Por Armando Chaguaceda

Afternoon view from our terrace.

HAVANA TIMES – I finished fixing up the terrace today. I transplanted the last shrubs that had been abandoned in the garage. I located the exact place where the fresh air coming down from the mountain always blows, so we get just enough sun to warm our breakfast table.

Here’s where I intend to drink my morning coffee, after a short workout of walking two floors up to salute the astral king with the taste of the filtered beans. And then begin the day’s labor – I should have said “routine” – with more enthusiasm.

But if things point, as the experts say, to at least another two months of being shut-in, that routine will have to be adjusted.  Take full advantage of each space, distribute the joys and the sensations over the four levels of this vertical refuge: the four floors of this little universe.

Poised before the uncertainty of what will happen with what we call globalization, we turn our hands to our frequent flyer points, those rewards that the airlines give you when you cover miles in airplane flights. These past two years have involved an incessant shuttling across the Atlantic, so my wife and I have accumulated a lot of points.

We have enough to buy three new pairs of shoes and two love seats that will go on the new terrace. And although the delivery was supposed to arrive in five days, on the third the package was in the doorway. Unusual speed for the delivery services. Did God advise them that the world will be ending soon?

In the afternoon, as has been my custom since my return from Spain last year, I took a siesta.  I wish I hadn’t, since I relived an old cartoon from my childhood. It was called “Pale, alone in the world”, a story written by Danish psychologist Jens Sigsgaard that the children of my generation in Cuba watched as a cartoon from the former socialist bloc.

It’s the story of a little boy that wakes up in his house and can’t find his parents.  Later he goes out to the ice cream parlor and the toy store, ending in a scene where the little boy realizes that there’s no one else left. That everyone, for some reason, has disappeared.

I dreamt that I was with Pale in that story. At his side. I woke up in distress, with a sensation of being orphaned that squeezed my heart. Because it’s one thing to choose seclusion, but another to know that the world, in its breadth and distance, has stopped existing. That the fragile borders of our mind and body enclose all possibilities and hopes.

In rhythm with the new times, at night we had a cyber date with a couple that are our friends.  They prepared pasta and sipped whiskey.  We had a tasty puree of peas that recalled the dishes made of ground peas that my grandmother prepared.  We had water and wine to drink, because I’ve resisted buying any other type of alcohol that’s not the one made of fermented grapes or the antiseptic for hands.

I’m afraid that with a prolonged quarantine, the ghosts of depression and bored frustration will flower.  The doctors say that domestic violence will increase. I imagine between the unemployment and the shutting in, that violence, and public violence, won’t stop growing, linked to all kinds of crimes and misdemeanors.

I’d like to be mistaken about that, but this is a country whose exquisite manners don’t manage to exorcize their demons.  We’ll see what happens. In any case, I want to keep full control over my five senses.  And the alcoholic drinks I like – whiskey and vodka – are poor companions.


Armando Chaguaceda

Armando Chaguaceda: My curriculum vitae presents me as a historian and political scientist. I'm from an unclassifiable generation who collected the achievements, frustrations and promises of the Cuban Revolution and now resists on the island or contributes through numerous websites, trying to remain human without dying in the attempt.

2 thoughts on “Solitude: Chronicle of a Pandemic 6

  • Oh Manuel, either you have in the past fallen victim to over-indulgence, in which case I comprehend your concern, or you know not the pleasures of sitting with a glass of wine and some excellent cheese on a balmy evening gazing around at this wonderful world. I have been fortunate in having a long life in which to enjoy the better things in this world – and although costing little, they are priceless.

  • Alcoholic beverages won’t help now, nor that it ever had if you are prone to over do it or become addicted to it. Play it safe and stay dry. If you can’t stay dry seek medical help.
    Best !

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