The Good, the Bad, and the Doomed: New Year’s Eve, 1958
This bunch of sniveling privileged larvae had no clue. They couldn’t tell what awaited them. Neither could their parents or grandparents.
Their world perched on a knife’s edge, yet deceptively stable, they thought their present comfort would extend into the future, uninterrupted.
They thought those snappy uniforms were some sort of guarantee.
A few weeks after this photo was taken, on New Year’s Day, 1959, they would become fiendish outlaws, vermin, scum, simply for being who they were, and so would their families. Bad people.
It didn’t have to turn out that way. But it did. So it goes.
One of these boys went to a wedding that New Year’s Eve, in Old Havana, at a church filled with jittery grown-ups. Everyone seemed nervous, not just the groom. Even the baroque Spanish icons seemed more apprehensive than usual. The streets were deserted. No bombs could be heard off in the distance. No shots, either, or human voices, or the barking of dogs. It was oppressively quiet. His parents kept talking about the silence and the empty streets all the way home. Havana had turned into a ghost town. Even the Malecón was deserted.
Everyone knew that the captain of the ship of state was about to jump overboard. They just didn’t know how or when he would abandon ship, exactly. No one knew what would happen subsequently. The eerie silence offered some clues.
His father was very disappointed that the waves were not crashing over the sea wall. He loved to drive his black 1956 Buick Special right into the waves. No car surfing that night.
His mother did most of the talking, as usual, and most of the worrying. His brother was probably plotting some new way to capture and torture lizards, as usual.
What is that moment like, the instant before an unexpected bullet comes out of nowhere and rips your head open? What is it like, that last second before the earth opens up by surprise and swallows you whole, along with your house and your family? What was it like for the dinosaurs that last microsecond before that huge asteroid hit the earth?
Those who were there in Havana, on New Year’s Eve, don’t ever have to ask such questions. They know all too well what that final instant feels like, and how often you think of it afterwards.