By Leonid Lopez
Having friends has always been a very vital part of my life. Within a short time after arriving in Japan I had already met a group of my wife’s friends. Later I found out that this was unusual, since people here are not accustomed to having many friends.
The normal thing is to have a few friends and to see them with very little regularity and after previous arrangements made at least a week beforehand. At that time I considered my wife to be privileged, and I couldn’t avoid making comparisons with Cuba.
The first superficial thought told me that in Cuba it was very easy to maintain relations with groups of people and to visit them with no warning and even to count on them to help resolve some problems.
Some moments later I thought more calmly about it. I realized that I had spent many years looking for a group of friends, not only acquaintances who you owe favors to or amiable neighbors but people who I could feel were close to me, had a commitment with my life, valued my aspirations and offered nonjudgmental aid for my deepest desires.
It wasn’t until I was 29 that I managed to find such a group of friends. Now I’m 35 and we are all scattered throughout the world. This thought, which put Japan and Cuba on the same plane in terms of the difficulty of finding friends and the even greater difficulty of maintaining them, began to close the door to imagining Cuba with the nostalgia of a lost paradise.
I should feel sad about this, but the new idea actually makes me feel happy. It gives me hope knowing that in the end paradises come from my talent, my effort and my love. Paradises are not the fruit of a hallucinating mind which constructs them in its own image and reflection, and always makes them impossible to reach. Now I build my own little paradise where I am the owner of each fruit.
All this went through my mind. But then I missed something: my friends. For the moment I could count on those of my wife, but I was limited above all by my near total ignorance of the language. This gave me the impetus to enroll in school to learn it. As I began to understand the tongue, another big problem arose.
My form of manifesting friendship, all of my ideas regarding what a real friend is and even the reasons that impelled me to seek out friendship were completely foreign here.
Silently, comparisons with Cuba began to creep in again. I wanted to think that I possessed some certainty, at least in something this important. I wanted to show my wife the true value of friendship and along with it, also surreptitiously, my great moral standing.
It happened that my wife’s friends always maintained a certain distance about letting the other in on any of their affairs, always showing and giving only a part of themselves. That’s what I thought, or wanted to think.
It was painful to me to accept that I had to break with this certainty, that I was planted in the real world where I needed to open my horizons anew, to accept that none of these ideas that I had planted in my being with such surety could survive the life where you construct and kill, the real life outside of planet Cuba. It’s hard to grow within an adult body in which there’s little space and desire left to construct anything more.
Dispersed through the world, my friends write to me from time to time. We talk on the telephone and we have hopes of some day getting together again, although all of us know that the world will be different and we ourselves will also be different people.
All of us, all over thirty, feel that the gateway to a sure road is far off, but meanwhile we are at least stepping on firm ground amid all of the uncertainty that has been planted there. Each one begins to gather fruits in their own paradises. I hear them laugh and suffer from far away and I like to imagine myself like Snoopy. A wise child, always sober, accompanying his friends – each one so different – in each of their plots and joys, and always returning happily to his little house as if the world had now ended and another day was about to begin. It makes me happy to see how, like Snoopy, despite so much difference around me, I no longer make comparisons.