Running Out of Steam

Osmel Almaguer 

On the road to ruin. Photo: Caridad

Julio had a promising career in Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) before being relegated to the reserves due to health problems.  From very early on he had participated in two internationalist missions: one in Angola and the other in Ethiopia.  In both instances he performed admirably and earned several medals.

Though he’d already risen to the rank of captain, having to suddenly give up his career was tremendously frustrating; it was a trauma that even today he’s yet to overcome.

Restarting his life was a little less than impossible.  Despite having a wife and a young daughter to maintain, he gradually surrendered to drinking.  He got a job as a night guard because that was one of the few jobs he knew how to do.

Soon his “moral spotlessness” and “pure ideals” began degrading because of the alcohol.  Late nights alone by himself were the ideal setting for his binges.

He lost the affection and respect of his family, though not his marriage.  For reasons I can’t figure, his wife never asked for a divorce.

Now Julio’s just a “drunk,” which is like being a prisoner…maybe a little worse.  You lose your social status but also the right to be respected for your good qualities.

So over time his attributes begin to fade.  What was left began being erased permanently from his memory and from those of others.  Because of that, Julio ended up actually physically abusing his wife and daughter.

His daughter who immigrated to Spain a few years ago sent a letter of invitation to her mother.  She agreed with Julio that he would stay and keep the house if her mother gave him a divorce.  He accepted.

Julio’s plan is to sell the house as soon as his wife leaves and to go live in the woods, like he did when he was a soldier.  At first glance the idea seemed quite noble, but what was he going to do with the money?

He has the illusion that his wife will send him a letter invitation to come to Spain.  What he doesn’t know is that she told us she doesn’t even intend to give him her address.


Osmel Almaguer:Until recently I would to identify myself as a poet, a cultural promoter and a university student. Now that my notions on poetry have changed slightly, that I got a new job, and that I have finished my studies, I’m forced to ask myself: Am I a different person? In our introductions, we usually mention our social status instead of looking within ourselves for those characteristics that define us as unique and special. The fact that I’m scared of spiders, that I’ve never learned to dance, that I get upset over the simplest things, that culminating moments excite me, that I’m a perfectionist, composed but impulsive, childish but antiquated: these are clues that lead to who I truly am.

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One thought on “Running Out of Steam

  • Usually, “when one door closes, another opens,” though at times you have to open it yourself. I wonder why, after his career in the F.A.R. ended, he was unable to open another; instead surrendering to entrophy? Looks like a certain regididy of personality, an “all or nothing” mentality. In this way, perhaps, Nature “selects out” those who cannot adapt to changing circumstances.

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