HAVANA TIMES — Some Saturdays or Sundays, when I have a little bit of money and want to dance to some rock music, I get ready to go out. First, I choose a simple outfit (jeans, a blouse and a pair of comfortable sneakers). I pick up my purse and daub some perfume on my chest.
But things aren’t so simple – having a few hours of fun has its price. For one thing, getting around in this city is anything but easy. One doesn’t know how long one can stand somewhere waiting for a bus, so catching a 10-peso cab is the most advisable course of action. You still have to walk a number of blocks, because no cab takes you directly to where you’re going.
Sometimes, the trip is comfortable enough. Other times, you are squeezed into the car with the other passengers. That said, it is still always preferable to a bus (where you sweat more than a port worker unloading goods from a ship).
There are some very peculiar smells on Cuban buses. The most noticeable are the horrible odors that emanate from the armpits of passengers, smells that make you want to hide your head in the ground or cover your nose with a handkerchief.
The worst part, however, is the claustrophobic feeling you get when the bus fills up with people to the bursting point. Once, I had a panic attack inside a bus – I had started to sweat and felt I couldn’t breathe. They should hand out oxygen masks for those who travel in these wheeled monsters.
When I get to the Yellow Submarine, I pay the admission of 50 Cuban pesos. (Another rock haven, the Maxim Rock, does charge 30.) I look for a table and, if there’s none, I stand and move up to the stage to dance next to it.
Most of the time, I only have enough money for a beer or two (they cost 1 to 1.50 CUC each), depending on the brand and the place. All prices are in CUC (25 pesos to 1 CUC).
If I don’t have money and I’m lucky enough to run into an acquaintance who buys me a beer, I usually end up dancing a bit with them. The danger is that the person can get the idea I have to go back home with them or retreat to some solitary place for some petting. Some people think that buying someone a beer must be repaid with some kind of favor.
That’s why I always make a point of taking my own money, so that I don’t have to slip away, as I did on one occasion, when a young man bought me a glass of wine and then insisted on going back home with me, almost to the point of harassing me sexually. I had to hide in the bathroom a while, waiting for him to become distracted with something, and then dash to the door, running like someone fleeing from a fire.
Dancing is something fun. It makes good vibrations come together and makes one forget one’s daily routines. When the bands start to play, they make us see the Boys from Liverpool in the flesh, Janis Joplin singing her effervescent “A Piece of My Heart”, Freddy Mercury singing his “Bohemian Rhapsody” in his white trunks and the Traveling Wilburys improvising a bit of madness.
The air becomes charged with positive energy and we begin to feel as though a pair of sensual wings are sprouting out of our backs. We plunge into the dance, moving our heads wildly, jumping. We make friends; hold conversations through shouts, happy and careless. It is a kind of healthy intoxication.
When the party’s over and it’s time to go back home, however, we feel a little like Cinderella, even though we aren’t wearing a crystal shoe and no prince will come to ask us if we want to marry him.
The way back is very long – it is pointless to wait for the bus (they don’t come that late at night), so we again catch a cab. That’s 20 pesos spent in transportation, plus the admission, the 2 CUC in beer…almost 150 pesos for 3 to 4 hours of dancing. Once home, all that remains to do is taking a bath, eating whatever’s in the fridge and going to bed.
The night of Rock Cinderella has come to an end.