A Visit to Hard-Core Socialism / Regina Coyula

The day classes started, my son came up with the bomb that he did not want to continue going to his sports school. This is his last year of high school, so I advised him not to make any move and spend six months of classes taught in grade 12 and then start preparing for entrance exams to college. As my son stood by his decision, on Friday, I had to go find his file at the school, and do the paperwork to move him to a school newly opened near the house. Back, and with the record, my son suggested we go for the P-3, the bus route that leaves us closer to home, the first stop, for which we came to a place called Alberro. Alberro is a horrible accumulation of buildings and dusty microbrigades. Unlike Alamar, it has no consolation of being on the coast. I was impressed by the number of stray dogs, so in tune with the place. While my son took several glasses of strawberry soda in a seedy beach bar, I was looking across the balcony railings, each according to its possibilities, and a spot of color in the grayness without form, of a family that decided to brighten up their own facade. On their own, I also saw several signs of a locksmith, an electrician, and Mavys, a hairdresser, but even those signs were as ugly as the environment.

And at the bus stop, of a very good concrete, large, with benches and urine smell, a man with four 40-watt fluorescent bulbs piqued my curiosity. I’ve searched these bulbs for months, they are the same that the workroom of my husband uses, so loudly, and with astonishment, I asked the man where he got them. The man approached with a smile: “Madam, that question should not be said aloud.”

So with the right tone, close now, the man was standing beside us, I repeated the question.

Are you interested?

Sure, I am interested!

40 each and they are yours.

But I am not going to buy them without testing them first.

Do you live far?

Too far. Almost at the end of the bus route.

Oh, that looks good. I have a meeting in Vedado, and if you want, you can give me your address and I will come to your home, you test them so you can see they are fine.

I gave the address rushing because the bus was approaching. I was glad to get away from that place with the firm intention of not returning. It is not contempt for the people living there, many have worked very hard in the construction of their apartments. But why so ugly and badly made? The movement called microbrigades did nothing salvageable. This is socialism, I thought.

I lingered with the procedures of the school and when I got home, my husband had installed not one but two lamp bulbs and I did not remember since when it had operated with more than one. This is socialism, I said.

Translator: Luis Rodriguez

September 26, 2010