48. THE SHADOW: There
are few lights after midnight in Baracoa and none away from the center.
Picking my way by starlight along an outlying street, I was stopped
at a crossstreet, peering around for a clue, when I saw a shadow, or
another shadow, crossing the street toward me. I stood my ground,
not to appear vulnerable.
"What are you doing here?" he asked, then close enough
for very good eyes to see my strangeness, in English, "Hey, mon! Whair
you frome?" That's the never varying jinotero salute to male marks.
And as soon a I heard it, I decided he looked like
a jinotero, which was irrational, but, exactly like a jinotero, finding
himself with an American, he became oppressively friendly, sharing my
presumed disdain for a crummy country with no street lights, but in
Spanish. He only had enough English for the salute.
"You don't like it here." I offered.
"All I need is some money," he said, "and I'm going
"Where? Miami? Why?"
"For the opportunity. There's no opportunity
in Cuba. You know what it's like in Cuba? The government takes
everything. The people get nothing."
"So you don't like the system." I was
thinking, my survey's close to 50, and, if this guy's number 50, and
he didn't sign, according to Fidel's estimate, he's right on schedule.
"No, man," he said bitterly.
"Did you sign the petition?" I could see his
eyes shifting around in the dark and he wagged a finger side to side.
"You didn't sign?"
He looked all around as if we were in a crowd, before
he said in a low voice that the guards he imagined couldn't hear,
I made sure. I made him tell me about it.
He said he left the house as if he were going to sign. Then
he stood around in the crowd, and then he went back in as if he had
"Because everyone else in your family disagrees with you?"
No. He told me everybody secretly agrees with him.
Nobody likes the system or the government. But they are all afraid.
He was the only one who wasn't afraid.