They said the Marielitas were escoria – scum. The abuelitas muttered it to each other, and the young girls coming home from school clustered together like butterflies, looking thrilled and worried whenever the wind whistled at them. The newspapers claimed Miami was under siege, that Castro had loosed the worst from the Cuban prisons and madhouses.
The respectable Cubans already in Miami by 1980 – the ones who weren’t driving the boats to bring over their cousins and brothers and grandparents who’d managed to flee to the port of Mariel – were quick to repudiate the incoming. Some of them put bumper stickers on their Pintos and Caddies: No me digas Marielito.
When I got back to the bike shop, I poured hot tap water in a cup, added a jasmine tea bag, sniffed the delicate aroma, and added a half mug’s worth of sooty liquid from the coffeepot, ink and rusty bolts thick. It’d wake me up.
I looked up. Standing in the doorway was tall, dark, and pink shirt. A lot of women would have melted under the force of those black eyes, crows-wing eyebrows, lashes like a smolder of incense. But something about the flatness of his stare, the swamp-water shine of his hair, gave me the creeps.
“Me,” I said, half question, half challenge.
He glanced around at the clutter of parts, the pegboarded tools, the skull and crossbone neon behind the front counter. I was still getting the hang of being a business owner, after having been a waitress, a bike mechanic, a student of paraconsistent logic.
And, as always, now and forever, monster hunter.