I knew it was him when he sat down. He was wearing his normal uniform. His daughter called it that. He wore it daily. Or rather a version of it daily. The suit pants were worn at the cuff where they touched the floor. His shoes were brown driving shoes. Rubber soled. Hand stitched. Soft brown butter. These were undoubtedly the most expensive item he wore.
The guayabera he wore today was hand stitched. Ramon Puig was an old friend and Ramon still created the white linen shirts by hand. Ramon worked out of a little shop on Calle Ocho, flanked by a nail salon and cell phone store, only locals knew to stop there for the embroidered white linen, 4 pocket guayabera like they used to find in the shops of Old Havana between the Malecon and El Capitole.
Today two cheap cheroots protruded from the chest pocket, lighter and a few dollars occupied the lower left pocket. He walked with his hand in the lower right pocket. A faded copy of Green Hills of Africa by Hemingway dogeared and worn tucked into the back pocket of his slacks.
As a young man, he was sent to Angola as a gift from the people of Cuba. He never said much about Africa outside of the fighting in Angola. When he made his way to Miami in the 60’s he stumbled upon the Hemingway paperback and has read it once or twice a year since then. Ernest had a way of romanticizing those years, one page at a time, the paperback rewrote his memory of that place, of that time.
In the park, there were another 20 or 30 variations of this man. All with a story, sometimes hushed and sometimes loud for the attention of the tourists watching from the sidewalk. Dominoes.
They played dominoes. Told stories about the days before El Jefe and reminisced about the girls, the nights and the way it was before Miami became home.