HAVANA TIMES – “A few days ago, I went to a tire repair shop in Kendal, where quite a few Cubans work, to change the tires on my car,” Harold tells me, a great friend of mine who is living in the US and is back in Cuba on holiday.
“I always go there,” he continued, “but unlike other times, I went to talk to an old man who came to live in in Kendal in 1982 and he asked me what part of Cuba I was from, like people always ask.”
“From the Kolly neighborhood in Havana, and I grew up between Los Pinos and Alamar,” Harold told the old man, and the latter replied that he was born and raised in Los Pinos, that he is 83 yeard old and that he used to live next to Raul’s barber shop, where my friend used to get into scuffles when we were kids.
Excited, Harold continued on with his story: “The man attentively asked me what my grandfather’s name was and I told him that he was called Simon. Then, tears came to his eyes and he began to tell me what a good person my grandfather had been. About the staircase and kitchen table he had made him, about when they used to go out fishing. He obviously remembered my grandfather walking with a young boy holding his hand. I was that boy and I’m 34 years old now.”
Near the end of the conversation, the old man told Harold that he had come to the US on a raft that he had built with his own two hands when he realized that things were going to get harder in Cuba and he left owing Harold’s grandfather 30 pesos.
“The old man was sad that he could never pay off his debt to my grandfather. They were great friends, with a great deal of humanity, according to what he said. He told me about the time his daughter got sick and about how my grandfather used to go to his house every week to give him some fish and frog legs,” Harold added.
“Our faces were strange to one another, because of time and distance, but we suddenly embraced each other. Finding someone like him was the last thing I could have imagined, so far from our shared birthplace and so close to each other, without even knowing it.”
“At the end, I gave him the 30 USD that it costs to change the tires and he answered: Hey, look, at last my debt with a friend has been repaid, giving me my money back.” Harold was overcome by emotion by the time he had finished telling his story, but it wasn’t only because of the story, it was also because this was a reencounter for us, after five years of not seeing one another.