Monday, June 19, 2006

The Lost City, a Continuation - Chapter 3

Index of Chapters

Chapter 3

Fico was smoking a cigar on his patio. He enjoyed these quiet moments overlooking the waterway. It was really a canal used for flood control, but there was something peaceful about it. Every now and then someone would pass on a jon-boat or a paddleboat and wave. And the boys enjoyed fishing from the dock Fico had built.

Now Fico was pre-occupied. Wounds that had healed long ago were suddenly ripped open. Fico had been content. He couldn’t ask for more, especially as an immigrant. He had left everything behind in Cuba and arrived in New York literally with the clothes he had on his back and the knowledge in his head.

It was tough, especially in the beginning. Washing dishes, mopping floors then playing piano for tips. Eventually though he put together enough money and made enough contacts to start Fico's El Tropico - New York. It wasn’t as big or as lavish as El Tropico had been in Havana but the New York version was an instant success. New Yorkers and tourists alike found the Cuban food and music exotic and intoxicating. Fico had found a niche for himself in the city the never sleeps. Over time El Tropico was improved and Fico leased the adjacent space on both sides of the club, roughly tripling its size. Cuban musicians and singers became plentiful since many were fleeing Cuba for the same reasons as Fico had. The clientele at El Tropico changed too. As the years passed more and more of the customers were themselves Cuban. They came to El Tropico when they had a longing for home, and that was often. They’d come from the five boroughs of New York and from New Jersey too. Union City, Elizabeth, Hackensack, Jersey City. Even some of the tourists that came to El Tropico were Cuban. There were Cubans spread out all over the country and when they came to New York, Fico Fellove’s El Tropico was a must see.

Fico didn’t exactly forget Aurora, but his work certainly helped him keep his mind off of her. And now as Fico took a puff of his cigar he realized that it was precisely the pain of losing Aurora that drove him to work so hard in the beginning. Then he had met Susan and Fico finally felt complete. Susan was similar in some respects to Aurora. She was beautiful and very graceful. But in other respects she was so different. She was totally dedicated to Fico and the family. She complemented Fico perfectly. When his Cuban temper got the better of him, her touch instantly soothed him. And her voice, she sang like an angel. Fico composed several songs for her, which she would sometimes perform at the club. He taught her Spanish and she practiced with Doña Cecilia. Fico knew that despite all the hardships and all of the heartbreak, that he was a very lucky man. He had buried two younger brothers in Cuba; just two of the countless casualties of Cuba’s Revolution. And for what? At that very moment, while Fico enjoyed his cigar, thousands of Cubans were on overcrowded boats headed towards Miami. It was the Mariel boatlift. By the time it would all be said and done, more than 125,000 would flee the “workers’ paradise.”

Along with the refugees came common criminals and patients from insane asylums that Castro made the boat captains take with them along with their cargo of refugees whose passage was being paid for by family members in the states. It was truly madness. Already there was a backlash against this new wave of immigrants, arriving penniless as Fico had. If they were lucky they might have a friend or a relative they could count on to help them out. Others simply had to rely on the charity of strangers. Fico had just slammed the door in Aurora’s face, when she needed his help the most.

The French door to the patio opened and Doña Cecila came out. She sat across from Fico and watched him. His look was distant. She knew the look. Something was bothering him and he wouldn’t say what it was. Fico’s mother knew how to play this game. She would eventually coax whatever was bothering him out. But tonight she was tired and so she took a gamble and asked him directly.

“¿Fico, que pasa? What’s the matter?”

He surprised her and said “Aurora. Aurora is in Miami.”

“Oh my,” the old woman said and crossed herself.

Fico described the encounter at the University Music School and when he finished he said, “I didn’t know how to react. I should have helped her but I don’t know why I was so angry. She’s the one in the Salvation Army clothing and here I am judging her.

“Ay Fico, I have something to tell you,” Doña Cecila almost whispered as a tear formed in her eye.


AmandaDufau said...

What? What does she tell him? MORE, MORE, MORE!!

ziva said...

Ditto what Amanda said!!!!