Life is full of mysteries. Riddles that one does not get to unravel. Roads that repeat themselves, for better or for worse. Inevitable paths. Déjá vu or no, at the most unexpected moment you are surprised by a stamp of the past that you believe, or not, to have lived already.
Is it, as my grandmother said, that when you want something, you just have to want it with a lot of force? Smart resource of the poor. I had spent the week reliving my years of university student in the moments of respite that gave me hospital nights with my brother. It was as if he had come back four decades ago. Beautiful memories, have it by the way.
A patient in a hospital causes a pain that only helps to mitigate the doctor’s hopes; the visits, any, of compliment or not; and the brotherhood that is born between the patients and the relatives. One night in April, as we talked, waiting for the dream to conquer, one of the three patients in that hospital room exclaimed in amazement: «A cruise!»
Through its windows, overlooking the Havana seafront, one could see the majestic cross, all lit up, a glittering cruise. The image could not be more beautiful. It was like a star that illuminated in its wake the scraps of sea that it was going through. We even took my brother to the glass, in a wheelchair, to watch the passage of the ship. It was like a postcard.
I was so absorbed in that minute of joy that the boat crossed me, that I barely heard myself whispering: «How I remember Commander Pinares!» And immediately someone answered, «Oh, but that was a long time ago. The Commander even sold it as scrap. «
Startled, I looked at the young man who answered me. Anyone who had heard me and did not know anything about the Cuban fleet, would have believed that it alluded to the combatant Antonio Sánchez Díaz, Commander Pinares of the Rebel Army, fallen in combat on June 2nd, 1967, in Bolivia, when he was part of the guerrilla of Che. But that young man knew exactly what I meant, because he was, nothing more and nothing less! Than an officer of the Merchant Navy of Cuba.
I looked at him with curiosity and joy. Comandante Pinares was a ferry built in 1974 in Japan, which covered the Havana-Gerona route and graduates of the University of Havana in 1975 – graduating First Party Congress – premiered to incorporate us for 15 days to agricultural work on the Island of Youth.
The Commander was lovely, large, roomy, all white. For us it was something like a luxury vessel. I still see myself at the age of 22, agitated and afraid to cover for the first time that route to the Island. The trip was a dream, by day, with that boat full of young people fresh out of the university classrooms. Never before had I been alone between the sky and the sea.
Years later, Commander Pinares anchored in the Muelle de Luz, from where he made nocturnal walks along the habanera bay. At midnight he anchored somewhere on the coast, served a dinner and offered a show. My grandmother, who always had the spirit more youthful than me, was astonished when I took her to that walk so she could see where I had gone to the Island at my graduation.
In 1975 my grandmother was 62 years old. I had never been to a cabaret. The Commander was one of those places where I took her to discover the charms of a bohemian night.
But what was truly astonishing was that night of bewilderment. The young man, who took care of his father each morning, one of the three patients in the room, when he had already turned his back on me, said to me, «But look, my father was the Commander‘s third officer.»
And the sick man, from his bed, looked at me with joy. His eyes lit up to nod what his son had told me. He looked proud. And I could not believe it. Was so happy. It was as if the summer of ’75 came back to me.
This man, tanned by the sun and salt, who had surely bravely confronted not only a few clashes of nature and truculent traps of the sea, was now struggling to overcome the weariness of the human machinery, chance.
He could not tell me anything. The tiredness and fatigue of his exhausted body would not allow it. But he will never know how happy I was to have met him. Perhaps twice in our lives we were so close, with just a few sheets of steel or wood between us and the immensity of the sea, and look where we came to know!
Commander Pinares was finally and as I said, sold as junk, something that, of course, made me sad, I would have liked to at least climb to its deck for the third time.
That night of April, in the midst of the pain that squeezed in my heart in that hospital room, the young sailor and his father brought me a piece of joy of times lived. It was as if the room was suddenly flooded with a sea breeze that made us breathe peacefully to the six «navigators» on the ninth floor of the hospital.
Everything was magical then. The old sailor felt like a cabin boy again. The young man was proud of his father and his own office. My brother, the other patient and his companion were amazed at the coincidence. And I had returned to my sweet and incredible 22 years.
Life is a miracle full of mysteries. The last update registered to Commander Pinares is dated September 25th, 2012, today five years ago.
Original text byon Sept 25th, 2017