked
He didn’t notice it until now, but now that the man asked, he realized that there was a well sung Jazz playing in the background. In the fashion of older times. Not a classical, he could hear some foreign influences in the way the words came out from the singers mouth and in the way the tunes were played, but it was a good one. From what he could guess, the singer was a young lady, probably in her mid 30’s.
“I do hear it. It’s a very good jazz. Probably from the 60’s if I can take a guess at it.”
“You guessed well. It was recorded in ’64. It’s my wife that sings it. It is her that I am waiting for. She is also late. But better late than never I always tell myself when I’m waiting for her.”
The young man smiled hearing that. He could have said the same thing.
“How did you meet her?”
“Oh kid, that’s a long and sad story.”
“I have plenty of time.” the young man said with a semi smile.
“So be it then. I will tell you our story.”
“We meet in the late 50’s in Cuba. In the Havana harbor, on a street called La calle del Placer. The street of pleasure.
I was a young sailor back then, wanting to do what all sailors do when they arrive in a harbor. Search for a brothel and pay for a woman to sleep with.
I found a brothel and payed for a woman, but when I’ve seen her, I couldn’t lay with her. Not because she was not beautiful, quite the opposite, she was the most beautiful woman that I have seen in my whole life, but she was afraid, scared, horrified of me. I did not touch her, but I talked with her instead. The whole night.
My Spanish was not the best, but we understood each other. She told me that I should have been her first customer. That her parents died when she was little and that her brother sold her to the brothel so he could put food on his family table. She told me that she doesn’t hate him for that, but I couldn’t believe her. I should have been her first customer but I didn’t touch her even though I never felt more attracted to anyone before. I paid for the whole night, to be sure that no one puts a finger on her.
I felt deeply in love with her so naturally, the next day she was the only thing on my mind. I was feeling a strong urge to take care of her.
I went back to the brothel before it opened and waited for the doors to open. Once they did, I went in with a pistol that I stole from my captain in my hand, went upstairs to her room and took her with me. I didn’t hurt anyone, but I would have if I needed to.
That day, she was the happiest girl in this world in I was feeling the same.
I hid her in our boiler room and until we reached home one month later, I smuggled food and water for her daily and each moment that I could, I spent it with her. Luckily we were not discovered.
I quit sailing, got a job as a bartender and she started singing each Saturday evening. It was in this place where we are right now.
Faith smiled upon us and after a few years we were able to buy it. I chose the name and named it after her. Isabel’s
We were madly in love. She was the only thing that mattered to me. We got married one year after we arrived here. Married in the eyes of God at least. Not in front of the law since she was not living legally in the country.
We lived in harmony for more that 11 years. We had everything. A nice house, a good business but most of all we had ourselves.
Until disaster struck and destroyed our hard build paradise.
An Emigration Officer found out about her in a drunken conversation at that god forsaken bar over there. The next day he stormed this place and took her in front of my eyes.
She was screaming as they grabbed her. I tried to stop them but one of them hit me in my head and I fell unconscious.
When I woke up I went straight to the Emigration office but she was not there anymore. The officer, however, was. I beat him with a possessed rage and nearly killed him while I was crashing his skull with a chair, but a police officer stopped me in time.
I spent 6 years in jail for that outburst. I regretted it every day of it. Not for what I did, but because I couldn’t go and find my wife in that time.
When I was released I sold everything and went to Cuba to search for her. 10 long years I searched. Nobody seen, heard or knew her. I didn’t find any trace of her existence. As if she only lived in my heart.
More than 40 years passed since the last time I’ve seen her. I haven’t touched or looked at another woman since.
Each Saturday, when her concert would have been, I come here and I wait for her. The people here still do me a favor and play her songs when I am here.
As long as time smiles on me, I will wait for her.”
The young man didn’t know what to say. He looked in the old man’s eyes, but he couldn’t see any sadness in them. He just seen hope.
A noise came from the door that swung opened and they both looked at it with excitement. She finally arrived.