Obligatory shadows


Two years ago social workers knocked on my door.  They came as part of an overblown campaign called “Energy Revolution” to change my incandescent light bulbs for energy-savers.  I liked the warm yellow light from the living room lamp but a quick inspection by trained teenagers revealed a wasteful filament and I had to give it up.  They have me another bulb that projected a pale light and lasted three weeks.  My eyes were grateful for the short life of the economy bulb because at night there was no way to distinguish details under its fading light.

To replace the broken one I turned to foreign-currency stores, but they had not gone back to selling the demonized conventional bulbs – the ones that I have had in the nightstand my whole life.  I resigned myself to buying the short-lived energy-saving bulbs or the others – called “cold light” – that give my living room the appearance of an operating room.  But for the last two months, even those are not available.  There are no light bulbs of any kind in the stores of Havana.

As a  joke, the clerks tell me that the boat that brings them “hasn’t arrived from China” and inform me that a little shop in the Cerro district rescued a few in the middle of a riot.  A quick check of my apartment shows that the shadowy areas already exceed the well-lit ones.  If the capricious distribution continues I will have to improve my sense of touch or I will trip over all the furniture.

What nobody knows – and I only write these secrets in a private diary like this one – is that I managed to hide, from the social workers, one specimen of the persecuted bulbs.  It is a round and wasteful one that has accompanied me for more than five years with its yellow 40-watt light.  It is not that it is a pleasure to waste electricity, but I need to believe that at least I can decide under which type of light I read, cook or watch television.

I cling to the fugitive bulb as if it could illuminate and elucidate not only the living room of my house, but also the stupidity of the retailers and the pig-headedness of the energy campaigns.

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