Something to Sleep On

Irina Echarry

A few months ago I reluctantly decided to get rid of my bed before the termites completed the work they’d begun.  And since the mattress wasn’t comfortable either I decided to get rid of it too.  After I had finished, my mother peeked into my room; when she saw me sleeping on a floor mat, she asked — with pain in her face — if I had become a disciple of Mahatma.

I like the floor.  It eases the back pains produced by my scoliosis, and since there’s less furniture the room looks bigger.  But recently the temperature has dropped sharply and I haven’t found a way to take the edge off cold, despite putting several quilts under and on top of me.  So, I began to think about buying a new mattress.

Contrary to other purchases, this offers several opportunities for choosing.  I immediately eliminated the mattresses with springs that some vendors hawk, because they sell them already made and I know some who use rusty springs and filler that’s not reliable.  I also scraped the idea of one of those Konfort mattresses that are sold in “dollar stores”; they’re just too expensive.

Actually, I only had two options left: inflatable mattresses that cost $40 CUC (about $48 USD) and some other foam rubber ones that are now sold in regular pesos (MN).

After carefully weighing the two alternatives, I reached the conclusions that the inflatable one, though less expensive, might be too weak and would soon get damaged.

With a mixture of suffering and satisfaction, I laid out 1,900 pesos (domestic currency) for a green mattress.  One thousand nine hundred pesos (about $85 USD) is the salary for several months for a journalist, a high school teacher or a doctor here in Cuba.  They would each have to work more than three months to come up with this amount.

Other people who earn less money, for example someone who works as a receptionist or a cleaning assistant, would have to save up a half a year’s income to sleep comfortably. And when I say “income,” I’m referring to their entire pay, without taking out for food or daily living expenses.

In my list I didn’t mention retirees, because with their deplorably small social security checks they couldn’t buy one, at least not without some extra assistance.  The product selections in domestic currency are meager.  It’s a privilege that one can buy themselves something using the same currency that they’re paid for their work, but that’s not all.

The public’s purchasing power should be kept in mind and some advantages given to the neediest (who are not a minority).  Even in the case of this foam mattress, up until recently there were no sales of this product in national currency.

When I think about all of this I feel blessed for having been able to buy my mattress, but I worry about losing sleep while thinking about those 1900 pesos.

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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