Alfredo Fernandez Rodriguez

The graduation at the Salon Rojo of the Capri Hotel

When I was just a boy, I had dreamed of being a college student.  However, upon finishing high school, the stones of the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, impacting the center of life of those of us who lived on a Caribbean island called Cuba.

With that, my academic aspirations were reduced to the immediate concern for subsistence felt throughout the country during the 1990s.  I didn’t think I would make it, but in 2001, a group of university friends encouraged me to enroll in the Socio-cultural Studies correspondence program offered through the University of Havana – and that’s what I did.

The first three courses were disastrous, because after eight years of intellectual inactivity, my ability to study had eroded.  Gradually, I found an effective way to get back in the groove.

The time passed, and on Friday, July 12, 2007, at 4:00 pm —at the age of 31— I was presented with my diploma in the Main Hall of the University of Havana as a new graduate of Socio-cultural Studies.  That same day we planned our graduation party.

One of the graduates enjoyed the splendor of a certain job assignment.  She was made the secretary of the manager of one of the largest service industries in the country: Palmares.  In Cuba, the secretary and driver are workers that any boss always tries to have at their side, because they come to learn his/her weak points better than anyone else.

This manager rewarded his new secretary with a table for 15 people at the Salon Rojo cabaret in the Capri Hotel.  The cover charge at the club is around the $25 USD, which meant it would have otherwise been unaffordable for me, since the admission alone is more than my monthly take-home wage.

When I arrived I was euphoric, because this was the first time I had gone out with a group where I was recognized as a professional.  But things tend to turn out horribly when euphoria puts the breaks on your moderation.  The night would be livened up by Bamboleo, a first-class Cuban salsa group.

In our group that evening were eight of us who had graduated —three men and five women— with the rest consisting of seven female friends of two of the female graduates.  The guest invitation included a bottle of rum for each four people, and three beers per person.  As almost none of the women were big drinkers, the table would end up being the scene of “my more notorious drinking episode.”

I had my first beer, and then another. One of the young women invited me to dance, but I declined because I didn’t know how.  Instead, I took a big swig of rum and another beer.  After that beer, I thought, “Why not have another rum, there’s enough, and I don’t know when I’ll be back to this place.”

Absolutely, you have to enjoy life. After a short while I spoke up saying, “Hey girl, give me your beer if you’re not going to drink it, and don’t you want to dance?  See how good I dance?”  We returned to the table and I wanted to take yet another swig.  “Hey girl, you haven’t opened your beer, give it to me,” I pleaded.

Feeling more and more relaxed, I continued, “Hey, give me a little pop so I can fix another drink, my glass is already empty.  Listen to the band?  That’s “Se te están cayendo los pantalones” (You’re pants are falling down) – my favorite tune. Now you’ll see. I’m going to be the best one out on the dance floor. Look how I move my hips, look how I drop down and pull up my pants. Look at me everybody!”

I looked at one of the women over at the corner of the table and said to her, “You, the one who drinks like a man, how about a dance?  You dance so well, I think I’m going to stick with you because there’s a lot of people here.

I then began to kiss the 43 year-old woman they call “Tata” (Nanny), and who drank like a man.

They ended up kicking me out of the club for inappropriate behavior. Tata went out with me (she was not as drunk), and thanks to that she was able to take me to her house by a route I still can’t remember.

Later I found myself naked in a bathtub before a woman demanding my services, but whom I couldn’t satisfy.  At about 7:00 a.m., I woke up from the cold draft of the air conditioner, collected myself, got dressed and went home.

In the afternoon I apologized to my friends.  Then I called Tata trying to get a chance to demonstrate how well I make love when I’m sober, but she wasn’t interested.

Oh yeah, my secretary friend never invited me out again.


Alfredo Fernandez

Alfredo Fernandez: I didn't really leave Cuba, it's impossible to leave somewhere that you've never been. After gravitating for 37 years on that strange island, I managed to touch firm ground, but only to confirm that I hadn't reached anywhere. Perhaps I will never belong anywhere. Now I'm living in Ecuador, but please, don't believe me when I say where I am, better to find me in "the Cuba of my dreams.

2 thoughts on “My Most Notorious Drinking Episode

  • Alfredo, you should enjoy the recent Hollywood comedy “The Hangover,” which is your story magnified by several powers. I recommend it when it arrives in Habana on pirated DVD. At least you survived this experience with nothing worse than a bit of mortifying embarassment and perhaps the loss of a friend or acquaintance. Others are not so fortunate. Once, driving home a bit tipsy from a party, I remarked, “Gee! The car seems to be driving itself!” At least it did ’til it rounded the next curve in the road. Fortunately, I didn’t kill anyone else, or even myself, though I did kill my ancient auto and I seriously injured a tree. That one time was enough to teach me never again drive after I had been drinking.

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