View from the hotel.

As sometimes I’m a little slow; it took me a few months to realize what was bothering me.  I knew that I didn’t like the balcony a lot at the apartment where I’ve lived for five months.

The fault could lie with the ubiquitous mountains, enormous walls that hide the sea from me.  They are like a big green eye that doesn’t stop looking at me, almost taking my breathe away.

But a few weeks ago I found out what my biggest problem was.  In front of my hotel there’s a small freeway; just after that there’s another hotel, and beyond that the buildings begin.  They are enormous and grey (the ones in Cuba are grey and small).

One of them has a side terrace on which —suddenly —I saw a boy running.  Then I knew it.  This was the real reason for my anxiety when leaning over the balcony.  The buildings possess an almost futuristic loneliness.  In Havana the structures might be about to fall down, but even so they have life, or at least a trace of life.

When I saw the boy running —almost like a ghost, the kind you’re obligated to believe in but in fact never see— I understood the terrible loneliness that emanates from the buildings in this area of Caracas.

Windows with dark glass, balconies without people who want to look at the clouds or the evening; devoid of any plants…  Maybe a couple of lights in the evening are the sole signs of life.

Among those buildings there is one that —so I’ve been told— some previous government left unfinished due to its expensive design.  And so it has remained, like a soul in limbo, unable to ascend to heaven or return to earth.  Slowly it has been filling up with families of the homeless.

I sometimes I’ll see a drum fire that they get going to warm themselves or to heat something to eat.  That fire and the deafening noise of the freeway are the only signs of human life that can be seen from my balcony.

It’s not difficult to sometimes imagine that I’m in one of those places after the city’s been devastated by a nuclear catastrophe.

But I look toward the nearest hotel.  There I’m able to see, through the semi-tinted glass, the shadow of a person who has sat down to watch TV.  It’s only for a second, but sometimes that’s almost enough.


Caridad: If I had the chance to choose what my next life would be like, I’d like to be water. If I had the chance to eliminate a worst aspect of the world I would erase fear. Of all the human feelings I most like I prefer friendship. I was born in the year of the first Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, the day that Gay Pride is celebrated around the world. I no longer live on the east side of Havana; I’m trying to make a go of it in Caracas, and I continue to defend my right to do what I want and not what society expects of me.

6 thoughts on “The Loneliness of the Grey Buildings

  • Many younger Cubans, just like the younger folks everywhere, yearn to travel, to see the world, before settling down. And many, once they have traveled to the States, Canada or Western Europe, will be unable to readjust to the lower standard of living and lack of consumer culture of Cuba, even if they have to adjust to the deadening spiritual atmosphere of most Western cities. Still, I think it a mistake that government policy makes such travel difficult. (And now foreign governments as well make it as difficult to visit their countries–requiring all sorts of income guarantees, sponsorships, etc.) Such yearning to see a bigger, broader world is natural. After all, Che Himself sought to leave what he considered the parochial world of Buenes Aires in the early 1950’s to visit the rest of Latin America via moto. In the end, the best and the brightest, like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” will realize that “There’s no place like home!” They will return home, or, failing that, at least return home from time to time, and keep sending those remittances in divisa.

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