Rather than search for Gary, he’d spent his evening searching for files on his computer and going through the stacks of stories he’d printed to review which, of course, he hadn’t. In the intervening months or perhaps years, the pages had been covered with phone numbers, book titles, coffee cup rings and grocery lists: literary moss.
First Gary, then his short story and now tenure; Blake was on the verge of losing everything. He pulled an ice cube from his tumbler with his finger and popped it into his mouth, cracking it just enough to filter the last of his scotch through it.
He couldn’t exactly recall the story. He just wrote them and cast them to the Fates. However he suspected he had written it on his last trip to Cuba. Sun, sand, too much rum and Jane. Lovely woman. Long blonde hair, strong calves, and a fierce independent spirit. She had a bit of a temper she could let fly but she also had a sweet childish quality which few, other than himself, had had the privilege to observe.
During their first few days on the island, they’d had giddy sex and sweaty sex and the kind of sex that borders on nervous exhaustion. It had been heavenly and whatever peccadillos Jane had exhibited (she had a fondness for stealing little bottles of shampoo from the maids’ carts) had been forgiven. But paradise had fallen. Blake’s mother was right: you had to travel with someone to find out who they really were.
The fallout occurred sometime in the middle of their sojourn, when they’d decided to leave the room. Blake clearly remembered he’d been wearing raw silk trousers which implied a casual journey. Over breakfast, he and Jane had read some tourist brochures and agreed on a day trip to Havana. But inspiration had struck – the way inspiration does – at the most inopportune moment. As they were boarding the bus.
Blake had started grasping the threads of a new short story about a little Cuban boy and his father over breakfast – just as he’d started enjoying his arepas. It was going to be a metaphor for social divisiveness or some such thing.
As he and Jane were about to board the bus, Blake’s need to write his story was overwhelming.
He apologized effusively and explained that he was fortune’s fool. But Jane hadn’t taken kindly to the news of her abandonment and had threatened to break up on the spot.
Blake initially believed she was kidding because Jane often said outrageous things. But as he’d seen her middle finger waving at him from the departing bus’ window, he’d felt a little less certain.
Confused and conflicted, he’d retreated to the resort’s bar where he lost himself in pineapple, coconut and strong rum.
He ditched the father and son story. Instead, he wrote about a tortured soul falling in love with a distant woman who in the end, turned out to be an inert object. He’d banged out the whole thing on a sympathetic bartender’s laptop. Once the first sentence had been written, strings of words followed one another like pearls. It had been a surreal experience. And he couldn’t remember a word. But it must have been good because no other magazine had ever called to read his work before.
When Jane returned from her visit to Habana, she immediately had her belonging moved to a separate room. For the remainder of their trip, she refused all attempts at communication or reconciliation and hooked up with a local man who seemed to live on the public beach. When Blake crossed her path in the lobby, he told her he wished her all the best. She’d called him an idiot.
Blake had spent the remainder of his vacation in the company of Javier, the local bartender who was much wiser than his years let on. It was at his urging that Blake had printed the first few pages of his story and mailed it to the editor of Brick magazine. Unfortunately, he’d been too sauced to think of printing a copy for himself.
All that emotional upheaval and now the fruit of it was forever lost. He didn’t think he could ever go to Cuba again. There were too many memories. Unless, of course, Katherine went with him. Unlike Jane, Kate wouldn’t spend the entire plane ride thinking about how to take the in-flight pillows. She would be able to enjoy the view.
NEXT WEEK: Moving forward