An Ordinary Story

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She grew up in the so-called Cuban revolution. Her father was sympathetic to the regime and her mother was politically apathetic, but they both brought her up with love for the figure of the “maximum leader”, in whom is contained, by official design, the concepts of country, state and nation.

Perhaps because of being an only child she got out of much of the housework, but she absorbed the unconditional support for the system that “made us free” and they encouraged her to participate actively in the “revolutionary” school tasks.

During junior high and high school she never missed going to “the school in the countryside,” nor was she intimidated by the distance from home, or the cold milk for breakfast without coffee, which tasted like smoke.

Her mother strained her back carrying heavy shopping bags of food to those farm schools so she would not go hungry, while her father accumulated volunteer hours and diplomas for standing guard, hoping to win a trip to the socialist countries to vacation with his family.

They always worked themselves excessively, because they lived in the house of her maternal grandparents in Nuevo Vedado, surrounded by privileged officials of the state Nomenklatura, whose children, dressed in clothes and shoes bought abroad, associated with “the girl” in the neighborhood and school.

“You will have a better future,” said her mother, who carried the trauma of being taken to Camarioca when she was eleven by an uncle, to watch the leaving of her parents, who died a few years later in an accident in the United States.

While in high school they made her give up her first love, because the boy had “ideological problems”; he was studying English and spent his time dreaming of travel. They still remembered the time of the subversive music of the Beatles, the long hair — that the paramilitaries cut off in the street — and the persecuted peace signs. The period when the devil screamed and God whispered in secret, that damaged us with Soviet-style intolerance.

Cuban artists were banned for wanting to emigrate and censored foreigners were listened to quietly in the house of someone who had a turntable and LPs. Thus, they conditioned her to be fearful and hesitant in her personal freedoms, thinking and acting according to what the authorities approved in the totalitarian system.

In the summer of 1994, she went to the beach to see her cousin and dearest friend leave, and after many tearful hugs and kisses, she raised her hand in farewell to that dark vessel floating away like the Titanic, dismembering her family and taking away her dearest friend, sharer of her common history, with whom she would no longer live.

She kept waving until the hulk became a black point on the horizon. She exchanged letters with her alter ego, a “hello!”, an occasional bright photos, and a “bye” at the end, with dot dot dot ever more filling her universe of sound.

It was the first time she’d questioned anything, and it made her discard one of the deformed concepts she’d learned as a girl, finding herself puzzled and confused — with sand in her eyes: Freedom is not won by submission, but by going beyond the horizon.

She left the university in her first year because they assigned her a career she did not like. She devoted herself to the study of English and looked hard for work, but they offered her only jobs in construction and agriculture.

She was the girlfriend of a leather worker who made shoes and learned to “make money” without union meetings or excessive politicization. But after nearly two years, by official order, they were arrested and fined by the police, who confiscated their tools and all the raw material they had in the workshop.

Her partner, who had suffered the same abuse twice before meeting her, devised with her the plan of going to a country that respected the private sector and where citizens have rights and institutions that safeguard them. Joining forces, they sold their motorbike and paid for the illegal sea passage to a better future.

She tired of looking for her cousin after a long time; but her mother still goes to the door when she knows it’s time for the mail carrier to come by.

January 10 2012