On Books, Alcohol and Soft Drugs

Jorge Milanes Despiagne

Photo: Yordanka

HAVANA TIMES, May 7 — On the corner near my house, a group of neighborhood men always get together with a bottle of rum. Each will take a sip and then pass it on to the next guy.

A greeting by one of them made me stop. He then asked me if I had any books of adventure stories or novels at my house for him to read. He said that he read a lot but didn’t have anything new to occupy himself.

Standing in front of this beat-up-looking guy, the breeze blew toward me, causing me to smell the stench of aged ethyl emanating from his pores.

This made me think that it would be difficult for him. Reading and alcohol don’t really mix.

Still, I replied that I’d take a look and try to bring him something later that afternoon.

I left convinced that all of them were trying to maintain a certain level of alcohol in their blood so as to keep themselves detached from their real world environments. I wasn’t sure if he actually would read anything, but I set myself the task of at least trying to find out.

Once I got home I selected some books. Adventures, stories, novels and others were the genres I was able to put in his hands.

He looked at them, perused the back covers carefully, and his eyes began to glow like a kid with a new toy.

“Thanks,” he said. “As soon as I finish I’ll get them back to you. But for now you’re not going to see me. I’m going to focus on reading all of them – and if you bring me more, I’ll read them too.”

There are many problems brought on by alcoholism: the inability to take care of one’s family financially, low self-esteem, lack of life goals, depression and so on.

Alcohol is among the soft drugs that are accepted by society, though over time drinking turns into a hard drug. Its consumption becomes a frequent need by the individual. It gets to the point that it starts to affect one’s psyche.

Today the man thanked me for a new book I’d just given him. It was one on self-help.