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A man eats food foraged from a garbage bin beside a former mansion in Havana. Emily Chaleff 03.09.2013

He returned to the one place he had always known. He had expected to find the house fenced off and boarded up, but that wasn’t the case. Standing before the creamy bricked building, he saw that the original chain link fence had vanished and the grassy lawn was dying. He walked up what had once been the path and on to the front porch of the house.

His hand reached out to the door handle and a flash of the past caught him unaware. He was a young man of twenty-two, dressed in his best Sunday suit and father was beside him locking the door. Then he was walking away and following his parents and younger sister to the car. The Rolls Royce had been gleaming in the evening sunshine and for a few moments he had pretended they were going on a family picnic and not fleeing the country.

It had been twenty years, he cruelly reminded himself. He tried to the handle and found the door to be locked. He walked around and looked at the broken ground floor windows. He couldn’t fit through any of them. However, at the rear of the house he found the back door open. Snapped wood cracked under his feet and his jumped threated to catch on the rusting hinges.

The house was dark and quiet, he felt as if was walking into something forbidden like the mouth of a dead whale. He reached to find the wall and his fingers hit a light switch. He flicked it on and off a few times, but nothing happened. Going further he opened a door to his left and then one that was before him as the layout of the house came back to him.

Light drifted into the back hallway, causing dust to rise. He looked at the floor and saw a trail of old footprints across the wooden floor. The housemaid would have been scolded for all that dirt. Heading into the kitchen, he paused at the destruction before him and questioned if he had come to the right house after all.

The room had been gutted. Gone were the old stove, metal sink, white fridge and most of the cupboards. So to had the large table and chairs that had stood in the middle. The walls had been smashed into and piping and wiring removed. He had expected it to be as he remembered; warm, full of the smell of baking and singing from the cook.

He put his hand to his face and rubbed his tried eyes. Slowly, he went through the rest of the rooms and found them all to be the same. In his bedroom, he ran his hands over the falling wallpaper. Looking out of the window, he saw a man going through the bins. Half-hiding in the shadows, he watched the man pull out a few things and began eating something.

Turning away and pressing his back to the wall, he couldn’t help but feel like that poor man. The war had completely ruined his life and all he could have been was just like the empty shell of his former home.