HAVANA TIMES — Who hasn’t ever had a big scare? I, at least, have survived many, and I hope it continues that way.
Among the most frightening moments, when I felt like I was on the brink of death, was when I was in 11th grade and had gone to spend my summer holidays with some relatives in Santiago de Cuba.
Back then, Cuba was in the middle of the so-called Special Period (1990’s post-Soviet crisis). Malnutrition was one of the aspects which harmed the population the most. Cubans used to fix something up plantain peels, inventing pizzas with condoms instead of cheese, a lot of people even used to eat cats and dogs. I did so without knowing it (a pizza seller in our neighborhood went to jail for preparing this highly sought-after product with minced dog).
Transport was another sector that was delivered a heavy blow with the fall of the Soviet Bloc and the US tightening the blockade against Cuba, which was so great that it still hasn’t been able to recover fully.
That’s why, the day I decided to return home from my aforementioned holidays in beautiful Santiago de Cuba, I didn’t have any other choice but to get on a small truck – among people pushing, pulling and shouting – which had rails too low to be safely carrying people.
My relatives, who had come to say goodbye on the highway – that’s where you have to wait – didn’t like that vehicle one bit; but I didn’t like the idea of waiting another five hours until something else came long to take me home.
So, without great fear, I held on tight to the nearest thing I could find – a very attractive young man – and the truck went speeding off to cover the 80-something kilometers there are between Cuba’s two far-eastern provinces.
The truck had gone half a kilometer; it was going too fast, but up until that point everything was OK. When the driver tried to take a turn off of the roundabout to head towards the national highway, it seems that he had miscalculated the speed he was going at, there were too many passengers on board and the weight wasn’t well distributed or I don’t know what else, but he didn’t manage to slow down enough and the truck fell on its side and went skidding along a few meters on just two wheels.
Although the time we were on one side only lasted a few seconds, for me, and I imagine for everyone else who was there, it seemed like a lifetime.
People were shouting, people were jumping out of the truck, they were praying, pushing, hugging and even kissing…
When it fell back again on all four wheels and the driver managed to bring it to a stop, I thought I was dead. I couldn’t see or hear anything, I could only make out a very bright light and I thought that it was God who was coming for me.
The good lad who I had held onto throughout the scare, snapped me out of it, how happy I was to see his perfect face, I was even happier to find out I was still alive…