I Don’t Want To Be In A Coen Brothers Film: Mercenaries on the Cuban Beach

So, there is nothing I enjoy more than a boring vacation. No annoying adventure. No drama. No running from here to there or having to deal with crowds or noise. Just a calm relaxing boring uneventful vacation.

I also enjoy Cuba. For some reason I feel drawn there and it’s one of the safest tropical countries for tourists. Also, knowing a group of lovely ladies who like to travel there twice a year, gives me a perfect opportunity to just chill out boringly on the beach with an interesting book.

Earlier this year I travelled to the area of Santa Lucia, on the north coast of Cuba. My vacation was gloriously uneventful until the second last day.

In between my resort and the one beside it there was a plaza for tourists with several little shops. I had been to those shops a couple of times during my stay and wasn’t intending to go back but one of the ladies in the group wanted to return to purchase a handmade toy for her grandson, so I volunteered to go with her.

Jenny is in her seventies and although she appears frail, she has quite a lot of energy. She’s a regular world traveller and has seen far more places on this planet than I have. But Jenny is also a woman who has always lived in an ordinary white privilege bubble and so views the world through a glass rosily.

As we were a approaching the plaza, a shiny bright red classic car pulls up and parks on the grass facing the beach. Jenny was excited about the car.

Four men get out of the car and stand together on the driver’s side which was the direction from which we were coming. Immediately I get a bad feeling about them. They are not dressed like tourists and there is something cold and empty about their presence. I wanted to veer to the right to avoid them. Unfortunately for me, Jenny wanted to get a closer look at the car and started walking towards them, happily chirping about what a beautiful car it was.

One guy, who seemed to be in charge, was wearing a t-shirt with some sort of official looking crest corner. I couldn’t see it very clearly, but it looked like an American design. I noticed he had his phone out and seemed to be discreetly filming me and Jenny.

Jenny happily approaches them to ask about the car. The assumed American and guy number two have no interest in talking to Jenny and head off to the beach leaving behind guy number three and guy number four. Jenny starts up a cheery conversation with guy number three. He’s a big smiley talker.

Immediately he starts telling us that he’s been away from Cuba for many years and they finally let him back in to see his mother. He tells it like it’s the story of the century, but the references to his mother always seem removed from emotion. Jenny likes his story.

He goes on to say he’s from Miami. Miami is where, since the 1960’s, the Americans keep an anti-Cuba militia/community to do their unsightly work. At this point, I really do not what to be around these people, but I can’t leave a woman in her seventies alone, so I just hope that Jenny wraps up her conversation quickly. Unfortunately, they keep talking.

He introduces guy number four, the quiet serious one who perhaps doesn’t speak English, as being from Brazil. That’s the country that not long ago had a right-wing coup where they installed a genuine anti-Cuba fascist as President. It’s also a country where people get assassinated frequently.

So now here I am, stuck with a chatty friendly psychopath and a silent stoic psychopath, hence the Coen Brothers reference in the title.

Miami guy liked talking about himself. He started going on about how he is American now. He’s not Cuban but American. He seemed to think we would be impressed by this over-zealous patriotism. That’s when Jenny said, “The Americans are my cousins, but we don’t always agree.” And that’s when the smile drained from his face and there it was…the killer face.

Luckily it only lasted for a moment and then he went back to his chatty smiley persona. Jenny never noticed.

Jenny then asked if she could take a photo of the car. For some reason this made the chatty smiley psychopath happy as he fully intended to be in her photo. You’d think a mercenary would be hesitant to being photographed but not this guy. Jenny handed me her phone and there I was tasked with the job of getting a lovely photo of her standing in front of a classic car while sandwiched between two smiling psychopathic killers.

After the photo was taken, they offered to take one with me. I politely declined.

Well, it was now time to go our separate ways, thank God, and they wanted to shake hands. I didn’t want to touch them. It was uncomfortable enough just feeling their presence. I didn’t want to touch the flesh of dying souls, but I had no choice in that situation. So, I reluctantly shook their doughy hands, my whole self recoiling at the touch of something that felt so bloated, dead and dirty.

Now, every once in a while, I think back to this experience and about the photo I took of Jenny and the killers. I wonder if she posted it. Jenny looking happy. The chatty one with a laughing smile. The stoic one with an awkward forced grin. Did all her friends and relatives click ‘like’? Perhaps some of them even wrote nice little comments underneath it. “So glad to see you having a great time.” “Wish I was there too.” “They seem like nice people.”

Ah! What a screwed-up world we live in.