By Fabiana del Valle
HAVANA TIMES – Nadia was itching her legs. That morning, mosquitoes had attacked us in aggressive swarms. While the insects stopped torturing us at dawn, you could still see the welts on her skin. The day was just beginning, and it was already painting the sky with its hues. Two hours of waiting, but the bus we’d been promised didn’t show up.
As I have experience with this kind of negligence, it didn’t surprise me. I had saved up money to be able to take a taxi, thereby sidestepping any obstacle. But I was forced to get my priorities in order. This is a marathon race, and the rules are clear, you must survive one day to live the next. Eating is a necessity, a taxi in my current situation is a luxury.
So, there we were Nadia, several mothers with their children and I, all waiting for the transport that would take us to the place we’d been told children under the age of 11 would be given the second dose of the Soberana vaccine.
Almost all of us had been awake since 5 AM, because we were supposed to be picked up at 7. But the bus passed by us, traveling in the opposite direction, at 7:30 AM. The driver stuck his head out of the window and shouted out that he couldn’t take us.
That’s when the comments began.
“I thought so, because X told me there wasn’t any gas for the bus.”
“No, my girl,” another one said. “There’s no shame.”
One of the mothers shuffled her feet to scare away the mosquitoes and just kept on repeating the same phrase:
“This is too much for anyone.”
“Well, it’s best for us to go home then,” Nadia has made it a habit to always intervene in adult conversations.
“What we have to do is call the person responsible for all of this,” I said.
A few minutes later, I found myself appointed the official representative of the group. In the end, we managed to track down the number of the woman in charge and I called her from my cellphone. The woman who answered the phone was shocked to hear what I had to say. According to her, the municipal government had told her that our transport had been sorted. She asked us to be patient, that the bus would come.
It did, at 10 AM. Just that once we were all sitting comfortably on the seats, the driver told us that he would be able to take us, but that he couldn’t bring us back. By that time, all of the mothers had agreed that we would demand transport to get back once we reached our destination.
With the children vaccinated, not a single mother dared to go where the woman in charge was and complain. It’s true that the main argument I had been given was that if they were able to get us a bus, it would be at 3 PM or later, that it would be better to find something ourselves.
That’s exactly what I did. I ran into an acquaintance who has a truck and he was there vaccinating his son. Even though his truck is very high and difficult to climb into, we were all calm because as soon as the man was finished, we could leave.
But the bus driver appeared and told us to walk to his house, that he would be able to take us. My grandmother always said that it’s better to have one bird in your hand, than a hundred flying about. But the truck was high, we had small children and the bus was more comfortable. We walked a kilometer or so and when we reached his place, he told us that he had to receive a call and that whether he left or not depended on this.
Well, run! I told them. The time we’d wasted walking to the man’s house, was the time in which the truck could have left. So, we ran desperately to the town’s exit. There, I called my acquaintance with the truck, who told me they still hadn’t left yet, luckily.
It seems that Cuban children are born with great mountain climbing skills. For they were the ones who were most willing to climb up when the truck came. A man helped us from the top and we guided them on the stairs.
Once up, we realized that the floor was covered in powdered cement, which began to rise when the truck was moving. Some of us had to use our masks to cover our eyes, keeping them open was torture.
We reached our destination tired, dirty and hungry. In front of our front door, Nadia took me by the hand, her little girl eyes gleaming up at me with a smile.
“Mommy, don’t worry, we’re here. Another adventure done.”