The village of Cojimar continues to be a quiet place, even silent if compared to any other neighborhood or city. Along its streets, barely asphalted, one rarely hears a car going by – at least not in the area where I live, far from the road used by the public buses that, as one would suppose in these difficult times, are increasingly rare sights in this former fishing village.
My neighborhood is about eight or ten blocks from the sea, that’s why I can’t speak about the sound of its waves, except on rare exceptions when bad weather causes the salt water to get inside the houses built closest to the water.
The first thing I hear — even before falling asleep, and then when I wake up — is the crow of the rooster on my back porch. This is answered by the neighbor’s rooster, for which they built a cage just under my bedroom window. My neighbor’s rooster is then answered by his neighbor’s on the other side of his house and, in turn, by a whole chain of roosters that beat their wings with almost incredible force, judging by the sound.
My neighbor’s back patio door has been fairly beaten up with time, termites and high humidity, but it’s the second sound I hear every morning. He’ll go out on the patio to hang out his towel, letting the door slam shut behind him to welcome the dawn.
An hour later the owner of the other rooster will lean out of her window and holler to her husband: “Pepeeeeeeee! Pepe!” At times it’s to ask him to bring her some coffee, on other occasions it’s to find out if there are any eggs yet at the local store.
I’ll immediately hear a singer who lives upstairs ask another resident — yelling from her balcony — “Hey, what number finally came up last night?” Depending on the answer, she’ll crank her music up to full volume to hide her lack of melody as she begins her warble.
It’s always romantic music, though her voice and music apparently bother someone; I still haven’t figured out whom. At once the offended person starts playing some reggaeton cut. Fortunately, what makes it as far as my room are only this music’s sharpest sounds, though mixed with some romantic ballad by Alvaro Torres or Miriam Hernandez (favorite singers of the out of tune upstairs neighbor).
I get a big kick out of hearing this romantic sound mixed with the animated rhythms of reggaeton. But it only lasts about an hour, maybe two. Still, there are times when the sparrows drown everything out; and now that there aren’t any cats in my yard, the birds live there as if were their home, where of course they make all kinds of avian racket, which is always welcome.
There are also times when the morning will present me with a visit from a mockingbird, what I missed most and will miss always whenever I’m not in Cuba. I don’t know why the tocororo (a very beautiful bird, it’s true) is the symbolic bird of Cuba. Maybe it’s that sight always prevails over sound. I believe mockingbirds are everywhere in this country, even when we don’t realize their presence, there one is. And each one is a true delight to hear.
On Sundays a girl who lives on the top floor practices her instruments. At first it was the piano…then an accordion, now I believe she plays a clarinet, but I’m sure I’m forgetting some other instrument, and during the time I wasn’t in the neighborhood she probably practiced some other one.
Her father is a musician who recently decided not to return from a trip that he was able to arrange to some country in Europe. Though I don’t want to think about it, I can imagine her making all that effort with music in an attempt to rejoin her dad as soon as possible.
When it’s not Sunday, there’s always some vendor who passes in front of my door hawking wares. Perhaps his cries no longer have the sound they once did, but they don’t lack the wit and comedy to sell broomsticks, clothes pins, air freshener or whatever else he comes up with.
In front of my house is a small children’s park that’s been maintained for many years thanks to those in charge of parks in this locality. They give it a thorough cleaning two or three times a year. But nonetheless its teeter-totter, the merry-go-round always lacks a little grease; their squeaking and creaking announce the number of children trying to get on them.
Ah, the pipsqueaks, they have their ups and downs. Sometimes they scream during some game; other times they remain silent inside their homes. Sometimes they want to be musicians and turn the park’s fence into instruments; other times they fight among themselves. Their voices always manage to make their way into my apartment, whatever room I’m in.
I didn’t mention Amarilla, my dog, who too wants to be a singer someday. But she’s more conscientious and will be quiet when someone asks her to. I also forgot to mention the hammer that some neighbor always needs to fix something in their house.
The sad song of some small local pigeon (tojosa or rabiche), the silence of the spiders that I still let live in some corner of my room, the laughter of someone, the cry of some baby and the noise of my neighbor’s fan (the owner of the rooster) who still doesn’t have money to buy a fan better than the one he “invented” using a washing machine motor. It’s like a light plane that takes off in flight every evening, soaring until the dawn.