The sky is not always that precious blue of the tourist postcards. Thank goodness, because I can not imagine a year with scorching sun without the pause of these weeks that bring cold fronts. Since Monday a cloud has come, bringing London to Havana and severe flooding in the east of the country. The streets are remarkably empty at night because the cold scares away the usual denizens of the parks and sidewalks. Boarding a crowded bus is no longer the fastest way to acquire odor in one’s armpits, rather the entrance to a warm and friendly space. With the low temperatures, humor and tolerance improve; for the old, their bones ache and hot chocolate becomes a recurring hallucination. December is so close that it’s not worth starting anything, say those who have postponed projects throughout the year. The time to spend more is coming, presaging that pockets will be especially empty this Christmas. However, the most sensitive topic is that of coats and blankets, the little protection from the damp cold that enters through the gaps in the windows.
I see people on the street with sweaters and thick, padded synthetic coats, but none of these garments could be purchased with the wages they earn from their work. One has a leather coat sent to him by a sister who lives in New York and the striped one was given to the girl as a gift from a tourist passing through the city. A young boy has a waterproof raincoat inherited from his brother, who in turn got it from an uncle who confiscates luggage at customs. The old woman crossing the street is careful of her wool socks, which she got from a neighbor in exchange for a blender. Only the guard at the hotel boasts a denim jacket, with shiny new buttons.
I like the winter and the affability it awakens in people, but I know that for many it’s the season of certain worries and shame. Of not being able to sleep on the park bench, where the rest of the year one gentleman with raggedy clothes has his only home. Of children mocked in school for wearing a coat purchased during the rationing of the 1980s. The cold emphasizes the differences between those who can close the door and those who don’t have a house with windows that shut. It highlights the contrast between those with a long-sleeved garment and those who wear two sweaters because they don’t have a coat. Everything depends on the thermometer and its not dropping another ten degrees, because the housing and clothes of the poor will not withstand a single snowflake.