By Roland E. Williams
The names of the streets in that part of the old colonial city were dates. Days in numbers and the months written in full in Spanish but long names abridged.
The name of the street of his hotel had not been shortened. The date of this street was his mother’s birthday and Nicholas took a room. He squinted looking up at the white on blue street sign, shading his eyes with his hand, and turned the corner onto the promenade.
The shopping promenade was void of cars. Taxi drivers crowded the corners of the streets that ran perpendicular offering their services as did the prostitutes who clung onto the arms of prospective clients.
Other semi-professionals, young women in their early twenties, stood in the promenade advertising services and products sold in the front sections of the stores. They offered back section services once the tourist unbeknown to the procedure was coaxed inside and lead to the rear.
Men peddled the same authentic prints of paintings lined up in front of the hurricane shutters of vacant buildings.
Nicholas passed the old cathedral, crossed the street where the horse-cabs stood, and farther the two art academies that faced each other. Construction went on in the building left of the academy on the right. Two sheets of plywood in the entrance hung side by side hinged with the soles of six sneakers, on one hung a sign with the name of the new restaurant.
At the end of the passage he walked down the wide stairs of this part of the old fort wall. He turned right onto the sidewalk along the avenida where the general’s statue was still kept impeccably clean. He put on his shades after wiping the sweat off his forehead with a handkerchief. The day grew hotter, but past the bend that takes the avenida to the Malecón, the breeze emerged.
Nicholas climbed the walled steps opposite the monument of the bishop martyr on the other side of the avenue. An old man wearing a beret and a roll of canvas tucked under an arm passed him on the steps. The park at the top of the bulge had a handful of trees at the front and as many old worn-down benches.
He sat down and the breeze brought the conversation from the bench in front of him. A man asked his female companion when she would be ready to receive him. The breeze stopped when she started about her kids.
The higher bridge across the Río Ozama had its usual fill of cars; everyone had somewhere to go.
At the other end of the park the street was bare but for two delivery boys carrying groceries on motorbikes.
He walked over to the colmado and bought two small bottles of flavored water. They did not have his brand, but he took the water, anyway. The man behind the counter had no change for a hundred pesos so Nicholas searched his pockets for coins and found what he needed with five pesos to spare. He drank the first bottle of water before leaving the shop and walked back to the bench.
To be continued…