He wasn’t one of the pretty people of Cuba. He didn’t campaign for attention by lifting a cigar to his lips or striking up a tango or shouting “Hey American, talk to me.” He just watched as people moved down a faded street at a time of day when strong sunlight exposes all of a neighborhood’s weaknesses. An hour or two later, the same street would shimmy with the flow of rum and the welcome shadow of a neon night.
For now, the man in the wheelchair peered over the iron balustrade as people glanced quickly because staring too long might be considered rude. A boy kicked a soccer ball from a doorway, and the group of American photographers lifted their cameras and took aim. It rolled toward a corner where a 1950s Chrysler gurgled a mechanical melody. A big-breasted teen-ager in a too-tight dress stopped to adjust a shoe. A street hound found a piece of bread. Somewhere, someone started to play a horn.
The passersby moved on, but then one stopped and came back. She handed him an ink pen. He gave it to his mother, waited for her to test it, watched as she scribbled on a newspaper and laughed a big thank-you to the stranger.
A sweaty baby cried. Someone dropped a pan in the home overhead. The man flinched and tucked the paper under his legs. He returned to his watch as the stranger’s friends shouted from down the street . She nodded and hurried along hoping to always remember what can happen when you take the time to stop.