Bear with me.
I’m still on the subject of how quickly new businesses pop up in Vieques.
A couple of new places had appeared in Isabel since our visit two months earlier. One was a small sandwich shop on the right hand side of the winding road leading into town.
Jane had told us it was wonderful. We bought sandwiches our first day and took them to the beach.
My advice? Try the Cubano.
The other new business was almost directly across from the sandwich shop. We had noticed the building before—frankly, it was hard to miss—looming high above the other structures on the left hand side of the road as you entered town.
It was a wedding cake of a building, all Corinthian pilasters and crown moldings, infinitely more ornate than any other structure on the island. But the last time we’d driven by it was in terrible condition, its paint peeling, its gutters hanging in tatters.
Now, though, it was tarted up with a coat of bright pink paint, its trim picked out smartly in white relief.
If the old building had resembled Miss Havisham’s wedding cake…
the new one looked like Cinderella’s…
The sign over the door said, “Jack’s Coffee House and Bar.” Caffeine and booze, I thought. What a winning combination. And, wait for it—there was a four-room inn upstairs too.
We couldn’t wait to see what it was all about.
The interior was a zany pastiche of neon signs, neoclassical-style murals, and shell-encrusted mirrors.
“My god,” Michael murmured under his breath, “we’ve died and gone to gay heaven.”
The main section consisted of a rectangular, tall-ceilinged room with a bar on one end and sofas, tables and lamps ranged across the other. The back wall was punctuated by three enormous sets of French doors leading onto a spacious, palm-shaded patio.
From behind the bar we were greeted by a familiar face: a friendly young woman who had formerly run the Tiki Bar Grill in Esperanza. She had an endearing way of smiling all the time and calling everyone “sweetie.”
“Hey boys,” she almost screamed above the loud music. “Long time, no see. Are you here for long?”
“Not really,” Michael said. “But we bought a house here, so you’ll be seeing a lot more of us.”
“Fab,” she enthused. “Where’s the new place?”
“Los Chivos,” I answered.
She gulped. “Oh my god, that’s where Charlie’s house is,” she replied, pointing to a middle-aged guy sitting at the bar, staring at his laptop. He was wearing a sweatshirt (which struck me as somewhat unorthodox garb for 85 degree weather) and drinking a beer.
Although he couldn’t possibly have avoided hearing her (she was blessed with a healthy pair of lungs), he didn’t bother to look up.
“Charlie’s a regular,” she went on. “Hey, Charlie, have you met your new neighbors?”
Reluctantly, he tore his gaze from his screen and favored us with a wintry smile. “Don’t think I’ve had the pleasure.”