Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
Night in Cuba can be as claustrophobic as the sunny days. You sweat. You stink. You’re exhausted. Desire disappears. It is better to die than to be depressed by the national nightmares on top of the tedium of your coming day.
But the summer is over, however unlikely. October blows its mysteries of a bad month for mediocrity. It’s even cold. The direction of the air changes, the atmosphere is open to the sky. The stars rotate counterclockwise. The moon doesn’t show itself too much. Everything is noble grey. The nights shrink, there is no distance between objects. Lightness is synonymous with Freedom. There is no government nor resistance. There is only Cuba, the only one. The one of truth. Cuba unrecognizable, or at least unknown.
And then we breathe. That. For the first time in this year we Cubans her breath. O2: oxygen, orlando… Click Play.
I go outside. I record in mp3 syllables what Havana dictates to me. I am privileged, I recognize it, I am a tiny imitation of god. I wish the entire world was under my skin, shivering under my sternum. So much reality still virgin. So much luxury and so much splendor. All of a sudden visible, soft, hyper-real. An unexpected city. Suicide.
Down below the Ceguera hospital looking for the midnight music of the sea. I go alone, as appropriate to all limited experience. Unlimited. Seventieth street has preserved its decorated trees. Subversive roots that cracked the solemnity of the concrete. Also granite benches. A desolate funeral. A bookstore without illusion. State cafeterias that deserved to be bombarded by a multinational force. Riotous semaphores for anyone. I crossed on the red, the green and the yellow. No one saw me, not even me. I’m a ghost, of course, but the ghost of a real citizen who is leaving our performance of a country.
On 19th the P-10 bus crosses in front of me, very long, bright and colossal, empty of people, driven automatically, perhaps, from the general headquarters of the Yutong company that made the bus, pure material imported from the future Caribbean that never was. What loneliness so healthy. Where are the Cubans at this time without time? Who will wish me luck and not assassinate me, a shadowy zombie exiting socialism? When will the asphalt end and I will finally tread the dogtooth that is our most faithful border? Why did I not fall asleep forever in one of those plastic cans with signs in Catalan?
It should not dawn. They should not dawn. We should not dawn.
The Russian embassy is a quadratic syringe. I’m sorry, it always seemed precise to me in its deformity. It’s a lizard, a symptom, simply sensational. I imagine it full of spies and satellite dishes, maybe micro-satellites and isotopes and some sad girl with a handkerchief of icons on her head, cut out of one of those colored magazines from the eighties.
I don’t know what I am listing. I am in ecstasy. I speak alone, like the locos, all the fault is the mp3’s.
An estate. The pines still uncut. Democracy will enter Cuba by this avenue, I know. The architecture predisposed. Beauty calls. Even if dawn never breaks, Havana may be saved.
The sea. Next to the Dutch or Hispanic or Swiss hotel, or what I know of the H’s H-Europeans H-invoked now. Little waves. Foam. Salt on my myopic lips. Fear of not being afraid and going with my clothes and boots into this sea. Hiding myself with humility. Under that immaculate odor of cosmic milk from above. Constellations, galaxies, high points of light that never blink. The sense of this place escapes me. I would undress, touch my body, explode. Orlandoisms that don’t fit in the prudish country that persistently kicks us. As a teenager I was like this, pleased with the outside world. Without penalty. Without asking pardon, but with dread. A patrol approaches me from the alley that bites the reefs of the sea.
ID card, of course. We un-inhabit the Island of Identification. My hair makes them nervous. My height. My mannerisms. My clothes. My voice on the mp3. Distilled truth. I am, for an instant, immortal. Immoral.
Two hours later I’m back on 70th Street. The intermezzo doesn’t matter, does not fit in the fragility of this narration. Nothing happened. Decrepit dialogs of authority. Winks of the author. Official fiction. Tonight we were unstoppable, Cuba, me and those who right now follow with the view my voice (just in that ungrammatical order). It is the kind of anecdote that turns exclusively in me. I have told it in Sad Tiger and Decalogue of the Year Zero. A mistake. Horror always is.
Seventieth street above is just exquisite. It never reaches 31st. Snoring mansions illuminated, with their dead owners in the cemeteries of some other country. Roofs slender, curved, futuristic, classic. There were men living in this story. Their mistake was not to leave too early, but to abandon us parting from here (to the papyrus here). A Cuba of mute memories pressing on our retinas, throats and heart. Click Stop.
I turn to home. I hear it. I type, I tremble. I am in an invented winter. Some cats are disemboweled on the other side of my wide open window. The red sky. Drizzle. Hoot. I p[ray that the night does not end now. I pray never to find a line that accommodates the final period without violence.
October 7, 2010