Neighbors Read Us and Friends Quietly Support Us

A delivery truck unloading yuccas, sweet potatoes, poplar roots and guavas at the base of the author’s building. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, September 27, 2020 — Despite our publication being blocked on Cuban internet servers, people still manage to read us. I was able to confirm this yesterday in the elevator when a young man asked me, “Were you the one who wrote the article about the building?”

“Yes,” I replied, adding that I post something every day, like a diary.

“Oh, great, I liked it a lot. That’s how I read it: like a blog, something more personal than an article, more subjective,” he added.

“Exactly,” I said. “That’s what it is. A chronicle, observations like you would find in a diary, about how I am living under quarantine.”

“I saw it on my cousin’s phone and, like I said, I liked it a lot,” he said. Then the elevator door opened at my floor and I got off, thanking him for the compliment. As I was walking through the hall towards my apartment,  I thought to myself, “How wonderful! They’re reading us. That’s how the web works. They connect with and discover us.” A few days later I got a tweet from someone who realized after reading one of these chronicles that we were neighbors.

Given the the current lockdown, feedback like this is comforting. One feels less isolated. There are also the offers of help from friends which arrive via Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. “If you need something, let me know,” many tell me. It is a joy to see that friends are still there and are willing to expend their energies to help.

This is nothing new. These are the same friends who gathered together, showing strength and determination when the tornado impacted some of Havana’s neighborhoods. They are the same people who share a Facebook post or retweet a complaint that I make every time the State Security represses, harasses or defames me.

Yesterday was produce day and, like any other day, the day cheap items of various sorts are also for sale.

The delivery truck unloaded yuccas, sweet potatoes, poplar roots and guavas at the base of the building. I was able to buy some things because this time, to vary the routine, they started with the twelfth floor. When I got there, however, the piles of root vegetables consisted of colored dirt more than than anything else.  There was also another big pot of stew, which they said had been prepared at the Hotel de Tulipan across the street. In the neighborhood the place is known as the “little hotel” in spite of the fact that it occupies an entire city block.

While I was waiting in line, I heard a young man complaining about the absurdity of the lockdown. “I don’t understand. There’s been only one positive case here and the man doesn’t even live in the building. He was visiting his parents,” he pointed out. “They’re doing this because they feel like it. It’s as though they want to keep us locked up. When they sealed off this building, they quarantined 150 apartments. I’m told there are two other building in the neighborhood in the same situation.”

Coincidentally, it was when I was in line that I also found out that there is a procedure to follow in the event of a personal emergency. In case a resident has an urgent task to perform, such as going to the nearby ATM to withdraw cash, he or she must first seek permission from the local council member.

Meanwhile, my daughters have already learned four new pieces of choreography by watching their idols on TikTok. In spite of not having a social media account, they have managed to copy the dance steps from my Instagram. They also help me with the house cleaning. Because of efforts by the three of us, the kitchen and bath now sparkle. After another week of lockdown there won’t be anything left to polish.

Though every day under quarantine is like another, they are all different in their own way. The anxiety of the first 48 hours has passed, given over to calm and resignation. There’s nothing to do but wait until the ubiquitous yellow tape surrounding us comes down.


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