By Fabiana del Valle
HAVANA TIMES – My mobile began to ring at 5 AM, and my body just wanted to stay stuck to the mattress. The best thing I could have done was pretend I didn’t hear it and sleep a couple more hours, but I was already awake, and the damned device carried on with its litany.
“Hey, look, I’m in the line at the drugstore, the medicine came in already. I got you a place in line, but you need to come right now. As soon as the truck comes, I have to go to work. Hurry!”
My throaty voice could only articulate an “OK”. I took the news in in slow motion, despite the urgency. This is normally the day of the month I hate the most, I’m officially allergic to lines. But this is one task I can’t avoid, my parents’ medicine is important. The medicine they need hasn’t come in for months, and when it does, there isn’t too much of it and I never get there in time to buy them.
I had to leave a few things ready before leaving for an adventure that I was sure would take up my entire morning. I don’t like to wake up my mother, much less at this hour, but when I’m not around, she has to get my little girl ready to go to school.
By the time I got to the drugstore, it looked like a turbulent sea. While I had been sleeping, other people had been waiting in line since 3 AM. So, despite the kind soul who had got me a place in line, there were already quite a few people ahead of me. Not to mention tag-ons, there are always a couple in every line.
The pharmacist came in early, but she had to wait for the doctor from the GP’s office before she could start handing it out. She needs to give a list of medicines that come in to him, every month. These are the medicines that need a medical prescription.
You can only use this prescription to buy at this drugstore. That is to say, if somebody goes to a doctor’s appointment with a skin condition that needs a specific medicine, and this medicine isn’t available at the drugstore, they are screwed. That’s because no other drugstore in the municipality can give it to you, even if they have it. Things that only happen here…
The good thing about a line is how entertaining they can sometimes be. You run into people you haven’t seen in a while. You laugh or get sad with the stories they tell you. For example, my friend Monica discovered that day, that her husband who she had recently split up from, was already seeing somebody else. Not just anyone though, mind you, it was a woman she knew and would have to see quite often.
She told me the story between tears falling down her cheeks. I showed support with her pain and the hours passed by quite quickly. However, the uncertainty of whether there would be enough medicine for everyone grew.
An elderly woman sat next to me, she didn’t stop complaining about the pain in her legs that looked swollen and veiny. She was one of the ones who had taken her place in line at 3 AM and she still had to wait a good while for her turn.
People crowded outside the doctor’s office, hoping to get a prescription. My friend didn’t stop crying, she couldn’t understand how this man who had promised to set up his “hunting area” far from her, had got involved with somebody she knew.
Somebody said that almost no medicine for high-blood pressure had come in, that they were only going to give half of the treatment so that everyone could get some. Another month without Captopril for my mom!
“Look, you see how that dog skanks? That’s exactly what this woman is like,” Monica whispered to me as she pointed out a skinny female dog in heat, who was being followed by three dogs. The animals continued their game of seduction between the feet of those standing in the sun in front of the doctor’s office, unaware of her words.
That’s when the fight broke out, the women ran away from that swarm of fangs and bodies, while the men tried to separate the dogs that entered the doctor’s office during their fight. From where I was standing, I could hear the doctor shouting and the dogs howling.
“Look how that dog is enjoying it, she’s toxic!” At that point, I didn’t know if my disturbed friend was talking to me about the dog or the woman who had made her angry. “Let’s hope the things that happen here, don’t happen anywhere else,” the old woman with the swollen legs said.
My mother called me to tell me to go and pick up lunch for my daughter because she wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t go to the school. I went on my bike, and I was back at the drugstore in less than ten minutes.
I tried to sit away from my friend this time, far from the voices and cries. I watched the line slowly advance from my new spot, until it was my turn at 2:30 PM. I was finally able to buy the medicine, but I could only buy half of what I needed.
I got on my bike, and on the way home, I let go of all the emotions that had been building up inside me. Every time I pedaled, I suffered Monica’s pain and I cried about the old woman’s swollen legs, about the dog that ended up without a suitor, about the uncertainty of waking up every day without hope, about the almost empty plastic bag, about the medicine that I wasn’t able to get in its entirety for my parents.