HAVANA TIMES — Three weeks ago, I enrolled in a digital editing workshop. During this time, I’ve also taken philosophy and writing courses. I’ll probably be taking other courses soon. I do this to overcome my stagnation, to avoid ending up in a straightjacket inside the nuthouse we’ve all been confined in. Today, however, I won’t be writing about this, but about how a “normal” days unfolds for me.
The alarm goes off at a quarter past six. I get up and fix breakfast. Then starts the battle of getting my son out of bed and sending him off to school. When I finally manage to wake him up, I help him get ready for his classes. After he’s left, I sit down in front of the computer and write for an hour or two.
I usually prepare new articles every day, even when I’ve already made progress in others – I like the possibilities opened up by the latest idea I’ve had. So the baby comes out first, while the others wait.
I also go over my poetry and prose books. I make corrections and add things, depending on my goals. I don’t know whether these pieces will ever be published. To get something published in this country, you need to have won an award that gives you some prestige. Otherwise, your books are shelved for many years, buried in the dust and apathy, unless you have a friend who can take your book somewhere, do you the immense favor of including it in the book quota of one of those yearly publishing plans.
Even then, there’s no skirting the line of people “ahead” of you – the established writers (who have ceased to produce anything new but continue to be honored with new editions of their works), dead writers (who seem to publish more than the living), those who have received awards, those who finance their own books (often half-finished and requiring a work of magic by the editors, who painstakingly finish it and give it a bit of dignity).
A naive reader is completely unaware of the bloody battles fought to get the blessed little book published. If you pull through, you have a book whose fate is entirely uncertain.
After checking my email around nine, we have breakfast. I see how my parents are doing. They’re over 80 and don’t go out much. I’m the one responsible for getting them everything they need. A while later, I go out to buy hygiene products and the meager food we eat.
On my way back, I stop at the ration store with my “privations booklet” (as writer Ernesto Perez Chang calls it) and buy a tiny amount of flour and this and that product that’s come in. Then comes the kitchen, where I make lunch. I take my kid his lunch at noon.
Back home, I start the usual chores: washing clothes in a washing machine that’s only half-working and cannot replace (they cost over 200 CUC), tidying up the house, cleaning, etc., etc. In the afternoon, a bath and it’s back to the kitchen.
It’s always the same, cyclical progression. At night, after my kid’s played a bit on the computer or seen a Manga series, I sit down again to check my email. I write and read a bit, tired.
Computers are sacred things one must share with others, a household god one looks after and reveres in the hopes it will stay with us, for it keeps us alive. It allows us to read, write and watch movies. The one thing we still can’t do with it is connect to the Internet, as though we lived in a distant galaxy. Isolation breeds ignorance.
I hardly watch any television. There’s only one TV in the house and it’s in my parents’ room. I don’t make a habit of bothering them or having them watch something they don’t like.
There are occasional changes to my routine some days. These are my escapades to literature talks, renting a film at the public rental house, going to libraries, the cinema, the theatre, meeting with friends, going to places to dance to some rock music, walking around Old Havana, visiting museums, having a cup of chocolate at the Chocolate Museum…watching people go by.
I don’t have many prospects for the future, however – no travel plans. I am stuck here, feeling the occasional spark that makes life easier, and which are never quite enough.