The Young Woman and the White Shoes
She stood in front of a dingy doorway near the downtown decaying Cuatro Caminos Market. Her gaze was fixed on a pair of white women’s shoes. Out of curiosity she wondered “How much would the little old man take for these? Surely he wants at least twenty pesos so he can buy cigarettes or rum . . .”
This is what 18-year-old Sonia was thinking about as she walked along always-busy Monte Street. Scarcely a week had passed since she arrived from Yateras, a village lost in the intricate geography of Guantanamo, a thousand kilometers from the capital. She had traveled for medical problems, but the raw splendor of Havana had dazzled her. She didn’t want to go back. She was ready to find someone to change her humdrum existence.
Suddenly she felt a whisper in her ear. A compliment with a foreign accent jarred her out of her thoughts. She had been warned of tourists who stalked their prey on the street. She tried to ignore the attentions and keep walking. She decided to respond with short, simple answers to the questions the speaker asked her.
The next thing she knew, she was sitting in the back seat of a Russian Aleco Moscovich car, which caused her some concern about the financial solvency of her unexpected suitor. Ethical and moral concepts crossed her mind, but quickly disappeared when she learned that his name was Stefano and he was Italian.
His words calmed her concerns, at the same time she felt the closeness of his body while he wrapped her in his arms. Sonia’s flushed lips responded warily to the furtive and surprise kiss he gave her. Things were going very fast and she didn’t like this. But she had decided to take the train ride and accept the consequences.
It took less than ten minutes to get to the Habana Libre hotel. Panic seized her. She felt the stares of passersby, with those smiles that seemed to say “Wow, you caught him.” They judged her as a common prostitute. She was annoyed, but she had to take risks and think only of herself and her future.
Stefano took her by the hand so naturally that it seemed they had had a relationship for years. Together they entered the cafeteria of the hotel, where she had never been before. Her nerves would not allow her to act naturally, she feared ridicule. Her feet didn’t stop moving under the table. She didn’t want to eat anything, even though her stomach had been empty since the night before. Her only comfort was the thought that God was listening to her prayers.
They walked hand in hand down L Street to 19th. They entered a house with grand columns and glass windows. A woman accompanied her to a comfortable room. He waited five long minutes to arrive. Sonia felt guilty, she was betraying her principles. But she must not think, this was her chance for change.
Stefano entered. His face no longer showed the sweetness of before, when in the car he stroked her cheeks, which highlighted her beauty and the deep brown of her wide eyes. Without any preliminaries, he demanded that she take a hot bath. Disoriented, Sonia obeyed without thinking. It felt strange, it was hard to appear calm with that look that scrutinized every inch of her body as she undressed. Nor did her worn underwear (panties) escape inspection.
She was naked in front of a stranger’s eyes, blushing from head to toe, without awaking any desire. He made her wash her private parts three times. Then he lay her down in the middle of the bed, looked at her lustfully, and mercilessly pounced on her.
He didn’t try to restrain his sadistic instincts, he dominated her completely; squeezing her flesh, lacerating her pride, he penetrated her virginity. A condom kept the angry fluid from her tiny body. Everything was fast, violent, and silent. A phone number and $13 was the farewell.
Incredulous, she took little steps. Her body had not yet caught up with her mind. With $13, at a nearby store, she bought underwear to show off at her next appointment. She hoped to improve herself economically, and perhaps escape from her devastated country.
The next she day tried to contact the Italian. They told her he would be in Varadero for three days. On the third day, she decided to surprise him. She showed up unannounced at the 19th Street house. There she saw. He was with his wife, a jealous Cuban who should not know of her presence. She realized instantly. She had lost. That story, which had failed to start, was already over.
Her plans ruined, she couldn’t face herself in the mirror. Her image disgusted her, she didn’t recognize herself. She closed her eyes and relived every single scene. She couldn’t believe she had given so much in so little time and for so little money. To a 45-year-old average-looking stranger. Just because he was Italian.
Untraceable pain, like an imperceptible wound, took her breath away. Drowning her grief in tears, she suffered in silence. She wanted to scream and find a shoulder to lean on. But the shame of a confession made her remain alone and silent. She remembered the dingy Monte Street doorway. The judgmental looks that they gave her, the same way she had decided the fate of those timeworn shoes. She felt equally abandoned and dirty.
Until she realized that God does not change anyone’s life within a few hours. Elated, she got up and dressed.
She retraced her steps to the doorway near the Mercado de Cuatro Caminos. She stood right in front of them. They were still there, next to their indigent seller. As if locked in time, she and the white shoes hoped that someone would appear. And give them the opportunity to change their destiny.