I want to write about Cuba and re-live those darkened Havana bars that conceal everyone from thieves and prostitutes to salseros and bottle blondes. It would be great to capture the capital’s plazas too, what with all the coffee and the doorstep cheese sandwiches and the battered old books and Guantanamera floating through the streets.
To return, mentally at least, to the tough green slog of the Sierra Maestra mountains, concealing a thousand secrets beneath the purity of their sunrises. To skip again through the gun-powdered streets of Remedios at Christmas, not forgetting the cheap street food and even cheaper rum, before dancing onward to Santa Clara to salute a mind and avoid remembering how it was lost.
Bounding onto Trinidad then, where the kids play baseball in the dust. I’d love to capture the tobacco fields too, a short hike from sleepy Viñales, ringed with strange mountain crops that shadow the swooping birds and the oxen driven on by hand. I’d probably have to write about Playa Pilar, Hemingway’s favourite beach, and maybe I’d find room for dark eyes and wide smiles, for stoicism, for dreams, for survival, for home.
But I can’t or, at least, I won’t. I know that if I’m full I can hardly say I’m drained, but there are just too many colours, three on the national bird alone, too many sounds, too many smells, too many conflicts and impressions. Great writers have gone before me and if it’s true that no-one will ever understand Cuba, at least they were close.