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"Oh, Hemingway, it's Cuba. We're on an edge, a precipice. Can't you see that?"
"I can see that. And Galko wants to help."
She shrugged. "Of course. Don't you?" She had stepped a fraction closer to Hemingway, and he felt warmer for it.
She finally stepped closer, placed an extraordinarily warm hand on the skin of his arm, and kissed him. She smelled faintly of both pine tar and sarsparilla. His hands moved to her waist, which was slim, and to her back, which was smooth and muscled. She pressed her body inward and crossed the invisible line that told Hemingway that he needn't do virtually anything else to get this woman naked and on her back in no time at all.
Which is what happened: her long legs seemed to almost touch their toes to the ceiling, her dark Latin skin was baby smooth, the grip of her vagina was only firm and expert enough to be mistaken for seismic passion. She was in fact thinner, bonier, than Hemingway generally preferred, but the sense of fucking her to get at, somehow, what was really going on, in her head and heart and in the world at large, kept him flushed and engaged even after he'd decided, during the 16th minute of coitus, that he was exhausted and would rather just nap. She did, however, lubricate more effusively than any woman he'd ever had. He heard splashing.
Afterwards, he did nap, fell asleep in mid-sentence: "...not lying, Marlene Dietrich is a good friend of mine..." When he awoke, it was evening, Matilde was long gone. Hemingway lay in his still-damp sheets, listening to the clink of rigging from anchored boats. There was a hollow feeling in the room, and Hemingway immediately tried, in vain, to steer his thoughts away from the nothingness that faced him in the form of meaningless sex with strange women, dull wealthy comfort, writing that wouldn't come, and the fact that he was now old, dammit, old and getting older and able to look forward to nothing much more than distraction and tedium. Reaching the point of only finding significance in the looking backward, at his life and at his work and at the world, terrified him more than any violence could. Actually becoming "Hemingway" the international symbol of gun-toting, truth-telling ramrod writer-hunk terrified him even more. Did he really miss Hadley? He certainly missed being young and on the verge of figuring out his two worlds — fictional and real — while in Paris. Just as he found himself capable of vanishing down the crumbling country well of evaporated happinesses he can never regain, Hemingway realized that the bizarre, long-legged Cuban woman whose secretions he could still smell on his beard had told him something he hadn't known for certain before: "It's Cuba." That's why Peter died — the Batista regime had been fending off Castro's little insurrectionary force, fueled by expatriate funding in the U.S., for several years. Peter must've brokered a deal, of either arms or contraband to sell, for the revolutionaries, or thought that's what he was doing, or tried to scam them in the process. Or something. Hemingway had no clue if in fact the woman learned what she came to learn; he didn't recall saying anything revelatory. But this megillah, it's definitely Cuba. That's where the jungle paths will lead.
From Hemingway Deadlights by Michael Atkinson. Copyright 2009 by the author and reprinted by permission of Minotaur Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press, LLC.