You’re Strong

By Fabiana del Valle

HAVANA TIMES – “You’re strong, you’re strong,” you repeat the mantra every night when you’re lying in bed and you close your eyes shut to scare off the images that overwhelm you. “Don’t open them,” you tell yourself, the dream will end.

You need a time-out, time to lock yourself in a bubble and let go of the fact you don’t have money to get by, you come home empty-handed after many hours waiting in line, the pending bureaucratic matters that aren’t going anywhere because nobody wants to do their job properly anymore. You also try to soothe the pain left by those who have left, some looking for hope, others lost on their way to the unknown.

You think that night with your partner and you both decide to isolate the walls that are leaking or holes in the floor, these pressing renovations that are put off month after month. December is drawing near; they are at the top of our New Year’s Resolutions.

You share a drink in front of the laptop watching videos of rock bands you like and that make you feel better. You smile, kiss, dismiss the Delete button because it doesn’t work, the fake contact with the mouse and speakers, the price of rum.

Food is ready and it gets cold, but after eating, the only thing to do is sleep, but it’s still early. A woman from another block sells packets of crackers, which are so expensive, but you don’t want to think about it. Night-time is to forget about everything.

He puts on his shoes, picks up some money, takes two steps, it just takes two steps to be enshrouded in total darkness. Time stops and you try to find the room that is dimly lit by the laptop screen.

Then, you laugh, your belly laughing gets him laughing. You need to shout, talk badly about the Government but you can’t. You feel silly trying to spend a couple of hours relaxing, funnier than a couple of circus clowns without a big top, and an audience waiting.

You shower, eat in the shadows, mosquitoes bother you while you watch YouTube videos. You end up falling asleep between tutorials about fish bowls, humiliated feminists, statements against the dictatorship, funny pet videos, renovations…

The alarm goes off at 5 AM, you need to wake up to go to your parents’ house. It’s 30 kms away and because you’re taking fish, you’d rather get up early and hustle down some form of transport as soon as possible. You don’t know what time the electricity came back on.

Before going into the bathroom, darkness envelopes you again. This time you don’t laugh, only angry-face emojis come out of your mouth. “You’re strong,” you repeat silently, and you take a deep breath.

You use the light on your phone to take the fish out of the fish bowls and put them in bags. You pick up everything you need and head for the highway. That day, you find transport quickly, you say goodbye to your partner.

There’s still 5 kms left to your destination, you advance two in a horse-drawn cart. This time, it’s going to be a long wait. You gently put down the bag with the fish, make sure they still have oxygen, and pray for a good Samaritan to get you out of there.

After an hour, you look up and see the blue mountains calling to you in the horizon. You weigh up how heavy your load is. “You’re strong,” you say, and you take the first step.

The sun is already hot, you need to change the bag from hand to hand to ease the burden on your fingers, but you don’t stop. You dodge holes in the concrete, the excrement that tries to stain your white trainers and you carry on because stopping isn’t an option. Miracles don’t exist.

This is your struggle, your everyday life, the path continues, and you can’t give up. “You’re strong,” dying isn’t an option when you still have a spark of life left.

At the end of the day you return home.

Read more from the diary of Fabiana del Valle here.

Fabiana del Valle

I was a girl who dreamed of colors and letters capable of achieving the most widely read novels or those poems that conquer rebellious hearts. Today around forty, with my firm feet on this island, I let the brush and the words echo my voice. The one that I carry tight, prisoner of circumstances and my fears.