My Gratifying Re-Encounter with the Past

A seven-year old’s birthday party.

Carlos Fraguela

HAVANA TIMES — Some days ago, I met with a childhood friend I don’t see very often. He’d promised to show me a video of other friends of ours who live in the United States, whom I haven’t seen in years.

We were friends for many years and we’ve practically lost all touch.

When he finally brought me the video, I saw that it showed childhood photos of my friends from the neighborhood. I never thought something could move me as deeply as seeing these photos.

Seeing the photos was like traveling to the past. Maybe I’ve long been insensitive and hadn’t known the nostalgia caused by the distance of those we love.

Pepe, Fernan and Jorgito

Those were the first friends I ever had and I remember them as spectacular people, though they may not know how important they were to me. With them, I used to sneak away from home and explore the Havana forest. We’d get away from our parents to go swimming at the sea, or spend hours playing at the Kohly and Almendares parks.

For many years, our creativity was the source of immense fun and episodes I’ll never forget.

Watching the video, I realized how different their lives are from mine and get a better sense of my fears. I, who chose to stay, think that I would not be able to cope with the complexity of life out there, and I think that’s the reason I decided to remain in Cuba. I think I was cowardly.

Viti and Gomez

The photos show Victor and his brother Fernando, Gomez, Pepito, Tony and Jorgito. One of the oldest childhood pictures I have is one of my birthday, where you see my cousins, Pepito and a group of girls from the neighborhood where I lived. It’s a very curious picture taken in 1971, 45 years ago. We were all small children.

This has made me want to contact these old friends, who have become parents. When we were children, we had to nag our parents to be able to play out on the street for longer. We used to learn from one another telling each other stories about what we’ve learned, drawing conclusions about what the future would be like, here or there.

I continue to have many friends, even though I basically never see the first ones I had.