When Life Imitates Fiction

Francisco Castro


HAVANA TIMES — Throughout my life, I’ve been able to confirm those details we see in movies or read in books, things that seem to step beyond reality while certainly having a real basis in it. Take the moon that’s out there in front of me, right now, as I’m writing. It’s huge, enormous, round, and red.

One time I saw a Mexican telenovela in which one of the characters had to say something important to another one, yet the excitement prevented him from speaking. Nothing came out of his mouth, even though his lips moved.

It seemed as if I was imitating that same Mexican when — at age 17 — I had to explain to my mother that the reason I was getting home late (it was because I’d been visiting over at my boyfriend’s house).

It was my first boyfriend, my first love affair – and with a guy! Every fear of a negative reaction turned out to be well founded. My mother, with amazing tranquility, said she had already imagined such a thing, and asked that I please be careful, and so on.

We often think that nature is conspiring against us. When we need a sunny day, it starts raining up a storm. Or when you get dressed up decently for some very serious occasion, a heat wave will hit, making you sweat like a pig. Plus, people in the street will get all cranky, jostle you around in the bus and step on your feet, but then blame you for everything.

But not always. When I first started working, in 2009, I remember I didn’t have a place to live, so for a long time I ended up hiding out in the dorms at the Superior Art Institute.

One day, real early in the morning, I went to the location where we were shooting the film in which I was serving as the assistant director. Circling around in my head were all the problems and concerns that this position entails plus the torment of having to hide in a dormitory room so that I wouldn’t find myself living out on the street.

Faced with all that, I went for a walk on 120th Street, in the Romerillo neighborhood, surrounded by huge trees. That was when a fine mist started to fall, but immediately before me the sky opened and the first rays of the sun began to come out. At that moment (I swear) I thought I heard a choir singing down from heaven. That was probably my most productive day on the job.

And as for crying, never has there been such a sight as in the cinema, no matter what the country. People on the street, people in the subway, people in their homes, people anywhere letting loose tons of tears for a thousand and one reasons.

This is how I found myself recently when I got the news that I couldn’t continue living in the house of my family in Havana. The reasons?…they don’t matter, just like it didn’t matter to them to leave me in the street, without even thinking about how I didn’t have any money to rent a room or didn’t have any other place to go.

That day I cried for about two hours straight while walking over to a friend’s house. For a week after that I cried every time one of my friends offered their house to me for as long as I needed it.

I cried to see that while I only have a few friends, they’re each excellent.

I cried when I realized I was despised by my family in Havana. I cried to see that my family in Havana (or should I call them my “ex-family”?) had become so mean and stingy when in contact with money.

So I cried and cried, and I’m crying still (though less). I’m crying for them, for me, I’m crying over the how what they did will bring shame to the rest of my family, and over what my late grandmother would have thought about the whole thing if she were still alive.

But I cry with happiness, because I know that I’ll forgive them, because a burden like that can’t weigh on my shoulders for the rest of my days, so that makes me feel great.

Tonight, I’m writing in front of the moon, which has now gone back to its normal size and color. I’m thinking about the hundreds of writers who at this very same moment are constructing their fiction, and about the thousands who once constructed them.

But I can’t stop wondering whether they were so great because they were able to make life imitate their fiction, or if it was the other way around, where it was life that guided them into recreating the most exciting and amazing passages in the world.