Not Enough Light to See the Time

Maria Matienzo Puerto

Night falls on downtown Havana.  Photo: Caridad
Night falls on downtown Havana. Photo: Caridad

A few nights ago, with the capriciousness of dreams, I dreamt that everything was dark.  In my dream I was in a park and couldn’t read even a line from the book that I was holding because the street lights never came on.

I could just barely make out the faces of the people who walked very close to the bench on which I was sitting.  My desperation reached a climax when I attempted to see my own hands and didn’t succeed.  That’s when I remembered that I was asleep.

I’m afraid of the dark, just like a small child.  Every night I make sure that at least one light is left burning in the house.  And it’s not that I’m afraid of ghosts or the boogeyman, or the witch on a broomstick or the dwarves who steal the breath from children; but of having to get up unexpectedly and tripping; or that the telephone might ring, and I might break a knick-knack due to the lack of light.

I don’t remember very well how I managed during the period when we had blackouts.  At that time the electricity was officially turned off for four hours, but actually we could spend entire nights without knowing who was in the house and who wasn’t.  It seems that my psyche, in an attempt at self-preservation, blotted out any experience that might be traumatic.

Given all that, I don’t even want to find myself even for a minute in a world so poorly illuminated.

Nonetheless, to my surprise and regret, my dream came true.  Yesterday, night fell on me while I was still on my way home.  Twilight found me at a bus stop just across from our Capitol building.

I took it for granted that as soon as it got dark the gardens of our Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment (which are housed in our Capitol building) would be illuminated by their neoclassic light fixtures, but nothing happened.  They never came on.

The city was barely discernable under the yellow light that emanated from some street lamps, from one or another of the shop doors, or from the automobiles that passed along the avenue.  The light wasn’t even strong enough to see the time on a wristwatch.

Luckily for me the bus arrived soon and in passing I just managed to glimpse a greater spectacle: that of the Central Plaza of Havana in semi-darkness, like a black jungle, a propitious setting for robberies, confusion, sexual interchanges, violence, camouflage or stumbling.

Maria Matienzo

Maria Matienzo Puerto: I dreamed once that I was a butterfly who had come from Africa and discovered that I had been alive for thirty years. From that time on, I constructed my world while I was sleeping: I was born in a magic city like Havana; I dedicated myself to journalism; I wrote and edited books for children; I met to discuss art with wonderful people; I fell in love with a woman. Of course, there are certain points of coincidence with the reality of my waking life and it’s that I prefer the silence of reading and the pleasure of a good movie.