Habana the Cat

by Benjamin Colbourne (United Kingdom (Great Britain))

I didn't expect to find United Kingdom


It was on the paved moonlit Malecón of Havana where I first saw her, A tiny, dusty black kitten so malnourished and gaunt she looked like a faint phantom in the night. Every evening, me and the friends I had gathered walked past the same spot to head into the wild Havana night and she would be there. She was clearly alone and was growing weaker by the day. I said that I wanted to do something but I was told "that's life, things die". On my way back from the fun house-esque Facroita nightclub I saw her again. It may have been the combination of just the right amount of rum and tugged heartstrings that made me take her. I slept with her in my hostel bed, her weightless frame sleeping gently on my head. I awoke the next morning with red raw eyes due to my bad cat allergies. Me and two friends, Emma and Alize had decided to take a road trip to Trinidad a few days previous and that morning we set out for Cienfuegos along with the kitten who I had decided to name Habana. In the street we hailed a sky-blue 1949 Chevrolet with bloodred leather seats and an airstream sliver interior. Like many things in Cuba the car was a truly beautiful relic of the past that looked as though it hadn't seen a day past 1960. The driver, Hugo who funnily enough lived in Cienfeugo agreed to take us for around 60 CUCs (around 60$ US). We drove for an hour when we stopped at a little no frills food place on the road side. There were chickens running around our feet as we ate, the girls and Hugo had chicken and rice and I had rice and beans. Alzie fed little bits of chicken to Habana which she snatched up and Hugo fetched her a plate of milk. We carried on driving through the spectacular Cuban countryside, with nothing to interrupt our enthralled gaze except the occasional billboard of Che Guavara or Fidel Castro. We arrived in Cienfuegos at a Casa Paticular that Hugo had recommended, just as the heavens opened. The girls spoke to the owner as I took Habana inside, hidden in my coat. We got ready to go out for the evening, Emma said she wanted to stay in and could look after Habana. Hugo said he would join us and that he would bring his daughter along. We went to an outdoor nightclub in central Cienfuegos. It was a carnivalic atmosphere of reggeton and rumshots, where cigar smoke danced in the air above our heads before drifting into the Aether. It was here that I met a wonderful gentlemen named Roberto. He told me that he once tried to leave Cuba for America. That he and 15 friends set out from Havana in a boat, lead by a man they had paid. He said that at around 3am in the heart of the black night and a mile from shore they were told they either jump in and swim for Florida or head back to Havana. He said that 5 of his friends jumped and swam for it but that he himself was too terrified of great white sharks to do so. Whilst we were dancing, a merry Hugo told me that he would take Habana to live with him and his family, I was elated at the news. The next afternoon Hugo picked us up and drove us to his beautiful farmhouse. He gave us delicious fresh coffe, home grown bananas and introduced us to his family. His farm was a haven of green pastures and banana trees. The evening ended with me and his son playing baseball in the street in the soft orange stare of the setting sun. The following day we all drove to El Nicho waterfalls which is around an hour's drive outside of Cienfuegos. It's endless tropical flora and azure blue waters must only be matched by the garden of Eden. The feeling of swimming in what felt like heaven on earth was made all the more sweeter knowing that Habana had found a paradise home of her own.