The streets darkened as we walked away from the Centro district and moved deeper into the city’s edges. Jethro and I were chaperoning three beautiful women from Barcelona. The street was barren. We came to an intersection flooded with young men. Something had just happened and you could feel it in the air. Olive green uniforms intermingled with the mass of people. We collectively made the decision to double back.
We pushed our way through the crowd, away from the undefined conflict and toward the bars meant for people like us: daiquiri-rich, pasty Canadians who profess a love for cigars even though the box of Romeo y Julietas they purchase will dry out upon returning home. Along the way, the girls stopped to take a photo. With her small point-and-shoot Maià framed an image of Sílvia and Carme posing in the middle of the pedestrian street. That’s when I noticed him. His stern face staring at me or, rather, at the camera between us. In a quick flash he snatched it from Maià’s hands and turned to run. Two other men with him bolted for the alleyway. I stood frozen, mind racing between fight or flight. It was only a point-and-shoot…$200…three men…Havana at night… As I made the decision to not chase, Jethro made another.
His flip-flops kicked off in dramatic fashion, high into the air, as he sprinted after the men. Like a protagonist in his own biopic, Jethro cocked his right arm and fired a half-full can of Bucanero Fuerte at the thief with the camera. It hit him square in the back, crumpling and spraying warm beer into the night air. And like that, they were gone, around the corner into the darkest alleyway I had ever seen.
I stood there: dumbfounded, confused, stupefied. Before I could make the decision to pursue my friend on the most idiotic rescue ever, Sílvia turned to me with pleading eyes.
“Go after him!”
Emasculated, I did just that, clumsily and fearfully lumbering into the Havana night like the fat, dumb friend of the protagonist. The character played by Horatio Sanz. The one who has to be bailed out of a coke addiction or mob debt by his heroic friend. In this scenario, the hero just happened to be my high school valedictorian track star. Fuck me.
Panting, I reached the end of the block and looked north where Jethro had given chase. No sign. I yelled for him. No answer. The streets were suddenly dark and deserted, the olive green uniforms gone. I ran back to the main street, hoping for a police officer. The women became hysterical. Tears streaming down their faces, they huddled together, suddenly terrified of a world where dark men steal cameras and stupid Canadians let their friends get stabbed to death in rubble-strewn alleys. Something had changed.
Then suddenly, as fast as he had disappeared, there he was again. A silhouette illuminated by a single streetlight, the limping figure of Jethro appears at the end of the long city block. Feet torn from his barefoot pursuit, head slung low in exhaustion, his ragged breathing audible from 300 feet away. Tears of relief run down my face. And as in the final scene of every movie ever, just as he walks into the light, he holds the camera high above his head in victory.
It is undamaged, save for lost batteries. The women shriek in ecstatic eroticism. They mob him, kiss him, embrace him like a king. I try to get in there for a hug but he’s draped in a thick robe of breasts and long, sweet smelling hair. We turn to walk back to the lobby bar of their hotel, where we happily drink mojitos in the secure comfort of an overpriced tourist trap. The glow coming off Jethro is vibrant. Blinding, even. At one point, Sílvia busts Maià for a lust-filled stare she directs across the table at him. We all laugh. No one hears the joke I make. One of the girls lovingly pulls bits of gravel from Jethro’s feet.