The Madness and The Beauty of Life, Part II

By Ben Anson

HAVANA TIMES – We entered a lovely restaurant, Edward and I, located along the famous beach promenade, known locally as “El Paseo”. The ambience was resplendently tropical. Filled to the brim, was the restaurant. Families, couples, people of all ethnicities from elderly Canadians to local Garifuna. We were atop the second floor, that bright, shining, blue sea out beyond, pelicans flying overhead – sunlight, warmth, Latin music. I sat directly to the side of my best friend and partook in people-watching.

I had little money left, as did Edward, yet after all the trials of this horrifically arduous and long motherfucker of 2022, he ordered a mariner’s soup and I, a grand set of barbecued ribs. We awaited the food and sat back, occasionally chuckling at something – observing the scene – and smiling at a little Garifuna girl. She had those nice, little beads in her braids, and was obsessed with the pigeons flapping around the rooftops behind us. She pointed at them, her brilliant, tiny face, illuminated eyes and snowy teeth on full display.

“Look at those pigeons,” I said to her.

She mumbled something back. I doubt she was any older than two.

The grandmother with a face like a disgruntled toad scowled at me whereas she smiled amiably at the elderly Canadian woman who also interacted with the little girl from another table.

“I guess she doesn’t like white fellas, that grandmother,” whispered my friend.

I responded with a face which read something like “fuck her” or “who cares?”

There was an abundance of extremely beautiful coastal women within the establishment. I couldn’t help but admire them from a distance. A tall, elegant, mixed-race girl may have noticed me after a while – I caught her look back. Then there was another, sitting with an older man, who had positioned himself right next to her as he made her laugh and smile.

I couldn’t help but repeat over and over again to Edward, “Dios, que linda esa cara”.

“God, what a beautiful face”.

I must have said that fifty times, before, during and after those barbecued ribs, which were most delicious as was my friend’s soup. We sat there, constantly praising the tastes, descending into what they call a “food-coma’.

“You say that once more I’m gonna make you go and ask her to marry you, my brother”, giggled Edward.

“Marriage… with what money?”

“You’ve got some competition with that guy sitting next to her”.

“I’m gonna have to rob a bank one of these days’…”

“You’ll get another job bro. Then we can come and get an apartment here and share it like we have planned,” he responded.

We took a look at some apartments for rent on Facebook Marketplace. 

Music played.

“There’s a lot of talking,

That I performed witchcraft to be able to love you,

That I stole your soul and it doesn’t belong to me,

They all say you’re right,

Who would think that the person you cared for most would leave you?

It isn’t your fault nor is it mine,

I was only looking after your heart,

It isn’t witchcraft…”

(Lyrics translated from the popular song “Brujeria” by El Varon De La Bachata.)

It was a fine way to spend the afternoon. I forgot about all of my troubles and predicaments, relaxing into the Caribbean scene, rediscovering and reliving, despite being temporarily, one’s great love and affinity for coastal Honduras.

And then a couple of days later it was all over.

We’d sobered up and been thrown right back into reality. Edward had to drive to the other end of the country, and I had to return to the city of San Pedro Sula where a family of friends would take me in for the time being, while I scouted for a job – preferably online. I write this from here, as it happens.

The long and exhausting drive to San Pedro was both troubling and depressing as the sunshine turned to tremendous rain. Edward drove stressed-out, as his brother-in-law and a whole host of other colleagues called him without a single pause, pestering him for this and pestering him for that. He needed to rent a pickup truck for a project, and nobody wanted to rent him one. I thought “he might have a nice car, but this isn’t even remotely enjoyable. I’d be so stressed by all these phone calls while trying to drive over dangerous coastal roads”.

“Bro, fuck all of this…” he spat at one point, as we were pulled over at yet another police checkpoint, where the cops do everything they can to get some money out of you.

His brother-in-law badgered him constantly, telling him to get to the meeting point as soon as possible, which was still a good six hours away.

“This guy thinks my car has wings, Goddammit”.

I was stressed too yet tried not to show it. “All that I want is an online writing or editing job and to be able to go and rent an apartment with this fella,” I said to myself. Anyone would think I was asking to become a Hollywood actor or the President of the United States overnight. I’ve had no success so far. In fact, I’d probably have more of a chance of finding such a job online gazing down one of those wells my friend and his team construct and just hoping that one magically floats up to me, than I do on these bogus job sites, where people either shamelessly waste your time or never get back to you.

We were both tense and agitated, not at all as we’d been upon that afternoon in the restaurant. The good time hadn’t lasted long enough.

I recalled a moment from when I lived in Catalonia, and a grandmother from another family of friends I had, was playing with her granddaughter before breaking into tears over her late husband’s death. She gathered herself together, that stoic old lady and said to me in her thick, Catalan accent: “One minute you’re dancing and the next you’re crying. That’s life, my son”.

On pulling into San Pedro, the city was ridden in traffic. A stream of Venezuelan migrants were moving in and out of cars waving their flag so as to identify where they came from – begging for any small amount of money (so as to continue their journey towards the US). One came up to our windows. He looked me square in the face, a light-skinned man in his thirties. He was so polite yet so exhausted, fucked-over and worn out. I confess that I had to hold back the tears, which those poor Venezuelans provoked in me.

“Fuck that God,” I hissed.

“Come on, Ben, don’t speak like that,” muttered Edward.

“Fuck him. He just sits up there, watches, judges, and condemns us all to suffer”.

I further confess, Dear Readers, that as each day passes, I lose more and more interest in both God and The Devil. I wish to have nothing to do with either. They’re the same bastard.

So here I sit, intent on becoming a part of the Universe, blending with my fellow man, woman, child, the animals, and Mother Nature. I understand that what I put out, I’ll get back. Everyone suffers, nothing costs nor is worth more than inner peace and tranquillity. All we can do is hope and work towards better times.

I send a prayer for my Venezuelan brothers and sisters and hope that The Higher Powers watch over them. Not God, (of the Christian image), for what would he say? “You’re all sinners and it is my will, which is not to be questioned.”

I also realize how just a simple lunch with one’s best friend, in a nice place, can be the only thing that keeps you going. There is no car, no mansion, no expensive watch, no designer clothing, no gold, jewellery, or material wealth that could possibly come near. The simple things…

Read more from the diary of Ben Anson here.

Ben Anson

“The moment that I disembark (from a plane), I notice that everything in my body and in my mind readjusts itself for me", so remarked Gabriel Garcia Marquez - when speaking of his relationship with the Caribbean. He felt the strongest physical and mental connection with this part of the world and deemed it as far as ‘grave’ and immensely ‘dangerous’ for him to leave its zone. Only here, did ‘Gabo’ feel ‘right’ in himself. Honduras, does for me - precisely what the Caribbean did for Marquez. A resplendent yet troubled nation, that I have been decidedly unable to part with ever since 2014. I thus seek to capture its essence through the written word.