“El dossier tratará de tener cierto rigor academic…” (The issue will have a certain academic rigor…) he writes. But my interlocutor – a word I had never personally spoken or written in my life BC, Before Cuba – my interlocutor knows me well; from you, he continues, from you “sería genial contar con una pincelada más jovial,” (and I have to look up “pincelada”… ahh, “brushstroke”). Yes, from me a brushstroke. A “more jovial” one.
OLPL knows me. His jovial pincelada proves it. We love each other. We have never met. I his mother’s generation, he my daughter’s. I see him walk, talk and pretend to be José Martí, machete waving wildly as he rides into battle on a make-believe horse near the backyard tap. I see the pixels of him. On my screen. I worry about him like a mother, like a friend. He doesn’t see me do anything (because, of course, he lives on the Island of the Disconnected), and he doesn’t worry about me because I live in a free country where we govern ourselves, and even if we are all insane our collective insanity is not a fraction of that contained, lurking, slithering around in the swamp, behind those sunken little button eyes of the Maximum Lunatic.
A certain academic rigor. I like rigor. In my engineer’s mind. Things that add up. That can be measured, proven, seen, touched. I have no use for it, otherwise, this so-called rigor, in ordinary, or even extraordinary, human endeavor. I have made something of a career of pointing out that there is no rigor. I sneer at rigor. “Everybody knows” we say. But no one knows, most of what we know is just flat out wrong. (Although we do know the world is not flat.) And we never ask the right questions. We only ask questions whose answers tell us nothing we need or want to know. “Everybody knows,” they say, but in fact they, we, know nothing.
Certainly nothing that will explain the Maximum Lunatic and the world he has created. Nothing that will explain whole lives lived in la-la land, suffered in la-la land, endured in la-la land. A bloody la-la land where the consequences are no joke.
So I care nothing for rigor. And caring nothing for rigor, I am free to do my work, my self-appointed task: To be a tiny bullhorn, a Lilliputian bullhorn magnifying sounds from a benighted island. To offer macabre proofs-of-life: blog posts showing the hostages holding up today’s paper, the machetes nearer or farther from their throats, depending. All depending on the Maximum Lunatic. The one we don’t care about, the one who is nothing to us, that one.
Ahh, but the hostages, they are everything. They catch me, hold me, I am hostage to the hostages.
The first one. The one who grabbed my ankle and has not let go. La flaca. “The one brave woman standing up to…” Rosa Parks and Joan of Arc in a skinny Cubana. But I saw right away, saw her, not Rosa, not Joan, not “the one.” And I worried about her, until a chocolate-loving priest assured me that her smile lights up the room, the sky, the whole Island, she is the happiest person, the freest person in Cuba. In Yoani’s living room is peace.
And then the flaca’s husband. I must learn to hear this troublesome language in which Reinaldo speaks, this language my eyes and fingers translate but that my ears resist, jealously clinging to their deafness in its presence. I must learn to hear this troublesome language so I can laugh, roar, get the hiccups and let the tears run down my face when he talks.
Claudia-but… but… but… but-at-some-point…
At some point you don’t conquer your fear you just put it aside, and act. And there is the video of Miss Scaredy Cat, screaming at some flinching stupid thug who is telling her she is not “qualified” to go to the movies, being counterrevolutionary scum and all.
Claudia and Ciro. Ciro who taught me my new favorite song, with lyrics so short even I can remember them – “Estoy buscando una forma poética de expressar lo mal, lo remal, que me cae, Fidel Castro”* – as well as my second favorite, “Apagones importados,” and who makes me laugh just at the joy of him. The G-2 of him. (He’s a quintuple agent you know: G-2, CIA, KGB, Stasi, and… and… and…That’s why he’s so rich, they all pay him.)
And some without names who have enough trouble without my listing them here, relating how they moved me, burrowed into my heart, made me want to fly to the Island with presents for their children, cool presents, Swiss Army knives.
Laritza, ripping my heart out, gorgeous, every word cutting like shards of glass through the fucked-upedness. I want to rescue her, I want to cry at her admission of the many times she’s considered suicide, so matter-of-fact, as if who wouldn’t, under the circumstances, this barely grown woman, this thousand-year-old woman, who needs no rescue, not from me, not from anyone, mother, wife, neighbor, citizen, future of the universe, future of Cuba, only to look at her, only to hear her, is to know it will all turn out well.
Gorki. Watching him jump around – watching his balconazo of outrage at the permanent cameras mounted on poles to watch him – I can only marvel that his mother didn’t smother him when he was five just to have five seconds of peace and quiet in her home. But thank god she didn’t.
Luis Felipe. Luis and Exilda holding up the sky, holding up their children, their incredibly beautiful children who shine with their parents’ love for them, children who I know will grow up in a free country and who will vote, really vote, for their own president.
I promised no more than two pages. I’m running out of space. I’m not running out of friends. All these pixelated disconnected friends I’ve never met. Rigor be damned. I love you. I want to see you with my own eyes with only air between us and then no air, I want to touch you, hold you, hug you, to need no proofs of life, to feel life. To grab on and never let go, even when we let go.
I keep you in my heart.
Revista Voces / Voices Magazine No. 15 / June 2012
Note: The article in Voces was translated from this original in English
*”I am looking for a poetic way to express how much, how very very much, I can’t stand Fidel Castro.”