Leonid Lopez

HAVANA TIMES – A building in Ibaraki, my new home.  Fourth floor.  At the end of the hallway alongside someone else’s door.  I can see the red moon amidst cables and roofs of other buildings, none of them very tall.  I’ve been granted residency in Japan for three years.  What will that mean?

More than an opportunity, it feels like a sack fallen from the sky to my feet.  You’re out now, hang on, don’t go back.  Nothing to say in contradiction; I don’t believe that I want anything else.  But that voice, so sure – Does it know what it’s talking about?  I don’t mind having nothing, being hungry, seeing a cloud over the future, but it is important for me to know.  I’m here as a result of that: because I want to know.

With my gaze tinged red, dizzy with the moon, that sure voice mixes with my own insecure one. I should profit from this interchange.  Sometimes stuttering is a luxury.  I should act, do.  Nonetheless I don’t feel at ease.  I want there to be something there in the depths.

I don’t want to feel like a screaming zombie again, as I did so many times in Cuba. When the red has dissolved into the black ink of the night, I go home.  The moon will no longer offer any answers, nor will I.

A few days ago I went to a clinic near the house.  The clinic offers many community services, it’s unassuming and – as I later learned – cheap.  The doctor who saw me had been to Cuba as part of a group of Japanese doctors who advocate for just health services.

Somehow, his group made contact with the Cuban Ministry of Health and they were invited to visit the Caribbean paradise of free health care.  They were given a brief lecture series in the Ameijeiras Hospital of Havana.

The guided tourist excursion that followed left my doctor with some funny photos that he showed me amidst chuckles.  Later, more seriously, he noted that he knew it wasn’t the real Cuba or its actual health system that the amiable Cuban doctors had shown him; he had missed talking with ordinary people outside of the scheduled program.

Still, realization of these shortcomings didn’t keep him from recalling the trip as a pleasant experience.  Stunned, I witnessed him separating reality from his own personal experience in a clear, and non-traumatic way.  A surgeon’s dissection – once the tumor was isolated, the work was finished.

But to me, another patient, it was the cancer that mattered, not the transitory tumor.  I still couldn’t accept this idea of stepping over reality on a ballerina’s toes.  At any rate, the doctor had come from very far away to work in this clinic that offered concrete help to many people and I couldn’t take issue with that.

Something was changing.  It was no longer easy to raise the battle flags against lightly held opinions.  At the exit to the clinic, confused by the traffic sounds, the second voice seemed to say: “all that you are waiting for is being parceled out in disconnected and ridiculous portions.”

Another day, my girlfriend and I went out shopping.  We visited the cheapest little shops and finally went to a very large market.  Inevitably, I couldn’t keep track of the number of bags; I lack the habit.  So, on the way back I forgot one.

Once at home, I noticed that one was missing and left, without thinking, to get the package back.  I took off running, accompanied by the laughter of my wife, who kept repeating: “The bag will be there, don’t worry.”  I was worried; if I wasn’t, the world would rotate 360 degrees and send me flying.

The bag was still there, in the same place where I had left it.  Hundreds of people had surrounded it, but it seemed to be sitting there waiting for me.  I remember that I felt something like dizziness; my mind took some time to accept what I was seeing.

Really, the world seemed to be spinning without caring that I continued to be anchored there.  When I returned to my senses, I was so moved that I nearly embraced the plastic bag followed by the first person to pass me by. How was this possible?

About two days later, more or less, while running in the morning, I receive the second big surprise from my city.  I spotted a cell phone on the ground.  I didn’t know what to do. In my mind, I extended my hands toward the phone.

“Easy there,” I said to myself, and went on running.  On the way back, the telephone was no longer on the ground.  Did the owner find it again?  Or did someone else come by and this time give in to their darker impulses?  No, someone had put the cell phone in a nearby place that was more visible, so that the owner could see it better.

Thrilling!

As the days passed, I discovered that it would never occur to the Japanese to take something belonging to someone else.  It’s not even about having firm morals – it simply doesn’t enter into their system of thinking.

Another thing that without a doubt I couldn’t object to at all.

Then – what was that restless whisper slithering inside?  Something told me that a kindness that wasn’t chosen covers a dark depth.  As if this were a member of the same family as open evil.  Up until this moment these were baseless suspicions.  I felt fine.

It was very pleasant to be in a place where taking pleasure in trees, flowers and birds wasn’t only accepted, but was practically a behavioral norm.  It was comfortable to see no difference in the treatment given to a foreigner or a poor person when entering any of the businesses.

It didn’t sit badly to hear them use “San” after a name, as if it were a category of nobility.  To see some facing others to bow and use words of respect.  But – what can you do?  There was that whisper with its large dose of suspicion.

There was something in the sleepwalking expression of those disembarking from the metro at 11:30 at night, that wasn’t only due to fatigue.  Something behind their lack of distinction that didn’t allow inclusion.  Something stuck to the amiability that didn’t allow it to stretch into good wishes.  A bridge had been blown up between doing and being, between the repetition of movements and their meaning beyond an impulse.

I stretched out my hands.  Three years before me to build a dream.  You’re out, hang on, don’t go back.  But all of my spirits weren’t enough to close the empty space between the extremes before me.

Once again, I have no complaints.  I need to do the same as always.  Walk on the air.  There’s no ground that can resist ones steps, as there are no reasons that can sustain a sole idea.  Apparently

it means continuing to tremble until a sun can be invented.


Leonid Lopez

Leonid Lopez: My parents named me Leonid because I was born in Cuba on the same day that Leonid Brezhnev, the ex-Soviet president, arrived in Havana. Today it’s a name that is no longer fashionable. I lived in Cuba for 34 years and have now been in Japan for five months. Some of my ideas have changed but I continue believing in two: I believe in the importance of being able to choose, but also that happiness is the responsibility of each person, and nobody can grant it or deny it. Cuba seemed like a good place to grow up, later it began to be like a mother that devours her children. There are those who believe in the homeland; I believe in goodness. Wherever that exists I can have my nest. Now it’s here with my wife, tomorrow, I don’t know.

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