HAVANA TIMES — I was waiting at the busy intersection of Prado and Neptuno streets for a cab headed for Vedado, in the direction of the theatre. An old American car that was practically falling apart came to a stop beside me. “I’m going down Linea Street,” the driver said to me. I got in.
There were two empty seats in the car, meaning the driver was sure to make two more stops on the way to fill the cab. A woman standing at a street corner waved the car to a stop.
“Are you going down Linea?” she asked, opening the car door.
On her instructions, a man who had been standing next to her got in the front seat. She stayed behind.
Immediately, I sensed something different in the air. An energy I’ve seldom felt among Cubans.
The man seemed restless, anxious. He would look to both sides, following the swift maneuvers the driver would execute to skirt traffic and potholes.
“We have heavy traffic in Angola,” he finally said. “Most streets are two-way, like here, but, if there are no cars in sight, people use both lanes, indiscriminately, no matter what direction they’re going in.” This is what I was able to piece together from what he mumbled in a mixture of Portuguese and Spanish.
The driver asked:
“You’re from Angola?”
“Yes,” the man replied.
“Well, I was in Angola in 1987. I fought in the Cuito Cuanavale battle, against the FAPLA.”
“You don’t say! What was your rank?”
“First Captain,” answered the cab driver.
There was a moment of calm as the veteran’s emotions began to stir up.
“I also fought in that battle,” said the Angolan, overcome with emotion.
“What was your rank, sir?”
“And your name?”
For a moment, there was silence. As the cab came to a halt at my stop, next to the curb, the men looked at each other.
“Comrade! I can’t believe you’re Captain Antonio, the man who saved my life!”
I got out of the cab as the two men embraced one another, almost in tears.