There was no way I could defeat Juan Nuiry for the presidency of the Social Sciences student body, since he had the election sewn up. Not that it was going to be rigged, just that he held all the cards. He had been around for a while as a full-time student and as a candidate whereas I was a newcomer in both respects; he was already vice president, I had no official position in student government; he had the support of the outgoing president and of all those active in the school’s electoral politics, I had the support only of a small group of ordinary students; and to top it all off, he had a knockout of a sister actively campaigning for him among the male students while I had no weapon to match that in my meager arsenal. I knew I had no chance of winning, but I decided to run anyway. There was something about being invited to address student meetings, about everyone knowing who you were, about seeing your name in big printed characters on the posters hanging on the walls of the cafeteria and the classrooms that brought a certain satisfaction—a juvenile, attention-seeking kind of satisfaction for sure, but satisfaction nevertheless.
It was as I campaigned one morning, engaged in a futile attempt to make the race competitive, that I met Joan Campana. I came across one of my few enthusiastic supporters, Rubén, sitting on a bench with an attractive girl who was wiping tears from her cheeks. I was about to turn around, not wanting to intrude, when Rubén called me over, introduced me and went on to explain the reason for her distress.
She was an American student from Yonkers, New York. After majoring in Spanish at home, she had arrived in Havana, her first time out of the United States, eager to take courses at the University and to put her long years of language work to the test. Now she was ready to quit, to