By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – It’s nearly 11 PM and I’ve decided to go to sleep. Luckily, October has come with cooler nights. Nights that let me sleep a little bit easier amidst a 14-day blackout, after Hurricane Ian swept through the country.
Electricity services are still only operating at less than 50% in Cuba’s far-western province. Distribution workers are working really hard, but there are too many fallen posts and cables. Everything is moving slowly and when the electricity is connected again, more intense blackouts also return.
The National Grid is suffering a crisis which doesn’t seem to have a solution in the short or medium term.
Well, anyway, just as I was about to fall asleep, a noise broke my trance. A cry of joy as if it were 3 p.m. during Carnival. Lots of voices in unison, the sound of horses dragging something and their hoofs sound like they are breaking the concrete. Lots of horses, one after the other, which is strange and unexpected.
I don’t get up to have a look, I’ve lost the ability to be surprised, human’s innate curiosity, a long time ago. Very few things surprise me, that’s why I stay in bed and focus on trying to get to sleep.
Minutes pass by, an hour, it’s already midnight and the noise doesn’t stop. I’m slightly sweaty and flustered from not being able to sleep. My cellphone doesn’t have any charge. I fumble about as best I can in the darkness. I open up a shutter to see if any air comes in, at least it’s a clear night and there’s a full moon. I go back to bed, and everything carries on outside.
“What’s going on?” I wonder.
“What a total lack of respect! All of this hullabaloo at this time people need to sleep, and there are small children… this is why this country is getting worse and worse.”
“We are the ones to blame, we don’t have any shame, education, values or anything.”
“Why wasn’t I born in Norway?” “At least then I wouldn’t have to fight and deal with so many riffraffs.”
“If reincarnation is real, I must have been a really terrible person; a serial killer or something like that to have been born in this shitty country.”
These are the thoughts that race in my mind in a process that spirals, where I inadvertently wind myself up. I’m annoyed.
I walk to the living room; my eyes have got used to the darkness. I open the door, and standing right in front on the sidewalk are four young people, very young people, teenagers around 15 or 16 years max. One looks familiar.
“What silliness is this, my son?”
“This hullabaloo you’re making at this time, papo. Can’t you see people are sleeping? Some with little kids.
“No, it’s not us. There’s a “spider” race (rustic horse-drawn carriages, which there are plenty of in Cuba’s fields and towns in the 21st century).
A second later, I hear the noise. Yep, there are two of them. It doesn’t matter if one is running along the other side of the road, in the darkness of a blackout with only the moon lighting the way. They’ve turned the battered road from the highway bridge to the town’s entrance into a racecourse 500m long.
These are betting races. I don’t care if they want to play with their money, I care about the time and place they’ve chosen, I’m annoyed they’re interrupting my sleep and peace.
I guess they’ve chosen this time of night to avoid a possible and unlikely police operation. Horse racing has been gaining ground again in Cuba for a while now, just like cockfighting.
They are close by, they may even be running as fast as 40 km/h or more. I drag the young men to the doorway. The sound of their hoofs on the road deafens me. They are pretty much neck in neck. They are shouting as if there’s no tomorrow for their vocal cords, giving orders to the beasts or to encourage them in the race.
Moved by rage, I shout some curse words at them as they pass me by, which I won’t write here, but they ignore me anyway, they don’t seem to hear me. I watch them reach the finishing line, they stop there, but they carry on shouting and go down an alleyway that takes them back to the highway.
Other contestants draw closer with their galloping beat. It’s never-ending, I look at my watch and it’s already nearly 1 a.m.
I go home, giving up. The rage in me hasn’t lessened, but the weight of reason tells me to go back. There are lots of them and I’m sure they are armed with knifes or machetes and under the influence of alcohol.
Neighbors are sleeping or stay at home quietly, nobody’s saying anything. I live in a calm neighborhood, with peaceful and noble people, that’s to say, docile and extremely patient people.
Lying in bed I think: “I hope they run into a pothole and get scratched up, or they break a collarbone, so they don’t screw us over anymore.”
I manage to fall asleep sometime later.