A Place for Love and Friendship in HavanaJune 3, 2014 | Print |
HAVANA TIMES — Ana is a woman over sixty. Lonely and without love, she is constantly searching for someone to talk to. To do this, she regularly visits a restaurant where single people in need of company gather. This is the plot of a film by Charlotte Rampling I saw recently.
I thought it interesting to tell Francis (a rock fan and fellow adventuress) the plot, and lent her the film some days later. Three months later, she phoned me and said: “Hey, I’ve got a business going. It’s illegal, but I’m making some money and making people happy at the same time.”
This intrigued me some. I know her and I know perfectly well she would not open a cafeteria or restaurant (she simply doesn’t have the kind of intelligence needed to run such businesses). She surprised me by telling me her son, who is a professor at a university in the United States, had sent her a bit of money to get her business off the ground.
She has an old house with a large, well-ventilated terrace surrounded by many plants. It is a kind of inner patio – there are no neighbors behind it, only a small cluster of trees, making the place invisible to prying eyes. There, she throws parties on Fridays and Saturdays in the evening. She plays music and sells drinks.
But that isn’t what’s novel about the place. The great thing there is that she’s created a kind of database with the personal information of the people who have joined this, a would-be dating club. This information is sent her via email. It includes a physical description, tastes in music, hobbies, sexual preferences, favorite movies and books and zodiac signs.
With this information, people put together groups that meet on certain days and share the adventure of getting to know one another and talk about their common or similar interests. Admission is 15 Cuban pesos. Drinks are charged separately.
When I found out about this marvelous idea, I immediately wanted to go through the experience myself. I gave my friend all of my personal information. She invited me to go on a Friday. When I got there, everything was shining: there were chairs, armchairs, benches and pillows on the floor for those left without a place to sit. The smell of incense filled the air. There were tables covered with drinks and beverages.
The music, of course, was 60s and 70s rock. The most curious thing was that the place suddenly filled up with people of different ages, from those in their twenties to fifty-year-olds. Some were dressed elegantly, others more soberly. Generally speaking, everyone looked very good.
I talked and danced with many people. People looked happy and spoke spiritedly. They danced. They moved as though touched by a magic wand, their egos aggrandized, in the best sense of the word. You could tell they were overjoyed.
I don’t know about the future of this friendship and dating club, but what I saw that day was truly gratifying: a way of warding off loneliness in a world that is increasingly hostile and heartless, that is propped up by false values it proclaims as the sole alternative, a world that celebrates youth, beauty and material wealth and isolated maturity with contempt.
The desire to meet others, to love, to make love, to share things, to make friends even, will always throb at the heart of society – it is pointless to try and silence it.
In this micro-world, people grow close to one another, and something I would like to call the “cordialness of feelings” is given free reign.