- Vol. 10
- Chapter 10
I don't know much about the Cuban Revolution. But I know I’ve never believed my parents who said my sister was named Hajdi after one of the rebels. As though the name gave her a mutinous spirit, my older sister was feisty and defiant and beautiful. She was the first girl from her circle of friends who started working for the car factory in the eighties. Other girls worked in the fields or taught in nursery schools. Hajdi wanted none of that.
By the time she was seventeen, she knew how to dismantle the brakes system in a car and then put it back together. Dad wouldn’t let her get a job at the factory so she waited until she was eighteen. When he threatened to beat her with his belt and lock her in the house, she vowed she would throw herself out the window of her second-storey bedroom. Red-faced and fuming, Dad left for the pub. He knew she’d do it.
Hajdi installed the vents in the cars; her strong, slender fingers were a great advantage. She joined the workers’ union and then openly supported the rebel forces when the political situation became unstable. I heard her sneak out late at night on most days. But she didn’t come back with her lipstick smudged and blouse creased. Instead, her hands were dirty and scratched and one morning I glimpsed a large bruise on her right shoulder. When she saw me staring, she slapped me so hard my eyes filled with tears.
“You didn’t see anything,” she hissed, and I nodded with trembling lips. I was ten. She never smiled anymore but that only made her more beautiful.
By the time the Earth revolved one more time around the Sun, no one bought cars any longer. Whispers were heard about people arming themselves to storm the capital and overthrow the corrupt government.
The cars started piling up at the factory. When the car park was full, they started plonking them one on top of the other, until they were five cars deep.
Instead of vehicles, the factory started producing weapons for the government’s army. During the day, Hajdi installed triggers and sights. On moonless nights, she broke into the warehouse with her accomplices and stole crates of Kalashnikovs for the resistance. On one of their nocturnal missions, they ran into an ambush. The others escaped, Hajdi was shot on sight, in front of a stack of cars which were now shot through with bullets produced in the same factory, by the same people who had earlier put those cars together so proudly.
The stack of cars is now a monument to the revolution, I tell my daughter Hajdi when she asks about it. She looks at me like I’m bonkers. “Really,” she says with a teenage sneer. “If they were at least electric cars.”