A Slight Obsession

By Irina Echarry

“Carlitos in jail? Are you sure?”
“Well, yeah, for that video…”

Carlitos filmed everything that appeared in front of him.
Carlitos filmed everything that appeared in front of him.

Carlos, who grew up with me and the other children of our building, was accused of child pornography – something that can have very serious consequences.

Carlitos was always somewhat of a complicated a kid. He made it through school with difficulties, but he liked to write and draw. He used to come to my house to read his poems (inspired by a girl neighbor) so that we would give him our opinions.

My parents tried to help him when they could, so he would return with other writings, though every so often we found ourselves in a vicious cycle.

One day he decided that he didn’t want to fulfill his military service. He grabbed a bottle of pills (sedatives) and took a handful. Thanks to stomach pumping he recovered quickly. From that moment on he would be accompanied by a certain phrase: suicidal tendencies.

As we grew, our paths slowly separated. I would only run into him from time to time entering or leaving the building. Sometimes I would see him with girls who were kind of retarded, but I didn’t pay it much attention; he had a “loose wire” (as people say).

He changed jobs a lot, none met his expectations. There was only one thing what was constant. His brother who lives in California sent the family a video camera. This was his happiness. Cameras here cost a lot; so a person who doesn’t have family abroad or doesn’t travel cannot acquire one.

Carlos was like a kid with a new toy, though he had grown too much to be compared to a child. He could be seen day and night with the camera. He filmed everything that appeared in front of him – flowers occasionally in the yard, buses leaving the terminal and at bus stops loaded with people, daily bread purchases, the medical clinic, neighbors, and children playing… boys and girls. That’s where he got into trouble.

Two mothers in the building next door, worried by a comment made by their children, accused Carlos of filming Juanito and Vivian in “compromising positions.”

There was tremendous commotion on the block. Juanito’s stepfather wanted to kill Carlos. His family said that the accusation was totally false. The police made a search and found some nude drawings – but he always drew. People said the camera didn’t even turn up. That was the version of some of the neighbors.

The thing is that suddenly Carlos was not seen. He could no longer film. He was in jail.

A lot of us wondered about the truthfulness of the accusation. If they didn’t find anything, would he have spent a few years in jail? I imagine not. On the other hand, this crime is punished severely, and he didn’t spend so much time behind bars…, that’s why the doubt.

Yesterday I saw him, he told me that now he’s free. Now I wonder what he’ll say when he learns that Vivian (one of the girls for which he served time and who is somewhat retarded) is “offering pleasures” to neighborhood residents for a little food or money. She’s even encouraged to do so by her alcoholic mother – the same one who accused Carlos.

However, perhaps he thinks less now than before.

Thinking about it carefully, this is a good story for a movie. If I had a camera… Or maybe it’s better not to film anything?

Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.



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