My Neighbor’s Death

Jorge Milanes

The Monumental Roadway. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES ? “Did you hear about the accident that happened on the Monumental roadway half an hour ago? Two elderly mulattos driving a beige Moskovich at high speed ran into an electrical post. They say they’re from your neighborhood.”

I felt a chill crawl up my spine and immediately tensed up. The color of the car and the description of the individuals matched those of my workmates. I recalled there were two people in the car when I got off.

Perturbed, I explained that, that same morning, my neighbor had given me a lift to the bus stop, and that his car was the same brand and color as the one they described. I didn’t take long to confirm the incident: I called his house and, in effect, the news had already reached the neighborhood. Pirino had died in a car crash.

My shock grew. He was a good man. I considered him almost a brother.

I asked permission at work to go home and see what had happened for myself. During the entire drive down the Monumental, I looked out the bus window to see some evidence of the crash, but didn’t. Apparently, the traffic police had finished up at the scene of the accident.

When I got home, the neighbors were crowding in front of the house of the deceased, waiting for more news, while the family desperately called different hospitals to find out where Pirino was. No one thought to call 104, the emergencies and ambulances number in Cuba.

I am close to the family and began asking questions. I was the last person who’d seen him alive that morning. How did you find out? How told you the news? At what time were you given the news?

It was 11 in the morning. The sister was sobbing inconsolably next to her cousins, unable to do anything, and my mind was blocked.

Suddenly, a car pulled up at high speed and, inside it, smiling we saw the alleged dead man, Pirino. In the emotive re-encounter, he said: “I came as fast as I could. They told me how worried you were. I wasn’t the one in the accident, I’m here alive and well.”

When I had the chance to talk to him, I said: “Brother, when something like that happens here, people say you’ve been given a clean bill of health, that you have a long life ahead of you.”