Author Aida Bahr in the foreground (Nancy Alonso and Mirta Yanez in the background)
“Sail away” is a short, compelling but realistic story about a young fourteen year-old girl, Diana, who is blinded by the desire to be loved and recognized as a woman. The story begins with Diana talking to a much older man, Yandro, telling him that she has a curfew and that if she is not home on time, her grandmother will become suspicious. (Her mother had left to Miami and abandoned her daughter in Cuba.) Diana is infatuated with Yandro. Every hug and kiss is sensual, she is on top of the world, high on life and in love. She dreams of a life with Yandro in Miami, but Yandro is convinced it would never happen.
One evening on the beach, Diana, Yandro and a few of his friends gather together for a party. Yadis and Kirenia, Yandro’s long time friends, secretly gossip within ears’ reach and Diana overhears. “ He’s always robbing cradles”, they chat. Diana, offended at their gossip turns to defend herself, “It’s your problem if you want to worry about it, but I know I’m a woman who’s up for anything”. The girls go on insinuating a challenge, “yeah? we’ll see about that. There’s a good long night ahead of us we have all the supplies you can imagine”.
As the reader of this short story featured in Ophelias, I immediately recognized something was about to go amiss. Here was presented to us a child unprepared for the dangerous dose of the after-affects of curiosity and desire for acceptance. The story continues to unfold in deep visual description, ending with a representation of a crazed and hypnotized juvenile in the sea.
I share a sense of empathy, as I too was once a young fourteen year-old girl thinking I was a grown woman capable of keeping up with the older crew. As juveniles, many times the decisions we make about relationships and particular situations such as Diana’s during this time are skewed and our conscious is masked by curiosity and the need and want to be a part of a group.
Ophelias, by Aida Bahr, Translated by Dick Cluster, Cubanabooks 2012
This short story not only explores the theme of young curiosity and rebellion, but also a theme that resonates all across Cuba, and that is when a parental figure leaves Cuba to search for life in the United States. Diana’s mother had fled to Miami and had left her alone with her grandmother, who is very strict. Diana has a prominent role in her life missing, a piece of her is gone. Her mother, the first teacher a child ever interacts with, is not present to teach her the ways of life. As reinforcement and out of rebellion, she clings onto Yandro. Sadly this story turns into a mother’s worst nightmare as her daughter is surrounded by the ocean of darkness.
Ophelias, written by Aida Bahr, is a genius piece of literary work. The short stories capture real life in Cuba, all in different perspectives, from an autobiography from a young girl’s point of view, to a widow and single mother struggling to keep sane and raise her son. These are all real life experiences in Cuba that are seldom known about here in the United States. This is an excellent read for readers of all ages, especially those looking to feel a glimpse of Cuban life and what has become of its people. I highly recommend it.