By Rafael Contreras
Cuba Free Press.
Pinar del Río.- “There’s no gas but the bosses keep driving their cars.” With those words the elderly man broke the silence at the bus stop. No one responded but everyone was thinking the same thing. The old man had spoken with the confidence supported by his years. Children and the elderly sometimes say what they feel and no one may judge them.
The bus stop was full of people waiting for the bus. Many cars passed wearing government license plates but not one stopped.
The people began to despair about the bus. Many would arrive late for work. Others had to solve domestic problems and the infinite number of matters that Cubans always have to solve without the resources for it.
A few hours passed and all the glances were directed at the elderly man. Perhaps they wanted him to speak again. The old man’s words of wisdom were probably a relief. Maybe they made everything easier. The old man could speak and would not have problems. It was as if a child were speaking.
Again came the voice: “These things have been going on here for forty years because everybody is afraid. There are those of us who protest but the herd is big and the protests are not heard.”
There was a policeman on the other side of the booth of the bus stop. The policeman heard the words from the old man and came up to the group next to the old man.
“Give me your identification card, old man.”
The old man breathed deep as if he wanted to take away in his lungs all the air that was there so as to suffocate the policeman. Or maybe he was reacting to let those drown in their fear who were cowards unable to speak.
The old man handed over his card to the policeman. The man in uniform advised him and handed him the receipt for the fine. The little old man received the paper with the receipt for the fine and asked, “How can this be a fine on me? I don’t drive.”
Some among those at the bus stop showed smiles but their fear continued.
“It’s for slandering the government, sir.”
The policeman returned to his place on the other side of the bus stop booth – well-removed from the other people.
Some of those at the bus stop had started to leave in defeat. But the old man appeared not to give up. He was there in the same place like someone who has stayed with a desire to let go of something and cannot do it. He stays as if nailed to the ground. That’s how the old man was after being fined for talking.
Another hour passed after the fine and a car with a government license plate arrived at the stop. Without greeting the others, the driver called to the policeman by his name. (This writer keeps the policeman’s name to himself.) And still with no word to anyone else the driver asked the policeman to get into the car. When the car went away with the policeman and the friend who picked him up, everyone looked at the old man. Then the elderly man moved his head from one side to the other, annoyed and letting loose the words as one who gives a prescription without a remedy, “It’s like I said. There’s no gas but the bosses keep driving their cars. And the herd keeps growing.”
He took the paper with the fine out of his pocket and threw it away, unconcerned and showing his disgust as he left behind the bus stop with its silent herd.