HAVANA TIMES – I’m leaning against the fence of a house in front of the line at one of those stores that sells in MLC (magnetic dollars). I never come to these stores, because they are expensive and there’s nothing really there. But last night, I got a secret notification in a WhatsApp group that they were going to put out boxes of discounted chicken breasts, because they were going to go bad soon. The tip-off wasn’t so secret in the end, because there is a sea of aggressive and explosive people here. I arrived at about 4 AM, and was the third one in line at that time. At 4:35 AM, I was the 8th, and at 5:10 AM, the 21st.
When they finally settled into order to go in, a woman came, observing people’s faces in the line to find the weakest – that is to say, the most polite – and decided on me. She moved me out of the way with a large chair and told me with all the certainty in the world that she was in front of me. I tried to argue, but between me speaking quietly, and unable to ever abuse a woman – much less an elderly woman -, and the woman’s chair that didn’t let me see her face, it was hard for me to command respect. Plus, she insulted and shouted at me. With all of the integrity I could muster, I told her that the person that shouted the most wasn’t always right. She replied that she wasn’t interested in being right, she only cared about getting chicken.
Without any hope of getting the chicken and feeling a little condemned by life, I came to lean against this house’s fence, waiting for time to pass by, which normally makes bad situations better. Another woman has just come up to me, who is super nice, unlike the other one.
“Mijito, it’s too late now, but I’ll tell you so you know the next time that you come and line up here. Never lean against this fence, because the man that lives here has had it with people in line leaning against his fence, and he greases it.”
I arrive at the 174 bus stop. It’s a small park in a fork where two roads meet, at the bottom of a large building.
“Good afternoon, who’s last in line please?”
“For the bus or the criminal check?” a man replies.
“For the bus, the bus,” I answer, while another man draws near with important information.
“It’s the same line. “One line of people, but people who need criminal checks turn right at the last moment, and people getting on the 174, turn left. To prevent a mess and confusion, you know?”
I felt like my brain turned to mush and was trying to come out of my ears. I didn’t reply, I didn’t even blink. I just started walking, towards Lawton, slowly. Anyone who saw me from behind would ask who is this guy, with a fence grossly drawn onto my sweater with grease.
This is one of those times when I wonder what I’m doing here. Why am I wasting my time when I could be doing great things elsewhere? I look around and see people stuck just like me, festering sadness and desperation. Why do I carry on and on? What is stopping me from leaving? The thing is you’ve been here so long, I tell myself. Yes, but how much longer? And for what?
Maybe I’ll shake this off in a little bit, I don’t always feel like this. But right now, I don’t have a slither of hope that I’ll be able to reach my goals. I’ve seen how people leave and go away. One after the other. There are people who hold out longer, others less. I know some of them, but not others. In short, I’ve decided: I’m going, I can’t take it anymore.
“Look, señora, take my place and stand behind the guy in blue trousers, who is behind the short young girl who went home, but said she’d be back.”