Lawrence Russell

Tomb In An Obscure Havana Cemetery

§§ Bo Vasco. That's what his Latin buddies called him, although his Anglo associates called him Robert, sometimes Robby. Bo is what's on his tomb, though. Simple, even if he was anything but simple. Word is he died of a lunger, was released from jail early as a sympathetic gesture by Castro. I don't believe it. I don't believe he was ever in jail and I'm wondering if he was ever put inside this concrete box in this obscure Havana cemetery.

I first found the tomb by following Marta, the woman he was living with after his wife split, couldn't take exile on the yacht and life on the run in the Caribbean. Strange thing is, his tomb has become a shrine within a year, people coming to ask advice about money, stocks, the market, all sorts of stuff like he's sitting inside there holding court the way he used to in his office on Wall Street or in his private Boeing in-flight to some exotic watering hole for a piss-up with the boys. Not bad for a long-time fugitive from the F.B.I., eh? Not bad at all.

It's still hot, and there's that damp, decaying odor that these days I seem overly sensitive to. Seems to catch in my lungs, if you know what I mean, so I draw a little hard, have to rest. It isn't dark, although the moon is already starting to move up, throw shadows. I'm not far from the tomb, leaning on the large statue of an angel when I see this guy shuffling along the path carrying two dead rabbits. Small steps, like he's shackled. Seems his destination is the same as mine.

He stops well short of the tomb, like he's afraid. Then he darts forward, throws the rabbits onto the lid, knocks three times on the side.

Senor Vasco, he says in a high, nervous voice, my name is Reinaldo, I am a writer with the gay disease, por favor, I need more of the drug, your special drug... since the police crackdown, I can't find it at any price. Please.

He babbles some more, stuff about his books and his lovers, then he backs away, never taking his eyes off the tomb.

I will wait for your decision, senor, he says.

And that's what he does -- just stands there, waits, hoping for a voice from the grave. And I'm thinking, if you want results, amigo, you should've brought money. Cash. Bo likes cash.

Well, what can I say? Guess I'm still pretty naive for someone who has done business with politicians and crooks all of his life. Rabbits were right, because a 15 foot boa comes slithering out of the shadows onto the tomb, opens its mouth, sucks in one, then the other with silent ease. Yeah, impressive, and more than a little unnerving.

Gracias... thank you, thank you, says Reinaldo. Senor, I am in your debt.

As the big snake withdraws once again to the shadows, the guy who says he's a writer backs down the path a considerable distance before turning and running away through the trees.

So this is the protocol, I think. A voodoo confessional. So be it: I must also confess, as I'm in this cemeterio for more than sentimental reasons or even a morbid curiosity. We go back a long way, Roberto and I.

I step forward, rap the tomb three times with my left as my right is in my pocket clutching my pistol. I have no offering and if that lousy snake shows up, all he'll get from me is a bullet.

Vasco, I say. Roberto. It's me.

Feel a bit faint again, steady myself against the tomb. The old heart problem, I guess. Arrythmia.

Of all the deals you've been in, amigo, this last one is the lowest, I say. Really, really low. Giving false hope to the weak, the doomed, taking their money... really low, Robert. Cure fatal disease? AIDs, even cancer you claim? Amigo, I had that drug tested in a lab in Los Angeles, and it's just bullshit. No good saying people took it, and they believed it made them feel better. No good saying your partner is to blame, you're just the money man. Think about it, Bo... you were bad before, but with this, you just end up scum.

Emotional? You better believe it. I'm clammy with it, real dizzy. And it's at this point that I start floating, leave my body, ascend. I'm not kidding. Up up, right up above the cemetery, above the sculptures, the headstones, the bushes, the whole necropolis... and I can see all of Havana lit up the way it is when you're coming in for a night landing at Jose Marti airport. I'm not afraid, just soothed by the beauty of it all. I'm way up there above the decaying buildings and calles and the hotels and playas... the pines and the cabbage palms, everything, up up, rising away from death and deception.

I hear a voice. It's Marta, and she's leaning over me. She's still got the tits of a young woman.

Roberto, she says. Did you follow me? You fool, you crazy man, you know what the doctor says. Get up, come on, let me take you home.

And we back away from the tomb into the darkness.

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Tomb In An Obscure Havana Cemetery © LR 2008