Isbel Diaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES — When a friend leaves Cuba, it’s as if they’ve died. The relationship that had started at a bus stop or in a classroom suddenly dissolves into the past and nothing else grows after the moment of their departure.
It doesn’t matter that online technologies allow us to know about their sled rides down some Canadian slope or their exhausting workdays trying to hold down three jobs in southern Spain. The only certainty is that they’re effectively dead.
With those who manage to return to the island after a number of years, their deaths are even more easily verifiable. We discover this in those brief get-togethers (there’s almost never time for anything longer) it is as if the anchors had been lifted one by one.
In the eyes of the recently returned, those of us who are still here seem like poor caged monkeys, tethered by the permits, passports and visas that are inaccessible to our pockets, forcing us to miss out on the consumeristic binge.
At the same time, those who return from the outside appear to us to look distracted. Their heads are full of foreign thoughts as they mentally calculate their budgets trying to determine whether they should give gifts to everybody or throw a party (though those are never like the ones before).
As I said, they’ve died. And we too have died in their eyes, which no longer understands us.
All of the best friends in my life are gone. Apparently I’m not lucky. Though I now have other wonderful friends, these aren’t the ones from high school or college, the ones who can remember the first time I was in love, your fear of being discovered, my naive plans about the brilliant future that awaited.
Yesterday I learned that one of them died of a heart attack before having even celebrated his thirtieth birthday. Although he had experienced love and had managed to see a little bit of the world (something most people don’t get to do), I thought about his loneliness, his desperate search, his anguish.
But, returning to my point, I understand: he had died earlier, along with others. The saddest thing is that, despite their deaths, you continue to love them …and wait for something – though you don’t really know what it is.