Chapter One, page2
find, calculating that
any place north of Havana was bound to be frigid. Both my
parents avoided any kind of political affiliation because, as they would
different recruiters who came to our home to encourage them to join in the
of the revolution, why get involved? We are waiting for our exit papers,
they’d say.And the men and women who dutifully tried to make communists
of my parents would open their eyes wide and exclaim, Ooh! surprised at their
honesty and somewhat envious of a family with an actual plan.
But as I stood in front of my mother that day, silently praying that the urgency in her voice was not linked to our emigration plans, I detected only joy, no nervous edge to her gestures. It wasn’t the papers, then, I realized.That’s when I saw my father’s back.He was kneeling on the floor, his large brown hands toying with what looked like a black box. I leaned forward, but all I could see at first was the top of his head, covered by curly black hair,which he carefully combed back every morning with brilliantine.Then his long nose,which cleaved his narrow face in half like the arm of a sundial and hung in a perfect right angle over his thin mustache. I stood on my toes and finally saw what he was hiding from me: a television!
Oh, my God! I yelped and jumped on my father’s wide back, hugging him
tightly from behind.
I had wanted a television set for so long that I’d begun to think I was never going to have one.All my friends had one, old black-and-white relics from the time American products could be purchased in Cuba. And here was ours. Finally. Black-and-white as well, but shiny and new, with an incomprehensible Russian word on the top right side.
I jumped up and down.My sister joined me.My mother, too.My father explained that for two hundred pesos, or about one and a half times his monthly salary, he had bought a coupon from a friend stating that he had donated an old American TV to the government. Armed with the fake coupon,my father spent another seven hundred pesos, a fortune for us, to buy the Russian box; without the coupon he couldn’t have done it. It was all sort of illegal, but my father was confident he wouldn’t get caught, he said, sounding more hopeful than certain, more embarrassed by the deal than triumphal. Still, with the help of my mother, he had accomplished a major feat. For years my mother had tucked away every peso she earned at the sewing machine so that our family could afford small luxuries