By Erasmo Calzadilla
I met Lester at the university. He was a typical small town boy who’d been brought up enshrouded in the Catholic tradition of his hometown of San Antonio-a town in rural Havana Province.
Except for perhaps his love of rock, Lester accommodated perfectly to what was expected of him, despite the fact that quite a few students at the university took advantage of the distance from their parents to become defiant and nonconformist.
During those years of the economic crisis in the wake of the collapse of the socialist bloc, there occurred something unprecedented in our faculty. Little by little “distilled” students from each class began to get together. When I speak of being distilled, I’m referring to those who didn’t easily fit into the atmosphere of normality so commonplace in the pharmacy faculty.
In any case, there ended up being so many of us-and so many of us who were active-that we actually changed the tone of our environment for a few years.
As for me, who had been kind of a loner up until that time, for the first time I enjoyed knowing what it was to be part of a group of good people who cared for each other and who accepted each other as they were. It was a completely new awakening to social life. The group was also a stimulus in the face of the displeasure of having to study for a profession that I couldn’t stand, and the reason I didn’t abandon it.
Upon graduation, these friends of mine began to emigrate. Today almost all of them have remade their lives in Chile, from where Lester (who was one of them) has been inviting me insistently.
I once tried to make that leap, but the embassy denied me a visa. The anguish of someone who wants to emigrate and doesn’t make it struck me so hard that for a while I couldn’t stand anyone broaching that subject with me. Then a period of resignation set in.
Now, as each day passes I’m adapting better and thinking less of flight. Every day it hurts a little more to think about leaving my grandmother, knowing that since her health has begun to decline she’s going to need me that much more.
Every day the background theme music of the TV news bothers me a little less, and I’m better able to tolerate the sportscasters’ voices, which is one of the things I hate most about my routine existence. Plus, every day I get more excited about doing something to change the things from here.
Recently, Lester invited me to Chile again, and by the way he explained it, it doesn’t seem impossible that they’d approve the request. To tell the truth, though, I don’t have much desire to leave, but on the other hand I don’t want to miss the chance to experience a different country, nor the strange opportunity of living off my salary for the first time.
I could take advantage of the opportunity to join my friends, who want to form some kind of community there. For a few years it would be ideal, and in that way I could financially help the older ones in my family who are now going into retirement. Likewise, perhaps in passing I could find a way to perpetuate my genes, which in Cuba has turned out to be a difficult task, and the years continue passing by.
My dream would be to return home with enough money to build a house far from the city, but not too far; to live close to my parents, but not too close; and to be able to take in a friend or two from here who don’t have a place to stay, or who don’t feel comfortable where they are.
Nonetheless, even if I decided to give it a try it would take around a year to realize it, time I could take advantage of to continue my battles here.