“My theme is memory, that winged host that soared about me one grey morning of war-time. These memories, which are my life—for we possess nothing certainly except the past—were always with me. Like the pigeons of St. Mark’s, they were everywhere, under my feet, singly, in pairs, in little honey-voiced congregations, nodding, strutting, winking, rolling the tender feathers of their necks, perching sometimes, if I stood still, on my shoulder…”
Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
It was difficult to see through the streaked glass, the rain that was coursing with such volatility that it looked like the bus could veer off the narrow road into the cresting water just past the pavement. The ferocity of the waves, the way they swelled up, was from the slate gray clouds – the kind of clouds that gave off the most unpredictable and intense of downpours. Past the seizure of lights, we had come to a stop, the refracting beams of the oncoming headlights and the red tail lights a strange blurry smear beyond the window. Somewhere ahead, there was an accident that had forced the traffic to halt; behind us, the city we had spent days exploring was only a sliver of a memory, a place forgotten in the sunlight that was now gone.
The first days of a new city – a new country – are always a bit incomprehensible, and Havana, Cuba was no exception. The sun beat down with an intensity I hadn’t experienced before, burning my legs so they glowed red through a layer of nylon. Even in a tour group, the streets were walked with unfamiliarity, one imposing architectural structure after another appearing on the street corner – the Hotel Ambos Mundos where Ernest Hemingway stayed for a time, the Museo de la Revolucion with the still-visible marks of bullets from a Batista assassination attempt, the Morro Castle on its rocky outcropping, holding back the eternal tides of the sea.