This blog's title means "Cuban-hearted woman" (very loosely translated!). I settled on this name because it had a nice ring to my unschooled ear and, more importantly, because I think the Cuban people seem to have so much
heart, and they're in my heart for that reason. In general, the people I've met in Cuba are quite consistently open-hearted and big-hearted in the way they relate to each other or to visitors in their beautiful land. A piece of my heart now resides in Cuba, with the warm, wonderful friends I've made there. This blog is not intended to be a guide to Cuba, just a forum for my eclectic bits of writing – poetry, opinion pieces and information gleaned from my personal experience and reading.

Monday, May 18, 2015

SHORT STORY: The Whole Truth

This is short story I realized recently I hadn't posted here. It was written in January 2013 and is set at a fictionalized version of  a lovely little resort I lead groups to twice a year – for more information about by travel endeavours, please visit my website: JennicaCuba.

Although this is a work of fiction, it is very loosely based on something that happened at a Cuban resort many years ago. I didn't know the people involved and never knew all the details, but it sent my mind on a creative journey to unravel the tale I heard and spin one of my own. It could have happened this way….
~ Jenny


The Whole Truth

By Jennifer R. Cressman

“What’s she doing here?”

The voice cut through the din of the dining room due to its tone and intensity, not because of its volume. In fact, it wasn’t loud at all. It was caustic, accusatory, acrid and icy all at once. Reflected in the mirror of the night-darkened windows, I could see heads swivel towards the speaker. She, however, had coyly returned to her meal and was quite engrossed in deboning her fish. Her dinner companions were visibly tsk-tsking, clucking and ducking like chickens. One glared my way as she installed a large forkful of food in her mouth. At least the chewing stopped her from gaping.

I had hoped I would not be recognized by anyone who knows the story, or what they believe the story to be. The resort is usually quiet at this time of year, mid October, so I thought I could slip in for a much-needed week of rest and recreation with my husband before I had to return, on the government’s peso, for another round of testimony. I’d booked a relatively private cabaña but, as fate would have it, all the cabañas had to be closed due to electrical problems following heavy summer rains and flooding – the cables are underground here – so my reservation was transmuted.

I have been given a room in the larger, slightly newer hotel on the hill. It was presented as an upgrade, but I do not consider as such; I see it as an oppressive inconvenience. Nothing else was available. The smaller beachfront hotel, though a little rundown, would have been fine with me but it was fully booked. There was no other option but to check into the Faraday, where I am continually assaulted by memories and reminded why, to some people, I am now a pariah.

As I walk past the neatly trimmed hedge along the path to my room, images and sensations overwhelm me like a flashflood. His lips crush against mine. One sinewy arm snakes around my back, pulling me closer. I do not immediately resist. I unlock my patio door and step into the dark room.  He gently pushes me backwards and we step together like dancers, out of the light. He keeps drawing me to him, kissing me more intensely as his passion rises. With his free hand, he begins to caress my hip. His lips move away from my mouth, foraging along my neck. I flick on the light and the bland, perfect room comes into focus. I run my fingers across my mouth, wiping away the memory.

My husband won’t be arriving until tomorrow, so I’m on my own tonight. I glance at my watch; it’s almost 8:30. The stage show will begin soon and, if I delay, I should be able to slip into a seat at the back and not be noticed. I pour myself a slosh of rum, douse the light and settle into a lounge chair on the patio, waiting to hear the emcee’s multilingual patter. The glow of the walkway lights provides just enough illumination for me to see who’s passing by without being very visible myself. A young security guard strolls by without acknowledging my presence. Beneath his crisp uniform, I can feel his warmth growing. He unbuttons his shirt, then he reaches for my blouse. I shake my head and try to shift my body away from him. He holds me firmly but becomes tender again and kisses me like a lover, gently on the mouth.

I sip my rum slowly, savoring the soft strains of music sifting through the shrubbery. I recognize the tune as “Dos Gardenias” – it must be a requisite for every band in Cuba. I want more rum but know I should be careful; it gets me into trouble.

“Don’t keep teasing me, sweetie,” he whispers between kisses. “I know what you want and you know it too.” He pulls me more tightly against him. He’s fully charged.

“But, I don’t…” He won’t let me finish the sentence. And, in truth, I don’t know what I was about to say. I’ve had too much rum. I’m hungry now. I let his tongue slip between my teeth, and his hand reach inside my blouse. A button pops and drops silently to the ground.

I hear snatches of the announcer’s spiel – “Good evening ladies and gentlemen…Damen und Herren, willkommen…Bonsoir mesdames et messieurs…Buenos noches y bienvenidos….” I begin to mentally debate: go to the show or have more rum and go to bed? It’s a toss-up, and I don’t have a coin to flip.

I can’t say he threw me to the ground but that’s where we end up. He’s on top of me, pressing into me sharply. My skirt has slipped up and I can feel the rough grass scratching the backs of my thighs.

I shift my weight on the plastic chair and discover my dress is sticking to my damp ass. Sweating is unavoidable in Cuba, as far as I’m concerned but, thankfully, it camouflages the hot flashes. I decide to top up my glass and skip the show, as entertaining as it always is. At least I can hear the music from the relative privacy of my own patio.

His hand slips smoothly between my legs. I squirm but don’t really fight. I can’t deny I’m turned on, even though I think I shouldn’t be. We’ve known each other for years – before he was a guard, he was a groundskeeper – and we’ve always had a flirtatious running joke about being hot for each other. But it’s serious now. This is the crunch. Do I let him…?

The phone rings, jarring me back to the present. “Hello?” The desk clerk asks if I will accept a call from Rodrigo. Of course. Once again, my husband rides in like a shining knight to rescue me; this time, from my own ghosts.

“Hola, mi amor! I am on my way to you soon. Today, I waited for hours but the bus never came, and it was too late to hitch a ride. I will try again mañana, okey-dokey?”

“Sure, honey.” What else can I say? The tiny village where he lives with his aging mother is several hours away, on a good day, when there’s transportation. It’s a rugged, mountainous area though, and sometimes rain-swollen rivers, mudslides or fallen rocks block the road. “Should I hire a taxi to come and get you?”

“No, mi amor, save your money. I will go out to the road in the morning, pronto, and begin to hike the hitch. Don’t worry about that. I think somebody will be going there, and I will be by you then, before you know it! Okay, sweetie-pie?”

“Okay, you know best. It’s your country, honey.”

“Si, claro, mi amor, pero,” his voice softens, “soon your country will be my country too, right? That’s why you must save your money. I will get a ride. You will see!”

“Yes, Roddy, I know. I just wish you were here now.” I can’t stop my voice from quivering a little. “I miss you!”

“Aw, cariño, I miss you too.” He makes a kissing sound into the hollow, echoing phone. “I will be there soon.” He kisses the phone again. “Hasta pronto, mi amor!”

I kiss back, but with less exuberance. Then he’s gone.

I kiss back. Yes, I do. I should stop myself, I think, but I like kissing. I like the feel of his lips and his body against me. We were friends before I married Rodrigo. Why can’t –

Suddenly, my friend is grabbed from behind and yanked off me. Rodrigo!

Rodrigo rescued me, like it or not, and set the wheels in motion for everything that happened next, and is still happening. My former friend, Calixto, is in jail, and I’m in my own prison. My plan for a happy life in Canada with my handsome Cuban husband is on hold. I need more and more rum to dampen the doubts eroding my mind. Could I have done anything differently? If I had been brave and told Rodrigo that I was half to blame, he would have immediately dumped me – I know how hot-blooded these Cubanos are. They have an unblinking pride in their own masculinity, as well as a national double standard regarding men and women. What’s good for the gander is not tolerated for the goose; a man can have affairs but a woman is damned if she does anything remotely similar.

Now, here we are, following the path that is rolling out before us. Calixto is doing the same. He’s appealing the guilty verdict for his sexual assault charges, naturally. It’s expensive and there’s little hope of a better outcome but what else can he do? Does he know how guilty I feel? Does he know I secretly send money to his wife and family? I reach for the rum bottle again but change my mind and go to bed instead.


I wait until the last possible moment to go to breakfast, hoping to grab a quick bite and guzzle some café cubano without being seen by anyone who might recognize me. No such luck. The same women who spotted me last night at dinner are there, just inside the door. They’ve seen me coming up the stairs and I have no choice but to walk right past them.
Their eyes claw at me. I nod curtly as I pass. There’s no point in pretending they don’t exist, or that I don’t. They were my friends, and I know they still consider themselves to be Calixto’s friends.

“She’s certainly put on weight!”

“I almost didn’t recognize her with that bad dye job.”

Intentionally loud, their voices slice into my back.

“Who is that?” A new woman in their midst asks hesitantly. She’s in for an earful.

I keep walking. What else can I do?

 “Well,” the ringleader begins, “she’s the reason that lives have been ruined and an innocent man is rotting in a Cuban jail….”

I’m out of earshot before she really gets rolling. Small mercy. I know the story she’ll spin.  She’ll explain how I accused Calixto of attempting to rape me and thereby ruined his life. She’ll say she knows him and knows he would never even think of touching such a vile, unappealing person as me, who is just plain ugly inside and out. She won’t mention we were all friends, way back when. She has conveniently forgotten that, once upon a more innocent time, we all used to joke around with as much sexual innuendo as possible. She doesn’t realize, when she’s had too much rum, she flirts and teases more provocatively than I ever did. She’s gained weight too.


It’s hard to comprehend that I was here just a few weeks ago, for such a different reason. Rodrigo is by my side and we have dressed with suitable conservative care. All possible details must be considered when in a Cuban court, our lawyer has explained. Despite his prison garb, I can see that Calixto has lost weight, though he had none to spare. He barely dares to glance around the room but, even from this distance, I can see his eyes are dull and hopeless. He has the haunted look of someone who has given up. His wife and oldest daughter sit in chairs on the opposite side of the aisle, slightly ahead of me. They are holding onto each other and struggling not to break down. One whimpers softly and they both dab at their eyes intermittently with ragged handkerchiefs. I can’t bear it. I squeeze my freshly polished nails into my palms and wait impatiently. My stomach and mind churn.

At last, the court officials begin their unilingual spiel and a translator haltingly tells me everything in English. Finally, I hear my name: “Lelanya Smith Torres, please come forward.” I’m reminded to be honest, to fully and completely tell the truth in answering each question. It’s hard to concentrate on what’s being asked. I keep looking at Calixto, my old friend. We know the truth of the situation, even if neither of us really remembers who made the first move. Yes, he was too pushy but I never said no. The truth is, things simply got out of hand. If Rodrigo hadn’t shown up when he did, what would have happened? I honestly don’t know. At this moment, all I know is that I can’t stand it any longer. I have to say something. I have to try to change the course of this leaky boat we’re all in, like it or not.

I look at my dear husband. Has he always been faithful to me when I’m home in Canada and he’s here in hot and sultry Cuba? Not likely. I know Latinos. But, I do believe he loves me and is loyal to me, in his own way. And, he desperately wants to get to Canada. Will he stand by me, if he hears the whole truth? Probably, but he’ll find subtle ways to make me pay. I know him pretty well, and I could do worse. He has a good heart. He knows me pretty well, too, and we’ve come this far together. He could do worse.

“Señora Torres, please tell us what happened on the night….”

I take a deep breath and begin.


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