My New, Old Home in HavanaDecember 12, 2013 | Print |
HAVANA TIMES — I hear someone yell in the hallway: “We’re all working class here, the State can’t come along and tell me I can’t replace the window frame!” I make a mental note: class-conscious neighbors? Not possible.
I continue to move back and forth with my belongings over the distance separating point A (a beat-up, green Moskvitch car) and point B (the door to my new apartment).
I feel exhausted, as though I’ve gone through this same business a hundred times (even though there’s ninety-four moves to go before I can say that).
I once again got the unexpected notice that I had to leave the apartment I had been renting.
The anxiety, once again.
Telling everyone I know and don’t know on my phone book about this and hearing jokes, such as: “So, what bridge should I look under to find you now?”
Crossing my fingers and doing a foreseeably fruitless search on www.revolico.com, where no flat is rented for less than 80 Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC) a month.
Getting frustrated because no municipal, provincial or national institution publishes a list of such ads for “low-income people.”
Finding discouraging options consisting in rooms turned into homes, where bedrooms, kitchens and bathrooms are cheekily fused into a single space (without this spelling a discount of any kind).
Finally getting the reassuring call from a friend, who has a friend and that friend an acquaintance interested in renting their apartment (which is necessarily old, owing to the ridiculously low sum I can afford to pay).
I am now settling in one of the small apartments of a building built in the mid-20th century, slowly adapting myself to the songs by Beny More and Tejedor that a tenant living on the fourth floor likes to share with the entire neighborhood.
My new, old home smells of dead things, mainly flowers and cockroaches. It is a small, damp, yellowish cave with rough floors, where the building’s metallic skeleton pokes out here and there.
The best thing about the place is the old things carelessly left behind by the owners:
There’s the photo of a teenage member of Cuba’s 1960s literacy campaign brigades, with a dedication (“to my mother Elda, with love. Fela”), two paintings showing Japanese musicians and one showing a square in Toledo, Spain, half of a set of dishes with the seal of the US Navy’s medical department, an ancient X-100 ColorTrak RCA television (according to the owner, it blows up if you plug it in), a small chest of drawers, a cushioned little bench and a mirror that evokes distant and elaborate make-up sessions and, finally, the objects that symbolize the poverty of recent decades: cutlery with plastic handles and a nylon poster showing deer, posing like cheap Bambi imitations.
And then there’s me, beside myself with joy. How could I not be happy, living in Havana, where problems like being forced to live with one’s relatives, collapsing buildings and the hoarding of properties by the few who have the needed capital to do so, continue to spread like wildfire?