based on real events
HAVANA TIMES – I’m traveling from Varadero to Matanzas on a bus for tourism workers; but I might as well be on an urban or rural truck, full of noise and smoke. It also doesn’t matter if it’s drizzling or 40 degrees (104 F) outside. The only thing you need to do is imagine this kind of collective transport full of people going home, after a really long day at work.
For most of them, working means spending many hours doing something boring for a wage that isn’t enough to live off. Let’s say, just to set the scene, that they are all Cubans. For some strange reason (we Cubans are a happy and extroverted race), the passengers on this bus have long faces, not to say annoyed, concerned, distressed, anxious or exhausted.
Anyway, that might just be my mistaken view coming from pain. The pain that the handrail bar is causing me, that is digging into my ribs and almost doesn’t let me breathe. The bus suddenly comes to a brake, and one of the exhausted people shouts out for no reason: “Driver, we aren’t cattle”, and that’s when I manage to adapt my slim body to a corner between a window and a seat, and I breathe in a gulp of contaminated air, which saves me.
Over the years and the troubles (and bars in the ribs and knives to the throat) Life has given me, I’ve developed, certain and effective survival strategies. I always keep my camera, phone, and wallet right at the bottom of my backpack, for example. I’ve also learned to “make the most of the historic moment” and to “change everything that should – and can – be changed,” starting with my own mood. At times like these, of pure stress, I escape.
Even though my body is still there in the hostile atmosphere of failed public transport in Cuba at 6 PM, my mind first flies to a Ceiba tree on the hill, and then to a small cove with blue water and pink rocks. The sound of waves, the smell of the sea, the light and company are magical. Right there and where happiness can exist, I smile. Then, I go back to the bus a little more optimistic than I normally am, and I tell myself a phrase out of faith or reaffirmation that I’ve been saying recently: “It’s going to happen.”
Passengers’ faces are now tucked away, concentrating on their cellphones, which I still find sad. The smoke, oppression and exhaustion are the same as before, but on the screens of hundreds of pixels, all kinds of funny, interesting, and corny stories are happening… They are like short Brazilian or Turkish telenovelas, like Hollywood movies that help you to avoid thinking about what you’re doing with the time that you’ve been given, which we call life. It’s also a form of escape, with the small difference of these being fictitious stories or, in the best of cases, other people’s life experiences.
In real life, the driver brakes hard again and hurls insults at a passer-by who is crossing the road while looking at their phone. An insu