Descriptive Penury / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

An acquaintance of mine swapped his apartment of a room and a half for a smaller one and “some chump change on top of that” to relieve his alcoholism and misery.  I never entered his home and that’s why I was unaware of his poverty. His furniture had the appearance of shabby knick-knacks, which probably — as in the majority of Cuban homes — were bought before the triumph of this guerrilla model which installed itself in power in 1959 and has been there ever since.

A matte oil painting, covers the surface of a dresser that perhaps once was covered in formica, the quite ramshackle wardrobe tells a story of age and overuse, the hollows of his three-quarter mattress, the remains of his sofa and of his Russian half-washing machine — they had to amputate the dryer — that accuse like the speeches of the rulers of Cuba, are words blurred by abandonment and demagoguery.

During the move, he got from a yellowish nylon bag a bunch of black and white photographs to show to his companions how beautiful the apartment was when his father first moved into it in 1958. Then the furniture seemed alive and the walls still wore an attractive and aesthetic coat of paint. Monochromatic feelings showed the nostalgia on his face buffeted by frustration and liquor.

His party friends helped him get the old junk and they had it in the sun for close to an hour awaiting transport. There were a dozen “solidarity” addicts summoned and encouraged by the rum, which at times served as fuel to keep up enthusiasm.  A truck from the ’30’s took part of the “skinny” heritage to the “new house,” that for sure also was built before the Castro government and which will host, as in many other Cuban homes, the alcohol scandals of that part of society that plunges its disappointments and misery in cheap and sulphuric homemade rum, which is what they can afford.

The solidarity and drunken brigade remained on site to care for the liquid treasure that remained in the bottle. Its emptying was the starting shot towards their own contraptions and penuries accumulated through decades of governmental injustices, apathy, anti-democratic subjugation and social fatigue. The delirium tremens or terrible delirium of trying to deceive societies all the time with drunken ideological and economic theories has failed all over the world.

Maybe in the tranquility of their houses and before the knockout punch of the drink, they will get out their own yellowish nylon bags of history, testimonial photos of what they once were — when addiction did not have them bound by the neck — of what their houses once were and of what this country was, before this bad government brought it to ruin.

 Translated by mlk.

17 April 2014