By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – It was 4 PM on Sunday afternoon. There had been electricity all day, which is rare during these times of non-stop blackouts.
I joked with my neighbor: “I’m so afraid that I’m ready to lower the breaker.” I smiled and the blackout came a second later, which was like a kick to the stomach this time. I hadn’t cooked and on a rainy day like today, it was going to be really hard to cook with the little coal I had left.
Night fell and the electricity refused to come back. My neighbor offered me some lukewarm rice and beans that she had cooked before the blackout, but I was embarassed and lied, refusing the offering.
It was 10 PM and I had no choice but to stir a little powdered milk (which I luckily have) with water and had it with a piece of bread and cheese I had left.
Neighbors came out to their doorways to chat and wait for the electricity to come back, like they normally do.
“You’re going to bed with how hot it is?” they asked me. “Yes, I have to wake up early, plus, you know I don’t believe in the heat or mosquitoes, I’m a member of the Taliban.”
I laid down and opened a blind beforehand to see if a little bit of fresh air came in, but it was in vain. My sweaty body refused to give in to Morpheus, I just listened to the neighbors’ voices while I drenched the sheets in sweat. I went to the shower and let the water cool my body down. I got out, dried up and the sweat reappeared. After an hour, I couldn’t take it anymore. I got dressed and joined the neighbors.
“Weren’t you a member of the Taliban?” they said to me laughing.
The electricity came back close to 1 AM. I showered again to take off the sweat, I put on the fan and managed to fall asleep.
I woke up tired, just after 6 AM to the sound of my alarm, to find that there was no more electricity I got up in a bad mood.
Later, when traveling, I saw a sign like so many others that saturate public spaces in Cuba, the kind with propaganda that nobody believes in anymore. It preached: “Give Your Best for Cuba,” and I thought that what Cuba needs is electricity, food, medicine, transport and so many other things, that will only be achieved with democracy and a market economy.
It also brought so many other totalitarian slogans to mind that have been right in front of my eyes and ears throughout my life.
“Pin Pon Fuera, abajo la gusanera” (Get out, down with the worms)
“Las calles son de los revolucionarios” (The streets belong to the revolutionaries)
“La Universidad es de los revolucionarios” (Universities belong to the revolutionaries)
“Patria o muerte” (Homeland or death)
“Socialismo o muerte” (Socialism or death)
“31 y palante” (31 and onwards)
“32 y más palante” (32 and further onwards)
“Sí por Cuba” (Yes for Cuba)
“Pa lo que sea Fidel pa lo que sea” (For whatever Fidel, for whatever)
“Cuba va” (Cuba is making progress)
“Somos felices aquí” (We are happy here)
“Somos continuidad” (We are continuity)
“Pensar como país” (Thinking like a country)
“Cuba salva” (Cuba saves lives)
“Cuba vive y trabaja” (Cuba lives and works)
And so many more.
In a nutshell, bullshit slogans that I’ve had to stomach over this short life of mine, like everyone else, and we only have one life which is passing by like fog in the morning, according to an old and wise man named Salomon.
Suddenly, a voice asked me what time it was, snapping me out of my head. An old 70-something-year-old man appeared before me, wearing olive green, without medals, and a bracelet with the initials “PNR”. He was carrying a gun, a Makarov I’m guessing. His uniform was pretty worn for tear, his face buried in wrinkles and his fragile body reflected hardship, fanaticism, stupidity… I felt sorry for him, the walking proof of the system’s failure.
“We have to give our best for Cuba… DPEPDE,” I muttered to myself.
“Nothing my old man, it’s 8:23.”