It’s refreshing. Both the method and the rum. A sweet Havana Club Añejo 7 exchanged for a toothy driver, some good chat and a lift to Cuba’s international airport at 4am in the morning.
You see, we ran out of money. Well, not exactly ran out, but we deadset could not find it. My suspicions lie with the flower boy who came by our window daily with his bright smile and freshly picked Jasmines. We always bought a bunch (they were like the price of bubble gum) for our host mum, and I reckon the little weasel snuck his way in an looted our secret hiding spot. When I say “secret” I mean under the mattress and "looted” is probably a bit far for stealing like our remaining $7.
Our driver, who met us on our street at our casa, completely understood the situation. We pitched the high brow rum in exchange for a lift and a couple of nods later we trundled off in his red Ford, black clouds billowing behind us from the exhaust. Our new friend, a rotund man named Carlos of indiscriminate age, wore a blue polo and dark jeans with sandals, a Cuban through and through. Between sips of his new reward, he shared some anecdotes with us as we hurtled towards the only airport in the world which doesn’t have uniformed security personnell. A Classic Cuban touch, but should I have really been surprised? This country had delivered beyond promises of being a ruthlessly unapologetic and genuine community of people, with the finest cars and most elegant dance moves.
Carlos told us about a time when Havana used to be much more. A glint in his eye betrayed his longing for times past and his voice oozed with nostalgia, even though I could only understand half of what he was saying.
He’d get excited and stop half way through one story and leap into the next, like a rabbit in snow, hopping from mound to mound, keen to explore every new bump. My friend Tracy was leading the conversation as my Spanish was minimal, but I almost enjoyed the theatre of his gestures more than the substance of his tales.
Suddenly his eyes got big. He reached a crescendo with his story and took in a sharp intake of breath and let out a little howl. It bounced around the car and our friend wound down his window and howled again. Louder.
We could see it now. The supermoon, promised to us nights ago, had finally come out of hiding from behind the clouds and nestled gently in the sky, hanging like a pumpkin above the horizon.
Carlos pulled over and hurried outside to get a better look. In other circumstances I would’ve felt unsafe but this was just a man who was a little too excited by celestial events and who am I to stop him?
Tracy and I scrambled outside as well and we all stood, calm, silent and eyes cast to the shining orb, moonlight dancing in front of us with an eerily inviting glaze. The radiant light was dazzling with a melancholy feel, but I felt a wave of serenity and accomplishment in its hazy beams.
I don’t know how long we stood there but it was cool. Just cool. Carlos passed around the bottle and we shared a cheeky sip with our driver, who as quickly as he erupted in glee, leapt back into the car and motioned for us to get in. Oh yeah, we had a flight to catch.
He unloaded our suitcases and gave us a wave goodbye as he sped off with one last howl. Tracy and I exchanged looks and trudged in to an empty airport with no one at security and a particularly chubby and sleepy man who was either a cleaner or an airline official but it was hard to tell.
Who needs change when you have rum, right? Better than your average scramble to count the foreign currency jingling round in your pockets.