31 and Keeping on keeping on…!
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
I remember the conspiratorial slogan. The eighties were coming to an end. The twentieth-century of Revolutionary Cuba was coming to its end. It was December. Another December. It was Robaina and his Ujaycee, spelled like that—UJC, Young Communist League—with the seven colors of the rainbow on all the rundown façades of this city. It was 1989. Another date that ended in a 9, the preferred number for any respected Revolution (reread history to corroborate it.) I had just enrolled at University of Havana to do a BA in biochemistry, free of cost, right by 25th Street at El Vedado, one of the quiet little streets that are, secretly, the most beautiful in the world. A landscape with trees and shade and small, slow-paced businesses whose shop assistants never got old, with love dripping freely from each gaze at the edge of the large avenues and institutions of the capital city.
The Berlin Wall was going down, Gorbachov was God-bachov, our god forbidden after the bullet that stoned Ochoa and half of the Ministry of the Interior (there were hundreds of detentions and sackings: soldiers have always been the first victims of that political power they perpetuate, even if unwillingly).
I was I. My name was already Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo. I was not even 20, for god’s sake. I was eternal. Skinny. Fearful. Distrustful, distant. I had not yet made love. Or hardly. Helpless and intelligent. Prone to getting sick, and healthy afterwards. Sagittariatic. I was not sure if I would have the strength to make it to 2000: so far away, so futuristic, such a lie in the official discourse of magazines shutting down in their wholesale bankruptcy during the general crisis of Socialism (that CGS — General Crisis in Socialism — no Marxism professor ever instilled in us). I was not sure I would ever be able to taste a half-syllable of truth. Pardon me. I remained silent for twenty years because of you and because of me. I was ugly. I was bad. I was another, others.
But now I turn 31. December goes by like a charitable nightmare. There isn’t a worse Cuba than that made from the same wood. Of such a little slogan on consignment, “31 and Forward,” not even forgetfulness remains. Its author was defenestrated when Fidel was still alive, like all other Cuban officials, respected or not. Faith passed away. We were left alone, faithless. It’s nice.
With all the oil of America and those enormous air-conditioned Chinese buses, but alone. It’s beautiful. Raúl as residue, as inertia, as the rhetoric of the red tape to nowhere. The Castro of catharsis. We are still so young, going on 40 and still so young. That is, if we have lived at all. They kidnapped our time. We were exiled. They tattooed our genes with “outside” kills, and “inside” redeems, and we wanted to kill ourselves. Anything to not participate in that false feast in which this country didn’t sur-vive but sur-died, funereally. We left. We rented ourselves for just a while, no more. We would come back eventually, when death had taken care of cleaning up a bit those high positions of our imaginary nation. And we also stayed behind, some of us.
We humiliated ourselves for a while, another while, no more. We would eventually talk to one another, when fear had left our bones, tomorrow or in the following millennium. Or, for example, now, when December 2010 is ending and we are sad but free, and that desperation makes us unique and beautiful like a cosmic race, somewhat comical, and each one extends blank hands to the brother who loves us from so far away, and we tell each other the exceptional experience of the horror of a history without end. 31 and going.. and going good!
2011 is the year of the newest Cuba. That Cuba where we will need to wrap ourselves in a lot of courage so we can avoid killing one another like dogs at the Tienanmenville Square Motherland. Where we’ll need to come out of the closet we all let ourselves be boxed into by too much State or Exile. Neither the totalitarian State nor the totalitarian Exile exist. It’s I, you, we, all of you who exist. Nastiness among Cubans is done with. 2011 is now or never. If we don’t deserve our motherland, our patria, then many blogs will need to be deleted and we need to turn our attention to talking about some other topic.
The twenty first-century cannot go by with us still going on with our little freedom histrionics. We are not eternal. Soon we are going to die, perhaps before those in high positions (death is petty). 2011 is to be lived from this same line in atrocious freedom. Being I, being you, being all of you, being us. Please. What mediocre vice minister can stop such a march? What tinpot premier can scold when all the words in Cuba rebel and reveal themselves like new, shiny, exquisite, sonorous light? Even pain itself will be a virgin and thrilling pasture. Long live life, Cuba! Even a life without the burden of so very many decrepit Cubas! But may I, and you, and all of you and we live forever! There is a Cuba after Cuba. There are Cubans before Cuba, and Cubans after Cuba.
Translated by T
31 December 2010