Jorge Milanes Despaigne
At home we cook using a gas cylinder. We were planning a party among close friends, but it would be necessary to figure out how much gas we’d be able to use and still have enough to get through the rest of the month.
We had talked about frying chicharrones, making yucca and rice and black beans, as well as cooking meat – no less than “butterflied” filet mignon; this was why gas was so important. But for days we’d been looking look for some and we were starting to get worried that the supplier had run out.
A quick stop by the cooking-gas station confirmed that none had been delivered yet. That establishment opens at 1:00 in the afternoon, but it was 10:00.in the morning and people were already in line. To get in line that early without at least knowing some would arrive was a risk and I had some things to do: mainly to go to the market to see if there was any food left, like lettuce, beets, cabbage and tomatoes.
At around 1:00, I dropped by again to the cooking-gas station to see if they had brought any. Still nothing, and the same group of people was there. I returned home now even more worried. At three o’clock I dropped by yet again and it was the same story. I was getting tired. Finally, at 5:00 in the evening, a neighbor knocked on my door to let me know that the truck had showed up.
I went out quickly lugging our cylinder but from a distance I could see a crowd had formed. I started asking around if they closed at seven o’clock, but no one answered; I had to cut through the line to get to the counter and ask my question. The young guy in front of me became dispirited and left. I was asking about the closing time when it got dark.
The line advanced slowly. To make matters worse, I soon discovered that errand boys were there — each with several ration books — to buy gas for other people and then cart the cylinders to their homes.
I calculated that by seven o’clock the station would be all out of gas and that our party was hanging by a thread.
A woman told me: “Listen, you gotta get used to it; this is the way it is” – to which I responded: “No ma’am, no one gets used to this.”