Rachael (pronounced with an emphatic rolling of the beginning R- “Rrrrachael”) was a short, melancholic student who had been a student of English and French at the University of Havana for the past three years. She came up to the door downstairs wearing bronze-tinted knockoff sunglasses and listened quietly to the instructions of our hostess Marta, who spoke to her with the same grandmotherly slowness with which she had originally addressed us. Rachael nodded as she listened to the lecture, though already, you could tell, she was in no mood to follow any sort of itinerary.
Despite the slight rung of body fat that clung against her torso, she was nonetheless a beautiful girl, and managed to hide her depressive nature with a quiet charm and inclination to laugh that suited her perfectly to the task of guiding us around town for the first time.
Eating in a crowded, sweaty, streetside café where a mass of people had conglomerated under the fans of the open-air veranda to escape the oppressive mid-afternoon humidity, we dug into heavily loaded plates of arroz y pollo while Rachael, at our curious requests, regaled us with different aspects of her life.
Her fiancée, who she spoke about with a wispy glow of longing in her eyes, had escaped to Miami in search of better job opportunities (when, or more importantly how he got to Miami, I didn’t bother to ask.) One day, she hoped, she’d be able to join him in south Florida and perhaps create a new life with him there.