This is number two in a series. That means there’s one before this one. Read it and then come back. Or try to walk on one leg, your call.
I hardly ever see him. In the five months he has owned the apartment, I’ve physically seen him twice. Both times he went out of his way not to say hello by averting his eyes from my gaze.
But he’s probably just shy.
The few times I’ve heard him speak, through the paper-thin floor boards, he speaks in a specific Cuban dialect that is painful and painfully difficult to understand. He is of the generation of Cubans that were given Eastern European first names to match their Spaniard last names. I can tell he can’t speak English. Possibly enough to order a sandwich at the drive through, but even that much seems unlikely. His accent is too authentic and untamed, completely untouched by American television. His raw dialect leads me to doubt in his ability to read or write. When this generation of Cubans were kids, they were mostly out hustling for food rather than attending class – especially the boys.
Ah, the Cuban hustle. Stealing pigs from the government-run farms, paying off the guard with dollars, trading the meat for milk and coffee and gasoline. The gasoline not for the car, but for the secret ingredient in the underground drink they would bootleg for the dollar that would start the cycle again.
But that was just to survive.
When he purchased the apartment, his plumber discovered that my bath tub was leaking into his – or something like that. I know this because his plumber and his contractor came upstairs to talk to us. I was traveling that week, but my partner had the pleasure of dealing with all of the workers while she was on crutches, nursing a broken foot. Call a plumber, use their plumber, turn on the faucet, turn off the water. A few hours later, the new neighbor knocked on our door to see the problem with his own eyes.
Later that night via Skype, I was told of all the day’s excitement. Naturally I asked what was our new neighbor like and he was described to me as a recent Cuban immigrant in his late thirties. He was curt and preoccupied. He came into the apartment without introducing himself or apologizing for the inconvenience. A quick hello and good-bye. We immediately classified him as a socially awkward combination ogre-Neanderthal with poor manners, as many of the men his age and background that we’ve met are.
Of our crazy neighborhood, the guy who lives across from me is our fearless leader. Another Cuban immigrant, he is slightly older than the guy downstairs. He was able to get an education, learn a trade and escape through another country. He is of the “someone is always looking over your shoulder” cult of Cubans. As such, he feels the need to look over yours before you look over his. Naturally, he interviewed the new guy and tried to establish a bond, the kind only possible betwixt two square-built average men that must work in a physical trade.
Only, my neighborhood gossip boy reported back that our new friend was “in real estate” and “had purchased this apartment as an investment” because he “had other properties” and added that he “would’ve purchased that other apartment across from his, but didn’t want to spread himself too thin”.
But according to public records, he purchased this apartment cash.
And his other “properties” is just one other apartment in Hialeah he purchased for $0. At least that’s what it says on the deed. Could that be another cash buy?
And he lists two different mailing addresses on each of the mortgage papers for the aforementioned properties. A one number difference on the street. One says he lives on 55 Street, and the other says 58 Street.
But it could be a typo.
Only one address leads to a canal and the other to a grassy street corner. Neither exist.
Better than all of this is the adjudication against him in a civil suit just a little over one year ago, in which his landlord takes him to court for failure of paying his rent.
Tomorrow, I’ll give you the full picture. Including a glimpse into his entourage.