My mother has a friend in the neighborhood, which isn’t an extraordinary place, though we’ve lived in the same house for years. Her friend Jorgito doesn’t live on our block; he doesn’t even live here in the Alamar community, which is to say he’s not a neighborhood resident. Jorgito is the butcher who was assigned to our area. He’s in charge of distributing —at his whim— what little is sent here from the slaughterhouse.
People speak marvels about his polite ways, his pleasant manners and how quickly he attends to his customers. When meat products are delivered, he immediately goes at it, often working into the night. He’s always in a good mood, and when my mother comes home late or she’s unable to buy something in time (the meat goes bad after three days) he’ll get back to work at any time of the day or evening. He sometimes even gives her some of the meat when they deliver the second “batch” of the product.
How did that friendship arise? He lives near where she works and would stop by to see her with his wife and son; he would bring her snacks. At the last Havana book fair, my mother had to help out with sales at a stand from her job. Jorgito accidentally happened by and saw the conditions under which she had to spend the whole afternoon (out in the sun, without any water to drink and food selling at high prices). He therefore bought her something to eat along with a soda. The other people with her only ate one bread roll each.
What’ the problem?
Seemingly there’s no problem. The friendship is always well received, though my mother can’t reciprocate her friend’s generosity. She’s a simple journalist who barely lives off her wage.
When she found out that the butcher’s wife was pregnant, my mother was at least able to give her a book she wrote on how to responsibly care for newborns. It can drive you batty trying to think of what to give a person who has a new gold chain around their neck every day, who gets around on a motorcycle, who has the pockets full of money and who isn’t is lover of reading or of impractical details.
As for me, I don’t know to what extent to consider him a “good person,” like other people do – though I don’t find him unpleasant. After all, his good fame and high standard of living take a toll on our rations, which he skims off the top from all of us.