Author's note: The return of Dr. Ingalls, psychotherapist to historical figures. His first appearance was in "'Tis a Lie!" way back in September (Contest 57), featuring his session with George Washington. In the comments, I'll put a note about what is true and what is fiction in this one.
Dr. Ingalls is tapping his pen on his legal pad as he waits for his next client. He looks at his phone. The client is already eight minutes late and Dr. Ingalls underlines the observation he made the previous week.
Routinely late for appointments.
At ten minutes, he adds an exclamation point.
At 12 minutes, he hears a door slam and two familiar voices shouting, one in Spanish and one with a pronounced Boston accent. Dr. Ingalls sprints through his office and takes the stairs two at a time. In the lobby, he sees his incoming client waving a boney finger in the face of his previous client and bellowing.
The doctor catches the phrase Playa Giròn, and knows his current client is going on about the Bay of Pigs Invasion again. Unfortunately, this time, his outrage is directed at the very man who authorized it back in 1961.
“Comandante! Mr. President, please!” Dr. Ingalls tries for a tone both commanding and calm. The two men turn to him.
“Apologies, Doctor,” says John F. Kennedy. “I was waiting for my ride when Mr. Castro arrived. We have some, er – unresolved business.”
Fidel Castro flicks his hand in Kennedy’s general direction, as though swatting an annoying fly. He picks a thread off his olive green military uniform and stiffens his shoulders.
“Thank you, Mr. Kennedy and thank you to the Yankee empire,” he says. Dr. Ingalls cringes, familiar with his tone, which implies quite the opposite of gratitude. “Thank you - because you made us believe, you made us reach heights at the end of all these years, and you crowned the blood of all the Cubans who have fought and died with the degrading defeat of your cynical bloc, your cynical attempt to destroy us.” Castro’s voice gathers power as he speaks and he ends, again waving his long index finger in the air.
“Well then,” Dr. Ingalls says. “Mr. President, I’ll see you next week. Comandante, please come with me.” He ushers Castro through the elevator.
“Imperialista yanqui!” Castro roars at Kennedy as the door closes.
In the office, Dr. Ingalls settles into his chair, pen poised over his legal pad. Castro leans back against the couch and strokes his beard. The session goes something like this:
Dr. I: Well, that was unusual. How are you feeling after seeing President Kennedy?
FC: How do I feel? He tried to overthrow me! He tried to kill the Revolution! He approved an operation called the Bay of Pigs. Do you know that?
Dr. I: Yes, I’m aware, Comandante. We discussed that a few weeks ago, remember? It seemed, at the time, that you had managed to achieve some closure with respect to that conflict. Did seeing President Kennedy trigger some emotions?
FC: It was another Imperialist failure. The Revolution lives! We will never stop defending our ideas or our system. The methods imposed on this unipolar world by U.S. hegemonism worsens the situation everywhere. They have forced governments to sell all the people’s properties, state properties; they have nothing left, many states have sold everything and are now in the hands of large private corporations.
Dr. Ingalls contemplates Castro over his glasses.
Dr. I: Tell me, Comandante. After 60-plus years, you still feel very passionately about the Revolution. But you ceded power to your brother –
FC: I was quite ill and could not continue leading my great nation. Raul was the natural choice to carry on. The Castro brothers – we ARE the Revolution.
Dr. I: Is Raul as committed as you are?
FC: You dare question my brother’s loyalty? I would not ask that again, Doctor.
Dr. I: It’s my job, Comandante.
FC: Raul Castro was by my side the day with attacked the Moncada barracks in 1953. We were arrested together. We fled to Mexico together and planned the Revolution together. He was with me when we returned, gathered our men and took Havana in 1959 – together! Raul has never wavered.
Dr. I: How would you characterize your relationship?
FC: I am the face of the Revolution, of Cuba. Raul is my loyal comrade.
Dr. I: Would you say he lives in your shadow?
FC: He follows orders. He does not disagree. We are in lockstep.
Dr. I: I understand how close you are and how important his loyalty is to you. But he made changes when you officially turned the presidency over to him in 2008, did he not? He instituted economic reforms that opened up private business. He improved relations with the United States, even opened a U.S. embassy in Havana and hosted the Obamas. After your death, he installed a new President – Miguel Diaz-Canel. Comandante, the era of the Castro brothers is over. How do you feel about your brother making these changes?
Castro removes a cigar from his pocket, lights it and blows smoke at the ceiling.
Dr. I: I thought you quit cigars in 1985.
FC: I did. In solidarity with a government national health campaign. I reached the conclusion that the last sacrifice I must make for the public health of Cubans was to stop smoking.
Dr. I: But you have started again. You lit up when I asked about the changes your brother has made. Perhaps it bothers you more than you admit?
FC: The truth is, Doctor, that it disturbs me greatly.
Dr. I: Why?
FC: He abandoned the Revolution! He gave in to the Yankee imperialists! He walked away from the Presidency I had given him.
Dr. I: I am curious about your perspective. From my review of your brother’s statements and speeches, he continued to pledge loyalty to the Revolution, to the Communist party, despite his policy reforms. It doesn’t sound like he necessarily gave in. Do you disagree?
FC: I do.
Dr. I: Many newspapers say that your brother is very practical. That he adjusted to the times for the best interest of Cuba.
FC: The Castros are in the best interest of Cuba!
Dr. I: Is it possible that was once the case….but is no longer?
FC: What do you know about my people? You are part of the Imperialismo. It is really impressive what a filthy system capitalism is, that can't guarantee its own people employment, nor health, nor adequate education; that cannot prevent youth from being corrupted by drugs, gamble, and all kind of vices.
Dr. I: My opinion is of no consequence here, Comandante. My goal is to help you, and I feel that your relationship with your brother is weighing on you.
Castro stands and turns to stare out the window.
Dr. I: What would you say to Raul if he were here right now? If you could say anything at all.
FC: Do you see them, Doctor?
Dr. I: Who?
FC: The Cuban people. Tens of thousands are out there, filling the Plaza de la Revolucion, waving their flags, chanting “Viva! Viva!”
Dr. I: Why are they there, Comandante?
FC: They are waiting for their Comandante, waiting for him to lead them in struggle and sacrifice and the fight, always the fight, for the spirit and virtue of the Revolution.
Dr. I: Is Raul there?
FC: He stands behind me, ever the loyal comrade, ever the loyal brother.
Dr. I: Is that-
Castro holds his hand up.
FC: Silence! The Cuban people are waiting.
He pauses and draws himself up to his full 6 feet and three inches. He begins to speak in a voice meant for thousands in an open-air plaza, and Dr. Ingalls wishes he could turn down the volume.
FC: Revolution is the sense of the historical moment; it is changing everything that must be changed; it is full equality and freedom; it is being treated and treating others like human beings; it is emancipating ourselves, by ourselves and with our very own efforts; it is challenging the dominant powerful forces within and outside of the social and national arena; it is defending the values one believes in at the cost of any sacrifice; it is modesty, selflessness, altruism, solidarity and heroism; it is fighting with audacity, intelligence and realism; it is never telling a lie or violating ethical principles; it is the profound conviction that there is no force on earth that can crush truth and ideas.
Dr. Ingalls finds himself hypnotized by the power reverberating through the room. The words flash in Castro’s eyes and vibrate through is voice as he lets some ring out and punctuates others with silence. He is building, as he has through thousands of speeches, to its dramatic end. His forehead glistens with sweat and his index finder jabs the air with fervor.
FC: Revolution is unity! It is independence! It is fighting for our dreams of justice! For Cuba and the world - that is the basis of our patriotism! Our socialism! Our internationalism! Patria o muerte! Venceremos!
He freezes, hearing the cheers of the crowd as they chant “Fidel, Fidel!” Dr. Ingalls observes his client. After a moment, Fidel turns to him.
FC: I feel remarkably alive, Doctor. I believe I am cured. No more sessions will be necessary.
Dr. I: I am glad you feel better, Comandante…..but I think there is a bit more work we need to do. Can you come back on Thursday? Same time?
As Castro strides out, appointment card in hand, Dr. Ingalls scratches out a few quick notes. “Denial, delusions, living in the past” he writes.
The doctor turns his attention to his next client. He pages through the file for “Shakespeare, W.”
“Ah yes,” he murmurs to himself. “Existential identity crisis. Doubts about reality.”
He hones in on a particular statement he has underlined and starred: “Wonders if he is the true author of his plays?”