CHUCHO AND THE END OF THE WORKING CLASS
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
He was not fired from his job by Fidel or Raul. He was fired from life, the life he worked for himself.
Chucho died today.
For months he urinated too much. He had anemia. Little appetite. He got skinny.
The doctors felt a compact ball in his prostate. They biopsied it but the sample didn’t work in the laboratory. They prodded further. He bled. Student beasts saving anesthesia God knows why. Chucho said not one more wild test.
He continued bleeding in the stool. He vomited. There were bruises on his body. Upset. His tongue knotted up in less than half an hour. The view at the end of the world. He died in Calixto Garcia hospital without having time for anything (nor would he have done anything in the Bolivarian Youth clique.) Laid out tonight, Thursday-Friday, in the funeral home of Infanta, The National.
My mother there all night. I left. I can’t resist the low light and institutional mediocrity that stifles us even after we are corpses.
Chucho was a fighter. He was seventy. No children. No women. Perhaps only my mother.
They met at the Lili Doll Factory, just as my mother fell in love with my father, the limpid Personnel Department clerk who spent almost 20 years with her.
I was born in 1971. My mother was a homemaker. Chucho waited, like one of those Garcia-Marquezian characters which he never read of.
He spent a century and a millennium.
In the old age of everyone, Chucho began frequenting our house in Lawton. He arrived before dawn. He helped where he could. A little old hustler with more energy and loyalty than 99% of youth, including, of course, myself.
My father was then like my mother’s father. Chucho and he played chess in a doorway of the nineties. My father still had the strength to defeat him. He applied the historical advantage of someone who has had a free hand to dedicate himself to the labors of an intellectual.
Chucho, yours was manual labor. The struggle. Lottery pointer in the fifties to the Secretary of the Nucleus of the Cuban Communist Party, already tired, even of Cuban communism.
It’s three o’clock in the morning in Cuba. I write naked in my room while he is lying at The National of Infanta, Room A (third floor), not far from his house in a maze on Manglar Street. The night we joined in the desolation of the old Chucho and the late adolescent Landy.
Ever since my father died, he wanted to dictate his memoirs to me, but I gently eluded him. I have no regrets. His life did not deserve the fallacy of any story. His life was a thing more than concrete. A crack. Like the word “chucho” — mutt — for example. Even among his friends hardly anyone knew his name let alone his surname.
Chucho, will start.
Chucho, you could be my father in the proletarian maelstrom of volunteer works in the sixties.
Chucho, you no longer believed but you still trusted in the Revolution.
With his horse letters, that I was writing out on the Underwood typewriter, former private property of my father. Minutes of meetings and appointments for meetings. Chucho gave me this to type.
Our class time is over.
With you, the spirit of the underdog died. Poor but honest. Resolving without screwing over others. With your roaring laughter in the urban character of Lino Novas Calvo. Crying on the phone like an uncouth peasant. That was it. A staggering guerilla in this abandoned palace of original dreams called Havana.
The official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba will not know, of course, of this “great loss of a fellow traveler,” but with Chucho the head of a time that no Cuban now lived in, fell off. In many mental ways, for me it is as if Fidel died (in many physical aspects it would seem like a mirror image at the end).
Chucho, I will not continue to speak of you in the second person singular, this empty vice of those bereaved, in grief.
The morning progresses and soon will dawn in Post-Revolution Havana. My mother has been left more alone. Your love for her is a little closer to being fulfilled in some place that may never be.
Chuco, I’m sorry. Adiós.
September 17, 2010