Implacable Time and Cuba’s Lines

Regina Cano

Havana Pharmacy.

She looked at us sideways and continued transcribing information from a small piece of paper, as five other people waited to be seen at that pharmacy.

She was the only clerk at the counter, while another one was occupied in a lively conversation with the cashier along with someone from off the street.

There was also another worker coming out of the back room on the right, and from the end of the corridor one could hear voices and laughter.

The summer heat had now come. “It’s almost June,” I thought. “Implacable time is what’s passing by…” I also thought, reminded of the words by Cuban singer-songwriter Pablo Milanes, who people listened to so much in the ‘80s.

That phrase makes me see myself in the endless lines I’ve been in all my life, as well as the endless hours and hours of having to wait to take care of even the smallest problem.

It’s that for people who serve as intermediaries for the public (those who provide a service or are responsible for making decisions at the lowest levels of government), they “waste so much time that it even makes the dead cry,” I recalled, thinking of my grandma’s expression.

These people often impose obstacles that complicate solutions to simple problems or basic needs, be they housing, food rations, etc.

I know that inertia and disincentives have contributed greatly to that, as has the bureaucracy that my country has suffered. These stand like an endless wall where the hopes and patience of many of my compatriots are frequently smashed.

Some of us here refer to Cuba as “Macondo,” the name of the mythical village in 100 Years of Soledad, the novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This was where unlikely or “surrealist” things would occur. Cuba is also called the country of the “siguaraya” (a type of curative plant), because the most common occurrences depend on miracles or are associated with brujeria (black magic).

Since the 1970s in Cuba, there were created national, ideological, and economic lines of work that created a series of elaborate and complicated procedures and tons of paperwork for addressing any issue. This all led to errors that were never corrected, rights that went unenforced and us citizens not obtaining what we deserved.

“I don’t live in a perfect society. I’m asking that they don’t give it that name. If something makes me feel this, it’s because women and men comprise it,” as I continued hearing those words of Pablo in my head, those lyrics of the ‘80s.

The problem is that those employees don’t keep in mind that other people are as busy as they are – and some even more so. People here tend to adopt the thinking that living in a small world is something common and that “nobody is my family,” as the old saying goes; to them, attention and respect are paid only to one’s family.

Like my friend Dinorah pointed out, this was popularly reflected for the first time in a song by Los Van Van when they sang: “No one loves anybody, the loving is over.” Truly, the strong and less edifying images settle for more time.

“Take it easy,” Jaquelin said to me, “Things are going to get better.” But I couldn’t stop reminding her: “For things to change here, they’d have to make every Cuban disappear and give birth to new ones.”