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    A February 14 of thorns and roses

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    Un 14 de febrero de espinas y rosas

    Veronica has never spent a February 14 with a partner, she has not been lucky in love. Diana only needed seven days to seduce Bryan. Yaima was released from prison two months ago and, despite what she experienced, thinking about her children has given her strength. Redan and Ely found in social networks a different way to fall in love.

    These four stories show how love is not always rose petals. Sometimes it is also thorns. After two years of passions, insecurities, breakups, farewells and new beginnings, happiness has left these young people, as the only alternative to achieve it, to cling to love.

    Mother's love despite everything

    Arriving home, he finds his mother sitting on the bed, smoking a cigarette butt, about to finish. "Be careful, mommy, you're going to burn your nails and they cost you dearly," he tells her. He takes the cape and lights one himself.

    While smoking, the 17-year-old takes the opportunity to "catch a five." Driving a cycle-taxi all morning is exhausting, and in a few minutes, even though he is late, he has to report to school.

    Like every day, his 20-year-old brother, who until now was behind his mother resting in bed, gets ready to relieve him at the wheel of the vehicle, take him to the studio and work until night. In this way, they “make the day”.

    Sometimes, the 17-year-old also takes out a cart with food, depending on the school schedule, because it leaves him some days off. In the case of the 16-year-old female, she has more time to devote to studying, since her job is to take care of a child on weekends. The only one of the four brothers who does not work now is the youngest, 13, because he is in high school and works full time.

    The ultimate goal of working these people know better than anyone does. The need to supply material deficiencies, in this case yours and those of an imprisoned mother, in a national economic and epidemiological crisis, can persuade you enough to opt for that route. However, Yaima* is not proud of that, although she prefers a thousand times to see her children work honestly than to steal.

    Only two and a half months ago, the woman was released – again – from jail on parole, and in May she will finish serving her sentence. Today it is in front of me, with a withered look. Perhaps the nails that cost him dearly are the only well-cared-for thing he has.

    With one of them, she points out to me the charge of his imprisonment. In the discharge report, the name reads well, but she insists on clarifying it: “Other acts contrary to the normal development of the minor. Here come the women who prostitute their children, rape them, sell their food and beat them. I sold my home and left them without a safe home.” As she explains, she swallows hard.

    In 2015, with her husband in prison, four boys to support, terrible living conditions and no monetary income except the unstable profits from an agribusiness, Yaima decided to sell her house and rent with her children. Today she is sorry. His, like all actions in this world, had consequences.

    Nine months away from the one you love the most can hurt a lot, but it hurts more if five years after forgetting that suffering they dig into your wound and increase its size. Therefore, it was with her.

    After being granted parole after the first nine months in jail, she rebuilt his life. She started working as an assistant in a hospital, she turned the page. However, she forgot one detail, one without which the page would not really turn: he still owed a year to the justice system and had to report monthly to the police sector.

    May 6, 2021, Galiano street, Havana Center. The line seemed long, but she would be able to buy, or so she thought. They brought out hash, hot dog and chocolate chip cookies. At least they would have to celebrate Mother's Day, or so she thought. Suddenly, once her ID was scanned, a bunch of policemen surrounded her.

    -You are under arrest.

    – Arrested?

    –You stopped signing for a whole year and the execution judge is revoking it.

    -But nobody told me anything... But nobody sent me a summons... But five years have already passed...

    The covid-19 came to change the rules of the game. Yaima, who was in the El Guatao women's prison, spent five months and 13 days without having physical contact with her children due to the total closure of the prison.

    “At the expense of a punishment –she tells me–, I would climb on a fence to see my children in the street, when they went with their father every 15 days to take my things. That was until they caught us, when they covered the fence and I couldn't see anyone anymore."

    Was it at that time that the children began to work, I ask. "Yes. A package of soda was 120 pesos and one of cookies, 180. It was too much and her father could not do it alone. Now they keep doing it because, although I'm already out, things are still the same”.

    In addition, yes, things are still the same, but a little different for her. Today, now free, he works as a kitchen assistant in a restaurant and lives with his four boys in the house of his alcoholic and problematic father. The same house where she was put to sleep on the stairs after her first release on parole. This time, the father was more condescending and enabled her and her grandchildren the dining room.

    The children, according to their mother, are more imprisoned than she is. “They can't even bring a little friend into the house, they can't have a pet, they can't do anything but be in this piece of dining room, because their grandfather is bothered. I don't have peace, nor do they. Moreover, if I rent, they put me in jail again.

    However, both the young people and her are relieved of their sadness to be, in any case, together again.

    A question is unavoidable. How has he been able to endure so much? Yaima has no way to resist anymore and cries. "The only thing I know is that during all this time what has given me strength is thinking about them, about my children, and nothing else."

    The 17-year-old boy is now ready. He finished the cigarette a while ago and his brother is waiting for him downstairs. He hurried to the door, because he was late. Suddenly, he realizes that he missed the most important thing. He stops, returns and looks for it: his mother's kiss.

    * The name was changed to protect the identity of the protagonist.

    magic on the web

    The night seems calm. Redan is partying with his friends in Camagüey without knowing what they are up to. He is the only one who doesn't know. He has not communicated with his girlfriend Ely, who lives more than 500 kilometers away, in Mayabeque, because she had a bad connection. In the middle of the party, Redan's parents call him: a problem arose and he must return home urgently.

    The room is dark; the bed, covered with rose petals. In one corner there is a colored light and in the background you can hear Pablo Alborán's version of Peces de ciudad. The best thing is not the show, but her, sitting on the bed with a nervous smile. They hug for a few seconds that are eternal. As they part, they look at each other and kiss.


    “Distance is one of the greatest injustices in life; it cannot be fair to separate people who love each other. It is hard. You can't hide waking up wanting to see who you want so much by your side”, says Ely.

    Redan and Ely have only seen each other once off the mobile screen since they met. The relationship began at the end of June 2021, in a curious way: thanks to the magic of Harry Potter. Both met through a thematic group of the saga on WhatsApp. "I guess that's fate, and despite the obstacles here we are," says Ely.

    The covid-19 has forced many couples to do just that, to see each other only on video calls. There are different types of love, this is one at a distance, which grew and increased over time. Nowadays, many relationships are known through social networks, it has become common in the digital age.

    Both agree that distance is frustrating: "It's hard to want or love someone and not be able to touch them, but it's not impossible." They look at it from a better angle. Actually, it's just a time away. Soon they will begin their studies at the University of Havana and, meanwhile, interprovincial trips are part of their routines.

    Giving up is not on the list of options, they are neither the first nor the last to try to bring love like this. The distance relationship, more than others, is based on communication; they can spend hours talking and it is never enough. They are the same friends from months ago, although with more strength and more passion. For Redan it is nice to see how love and expectations do not disappear, but increase.

    In their time together, Ely and Redan have never been apart. “There were tough times that made me think we weren't going to make it,” he says. However, a long-distance relationship requires that, to overcome obstacles. They both know it.


    It is two in the afternoon and he still doesn't believe what's happening. Time flies and Ely returns to his province. I thought that in the bus station they would have more time to say goodbye, but the plans changed:

    –Three people to Mayabeque in 20 minutes –announces a man near a state taxi.

    Only 20 minutes.

    They had both written a letter to each other that they could only read when they were alone. Redan reached the house, ran into the room and opened the letter. It felt like a big goodbye, but it was just the emptiness of distance. Ely opened hers in the car. With tears in his eyes, he read it: "It's not a farewell, it's the beginning."

    Waiting for love

    It is six in the morning and another day of work begins. He gets up, has breakfast, gets ready and goes out to fight the transport. For Verónica it is a normal day, there is nothing that makes her sense or imagine the surprise that awaits her.

    Arriving at the office, he finds a chocolate cake on his table.

    -And that? –Amazed question.

    "An admirer left it for you," one of her companions mischievously answers.

    -A fan? What level! And why this gift?

    –Today is February 14, Vero.

    -Is February 14, today?


    Veronica has not spent Valentine's Day as a couple; she has not had any luck. "Let's say I'm young, even though I'm 30. I've never bought a gift for anyone except my family or friends," he says.

    Like so many people, she doesn't look forward to that date with excitement. Perhaps the word "love" does not fit his past relationships, although he has been deluded.

    “Love inspires us to get up every day, but I have had impossible loves, I have fallen in love with the wrong people,” he confesses.

    Veronica's love instability may be due to a problem of low self-esteem, of self-love. She had her first boyfriend in college and was three years older than she was. The boy, with more experience, expected more from her. Disenchanting him, he called her cold... The words and the experience cut deep.

    Her friends call her crazy, weird, character, but none of them went through a similar experience.

    At that time, the family supported her and the psychologists helped her a lot. In this way, he has managed to establish other relationships; some even deep.

    She considers herself in love. Nevertheless, deep down, she has always felt dissatisfied. Perhaps that is why he has prioritized studies and career, and has not been able to achieve a balance.

    Despite what she has experienced, Veronica continues, as they say, waiting for love. Wake up every morning with the illusion of meeting your better half. That person, who, according to her, produces chemistry, makes her fall in love daily and understands the sacrifices of her work.

    Perhaps the chocolate cake that he received as a gift this time is the sign that his wait could end and it will be his turn, in February of next year, to visit stores, fairs and sales stands in search of a gift.

    Seven days to conquer you

    Bryan doesn't know what to do, it's true that he doesn't know what to do. He stands stiff, waiting. However, although he doesn't know much about relationships, his son is the one who takes the initiative, smiles at him and catches him.

    In Ward C of the Maternity Hospital there are several babies, but Bryan's eyes focus only on his own: Asher. This one also looks at him, makes everyone think that he already recognized the father.

    2021 was a tough year for many: living with the pandemic, losing loved ones, suffering the consequences of shortages, and experiencing mandatory limitations in daily life. However, Bryan and Diana thank love very much for that year.

    They met seven years ago. He, self-conscious and silent; she, intrepid and expressive. Maybe that was the perfect fusion. But, in that sense, his comment is contradictory when referring to his first impressions of her: "I don't like people who stand out."

    Diana had no intention of standing out, at least not at first. They met in the group of primary youth of the Liga Evangélica de Cuba church and, since he was new and was alone, he found a selfless friendship in her.

    He was 17, she was 15. They got to know each other. They went from friends to confidants. According to Diana, that condition imposed by him, "don't fall in love with me", was an invitation. It had already become a habit to look at his photo on the phone and he had no way to meet the challenge.

    “One fine day he told me that he was falling in love. So, out of the blue. I did not expect it and the nerve gave me to laugh, “the young man says.

    Diana thought she had turned down the offer, but she persisted. Sometime later, he wrote him a note that Bryan still keeps: "Give me seven days and I'll conquer you."

    "I don't think they made it to seven," he recalls.

    In this way, both teenagers experienced their first kiss, their only love. However, the condition initially imposed by Bryan was not the only obstacle they would face.

    During the four years of courtship, the couple solidified and planned to marry. The wedding, set for August 20, 2020, would honor the moment last year when they decided to take the plunge. Nothing could go wrong, but who expected a pandemic?

    The epidemiological situation in the country delayed the formalization of the marriage for five months, until January 12, 2021, the groom's birthday. The dream finally came true. The adventures that would come later would serve to prove what their love was made of: living alone in a rental, managing a house in times of national economic crisis, being infected with the coronavirus. Together they passed every test.

    Precisely in her period of illness, Diana detected the pregnancy. “I made a video call to him and told him. He was shocked," she says.

    He assures that the pregnancy came when they had stopped trying.

    That was how at 38 weeks and five days of gestation the child was born. On the 2nd day of the 2nd month of the year 2022. Diana affirms that the name, previously unknown to her, was given to her by God in a dream a month before learning of the pregnancy.

    Besides, this is how Asher, whose meaning is "the son of my blessing", spreads his smile to Bryan. In room C of the Workers' Maternity, the father is no longer so stiff, little by little he is getting used to it.