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Hola readers. Today I’m posting an excerpt from my work in progress Here is Havana. If you like this short clip, check out the real deal here. Welcoming comments….
‘Dura Como Merengue en la Puerta de la Escuela’
The clock has little relevance in Havana. Even newspaper weather reports carry no forecast, just today’s conditions. Timepieces are superfluous and lateness a vague concept: you’ll still be seated as Giselle fingers the royal hem mid-act; you can step into Tai Chi class during the sixth movement; and though the coffee may have grown cold, a demitasse of the sweet, black nectar forever awaits you. Here, whole weeks and months fall between the cracks of comfortable yesterdays and uncertain tomorrows; even years can slip by unnoticed, like a stealthy teenager tiptoeing in past curfew.
Hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait and wait and wait: the city paces itself at a parabolic tempo that’s like the hurricane watch, with everyone anticipating the hit and then weathering the blow, gathering themselves up and moving on. Beholden to such meteorological maybes and other uncertainties – brothers disappearing to Miami or Madrid, perfidious lovers and periodic light failures – Cubans are conditioned to live in the moment. Who knows if the bus will come? If it comes, will it stop? If it stops, will there be room for more passengers? If it stops and there’s room, will I be lucky enough to squeeze on? In Havana, living means waiting and we might as well tell some jokes, throw back some rum and drink in the sensuous scenery of the meantime – whether we’re waiting for a bus or something más allá.
This city, this system, demands superhuman discipline and tolerance, which is shot to hell once the moment of truth arrives – as the box office opens or when the bus finally pulls to the curb, the doors unfolding with a screech. Then everyone breaks into a run or at the very least a trot and the race is on. “¡Dale! ¡Dale! ¡Corre! ¡Corre!” The staccato commands to ‘step on it!’ bounce from the granite stairwells of Vedado to the greasy, hot alleys of Chinatown. If you don’t laugh here, you’ll cry and if you don’t hustle when it counts you’ll languish, molder, miss out or be stranded. Timid Cubans, I imagine, must suffer especially.
The more months I pass here, the more I realize that Havana time is not only a parabola, it’s also a helix, doubling back upon itself, causing motion sickness, confusion and ultimately entropy. Cubans maintain their balance by living for right now: eating fast, fucking faster and devouring the latest gossip as a nearby phone rings itself hoarse. Appetizers, ice cream, carnal moments, secrets and other juicy goods here ‘dura como merengue en la puerta de la escuela’ (last as long as candy at the school door) and tough luck if you don’t run and get yours.