Another of my attempts to enter the ring of the “daily fight” took me down paths very different from those of selling avocados in part one of this diary entry.
To be sincere, I didn’t decide to take various massage courses with the initial idea of making money.
The Federation of Cuban Women established what are called “Family Orientation Centers” in all the municipalities of the country. At these facilities, women and men can register for several types of courses to learn how to knit, polish fingernails, cut hair or give massages.
At that time, you could take the complete six-month course module and learn everything – from foot rubs, western body massage, universal energy therapy, to Swedish massage and, of course, acupressure.
I’d never been very talented in those other manual arts, so I put all my hopes in this course. But would it really give my hands the skill to alleviate other people’s bodies?
Beginning with the very first class, I was thrilled. And, thank God, my hands turned out to be large enough and quite adept with this artistry.
Maybe for that reason, over time and with practice, I began to envision the possibility of somehow recovering a portion of the money invested in the class.
However, it happens that Cubans don’t have much of a culture of massage as a road to physical and mental relaxation, and it’s much less so in outlying Havana neighborhoods, where most of my acquaintances live.
For just about anybody, it’s better to pay 20 pesos for a beer than for a massage. Doesn’t a beer relax and unwind you?
Nevertheless, people began showing up with pains in different parts of their bodies. So I’d give a certain massage to relieve a headache and another one to soothe someone’s back.
“Rub me somewhere for my toothache; it’s driving me crazy,” somebody might ask. Who could charge people like these, needing my hands for relief?
I had a couple of regular clients (who were doing pretty well financially). Since they were friends of the family, I charged them half the normal rate. With that money I bought the massage oil … and therefore wound up providing the service for free again.
It was like wanting to sell avocados to a penniless kid or something like that.
I met all kinds of people, with all kinds of bodies and scents. I learned something from each one. It’s true that I never recovered money wise, even half of what I invested. Still, I believe I’d still be red with shame if I had charged for the relief that I could offer thanks to – finally – my hands being good for something.
What I have to learn about “the struggle” maybe I’ll have to leave for a next life.