So my Mom was gone saying goodbyes and stopping by the room for something, I was there, at the small bar at the tiny Cuban hotel, waiting for the invisible waiter to return.
To my left were two women who spoke loudly and wore tight bright clothes. I decided must be Cuban because their cellphones seemed to worked here.
Between them and where I stood was an older man with a very large mustache, also waiting for the waiter.
I look up at the TV. It's something in English, some generic neutral animal nature program. Not the alligator hunting kind of show. No capitalistic winning or getting voted off shows. Just a calm, boring animals eating animals show.
Next to the TV was a bar shelf with brands I'd never seen in the US.
No Jose Cuervo. No Bacardi. No Jack Daniels. No Jameson.
Besides that was a smaller shelf full of brightly colored cigarettes ironically post-imperially labelled with the "Hollywood"brand.
A newlywed looking couple is next to me on the other side. She is young and very shapely and I'm jealous because she a dress on. She keeps looking down at her shoes and pulling her shoulders back into her man like she looks unhappily shy, like she feels overdressed, like she expected there to be a party here and it hasn't happened but she probably shouldn't say anything because it isn't his fault. Or is it?
Directly in front of me is the opening where the waiter will appear when he appears.
I stare through there and exhale, wishing for my iPhone, my iPad, for someone to text, for email to check.
The man next to me mumbles something about the lad disappearing.
I light up. "English?"
He nods. I'm introduce myself, say why I'm here.
He says that he and his group had a spectacular 55 mile bikeride through the mountains.
I said, oh, yes, I think I saw the pack of you and your big old bus go by.
No, no he says. That's the Norwegians. There's only three of us he clarifies, pointing to his table where another man and woman wait and wave. The woman was also wearing a skirt, I notice, and plan for sure to wear dresses next time I come to Cuba, but I don't tell the mustache that.
Norwegians?! I repeat. I do hope they wore sunscreen, a lot of sunscreen, I add, and just then, finally then, the waiter came back.
Without me even saying a thing he says "One white wine, one tinto (red)" then takes the other orders. The mustached man orders a margarita, a beer, something else.
The woman of the couple mumbles something about a Cuba Libre, and then the man she was entangled around shakes his head and orders two mojitos instead.
While I stood there watching the bartending waiter pull all this together, I looked up again, up at the shelves right in front of me.
On one side, liquor. On the other, other liquors. In the middle, a sign.
A sign with a picture, the same sort of picture - not exactly the same, but just the right one to get my attention -- and, finally, the missing piece.
A word, a name, a vortex to the story.
Marilope? What is a Marilope?
Better yet, WHO is Marilope?
I want my iPhone to work. I want to google, to investigate, to find out now, now, now, what the story is and why this is calling to me so loudly.
The waiter hands me both wines just as my Mom walks back to join me.
We move to a smaller table, and I point up right above where I was standing, right in front of my face. "Look! The flower, the clue, and a name! Marilope! What do you know about Marilope?"
We brainstorm. It's a yellow flower. It's the official flower of Cienfuegos.
But it has to come from something, from somewhere. There has to be a story. I want to find it out, more than I've wanted the answer to anything ever in my life. I want to figure this out, puzzle it together, take it apart and tell the world.
Mom and I take more sips of the teeny wine glasses and I stomp my feet with happiness and we toast my fortune. Marilope! I feel like I won the lottery! I'm looking this up as soon as we get back to Miami!
The wind blows hard and harder.
We talk about things I haven't written about, about other things that don't fit delicately here.
Then we want one more tiny glass, and maybe a pizza to split. I'm ridiculously awake and I want to savor every minute of my last night under the Cuban stars.
I go back up to order the last wine and close out the tab.
On a whim, I ask the tired waiter what he knew about Marilope.
He points at a plaque on the wall where the entire story - her entire story - was inscribed on a gold tablet, waiting patiently for me.