Day 31 of the Covid-19 Emergency in Cuba: Guesser, Seer

For many Cubans, the days are now divided into waiting, surviving, searching for food and listening to news. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 20 April 2020 you’re — Time is deformed in quarantine. It seems like an eternity has passed since the first case of Covid-19 was reported in Cuba, and yet, it was just a few weeks ago that they announced on official television that three travelers had symptoms when they arrived on the island. Since then, the days have taken another structure and prolonged their duration. For many, the days are now divided into waiting, surviving, searching for food and listening to news.

From the time I wake up, I try to prevent the pandemic from molding my existence and dictating my routine, but it is difficult. The hours of work have increased and many of the activities that allowed me relax after the stress of a Newsroom no longer exist or cannot be done. Not visiting friends, nor escaping to the wall along the Malecon, much less inviting colleagues to share some good movies from the ‘weekly packet.’

Today I prepared my bag and went out to explore the neighborhood to buy food. In the market that we used to call “the land of the rich” – for its higher prices – there were only some tomatoes that looked like they had been thrown from a truck. The store, located on Tulipán Street and once the commercial epicenter of the area, fell out of favor years ago when restrictions on intermediaries and the appearance of another state market suffocated it.

From the flies and the rotten smell I knew that I would have to discard part of what I bought, but it was worth the risk because for days there have been no tomatoes on any market stand nearby. “It doesn’t matter if they are crushed, that makes my puree a little earlier,” I said optimistically to myself and paid for two pounds. I followed the same street and crossed to a nearby store, but the line of more than 50 people made me give up.

I turned back and ended up on the train line. A few meters away, at the door of a small store, only three people were waiting to be attended. My lucky day, I thought. I marked my place in line and took the opportunity to check my mobile and make a couple of calls. Finally it was my turn. A counter blocked customers, but the interior shelves with the merchandise were not visible from the outside. “What are you going to buy?” asked the woman.

The coronavirus has not only twisted time but also seems to have added several new distortions to the Cuban absurdity. “What do you have for sale?” I replied, but the employee was indefatigable: “You have to tell me what you are looking for and I will tell you if there is any.” An incredible exercise. Now I was going to have to list all the foods I could think of to see – if by chance or luck – they were left in that store.

I took a deep breath and started: Chicken? No, there isn’t any. Sausages? We haven’t had any for a long time. Oil? It’s gone. Sardines? No. The entire glossary of products that I have ever seen sold in Cuban stores began to parade through my mouth. Butter? Girl, just a memory. Milk? Until last week we had evaporated. Cookies? Nothing at all. When I was already thinking that this was a colossal joke, it occurred to me to say honey? and the smiling employee answered me with another question “Which one do you want from the little one or the big one?”

“Big one, of course,” I almost screamed. “If every time I need something I have to run through this list, my mask is going to wear out,” I couldn’t stop adding sarcastically. So I bought that half-liter bottle of nationally produced honey. I went home, checked the news, watered the plants in our home garden, and rescued one of my shoes from the mouth of the new dog for the umpteenth time.

On a break from work I had some of the peanuts I roasted yesterday with some of the honey from this morning . I enjoyed looking at Havana from the balcony on the 14th floor. Tomorrow will be another day. Time and absurdity will expand and contract capriciously again.

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