There we were, dressed in green, soaked with sweat and too dirty with dirt, like brushwood after a storm.
The uniforms seemed designed by someone with a special sense of irony, in that we all agreed, because they made you feel colder in winter and in summer they raised the temperature to slowly roast you.
From all parts came the orders given by officers and sergeants as bullets, with grave or high-pitched voices, which almost invariably governed every moment of our daily life in the pre-service of the Active Military Service.
That day had been especially entertaining. With a single load to the machete we had left smooth as a baby’s buttock a mound previously covered with scrub. At the end of the morning the arms weighed as if they were something foreign to the body, useless tools that were no longer useful at all. So covered with dirt as a second skin we picked up the “aspirin” to take us back to the military unit, yes, because Cuba has the honor of having the only aspirins that far from calming the headache causes it: those compact buses, as uncomfortable as saviors where a number of people still need to be determined.
The “aspirin” on wheels passed near a stop where the sun was impatient in a beautiful swarm of girls, college students to top.
Before the vision of the nymphs the reaction was unanimous and coordinated: the novices, who in the polygon still could not march in formation, reacted this time instinctively as a single man, they threw themselves on the floor of the “aspirin” to avoid the females perfumed that vision of badly shaved gallants from the windows, with the green clothes of work bleached by veins of salt.
When arriving, it was the turn of the rest when the troop smoked Criollos, Titanes or Popular, daydreaming, complaining about the heat, boasting of real or fictitious loves, salivating when describing the homemade food with its seasoning as there was no equal in the world , discussed ball and politics, questioned the importance of walking beautiful and even, discovered new blisters when removing his boots, learned to value the soft world of home from a very short distance.
Water was then the most precious of the goods, however scarce. To all, immature little soldiers in times of peace, we were shocked to know that there would not be a drop of the vital liquid to wash those hands, all of the same dark color, matched by work, before attacking the precious food.
It was the unmistakable aroma the best presentation letter for the pork cut into cubic pieces, perfect, that insinuated itself in all its culinary sensuality while waiting on the aluminum trays, highlighted by the unblemished white of the rice that absorbed little by little the perfumed fat.
For all but one, the order of ¡Fireeeeee! Sounded clear and we entered the banquet with the frenzy of a herd of steppe wolves. The only one who did not take the bait was a boy with almost transparent skin and with a regretful face he went to sit right in front of a black man with an African champion who devoured his pork ration without regard.
The white one seemed the same Tantalus, a mythological character eternally condemned to hunger and thirst in hell, because food and water slipped away whenever he tried to catch up with them.
He sat on the concrete bench, fought with his impeccable manners that forced him to sit down clean at the table, while his gaze alternated between his muddy hands, the chorus of chewers and that piece of meat that, although his, seemed far from his reach .
“And now how do I eat this?”, The question came naturally to the pale boy, “point-blank” as an involuntary sigh and had little effect on others, but the ebony champion had looked at him for a while waiting for his moment and he did not miss that golden opportunity.
“With your hand, brother,” said the dark titan with a bright smile and bits of half-eaten meat on his bright face, while clutching the bone of the poor pork with the enormous mittens covered with earth “colored” that he was bitten like a prey dog, defiant, happy.
The laughter did not wait and that passage was in the collective imagination of those who lived the phrase “With your hand, brother” as a virile spell against laziness, a very Cuban lesson of life to move forward even with the wind against.