The sands of Santurce

The fellow sat at the large round table in the dining room. There was the Remington portable and a cuba libre.

He was writing a woman named Lane back in New Orleans.

A ceiling fan blew downward, and the smell of the sea and sand just outside entered the wide Spanish windows.

It was Puerto Rico on the beach in Santurce.

Working nights at the San Juan Star left the days of perpetual summer free. He lived in a guesthouse fronting the sea, the beach being just a stroll across the parallel street.

This beach was nothing to brag about, not like lovely Luquillo up the coast with its powder sands, palms and crystalline waters.

But it was the beach he had, closer to town.

The landlord was an old New Yorker with a yearning for young boys who rode their bikes slowly outside in the soft afternoons. He beckoned them to his boudoir an hour or two every day, different boys, and they left with a few bucks in their pockets.

Another boarder was a girl from Santiago, there without papers. She was short and beautiful with big green eyes. She spoke no English, but there was no need.

Shaped like a porn star, which she wasn’t, with a rack that looked fake, but it wasn’t, she would don the slightest of bikinis, and cross the street to the sand, bringing traffic to a halt as Puerto Rican boys squeezed their steering wheels and howled.

A sportswriter owned the house next door where he lived with his dusky girlfriend from La Republica Dominicana.

He once asked: “Do you think this will be a problem back in Alabama?”

He married her anyway.

His boarder was a Ranger captain stationed at Fort Buchanan, a huge handsome hulk with a red Pontiac GTO, just back from Vietnam where he had slept in the jungle with a Bowie blade.

One night a Puerto Rican ne’er-do-well from a nearby housing project crept through a window and entered the Ranger’s room while he slept. A mistake.

Within a screaming second the captain was cocked with his Bowie, and the shocked intruder ran straight through a latched screen door, leaving his outline like Wile E. Coyote.

The fellow met a woman named Mary from Brooklyn. She was blonde and attractive, living alone with her cat Montserrat in an upstairs duplex on Mango Street.

She was a secretary at the San Juan Star.

Across from her apartment was a small diner where they ate chicken and rice and listened to Johnny Nash sing “I Can See Clearly Now” on the Rockola.

Back outside the guesthouse on the sidewalk bordering the beach was an old man with a white cart who sold snow cones, which were always great in the heat.

(Note: Johnny Nash still seeing clearly.)

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