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Cuban Chaos Theory: Eyelashes flutter in Havana

Cuban Chaos Theory: Eyelashes flutter in Havana

Wrecking Havoc – Cuban Chaos Theory
A hot Havana afternoon?the surface of the bay is like a gleaming sheet of glass and castles of cumulonimbus inch imperceptibly across the sky. The wall of the Malec?n is draped with sleepy figures. Dogs drowse in the shade of the crumbling porticoes. Nothing stirs; the sweltering air is utterly still. But as you lie on the sun-baked wall, frying in the blue and gold afternoon, sinking voluptuously down through the layers of silence towards sleep, you become aware of a subtle sound feathering your eardrums, a velvety hiss, a soft rushing of air like the beating of tiny wings in the shimmering afternoon, and every now and then a faint whispering zephyr ripples along the wall. What could it be? The surface of the sea is unruffled; there isn?t the hint of a breeze. But there is the sound again, a small sibilant drumbeat—you turn sharply and see the source: the languorous fluttering of Cuban eyelashes.

When a Cuban blinks in Havana, tornadoes strike in Texas
When a butterfly flaps its wings in the Brazilian rain forest, earthquakes happen in New Guinea. When a Cuban blinks in Havana, volcanoes erupt in Italy and tornadoes strike in Texas. Cuban chaos comes in many guises, but none more satisfying, more alluring, more extraordinary, than the long, lush, gleaming curl of Cuban eyelashes. You wonder how their owners can see through them—it must be like living behind a finely-wrought natural version of the delicate rejas with which Old Havana?s windows are embellished. When Cubans look down, their lashes sweep across their cheeks in opaque silky crescents and when the sun sets beyond the mouth of the Almendares River, it casts fine slanting shadows across the cheeks of the sleepy sea-watchers beside the Chorrera Castle.

Flexing, fluttering and darting
Cubans are already up there with the international best in many areas—beauty, creativity, courtesy, energy, unshakeable humour and optimism in the face of adversity. But if the International Olympic Committee were to recognise eyelash-fencing as an official sport, the Cubans would be assured of winning gold medals with monotonous regularity. Surely to move such a prodigious length, those lashes must have muscles of their own? Flexing, fluttering and darting, the delightful precision of this contest with its delicate play of thrust and parry would develop a devoted and discerning international following. Other events could be organised—the annual international Havana eyelash-fluttering marathon would rapidly achieve world fame, with determined professional entries from Italy, Spain, Colombia and Mexico, but the Cuban amateur team would always carry off The Wink, the stylish golden trophy depicting a seductively closing eye.

Judicious use of eyelashes mitigates misdemeanours
Cubans aren?t born with these lavish lashes. At first, they are no more than a sooty sweep of a sable brush across babies? tiny eyelids, but within weeks, fertilised with love and kisses, they begin to sprout like tiny tropical vines, curling as they grow. Longer?longer?longer?extending visibly, daily, until their mothers wonder whether they may have to plait them. But finally they slow down to grow at the same rate as the rest of the child, and Cuban children of both sexes learn early to exploit the devastating effect of a swift gleaming glance through those lashes at parents, playmates or the harried coordinator of their circulito. Even after the most appalling misdemeanours have been committed, judicious use of the eyelashes can considerably mitigate the consequences.

Luxuriant butterfly kisses
All over the world children and adults exchange ?butterfly kisses?, soft flutterings of eyelashes against the cheek. Being given a butterfly kiss by a Cuban child is like having one?s face vigorously swept by a thick, soft brush. The individual hairs are thick, dark and gleaming and in strong sunlight reflect tiny, shiny rainbows. The furry mini-forests have a soft dark undergrowth of hundreds of tiny hairs with larger, longer lashes protruding from the forest like the royal palms of Pinar del Rio with whose fronds they have much in common. It?s not only the upper lashes, but the lower ones too. Many Cubans must go through complicated processes with a comb every morning simply to be able to see, for one imagines that the bushy intricacies above and below must become inextricably tangled when their owners are asleep.

Eyelashes for energy efficiency
Cuba is a developing country and energy costs are a constant problem. Perhaps an ingeniously self-taught industrial designer—one of the sort who rigs up complex and brilliant (if rather risky) electrical supplies to hidden corners all over Havana – might invent the means of creating energy self-sufficiency in the home. 2006 has been proclaimed ?The Year of the Energy Revolution in Cuba.? If every family member spent some time every day energetically fluttering his or her eyelashes at a diminutive equivalent of a wind farm, domestic electricity requirements could easily be taken care of.

Hazards of makeup
Cubans are famously good-looking. It is true that the nation is extraordinarily well endowed with statuesque and handsome members of both sexes who have to make little effort to enhance their natural glories. In any case, mascara would be hazardous to Cuban women—its application would turn their lashes into so impenetrable a thicket that they wouldn?t be able to see through them, crashing their cars and, when out for a walk, scattering pedestrians in every direction as they undulated blindly down the street.

Visitors might wonder, though, exactly how this international reputation for traffic-stopping beauty came about. Many larger, older Cubans in repose (and they?re fond of repose) can look distinctly like monitor lizards. But the moment something attracts their interest the reptilian regard disappears without trace. Whoooosh! No matter what the age, the effect is the same: the stunning lashes sweep into action, framing sparkling glances to fatally irresistible effect, fluttering delicately like humming birds? wings.

These extraordinary natural phenomena are amongst Cuba?s greatest national assets and UNESCO should, without delay, declare them World Heritage to be internationally appreciated, protected and preserved.
November 2006

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