The Race

By Claudia Cadelo:

The Race
Photo: Leandro Feal

It happened in 1990 when he was seven. The world, although not perfect, was innocent and playful. His parents were doctors, working night and day and surviving badly during those hard years at the beginning of the Special Period. Many criticize only children and the personalities we develop as adults and he, in the end the only son, enjoyed all the love and mischief at home. In the mornings, Mom made breakfast and got him out of bed, Dad adjusted the seat of the Chinese model 28 bicycle and with the morning dew still on the grass, one left for the school and the other for the hospital.

At night the company alternated depending on the shifts: with Mom he read stories and with Dad he played on the floor. Sometimes in the middle of the night he would wake up at the sound of lock and see one of his parents arrive home in a white coat, bike in tow. Other times they pulled him out of bed at dawn to give him a goodnight kiss, having come home after three in the morning.

One night his father didn’t come home. It was nearly dawn when they received a call from the hospital: he was dead. It’s difficult to take in mortality at seven, but even worse to know the story of an absurd death. It turned out Dad was coming home on his bicycle on 26th, while some boys, untouched by the collapse of the Cuban economy, were racing their fathers’ Ladas along the Avenue. The cars racing full speed took the life of a man who had spent the night saving lives. The death was swift.

The culprits went to trial–oh yes!– except for one small detail: they were acquitted of all charges, keeping their drivers’ licenses and everything. Perhaps they were not only children, but their parents had been given the task of spoiling them, and took pleasure in converting them into “The Sons,” the untouchables, those who can actually trumpet their races from one end of the island to the other and never pay for anything. People call them “Daddy’s children,” and compared to them, the myth of the only child is nothing.