Smokes on a Plane

William Connor

Jorge Blanco had spent years dreaming about his first visit to his home-away-from-home in Havana, Cuba. Jorge, though not actually from nor ever having visited Cuba, considered himself a radical leftist in the anti-imperialist Cuban Revolution spearheaded by Fidel Castro known as The Movement. As a Professor of Sociology at Florida State University (FSU) Panama City, Florida, campus, he was finally given the green light by FSU’s administration to take five students in his Racial Inequality in America course to visit the República de Cuba to further explore research into how the U.S. government’s policy towards Cuba had effected the Cuban people and caused them immense suffering. The five students in Jorge’s class were far more interested in traveling to the exotic Caribbean island just over 100 miles off the coast of Florida, which recently had its travel restrictions dropped by the U.S., than they were in pursuing the righteousness of their research. Nonetheless, Jorge and his five students were eagerly awaiting to get away for their revolutionary Spring Break trip.

When the day of the trip finally arrived, Jorge had his five students meet him at the Miami International Airport. As Ben, one of the five students, approached Jorge, his professor gleefully welcomed him and announced, “Viva Cuba libre!”

Ben responded, “Yes, what you said,” and then blushed and nervously chuckled as he awaited the four other students.

The four other students eventually appeared one after the other, and each time they approached Jorge they exchanged giddy welcomes, Jorge following it with, “Viva Cuba libre!” Each student awkwardly responded, “Viva Cuba libre,” unsure what their professor meant by it.

They all admired Jorge’s passion about Cuba, but the only thing they remembered from class was that their government had a shaky relationship with Cuba and that Fidel Castro had allowed Soviet Russia to house nuclear missiles there creating a situation that nearly destroyed the world. They also remembered it was next to impossible to find a Cuban cigar in the U.S., unless you were the CEO of a hedge fund.

Wanting his students to be as informed as himself, Jorge assigned Death to All Cubans, a book chronicling Cuba’s past of being imperialized and plundered by Europeans and Americans, and portrayed the Cubans as helpless individuals constantly being manipulated and exploited by the industrial capitalistic “pigs.”

None of them read it.

They weren’t going to talk about politics and uncover alleged atrocities—they just wanted to get some sun, drink some rum, and smoke some of those hard-to-get, world-famous cigars.

After checking their luggage and surviving the arduous, authoritative Transport Security Administration’s (TSA) security checkpoint, Jorge, Ben, and the four other students: Carlos, Tina, Bella, and Derrick, sat on the benches as they awaited their flight.

Carlos observed, “We have three hours until our flight, Professor Blanco.”

“All of you, call me Jorge. We are no longer at school. We are doing fieldwork together, headed to Havana, the capital of el Cocodrilo, the crocodile.”

The students chuckled and Tina inquired, “Well, what should we do, Jorge? We’ve got so much time before we board.”

“Well, how about we talk about Fidel and the socialists’ revolution?”

The students all sighed, and Bella boldly replied, “How about you talk about the socialists’ revolution, and in the meantime we’ll get some drinks.”

This got the other students attention. Since they all commuted to school, they didn’t get to drink together much.

Jorge laughed, “Well, flying makes me a little tense. A drink or two won’t hurt. How about it, hombres?”

The students all grinned, and Carlos replied, “Can’t say no to having a drink with a prof.”

All the students nodded in agreement.

Jorge had the students pick a bar, Aviating Turnt, and as soon as they sat down, a waitress came over.

“What can I get you all to drink?”

“Cuba Libres,” Jorge boasted.

The waitress’ eyebrows pinched and she looked slightly confused.

Derrick responded, “What’s that?”

“Oh, it’s just what us Cubans call a Rum and Coke.”

The waitress nodded in agreement and walked away.

“Are you actually Cuban, Jorge?” Tina inquired.

“About ten percent. My great grandmother married my half Cuban great grandfather.”

“Really?” Derrick responded. “You are very passionate about Cuba. What allures you to dedicate your life researching it?”

“Viva le Revolution!” Jorge charged. “I always root for the underdog, and Cuba’s culture is rich. Why did you all take my course?”

“It was a requirement,” Bella chimed.

Ben and Derrick nodded.

“Oh, interesting. What about you, Tina and Carlos?”

“I wanted to study something exotic,” gleamed Tina.

Jorge chuckled, “And now you get to go somewhere exotic. You must be in heaven.”

“All my friends are gonna be sooooo jealous when they see all my Instagram posts,” Tina pronounced.

“Oh, I bet. I wonder if you’ll even remembering being there,” Jorge implored sarcastically. “What about you, Carlos?”

“My parents are from Puerto Rico and our island is still treated with an attitude of second class citizens from the mainland U.S. I knew your background was with the Caribbean, and I wanted to learn about how the other islands navigated the tenuous social, political, and economic relationships.”

Jorge’s jaw dropped as he was listening to Carlos, “Wow, very well put. I look forward to reading your final research paper. Hope I was able to help you understand a little more about the Caribbean’s demeanor and inner-workings.”

“Definitely. I still cannot believe how ignorant Americans are of their Caribbean territories and their neighboring islands. It’s shocking and sad, the consequences they are forced to endure under the harsh, manipulative policy the U.S. touts.”

“Makes you almost want to cover your island with missiles that could destroy the whole mainland in the blink of an eye,” Jorge inquired, grinning.

Carlos laughed, “Not that far—it’s not always wise to fight fire with fire. It’ll just engulf the whole world in flames.”

Jorge looked at his watch, “Well, looks like we have to go board our flight. I’ll pick up the tab. Just don’t tell your parents. I don’t want to lose my job.”

***

Jorge was antsy, not enjoying flying that much, but the other students found their seats all right next to each other in opposing rows. They put their carry on luggage in the overhead bin and took their seats.

The flight attendants went down the aisle and handed out refreshments. Jorge had another Cuba Libre; Ben, Carlos, Tina, Bella and Derrick all had water. They all had calmed their nerves with a couple of drinks at the bar, but Jorge was chugging to cool his nerves more.

After the flight attendant was finished making her rounds, the plane was relatively quiet as the passengers were coming down from a busy, hot day.

Derrick was sitting next to Jorge who was in the window seat. Jorge had pulled out an oblong, yellow pill, and Derrick was caught off guard.

“What’s that, Jorge?”

“Oh, just a little something to take the edge off. I cannot stand flying.”

“Tina, sitting next to Derrick on the end of their row advised Jorge, “Jorge, be careful. You aren’t suppose to mix pills with booze. It can cause all sorts of reactions.”

“Thanks, Tina. I’ll be fine.”

Jorge popped his pill and washed it down with his fifth Cuba Libre, then offered a sigh of relief. A few moments later, Jorge startled mumbling unintelligible words to himself causing Derrick and Tina to get the attention of Ben, Bella, and Carlos.

“Something is not quite right,” Tina told her classmates.

All of a sudden Jorge protested, “The United States has declared war on Cuba!”

All the students looked at one another shocked and paralyzed by the situation. Jorge kept on…

“The United States has again screwed the Cuban people over. Another U.S. President has taken pleasure in killing Cubans with cruel and unusual policies.”

“Jorge, what are you doing,” demanded Derrick.

Carlos was smiling. Bella had her phone out and immediately began recording, “This is gonna get, like, a thousand likes.”

Tina and Ben were blushing and anxious about the situation.

“Yo soy Fidel! Cuba will never bow to the American pigs. You capitalist vampires will not bleed Cuba dry! We will overcome!”

“You are not even from Cuba,” Bella declared.

A flight attendant sprint-walked up the aisle to Jorge’s row and threatened, “Police will be here shortly to remove you unless you calm down, sir.”

“I know, and I don’t care. I will not bow to you monstrosities.”

The flight attendant walked back towards the cockpit and Jorge went on.

“Since they will be arresting me, I shall continue!”

Carlos looked at Bella and Ben, “Another lecture? Aren’t we suppose to be on break?”

Bella kept filming as Jorge continued, “Viva la revolution! Fidel is my great hero and he will be yours too if you repent your sick American ways!”

All the passengers on the plane were standing watching the situation unfold.

“The Statue of Liberty is caput! You are all frauds and America is a sham. Cuba is too pure for your tainted money and souls. By declaring Cuba a national security threat, this President has authorized the killing of Cubans! He starting the nuclear war!”

“You’re a national security threat,” one bystander yelled.

When Jorge became winded from his protests, he sat down and pulled out a cigarette. Jorge proceeded to light the cigarette and railed some robust puffs.

Derrick, embarrassed by the situation called out, “Can we get a flight attendant?”

Upon Jorge’s lighting of his cigarette, Carlos commented, “Damn, Jorge is gangster.”

Bella chuckled and replied, “Don’t encourage this behavior.”

The flight attendant was making her way up the aisle. Jorge saw her coming and put out his cigarette, hiding it in his empty Coke can.

When the attendant returned she demanded, “Did you seriously light a cigarette on the plane?”

“No, it was him,” remarked Jorge, pointing at Derrick.

“Don’t blame him!” Bella barked across the aisle.

Derrick got up and went towards the back of the cabin to get away from the madness, while the other students stayed in their seats. The flight attendant was walking up the aisle again—this time she brought backup: 4 police with tasers, pistols, and pepper spray.

As they walked up the aisle Jorge was yelling again, “You cannot silence me! You cannot suppress Cuba! Viva Cuba Libre and yo soy Fidel!”

The police approached Jorge and the students—all had serious expressions on their faces.

“Sir, stop yelling and come with us.”

“I will not be silenced,” Jorge protested.

“ir you have been harassing the passengers on this plane and you must leave immediately. You can either stop screaming and voluntarily exit the plane, or we will have to remove you.”

Jorge had a look of self-reflection for a moment, then began yelling again, “You are the President’s executioners, and I will not be silenced!”

Two of the police pulled out their pepper spray and charged Jorge, spraying him in the face and tackling him into the seats. The students were staring at the professor being detained. Jorge screamed and kicked so the police officers, as a group, lifted him out by his shoulders and legs. Nobody could believe what happened and one passenger yelled, “Shut the fuck up already!”

But Jorge kept on, “You call this country free? It’s a racist shithole country.”

“Prison is more of shithole, asshole,” shouted a passenger at the front of the plane as Jorge was being carried out.

Carlos, Ben, Tina, Derrick, and Bella got their bags and followed the officers off the plane. Ben broke the silence, “Did that really just happen?”

“Cuba is his passion,” responded Carlos.

“I already got, like, a hundred likes on Facebook,” Bella bragged.

“You posted it that quick?” Tina inquired.

“Yeah, but now we can’t go to Cuba. Spring Break is ruined,” Bella whined.

“I think Jorge’s career is more ruined,” Derrick offered. “What do you think will happen to him?”

Ben was looking at his smartphone and said, “Holy shit, this already has a thousand views on YouTube, Bella. It seems crazier reliving it.”

“Makes you wonder, though, what it all means, doesn’t it,” Derrick pondered.

“Like, what do you mean,” Bella asked.

“All those likes on YouTube? Probably tons of people sharing it. I mean, what are they liking about it?

“It’s funny,” Tina said.

“Is it,” Carlos asked, walking into the airport, into the crowds of people whose faces were glowing in the reflection of their cell phones, unaware of what had just happened.

 

 

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