On a Sunday Night in Alamar, Havana

Irina Echarry

HAVANA TIMES — It’s 9 PM and the P3 bus hasn’t come yet. I’ve been waiting for half an hour already. Alamar’s dark streets make it easy for masturbators, drunks and attacks; yup, it’s definitely better to wait for the bus than go out there and tempt the devil.

It comes, finally. I get on. Two stops on, in Golfito, a hoard of damp and salty people climb on, some half drunk, others more than drunk. They’re going home after a day at the beach.

A man sits next to me; he’s carrying an iPhone with the music blasting. I react quickly, I ask him to let me out into the aisle and I switch seats with him. The man makes a funny face but I pretend like it’s not at me. I don’t care, I’m happy to get back safely and comfortably. A woman from the same group sticks her spoon in the pot: ah, because she is polite, I’ll take away her politeness in a second…

With wide, bloodshot eyes, she exaggerates her gestures, shouting, I start thinking that my Sunday might end up in a heated fight. I keep on pretending like I’m oblivious to what’s going on around me. However, she moves closer to me and gives me a warning: don’t pretend you’re crazy, because I’m crazier than you. The group of course celebrated the joke. Then I said: ah, you were talking to me, I heard something but because I didn’t want to get into your business, I didn’t answer.

Well answer, I’m talking to you, and what? You can’t be polite here, there’s no politeness on a P3 bus. Take a taxi.

The woman’s voice begins to move further away. Other voices block her out, these ones come from within me. One says: why didn’t you walk home; the other one warns me that I have never been in a fight, I’m going to end up in a bad state because you can see she’s got quite a bit of experience, she looks like a fighter. A third voice inside reminds me: there is a person moving their hands near your face, they could throw a punch at you, what are you going to do?

And the woman carried on with her nagging, she looks like shes dancing when she shouts, she moves her whole body, her veins swell and the claps that accompany her outpour echo loudly within the bus. The language is the same as it always is in these kinds of situations: “pinga” “pinga” “pinga” (dick, dick dick), you don’t know who I am, I don’t care about roughing you up or anyone else here. And me all tense, I ask myself: why isn’t it someone else? Why does it have to be me? If she hits me, I’ll hit her back. Suddenly, I shout at her to turn around and talk to somebody else that I was just here minding my own business. I didn’t know I could shout like that, especially with reggaeton blasting in the background.

Luckily, another lady from the group suggested that this woman save some energy for home when her husband asks her why she waited to come home so late from the beach. People began to laugh and she calmed down more or less. She was complaining still but she wasn’t near me anymore; I remained on the alert just in case. They’re going to get off at the La Curva stop, she decides to do this at the door nearest to me; she looks at me challengingly. I get up to have her standing in front of me because this woman is drunk and anything could happen, but she just looks at me with hate and shouts while getting off the bus: LESBIAN.

I smile, so much bravado, so much tension just to end with a simple shout, allegedly an insult. I don’t have time to think about anything else, a man of the kind I avoid like the plague, one of the reasons I was waiting for the bus in the first place instead of walking, approaches me. The stench of alcohol gives off some unintelligle words that I manage to work out: Don’t worry, you are very beautiful, I don’t know why she shouted that at you. The man staggers, he breathes over me, reaching out his hand to touch my shoulder. I change seats again. The man slowly follows me on the bus, changing from one seat to the next, like me. There’s only one stop left, if the street is dark when I have to get off, he could follow me. I don’t know what to do.

We get to the stop, there aren’t any streetlights on but there was a racket at the kiosk like there always is, which I consider the curse of the corner. I stay there until the man goes on his way. I talk to the neighbor who sells soft drinks and coffee, I listen to the boastful shouts of bus drivers at the stop terminal, the boys who play football, are they singing? El Palon Divino. I end my Sunday with those who make life impossible for the “polite” people on the block.

2 thoughts on “On a Sunday Night in Alamar, Havana

  • The New Man that Guevara envisaged? The hardest question for me when I think of the prospect of returning to live in Cuba is, amongst whom? Who am I going to talk to, to hang out with; it sometimes feel like you have to deal with a whole new species. I am not even talking about politeness, the simple act of going about your own business without the interference of some sort of social violence feels like the exception, sheer good luck and a luxury.

  • Although I left my country many years ago I have gone back many times, I was a Peter Pan Operation child. I have also traveled through many nations as a former international banker and have been able to see and meet with people of many countries, diverse backgrounds, social status and religion. I love Cuba, it is my “patria” and I will always be a Cuban as I discussed with Cuba’s ambassador to the United States, Jose Pepe Cabañas, many years ago, but I cannot fail to see how different things have become with regard to our customs and behavior with every trip I have taken there. Also with regard to our vocabulary and treatment of others. It is very irresponsible to just write things off with “well, you know how we Cubans are” No, we should know better, as we are a nation that has been able to reach its potential by way of education and family values. To lose those, as seems to be the case, cannot be attributed to just “who we are” and “how we are” It seems to me that our younger generations continue to pursue foreign values, not necessary “Yuma” values but also from other countries whose citizens come to Cuba. It seems that imitating others is the thing to do vis-a-vis being ourselves. Being cool does not mean just a dressing code, a type of hat worn, how many pieces of jewelry you have on, what type of cell phone you carry, etc. After all, who likes cool toilet paper? The influence being pushed on Cuba’s youth is a negative one and cannot be attributed fully to the results of the Revolution. Education begins at home and not with a bottle of Silver Dry!!

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