What was that bang? Oh, just one of those old Americana autos backfiring. I must have fallen asleep. And now I’m getting sick from the stink of stale rum and cigar breath blowing on my face. It’s getting dark. I have to get up. I have to get away from that bastardo Ramón before he wakes up.

“Where you going, bonboncita? I hope you’re going out to the street tonight again. Habana is going to be hot tonight.”

“Fuck you Ramón, I’m leaving,” I screamed and cried. The tears were stinging my bruised left eye, where he punched last night.

“I love you Adoncia, please don’t go.”

“I thought you were my boyfriend, but you’re just a chulo. No more street, you cerdo.”

“I’ll teach you,” yelled Ramón, grabbing my throat and choking me. But I managed to knee him in a delicate spot and he let go. I ran out the door, slamming it, through the old dilapidated hallway, and down the ancient stairway. I got to the street then heard him speak out from the balcony, “I’ll see you later, bonboncita, you can count on that,” but I didn’t look up. I just ran off, wearing only this flimsy, dirty dress and not a peso to my name.

***

It was yesterday morning since I’d eaten, and that was only a couple of greasy tostados. No wonder I feel like crap, I’m just hungry. I wonder if I can get something at the market, maybe someone there I know.

Why so much trouble with men? With my degree in psychology, you’d think I could understand them, but all they do is take, take, take. What I did last night, I’m not sure I can live with myself. I can’t do that again. Ramón, I love him, but he’s such a bastardo, a pimp. He will destroy me if I go back.

I’m going to get out of this rut, tomorrow take that waitress job that was offered by Maria. Maybe go back to mama and papa for awhile but can never tell them what I’ve done. But not going back with Ramón for sure.

***

I got to the market and wandered around, but there was nobody I knew, no food handouts to be had. It was another hot Cuban night, but there’s this beach that’s safe enough to get some sleep. The beach isn’t far, but there’s a dark, narrow street that I have to use.

Who are those men in the shadows up ahead?

“Ah, my bonboncita, here you are,” sneared Ramón with two of his gangster friends blocking my way on the narrow walk, “I told you I would see you again. Grab her boys and let’s get into that alleyway. Gonna have some fun tonight, hey?”

They smacked me around, pushing and pulling at my dress, my body, playing with me. I was really starting to panic when a man and a woman, looking like tourists, appeared in the alleyway. He was tall and carrying a camera around his neck. She was looking very nervous, holding his hand and carrying a styrofoam doggy bag in the other. What are they doing here?

Ramón noticed them as well and yelled, “Let’s get out of here and leave her. If we hit the gringos the policia will come down on us like a truckload of manure.”

Approaching me laying on the ground, “Are you ok?” the turista said, “did they hurt you?”

“Yes, I’m fine, they took off when they saw you, muchas gracias.” I was looking at the doggy bag and wondered what was in there. Dios Mio, I’m so hungry.

“I see you looking at this box, cheri,” asked the woman, “You look hungry and yes, there’s food here. Do you want it?”

The street was getting busy, people talking and laughing. Music coming out of the local cantinas. The moon was shining and the streetlights were lit. I felt safe.

“Yes, please, I would like very much to have it. Muchas gracias,” I said, and gave them a smile.

 

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