What We Are Not Expecting

Veronica Vega

Olver as a vendor in a performance titled Poet on Bread.

HAVANA TIMES — I’d begun a post commenting on Irina Pino’s “The death of my father.” I wanted to write about the brutal indifference in hospitals in Cuba, when processing a deceased person – something that also should be considered a service.

But I got the news of the death of a friend – someone so young and healthy, so in the fullness of his life, that thoughts about post mortem bureaucracy were replaced by astonishment, and the brutal acceptance that death can come suddenly, and to whom we least expect.

The standards we set based on the nature of the body and the logic of the generational turnover are suddenly shattered by an accident or by different, unexpected causes, which debunk our perspective on what existence should be.

I met Olver when I shared the experience of artistic creation with the OMNI-ZONAFRANCA multidisciplinary project at a workshop held at the Alamar cultural center.

He was a cheerful and charismatic young man with a background in sports who found in art the adventure of expressing social and philosophical concerns, using this as a way to channel his views on the reality of the island and put forth proposals for change.

He came over to my apartment from time to time to write long e-mails to his Swedish girlfriend on my computer. He got along wonderfully with my son and once or twice even went to pick him up at school.

Later he immigrated to Sweden, where he adapted very well, got married, and had two children. A massive heart attack surprised him at home, fresh back from college, that place where people prepare to ensure “their future” and that of their offspring.

If he’d had a glimpse of his true destiny, perhaps Olver would have devoted the time he dedicated so intensely to his studies, to his loved ones instead: his wife; his six year-old girl that he would lovingly put to bed each night; his four year old son; and his mother in Cuba, who now must process the absurdity of having lost her only child. He would have tried to prepare for the final journey and prepare them for his absence.

Olver in the black T-shirt with Omni Zona Franca in the Alamar Cultural Center.

“His mother is destroyed,” a mutual friend told me, “less than a month ago, he visited from Sweden and left so well …” Then, looking thoughtful, she added, “People keep running and accumulating things, and don’t realize that the only certainty is this now, this present moment.”

They don’t prepare us for real life at school or at the university: this becomes clear when we face the first pains for which not even our parents have the answer: heartbreak, loneliness, contradictions and losses.

Whenever someone tells me about someone who “left”, I think that nobody departs at will but is torn away and often violently.

I sincerely hope that Oliver, in his invisible and non-postponable journey, finds the strength to detach himself from everything he leaves behind, enter the mystery in peace, and transmit that peace to those who didn’t have the time to say goodbye.

The failure of civilization is expressed in these surprises for which humanity’s cognitive flow has no solutions, or even an explanation.