Parallel Worlds

Anyone who hasn’t ridden on a number 27, doesn’t know what life is! This old and popular bus route goes from the Palatino neighborhood up to Avenida del Puerto [along the Havana bay], going through the neighborhoods of Nuevo Vedado, Vedado, Central Havana and Old Havana.  It is a slow ride but it is entertaining.  The old Dutch buses, narrow, hot, were replaced by modern Chinese Yutongs, but since it is not an important route, these buses do not have the self-stabilization system. You can wait for the bus for fifteen minutes or an hour and a half.

I took one of the ones that was more than hour late last Friday, riding on the foot-board of the bus. I held tightly onto the bar of the door. I caught this bus at the stop at Zanja and Galiano.  It has been a long time now since I fell into the category of “aunt”; once you’re in this categories drivers don’t stop and offer you rides in their cars, so I had no other choice than to depend on the urban transportation system. Before I reached Infanta, not only was I able to move inside the bus, but I got to be seated.

Once I was seated I could now enjoy realizing how communicative we Cubans are.  An elderly gentleman was loudly complaining that a police officer took from him a box of food when he entered Emergencies Hospital.  Another gentleman not as old tried to console him: “That is nothing my friend, they took away from me my freezer because I kept a package in it for a neighbor, which turned out to have lobsters.  And I am still running around trying to get my freezer back!”

A well-dressed lady who had just visited the Spanish Embassy asked the passenger seated next to her, a completely unknown person, if she knew someone who sold appointments for the legalization of documents at the MINREX (the Ministry of Foreign Relations).  After receiving a negative response, they continued talking about cooking recipes.

My young neighbor and his girlfriend were very much concentrated on the music coming out of an MP3, and remained isolated from the fracas between the bus driver and three students who wore white and brown uniforms who, upon entering the bus at the university, did not pay their fare.  The cop sitting at the rear of the bus kept looking outside the window, intensely.  The same cop seemed to be asleep when a drunk became unruly and made everyone laugh; he imitated “Panfilo”* by shouting JAMAAA (food) from the bus stop at the Maternity Hospital on Linea Avenue.  A curvaceous mulatta with fake blond hair and long acrylic fingernails, was showing the passenger seated next to her, on a very modern cellphone, the latest pictures of her daughter who was in Italy.

Standing in front of me, this fiftyish lady, like me, was offering to exchange housing with me, with me going to live in Regla, a neighborhood close to Havana Bay, and without any smooth transition in the conversation, she whispers to me that her son wants to have a cellphone like the one the mulatta has, to watch naked women.

I saw and heard all this; the difference from television is that nobody talked about the media campaign by the empire and its European lackeys.  It must be that I live in a parallel world, or that the world of Cuban TV is a world for idiots.

*Translator’s note:

Panfilo is the popular nickname of a man who, quite drunk at the time, inserted himself into the frame of a video that was being shot, shouting that what Cuba needed was “grub, food, the problem with Cuba is there is tremendous hunger.” The video went viral worldwide and Panfilo was subsequently arrested; readers can search on “Panfilo” and “Cuba” to see the video.

Translated by Len