Dariel’s Odyssey

They reached the main bridge. He thanked the driver and crossed the highway. Several people were clustered together under the bridge.

By Fabiana del Valle

HAVANA TIMES – The fan that was agonizing after years of work, switched on. The bed no longer seemed so uncomfortable to him, the mattress springs caressed his body, drenched in sweat and sores from scratching himself so much. Finally, his brain got a drop of peace, enough for the sleepiness to engulf it after a night of insomnia.

But it didn’t make sense to sleep for a mere half hour. At five am, he had to get up. He plugged the telephone into the charger and pulled up Facebook. Different posts paraded through the newsfeed.

Videos of funny puppies, denunciations, complaints, humorous posts, speeches from the Summit, teens with short pants and bad spelling. The official television talk show Mesa Redonda, the collapse of another building in Havana, and memes. Those already boring memes that Cubans create to laugh at their disasters.

At his side, his wife protested. She’d spent the night tossing and turning in the bed. She woke up exhausted, but at least she’d managed to steal from the blackout some intermittent minutes of sleep. Uncomfortable from that harsh early morning awakening, she got up and made him coffee. They still had the privilege of consuming this beverage as their breakfast.

He drank the coffee while smoking a cigarette. He didn’t want to think about the trip he’d be starting in a few minutes. It’s true San Cristobal was only thirty kilometers away, but sometimes getting there was like traveling from one end of the island to the other.

His wife accompanied him to the bus stop. This time, she’d be staying at her parents’ home for a few days. A while later, a charitable gentleman picked up Dairel in his Lada.

As they got to the place known as Paso Quemado, everything went black.

“Dang! The blackout caught you! The criminals just love the darkness.”

The driver was referring to the growing wave of crimes in the area. These repetitive occurrences have unleashed a sense of panic among the inhabitants. For over a month, they’ve been attacking people, especially women, who’ve been threatened with knives, forced to strip, and hand over both objects of value and their dignity.

He commented that the area they were in had no police, nor did it have any street lighting, and these blackouts also weren’t helping.

“But at the Checkpoints, yes – there they have police and lights. Of course! In order to seize the clandestine merchandise being transported from one province to the other!” Dariel shrugged his shoulders and didn’t answer.

They reached the main bridge. He thanked the driver and crossed the highway. Several people were clustered together under the bridge.

“It’s Monday today – he told himself – Mondays are like that.”

The minutes went by. In the sky the first light of dawn was visible. Students, soldiers, men loaded down with bags and boxes, women, children, and elderly people were waiting for some transport vehicle to rescue them.

During the time he was there, several large buses went by. Then a passenger truck picked up only four people, since it was already full. After three unbearable hours, a bus arrived and he ran to talk to the driver. The driver didn’t want to pick anyone up, since the vehicle was full, but when he offered to pay full fare to Havana, although he’d be getting off much earlier, he agreed.

For forty minutes he breathed in all sorts of body odors, his anatomy squashed into that tin can on wheels. But at any rate, he was grateful – at least he was heading in the direction of his house.

He arrived at San Cristobal. Following the rainy weekend, the access road to the town resembled a lagoon. He tried to cross carefully, but ended up all muddy.

“Well, fine. Now we’ll see what awaits me at home. The day is barely beginning, and for Cubans the problems have no end.”

Read more from the diary of Fabiana del Valle here on Havana Times