By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – I’d been waiting under that bridge for almost an hour, wanting to get home as soon as possible. I had gotten up on the wrong side of the bed that day, or rather luck wasn’t on my side. I couldn’t do any of the things I had set out to do and I was tormented by the idea that I wouldn’t even have a grain of rice waiting for me when I got home. Luckily, I still had some spaghetti with cheese to get me through to tomorrow.
On top of that, I had just discovered that the sole on my right shoe had come off at the front.
Suddenly, a modern car with tourist plates stopped in front of me. Two almost identical people were traveling in that car, the driver and his companion, neither were wearing a mask. They said my name with both of my surnames and, surprised, I had no choice but to approach them super curious.
For a few seconds, my hosts’ elegant clothes, new status and clean skin stopped me from recognizing the people who used to be poor little peasants, who I hadn’t seen since the distant summer of 1993, when we finished our pre-university course. Those shabby looking boys, who used to live in Hato de las Vegas, that place that could well have been called “roll up the nut” or “mud up to your chest”, deep inside the mountains, far from towns and highways.
“Pedro Pablo, don’t you remember us?” they asked me and that’s when I remembered them. The twins! Big fans of basketball, they made their classmates laugh because you could already hear a ball bouncing coming from the courts, from before 6 AM.
The twins were always modest with uniforms that had a lot more wear and tear than everyone else’s, with mended shoes, their half-shabby clothes for agricultural tasks that were carried out in these famous rural schools. But now they had reappeared as two gentlemen, two twin heartthrobs, two businessmen with refined shoes and beige-colored clothes, a couple of dandies.
We remembered our student days together in the middle of the Special Period, which wasn’t very different from life today. They never spoke about politics when we were in pre-university, but they began to say all kinds of terrible things about the government throughout that whole trip and they also told me about how they left via Mexico 15 years ago, and their mishaps trying to cross the Rio Grande.
Made me recall the odyssey of many Cubans who tried to cross Central American jungles trying to make their dreams come true. The odyssey of many others who threw themselves into the sea, whether that was on a raft, rowboat, boats or with human traffickers. As well as those who prostitute themselves to emigrate.
I thought about all of this as they told me about their adventures in south Canada, until I got out near my place and said goodbye with a strange mix of emotions, happy and sad.
It was more sadness in the end than anything else, sadness about another’s well-being, really intense and painful jealousy, because despite me never having been obsessed with the idea of emigrating, at that very moment, I wanted to be in their shoes, I wanted to have left too, by any means.
What am I doing here? This is the question that has been on my mind ever since.