I sensed the clamor and leaning out saw the streets already damp with the first rainstorm of May. Havana covered by the veil of rain, bathed by those tenacious drops that the drought has rationed to the extreme in this abnormal spring. The children came out first and the grey concrete of the buildings started to show streaks of dampness, their Eastern European architecture seeming even more incongruent in the midst of the rainy tropics. The housewives quickly grabbed the clothes off the clotheslines and the stray dogs found shelter until it let up. But the rain continued to fall and its persistence convinced even the elderly to drench themselves in the most anticipated rain of the year.
I stuck my hand over the balcony to see if it was worth it to climb to the roof and shower under the sky. We Cubans wait for this gift of May that will ripen the mangoes for a get-together, and will also bring us some “luck.” So we soak ourselves to the skin with this cloudburst that has become like an annual spell against evil, a natural right of an entire people who are waiting for better times. Finally, I took the heavy wooden ladder and put it up against the hatch in the hallway; above, the sacrament of the clouds soaked me in a few minutes. On the roof were many like me, waiting for the water – without any meter or chlorine – to lift the evil and protect us against what is coming.
I stayed above my apartment until it stopped raining, watching those splashing around in the street with their clothes stuck to their bodies. An old lady reached both arms out of a window not to miss the free gift from providence, while a drunk lying in the park was blessed and woken up by the rain at the same time. As long as the first downpour of May lasted, people not only played in the puddles and the open spaces, but they projected a spontaneous excitement usually diminished and spoiled by everyday life. An unspoken prayer rose in the streets. With it, hundreds of thousands of us asked the heavy downpour to bring us an equal fraction of luck. Everything suggests we are going to need it.