“After dinner, I made the mistake of saying something about a cigar. It wasn’t as if I asked for one. I probably said something like, ‘I hear that your country is famous for its cigars.’ But they took this as an overpolite way of asking for one, so the hunt began. The shops were closed, but the Rafaels started working on the car. You’ve heard, no doubt, how in Cuba they still drive working American cars from the 1950s, but this was something else, a Frankenstein made from the parts of about four different cars from the ’50s and one Russian car apparently from the ’70s. They got this creature going, and we started moving through the streets. No headlights — one of them held an electric lantern out the window. It was wired to the cigarette lighter. We needed it badly. Within a mile of leaving the town, we were in the face-close darkness of unlighted rural roads. They took me to a kind of kiosk, an open bar in the middle of a field. I don’t know what it was, really. A kind of club. All of the men, about seven of them, were workers in the tobacco fields. They would smuggle out a cigar or two each week, maybe defective ones, for personal use or the chance to trade it away. Rafelito told me, ‘This is the puro puro.”
- Where Is Cuba Going? by John Jeremiah Sullivan
“Children can be an anchor. During the two weeks I was at the writing conference, where was my wife? Mostly in Yemen, where she met a boy who said he cowered in the rocks one night after what was an apparent American airstrike, waiting for daylight to try to find his father and brother. When the sun came out, he found them, scattered in pieces, a red sludge.
Once upon a time, she and I lived in Turkey and Iraq. And before that, it was Saudi Arabia, where our little girl was born. Before all that, it was a big job in New York, which I left to walk along the ocean. Why did I do that? I’m still trying to figure it out.”