He is a thin, wiry man with a mustache who speaks only Spanish, a Cuban immigrant three months in America who has spent the last week waiting by the telephone.
He has been waiting ever since a friend, fresh from a trip to Cuba, burst into his mother's $224-a-month Takoma Park apartment with the news: his fiance was among the 10,000 Cubans who had stormed the Peruvian Embassy in Havana on April 5 and 6 as a way station to freedom.
His name is Edilio Marim, and he is 29, a former $74-a-month Havana cafeteria worker who spent two years in Cuban prisons for trying to escape his homeland on a makeshift raft. Neighbors spied him hammering and sawing at night and turned him in. He has spent the last 12 years plotting to join his mother and two brothers, busy carving out the immigrant's dream in Washington.
He dreams of learning English, finding a job that is steadier than his present $4-an-hour construction work, and marrying his fiance. Her name is Jacueline Soto, and she is 19 and beautiful, he says. Theirs is an old-fashioned Cuban love story: she is the woman he had to leave behind for freedom.
"I just had to get out when I could," he said yesterday through an interpreter. "Now I am hoping that she will come any day on the boats."
Marim was finally allowed to leave Cuba because he was "well beyond military age," and because the government decided that he had done sufficient penance "for being a troublemaker," he explained through the interpreter.
His mother sent him prepaid airline tickets on which he flew to Jamaica and then to Miami.
Marim was among an estimated 10,000 Washington area Cubans -- and others around the country -- who anxiously waited yesterday to learn the fate of friends and relatives they hoped were freedom-bound on the flotilla of Florida-bound fishing boats and pleasure craft.
Manuel Gonzalez, 44, a banquet waiter at the Shoreham Hotel who arrived in Washington in 1957, was among them. He has spent the last three weeks since the embassy invasion by freedom-hungry Cubans scanning the newspapers for names of relatives, searching TV broadcasts of the exodus for familiar faces.
"There is no way to know who is in the embassy or who is on their way out," he said. "Nobody knows anything. Everybody is hoping their family is either in the embassy or waiting in line to get out."
For years now, he says, a sister-in-law and his two nephews have wanted to get out. But the two boys, both of military are, are not permitted to leave until they finish their service. They live in a decrepit, three-bedroom house in Havana with peeling paint and rotting rafters.
"The ceiling fell in not long ago," Gonzalez said. "And they can't get any material to repair the house because they are not for Castro. "The roof leaks and they are afraid it will collapse any day. You can tell who is for Castro and who is against him by looking at the houses in the neighborhood. The ones who are loyal Communists get the materials."
Elizanda Blanzquez, a caseworker with the Spanish Speaking Community for Maryland, a nonprofit social service group in Silver Spring that helps area Hispanics find jobs and solve immigration red tape, received a telegram from relatives in Havana Wednesday. "Get a boat and come pick us up," it said, according to Perche Rivas, her boss. She left immediately for Miami to try to make arrangements.
The prospect that thousands of Cubans might make their way to other countries and eventually wind their way to Washington and relatives they had not seem in years is "the News of the century and the number one topic of conversation in the community," Marim said.
Various community organizations have begun cranking up fund-raising efforts. Father Sean O'Malley, director of the Centro Catholico, a volunteer Catholic social service agency, said the contributions at a mass this Sunday at the Shrine of the Immaaculate Conception would go to the welfare of the new wave of Cuban immigrants.
Marim says that his fiance has his mother's telephone number and the name of an uncle in Miami. He doesn't know what country she might wind up in, but when she calls, he will try to go there and bring her home.
What he does know is this: Jaqueline is among the Cubans who have stood fast inside the Peruvian Embassy for three weeks, braving the filth and the overcrowding, distrusting government promises they can leave if they return home and ignoring the million countrymen who swarmed outside the gates last Saturday to curse them as "scum and delinquents" for daring to leave.
He was excited when he learned this from a friend of his mother's who returned from Cuba last week. He had given the friend the telephone number of Jaqueline's mother. Jaqueline, her mother said, was at the embassy, along with a handful of Marim's friends.
"Right before I left Cuba, my friends and I were planning to wait until summer so we could swim to Florida," said Marim, who walked into the Spanish-Speaking Community of Maryland Inc. yesterday to ask caseworker Carmen Alonso to help him find a better job and a happy ending to his unresolved love story.
"Some may not have a lot in America, but at least they have freedom," he said. "They do not have the fear. Before I came, I didn't care if I had to work five times as hard here, I just wanted the right to speak out. In Cuba, I couldn't sleep at night. I couldn't set any goals for myself.You feel so oppressed."