Nobody in, Nobody out


Yo no fui a la escuela de Eduardo Heras León porque no podía escribir ficción. Pedían tres cuentos y yo no sabía escribir cuentos. Pero yo quería con toda mi alma ir a las clases de Eduardo Heras los sábados. Un día, Rafa me dijo que podía convertir cualquiera de mis posts en una historia de ficción, que me dejara llevar, que me olvidara de mí, que no fuera tan racional. Yo no le creí.

Cuando llegué a Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard tenía tres opciones: fiction writing, non-fiction writing o huir. Uno siempre puede huir. Solo que a veces lo perdemos de vista. Pero huir no es una opción, porque los miedos se van contigo a todos lados. Y no vale la pena huir cuando uno no puede escapar de sus propios temores. Non-fiction writing entonces, pensé. De los males el menor. Pero me asustó tanto el tono del profesor que cambié mi planilla y garabatee la única opción posible: Fiction writing.

Ann Bernays no regala elogios. June, la primera lectora de todas mis historias para la clase, tampoco. Ann y June me obligan a trabajar. Y ponen mi pánico escénico y lingüístico en jaque. Justo cuando pienso que tengo una tarea ganada, Ann nos lanza otro desafío. La semana anterior fue difícil. Escribir una historia de 26 oraciones, donde cada oración empezara con una letra del alfabeto (A, B, C…Z). La clave del ejercicio está en encontrar una buena palabra con X y otra con Z. Ann dice que siempre funciona, que los estudiantes olvidan el alfabeto y construyen las historias…

Yo no sé si lo logré, pero al menos, por primera vez en casi 29 años, me olvidé de ser racional y apegarme a los hechos… Y, saben qué? Se sintió bien.

Nobody in, nobody out

Antonio, that’s my name, A-N-T-O-N-I-O, not Anthony, ok?.

Beer? Not drinking beer? You said you were a journalist, didn’t you?.

Call me Tony, please, that’s the way they used to call me in Cuba.

Dude, stop looking at me like if I was a freak, I’m just another balsero in this country, which means, another loser.

Excuse me, I have to go pee, just a second, you can take anything of the fridge except beers— you do not like beers, what a waste!

Fuck, do not turn on that device, I don’t like to be recorded.

Gema lived with me and our two small daughters in a village near the beach in 1993, when we were so poor that we needed to sell food on the beach, not any meal, but authentic Cuban food, or at least that’s the way we survived during the so called “Periodo Especial” – which by the way was not just a short period nor special at all – until the police arrested my wife because selling food in the beach was “illegal” – that’s what they said, after throwing all the food in the sand, those pigs – and I started to make a raft to get out of the country.

Hesitate? If I hesitate?.

In 1993 you could not “hesitate” at all in Cuba, journalist, the police just came one day unannounced and searched throughout the house; they took away the tiles that we had bought to finish building the bathroom, the little money I had in dollars, because dollars were illegal and you could go to jail if they found one, of course, I could have bribed them, everybody in Cuba has a price, journalist, you must learn it if you want to survive in the jungle.

Jail is not a good place to spend time, so if I had to choose between prison and the uncertainty of the sea, I would rather die at sea, free… what an idiot, huh?

Kind words, journalist, but I’m not brave at all, I’m one of the cowards, I went away from Cuba and I left my wife with a promise that I could never fulfill, she went crazy and was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in 1996, she died in the same hospital fourteen years later, because of cold and malnutrition, can you believe it?

Last time I heard from Cuba was in 2010, I have no Internet, no television, no family, no friends, it’s just me… one of my not anymore small daughters called me to say Gema had passed; the hospital had called…

Mazorra, exactly, that was the name of the hospital, you read the news, huh?, twenty six people dead because of the cold weather…

No, of course that was not the real reason, nurses stoled the bedding and the food, and let’s be honest, journalist, who cares about crazy people?, no one, until they die en masse, my Gema was just an uncomfortable figure for Cuban media.

Or perhaps she got bored of living and took advantage of the mess in the hospital, sometimes living is exhausting, especially when you are in Cuba and your husband took off on a raft and never returned and you must take care of two little girls.

Put everything together and you will have the story of my life.

Question… how did you find me?

Risky, this is not a safe place, journalist, this site is like a tribe, nobody in, nobody out, but you asked to the last person who knows my story here, pretty clever, huh?, anyways, yes, they legalized the dollar a few months after I left but I could no go back, it is what it is.

Streets were my first home in this country, and cars, and theaters and cinemas, every public space but parks, I slept in the floor every single night the Florida Grand Opera was presented in the Biscayne Boulevard, but my favorite place was the Liberty Avenue during spring…

The ballet, journalist, that’s the ballet season, Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, A Midsummer Nights Dream, Giselle… and Don Quixote, my favorite one, I could feel the 32 fouettés en tournant in the coda of the Grand Pas d’action of the ballet Cinderella from my place close to the door… you just have to put your ear in the floor, and you will feel all the ballet magic inside.

Until one night… two cops wanted me out of Liberty Avenue, I resisted, they kicked me out, I screamed, they kept kicking, cops suck everywhere, I took a small knife I used to wear at that time, don’t panic, please, I just hurt one cop, the other escaped running… of course I went to jail, and at that moment, I just wanted to build a raft and return by sea to Cuba… I spent seven years in prison, and the day I was released the same police officers were waiting for me.

Vendetta? I don’t think so.

Who cares now?

Xenophobia?… That’s a serious accusation… but let’s go to the end of my story, it is getting late… I killed the cops one week later… and now…

You have to die, my beloved journalist, because my story must remain hidden, I told you before, nobody in, nobody out.

Zither again… that’s the sound I was waiting for… you will pay for your life? how much?… sorry, journalist, but I lied before…everybody in Cuba has a price but me… say good bye, but please, do not cry, everybody cries… silence again, good, I’m ready to go home… with Gema.



  1. No puedo calificarte porque no soy “cuentero” ,pero si lograste esto como trabajo de clases,entónces ya veo que se te dá bien esto de “contar cuentos”,me cuadró y la historia resulta interesante y polémica.Un saludo.

  2. Elaine:

    Hay un documento muy famoso en “Fiction writing” que no se si lo conoces. Se llama “La historia me Absolvera”. Es magnifico. Tal vez demasiada “fiction” pero muy bien escrito. Te lo recomiendo.


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