A Strangely Happy Outcome

A Cuban “solar” or tenement.

By Pedro Pablo Morejon

HAVANA TIMES – I’ve got almost nothing left to eat for this weekend. I head to the store, luckily there’s pork, but a small packet is so expensive that I see myself stripped of my last magnetic dollar (MLC) in my pocket, spending over 3000 pesos in exchange.

I also pass by a small vegetable stand, there are bananas and I buy 16, which cost me 140 pesos. That’s when I remember one of the things my mother used to tell me: “you always have to have a money bank” and that was before this damn inflation appeared.

I’m “broke”, as we used to call people without a single peso, although I still have a little bit, which really is nothing.

A disheveled old man is buying next to me. I watch him open a plastic bag with difficulty, I help him but I notice something strange, his hands are shaking and suddenly he collapses. I hold him up before he can fall, I help him, or rather I drag him to sit on the sidewalk.

He has small convulsions and I have no idea what to do. It seems absurd to call the polyclinic, I know he’ll just die there without an ambulance coming. People walk by indifferently, immersed in their own daily struggles to survive. I could just walk off and leave him there, nobody would care, but I don’t.

Luckily, a woman appears. I can’t guess how old she is although she must be young, the color of her hair is uncertain, somewhat dirty, tied up in a ponytail.

“Damn it, I’m tired of telling you you can’t go outside on your own,” is her greeting. “I’m tired of you, you make me want to leave you here.”

“Are you related to him?” I ask. She barely nods and I guess she must be his daughter. She asks me to help her. The man is only babbling incomprehensible words, she talks to him abruptly, she tells him off for being an old man and tells me he’s epileptic and he doesn’t have the medicine he needs because it hasn’t come into the drugstore for a long time.

We take him to his house which is a couple of blocks away. You have to go in via an interior. We reach a place that is like one of those dilapidated tenements that are plentiful in Central Havana’s poorest neighborhoods.  An ambiguous and discreet stench welcomes me, although it’s foul and it upsets my respiratory system making me feel sick.

When we get there, we sit down. The old man is semi-conscious, it’s almost noon and the heat is unbearable. Sweat runs down my entire back, getting my shirt wet. A man, I don’t know if he was an Evangelical or a Jehovah’s Witness, is preaching in a nearby room.

“With all the hunger at this time of day and this white man is talking about God,” a mulatta woman says as she puffs on a cigarette.

The old man seems to come to, I think that my help has served its purpose and it’s time for me to leave.

“Well, I’m going to get off, I’m sorry about your father, I hope he gets better, and you can find the medicine.”

She looks at me strangely, bewildered like a zombie and she doesn’t even thank me. I walk off sweaty, strangely happy under the scorching sun and in the middle of this unbearable heat. I don’t know whether it was because of the shopping I did, because I managed to do a small, good deed to sweeten my conscience in this jungle of survival of the fittest or because once again, it was confirmed that many people have it a lot worse than I do. At least I have my health, something to eat and a little bit of hope.

Read more from Pedro Pablo Morejon’s diary here.

3 thoughts on “A Strangely Happy Outcome

  • The free market economist Milton Friedman wrote a book called “The Tyranny of the Status Quo”.

    How will the remaining hungry, aging Cubans finally overthrow the Castro Communists?
    I don’t think they have the energy left.

  • It’s a beautiful story, Pedro. Thank you for sharing. Regardless of where we live, it is important to be thankful for what we have and be willing to help those with less. I have been to Cuba several times over the last 12 years and it saddens me to see how difficult it has become and how the government isn’t helping the situation.

  • Gut wrenching story for sure. Even if the poor man’s medicine happened to be available, would he or his family be able to afford it?

    I wonder how much this poor fellow sacrificed for his beloved country – his homeland. I imagine as a young man he was compelled to do his military service. How many years did he have to sacrifice for the homeland. He seems to be of that age where perhaps he even had to go to Angola to be a human sacrifice for the Castro regime.

    Now in his old age, without the much needed medicine to alleviate his epileptic seizures, he has to suffer physical and psychological trauma. His daughter certainly has a burden on her hands. No doubt she empathizes with his severe health issues knowing that in the current circumstances she is in, she cannot do much to help. It must be grueling to see a loved one, a father, having to suffer before one’s very own eyes. Is her “zombie” state her own way to mask the reality of her traumatic existence?

    Her circumstances, deplorable as described, are understandable. How long has she had to undergo this traumatic situation? How long has she had to deal with the fact she has no money – no medicine – to ameliorate the family’s sad situation? How many other Cuban families are in the same unbearable situation?

    Pedro provides but one example of the current crisis plaguing the ordinary Cuban majority in Cuba today. Hunger, lack of crucial medicines, deplorable living conditions, and on, and on, it goes on a daily, monthly, yearly, ad nauseam basis with no hope in sight. Is it any wonder, young, energetic, knowledgeable, Cubans seeing and witnessing the horrendous hardships parents, grandparents, family, unnecessarily must undergo regularly – flee.

    The totalitarian regime’s rulers are so disconnected with the current reality their sole reason for existence is to maintain the status quo. Any Cuban who properly describes the daily struggles via social media is subject to harsh penal penalties because according to the totalitarian state’s newly amended Cuban Constitution discrediting the state in any way is punishable.

    Kudos to Pedro for being brave and courageous in his descriptive writing. Keep telling the truth.

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