Condoms and Elections in Cuba

By Lorenzo Martin Martines

HAVANA TIMES – I couldn’t go to visit my mother on Sunday December 4th. It was the day local People’s Power representatives were being elected and so public transport services were limited, and I didn’t feel like making the long walk to the faraway Playa municipality. Plus, Nancy wanted to come and escape to my house as her husband had left on a work trip to Matanzas, the perfect moment for our encounters.

Nancy is an old flame from our student days. We ended as a couple back when we were studying, but we continue to have sex every now and again. We’ve been lovers pretty much our entire lives, regardless of either of us being married.

She has a great body, with curly hair half-way down her back. To be honest, Time hasn’t managed to leave any significant marks on her body, although she isn’t the same either.

Otherwise, she’s a very happy person and one of the most sensual women I’ve ever met. She is normally a stable and loyal person in her relationship, but when this begins to get rocky, she seeks refuge in me and in sex with me. She has prioritized stability over loyalty, and in order to enjoy her curved body and wetness, I have to stoically put up with long boring talks about how bad her husband is.

After the long walk on Sundays going to every agro-market and barrow-seller around to try and buy food for the week, I come home more exhausted than weighed down with shopping. I was getting ready to make some coffee to regain some energy when Finita stormed in.

“The Police Captain came looking for you, niño,” she said without even saying hello.

“What stories are you making up now, Fina? I haven’t done anything for the police to come looking for me, you just smelled the coffee and boom, you just casually dropped by. Haha, old lady, the thing is there’s always coffee for you.”

“I’m not making it up, mi hijito, today is election day and it seems they want to finish earlier so they’re knocking on everyone’s door,” she told me. “He didn’t see me because I didn’t feel like answering the door… I don’t know how he still dares to knock on my door after how I treat him.”

“But wasn’t the voting last week?”

“Yes, hijo, but it seems none of those jerks managed to get more than half the votes in our area, so they had to call them again. Less and less people are going to vote these days,” she replied harshly and standing proud as always.

I had no idea there were elections that Sunday. Generally-speaking, I try not to be at home those days so I don’t form part of the circus, because even though I void my ballot paper anyway, I still go and put on the show of voting so they don’t flag me.

I’d just sat down on the sofa when the guy we were talking about showed up at my door, who was dressed in civilian clothes strangely-enough.

“Come in, Rey, let me have my coffee and we’ll go to vote straight after,” was my greeting. “Do you want a swig?”

“I never say no to coffee, you know that,” I got in response.

“Kiss-up and idiot, the last card in the pack,” Fina blurted out to me upset.

“Ay Finita, a temper and character to the grave. Where were you a while ago when I was knocking and you didn’t answer? Let’s go vote, I’ll bring you back home,” Reinaldo answered, as if he hadn’t been the target of her insults in the past.

“You dare you! I’m not voting for any of those shameless people and you should know that because you’ve been here in the neighborhood for six years and I’ve told you a thousand times. I’ve not voted ever since all of this clown business started in 1976, and the only election I’ll go to is the one when we can choose if we want the Communists like you to go to hell.”

“Fina, a little respect, I can arrest you and take you away with all your years on your back and everything,” he joked like he has in the past.

Honestly though, we have a very bad opinion about the police here in Cuba, especially Captains, but he’s different. Reinaldo is like pretty much every other policeman in Havana, a young man from Oriente who came to the city to escape the hard life in Santiago de Cuba’s fields.

Unlike many others though, he’s known how to integrate into the community. He gets on with everyone, strangely-enough, even some “delinquents”, who he talks to and gives advice to as if he were an older brother. Plus, he’s also turned to these delinquents from time to time to buy one or two things he needs at home. He also got married here in the neighborhood, with Susell who was quite loose before and is now another person. The change did her good.

Fina was about to answer and continue the fight when I interrupted them and said let’s go vote.

“Ok old lady, that’s enough insulting the young man, he hasn’t done anything to you. And you compadre, don’t go looking for this old lady’s tongue, you know how she gets. Come on, let’s go, and get this over and done with,” I said ending it amicably. “Fina, will you stay here and look after the house or are you leaving?”

“Old lady your grandmother, may she rest in peace. Leave it, you’re always shitting on Diaz Canel’s mother and his company when we get a blackout, I’m going to call and tell him.”

With all of the hustle and bustle that day, I’d forgotten that Nancy was coming that evening and I needed to hunt down some condoms, because there weren’t any at the drugstore.

“Rey, you don’t have a couple of condoms you could give me, do you?” I asked Reinaldo hoping that I didn’t have to go on a tour of half Havana just to find them.

“Hey, you’re going to sleep with somebody!”

“No, an old girlfriend is coming to the house today and it’s best to be prepared. STDs are hot right now, macho,” I explained.

“No, I don’t have any. Not only have they disappeared but when found they cost 40-50 pesos. Also, if my wife found me with a condom in my pocket, I’d be moving to back to the police residence. Plus, you know I love my negra and I wouldn’t even cheat on her in my thoughts. Go to Curita Park, they always have them.”

I voted by voiding my ballot, like I always do. Then, I headed to Curita Park, like Reinaldo suggested. Curita Park is on Galiano and Reina Streets and is an area where prostitution is pretty much tolerated here in Havana. Women prostitute themselves mostly during the day. At night, male prostitution with homosexuals and transvestites is more common, who even show up with their pimps. It’s normal to find stalls there, without a license to operate, selling condoms, coffee, cigarettes and other things, no matter what time you go.

Incredibly though, the park’s surrounding areas were empty. I just saw a woman selling coffee and I asked her for condoms, but she told me they aren’t anywhere to be found and that I was going to have to take my chances or reuse an old one.

Giving up, I went home, taking a bottle of wine to liven up the evening at least. I wasn’t at home even half an hour, time was flying by, and it was already 4 PM when Nancy arrived with her sad face, but with her voluptuousness intact.

After saying hello and the essential coffee, I served a glass of wine for each of us, it had had some time to chill a little thanks to my almost empty freezer. The long rant began with the wine.

“I think my husband is cheating on me again. I won’t forgive him this time. I’m so tired of him sleeping with all the girls he runs into with his work car,” she vented all at once.

“You’re jealous, nena, sometimes you see ghosts when there aren’t any,” I pretended to be the peacemaker.

“Jealous of the unfaithful! Look what I found in the glove box. Now, you’re going to tell me he got them to blow up balloons,” she said while she angrily showed me a pack of flavored condoms.

I put on my best shocked face, while I thanked the heavens for her lucky find, or lucky from my point of view anyway. I definitely wouldn’t have to hand wash with the washing machine right there and ready for the fight, because we don’t have penetrative sex without condoms because of STDs: I’m not married so I’m not trustworthy and her husband is promiscuous even though he is married, so it’s better to play it safe.

Read more from the diary of Lorenzo Martin here.