By Pedro P Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – One night in July 1994, my friend Tomasito and I were talking. We were both 19 years old at the time and doing our compulsory military service.
Running into each other was a strange coincidence, we were in different units. He got dealt the shorter straw. He was at a place known as La Paloma, cutting sugar cane like an 18th century slave and starving.
“I’m pissed off. Grab that stick there and hit me hard in the arm, I want you to fracture it and see if I can get a couple of days rest,” he asked me that afternoon, pointing to a piece of wood.
I obviously wasn’t brave enough to do it. I wasn’t as bold as my friend, who wouldn’t have thought twice and just done it. In fact, he did it to one of his colleagues after they asked him to.
We sat in front of his house to ramble about the future. Less intelligent than him, but more well-read, I was filled with a spirit of greatness, especially because I had just read “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo, which told the life story of Vito Andolini, known as Don Corleone, a “capo” of the Italian mafia, with radical ideas about life and power.
I remember that we agreed not to stop in our efforts to become great, to reach the top of the world.
“If one of us gets to the top, they’ll make sure the other one gets there too,” I proposed, and we made a solemn promise.
I would try to do this by studying Law, becoming a distinguished lawyer, like Tom Hagen was to the Corleone family, the Consiglieri of the chief capo, but still a good and fair mafia member, like the Don supposedly was, who didn’t hurt anyone unless they deserved it, according to the writer’s own insinuations.
He would become an entrepreneur, a great businessman.
In our teenage minds, we thought it was feasible. The country was going through the darkest hour of the Special Period and we believed we were on the brink of dawn breaking, which is when the night is at its darkest. Plus, the end was just around the corner, days were counted, at least that’s what “experts” on the other side of the Florida Strait were telling us over and over again.
He lent me his old bike and we said goodbye. It must have been around midnight.
I haven’t ever met anyone more intelligent than Tomasito. He knows how to do anything, and if he doesn’t know, he only needs 5 minutes to learn: construction, plumbing, electricity, anything. At primary school, we had a healthy rivalry to see who was at the top of our class. Yet, we were awful students. I was better educated, but he was more intelligent. However, he has a great flaw: Fickleness, and this heterodox attitude of never holding onto or loving anything.
Today, he’s just a simple worker in Miami, while I’m fighting a daily struggle in Cuba. We only have memories left of those dreams. We were such idealists…