“Obama’s coming, gotta run!”

Vicente Morin Aguado

El amigo se va

HAVANA TIMES — “Get inside, don’t give us any trouble. I warned you, you won’t get away with it this time, that’s what the police officer said to me on March 1st. Incidentally, days before people were saying that Obama’s coming and we have to clean up the streets.”

We’re sitting on one of the two benches that adorn the ruins at the intersection of Villegas and Muralla streets, Old Havana. The interviewee won’t allow any pictures and prefers to remain anonymous, telling his story in a disorderly fashion. One has to tie up all loose ends in his sincere, alcohol-drenched account.

HT: You’re the ones dirtying the streets?

My dad was one of the leaders of the 26th of July Movement cell in his neighborhood. One day, he said to the Comandante: “Fidel, I want to ask you something. What Moncada Garrison did you attack?”

“They say Fidel arrived late that early morning of July 26,” I replied.

“Ramiro is a mouse of a man, but he took on the guard post and went into battle. He, the leader, got there late,” said my father.

“Antonio Maceo was never later for battle,” I replied.

HT: How did you end up being caught by that police lieutenant two days ago?

I was knocking back a bottle of wine on Galiano Street. The police truck came along and picked me up. They took me straight to the jail, down there in Cotorro. There was a guard post with officers at the entrance and I recall a sign saying the place was a State Security center.

HT: Are recluses treated well?

Yes, to a point. The food is good: mincemeat, rice, root vegetables, a salad. The servings are small, just a “smidgeon,” but it’s better than being out on the street. They give you soap, a mattress and, at night, a bed cover.

A doctor was doing interviews. I told her I had a family, a wife, brothers, that even my parents were still alive, even though I’m pushing 55. That was – is – a den of vice. Women crouching and pooping on the floor, there were even two nuts having sex in front of the others.”

HT: How did you get out?

The second day there, in the afternoon, someone told me there was a hole in the fence, at the back. I crawled there. Freedom is priceless. I walked some 60 blocks until I got to the highway. You always run into a charitable soul. I got two pesos, went to the bus stop and came straight back to Old Havana.

Villegas in front of the place that sells wine.
Villegas in front of the place that sells wine.

HT: You’re on record, you can’t go back to Galiano or any street downtown, much less now that Obama’s coming.

They screwed me over. A granade exploded right in front of me in Angola in 1986, under Tomassevich [Army Corp General of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces]. I’ve got wounds on my foot and this arm, you can see them. I came back to Cuba, and, ever since…

HT: What pension do you have?

None. I worked 14 years, it wasn’t enough for a pension and they gave me nothing. My father does have a retirement and I get 100 pesos a week to get by. I also do things here and there.

The conversation drags on and the man offers me a drink. “Try this wine! I have another bottle stashed away.” “No, thank you,” I reply. They’re half-liter plastic bottles, the kind mineral water sold to tourists comes in. They cost 10 Cuban pesos each. It’s homemade wine.

HT: Have you undergone medical treatment in the past?

I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital, Mazorra. Things are different there, it’s all very orderly. I met Maradona, Douglas Rodriguez, the boxer, and the singer Michel Maza.

HT: Obama, the US president, is coming. Are you happy about this?

They’re scoundrels. They’ve got Lazo in the People’s Power to demonstrate there are black people in the Central Committee, and the other fellow, the one in charge of the unions. Who cares? They take your money, asking you to pay quotas, and it gets you nothing. Ultimately, the whites are in power, the poor black man has no say. I’m not involved in politics; I’m fed up, as they say.

The man in the checkered shirt begins to ramble. He opens up the second bottle of wine and the conversation becomes increasingly confused.

I feel sorry for these kids on the bicycle taxis, the seats they put their genitals on, so much effort ends up giving you prostate cancer. And it’s all for the few bucks they can get from tourists.

“Well,” I reply, “if you look closely, you’ll see the seats have square cushions, which protect their testicles while they’re out and about looking for greens.”

The interviewee gets up, looks around him and leaves without any formal farewells. He says to me:

The one who’s probably mad as hell is that lieutenant, because I fled the place. Now, I have to avoid the police, at least until Obama leaves.