The Girl Dying from Cold
By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – The train station was buzzing this Wednesday. A traditional music group, some magician and a small book stand were part of the activities in a program that seemed to have been put together by the Provincial Cultural Board.
It’s a good initiative, although almost nobody seemed to be paying them any attention. Maybe a trending reggaeton singer might have managed to spark interest, even if their music is decadent, but not a group of strangers singing boleros and son.
I feel sorry and admiration for a man who’s bordering on 70 and still has a powerful and melodic voice singing live, without the need for auto-tune. He sings his song as if he were standing before a huge crowd and with the enthusiasm and attitude worthy of a great professional.
Meanwhile, people were talking among themselves or looking at their cellphones. When the train is about to depart, people crowd together and there’s no time or space for these artists to put away their equipment, much less say goodbye. The utter indifference shown towards them borders on disrespect.
The final part of the activity is a monologue about books. The bookseller holds one up called “Muchacha con frio” (The Cold Girl), and gives a summary of this book of stories, written by a young Cuban author who is now living in Sweden. How lucky for her! I think to myself.
I look around me, nearly no one is listening to him, they are all immersed in their own little worlds. He offers the book to anyone who wants it. He doesn’t get a response.
“Who wants to warm the girl up?” he asks jokingly in his eagerness to capture people’s attention.
“Me,” two young men answer in chorus, who are sitting at the end of the room.
“Come get it,” the man says holding the book up high.
“No, bring me the girl to warm her up,” one of them replies and the small group with him break out in laughter.
At least he managed to get some attention, I think, although nobody is interested in getting the book. I look around and see a painting that depicts the decadence of that moment. A couple of teenagers smooching passionately and at complete ease, their bodies pressed against one another.
They are just a couple of meters away; I can see their tongues fight like swords wielded in an Emilio Salgari novel. Nothing seems to bother them. The bizarre thing though is that she can’t be older than 15, maybe 14. She’s very little, with tattoos on her thin legs that you can see thanks to her super mini skirt.
I like the book or rather it sparked my interest from the get-go. Maybe that hostile environment stopped me from going out and getting it. I realize, in that moment, how a man as irreverent as I am, can also succumb to the social mold, and fold under group pressure.
So, I speak up to make my wishes come true and raise my hand, when this man gives me a sign of relief and gestures for me to walk over to him.
I take the book in my hands, not without first telling him my name. The bookseller asks for a round of applause for this brave man. He doesn’t know me, and I don’t know him.
I’m an unknown writer, I’m not Paduro, or Pedro Juan Gutierrez, it doesn’t matter. However, I found the request for a round of applause and the words he said as if accepting a book was hero business, ridiculous.
Almost nobody clapped, except for those standing in the front row. I swallow it because, at the end of the day, I like to read and write. I know I’m an endangered species.
Writing… what a job I invented for myself. I look at the book’s title and I can’t stop but think about this cultural decadence. Especially in Literature, this sad girl who is dying from cold.
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