By Rafael Contreras
Cuba Free Press.
Pinar del Río.- The old man spent long hours facing the sea. He had turned it into a routine. But those who knew him knew only too well that it was much more than a routine. There were ties between the sea and the old man. Sometimes the ties bind. Those that existed between the old man and the sea were ties of memories.
Facing that same sea the old man had seen the ship leave that took his son away. That was in the 80’s. The old man’s son was taken to a distant and alien war. It was a war that had nothing to do with the island. But the Cubans were sent to it and had to go and also die if necessary.
The old man’s son was one of those who died in that war in Africa. After a time they brought back the remains of the old man’s son. They also brought the remains of many others who had been taken to the war.
After that the old man talked with his friends about his son. He told them it bothered him greatly that they had brought his son reduced to such a small space. It was hell to see how a strapping boy of almost six feet fit in such a small box. The death was something shattering.
With the death of the boy the old man started his thing with the sea. He kept seeing the big ship taking away his boy and the others with whom the boy left for war and death.
Later, it was the departure of the old man’s daughter. One afternoon they came to him with the news. The daughter had left in a boat for the United States. The thing was done with a boat from the town’s fishing cooperative. A lot of people had left. The sad part of the case is that nothing was known of the old man’s daughter, only that she had left.
It was also known that the boat had had problems and that some people had drowned. The old man knew nothing more of his daughter. He had lived with her. His wife couldn’t stand the blow of the death of the two children and her heart stopped one night.
That’s why the old man went to the sea. Sometimes he got in tough conversations with the sea. He called the sea “she” and even called her “whore.” But when the old man hated the sea most was last December.
Everyone knew then about the Cuban rafter child. Later, everyone knew how far the little rafter’s events were reaching. The old man saw all that was published. He saw the relatives of the boy in Cuba talking and asking for the boy. Then he began to get confused and upset.
In the middle of one of those political functions that are held now, the old man shouted: “Don’t screw me, damn it! I also lost my children and nobody cared! Those people are fakers! They knew about the kid’s trip!”
The people didn’t do anything at the function. The surprise was great. Many thought the old man wouldn’t escape punishment. The town police were there but they didn’t do anything. It seems luck was also close by and came to the old man’s side.
Now they say the old man is crazy, that the continual visits to the sea addled his brain. In short, they apparently pay no attention to what he says.
The other day the old man let loose with another one. There was a group of fishermen in the bar. They were talking about the trip of the shipwrecked boy’s grandmothers to the United States. The old man came away from talking to the sea. He arrived at the bar. He looked at the group of people and then looked through the window of the bar at the coast before letting loose the phrase:
“The sea is a bastard. It screws some and saves others. The little kid saved himself and the family living here in Cuba saved itself on land. Those people will never hate the sea like I hate it.”
“On the contrary, old man,” said Tejeiro, owner of the boat, adding, “the sea also drowned their girl.”
The old man looked him up and down, heaved a sigh heard throughout the bar and said, “Don’t annoy me, Tejeiro! The sea volunteered to snatch mine away yesterday. Today it served to purify those people.”
He left the bar quickly. He went once again in the direction of the coast and the sand. The old man was going to keep saying things to the sea that afternoon. He realized that people didn’t want to understand him. That’s why he preferred to spend long hours facing the sea and talking. He talked to the sea and that was a sign it knew how to listen.