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I am in Cuba, sitting in a bar with Ernest “Papa” Hemingway. The Floridita, made famous for its daiquiris, has capitalized on the writer, installing a life-sized bronze statue in the corner where he would sit and order “papa dobles.” In his time, Hemingway enjoyed drinking here with fishermen, sailors, and regulars. Now, it’s a tourist trap. The air is thick with overpriced cigars, the bar is inaudibly loud, and the room is crowded by foreigners attracted by the writer’s renown. The only Cubans are the ones working. A man in a fanny pack next to me says to a younger woman, “Hemingway is great,” as he creeps closer to her through the mob. “The Great Gatsby was one of my favorite books in high school.” I leave the bar, disappointed and bitter.

More… “Que Pasa Papa?”

T.K. Mills is a writer who lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn. He is a regular contributor to the street art magazine, Sold Mag. T.K. has also been published in The Vignette Review, Global Street Art, Literate Sunday, The American Dissident, among others. His story, Nicotine Traces, was selected for the Summer '16 Anthology of Catalogue. For T.K. Mills complete portfolio, visit tkmills.com.
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Yuca and his “business partner,” Carlitos, were younger than the usual maquina drivers. Their 1950s Chevy was nicer, too, than the average maquina: shiny lavender exterior, smooth cream-colored, faux-leather seat in the front, a stereo that flashed red and blue lights. Something like what James Dean might drive if he were a young Cuban today. They hadn’t reupholstered the back seat yet, and it was still a dirty, greenish hue, the vinyl roping along the edges broken and scratchy. It snagged on girls’ skirts and grocery bags. They had their music turned up high when I hopped in; they listened to a mixed CD of reggaeton interspersed with Marc Anthony and Enrique Iglesias. Skinny Carlitos collected the money from passengers while chubby Yuca took care of driving. Carlos spied someone trying to wave them down and Yuca eased the car to soft stops without interrupting his soft, tone-deaf whistling. They… More…

It was around the time I met Victor that he started actively trying to get out of Cuba. He worked in tourism, illegally, and between jobs he fought for the paperwork to move to Spain. We worked together for a summer, then I went back to the States, and he was still where I left him when I came back to Cuba the following summer to work again. I was employed by a program for American high school students that combined educational travel with casual coursework. For me, being in Cuba, though my job occupied me around the clock, was like a holiday.

When I saw Victor again he didn’t look well. His body, as before, was solid: he was shorter than I was, which is to say below the height of the average American woman, and his arms and back were sturdy and masculine and muscled, his trunk square… More…