Chronicle of the Blackout / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Havana during the blackout taken from Yoani’s balcony
In the blink of an eye the voltage at the symmetrical hour of the prime time news, 8:08 on a Sunday evening, as boring as slitting your wrists, or walking naked in the street with a pacifist placard, or some other symptom of insanity. A blink of an eye and then black silence, deathly. The light goes out, as usual, as if in perverse nostalgia for the ‘90s. A Time Machine, but this time without Fidel.

So paranoid, the mind begins to plot. The cell phones ring. There is no light anywhere in Havana. Sabotage. A bombing. A coup d’etat, the Army against State Security. A trick to transport the Great One’s Casket to the Obelisk and hold the news until early Monday morning. Eternity was, indeed, a Monday. The death of Oswaldo Payá, as his executioners promised in life, announces the fall of the regime. Perhaps a military tactic so the Yankee spy planes won’t detect the troop movements or perhaps the trucks with nuclear missiles camouflaged with sugar cane or moringa leaves or the invasive marabou weed (as happened in the fall of 1962). Soon they will knock on my door and take me, under arrest, to the National Stadium, a concentration camp for the duration of the State of Emergency. The Final Solution of the Fucked. A curfew for the construction of State capitalism. Raúlpolitik. Tihavanamin Square.

The cellphones continue to ring. The batteries run out in the first hour of stars and candles. There is no light anywhere in Cuba. It’s the terror. Rául Castro has fled the country, leaving behind the chaos of an island in its feudal dawn. We are alone. We will be invaded. The sound of an airplane in the abyss of heavens sends us to our knees and my mother starts to pray.

Then come the details by text message. Santiago de Cuba, inhospitable and horrible, has electricity. Also that bottled mess of Camaguey. In Ciego de Avila it went out but came back quickly, village by village and neighborhood by neighborhood. The satellite photos should show a Cuba divided. An Island in high-contrast black and white, extreme expressionism. The liberal and internet-loving West will be punished. The anachronistic East will survive the repression. Black September. I call my loved ones and say goodbye without their noticing. In the midst of the dark ink of the blackout, I realize that I have loved. That I went blind. That I won’t live with them in a future of freedom. That it’s the end of of the Revolution according to Saramago, topped off with a hashtag: #Apagonazo. Number-sign-blackout.

The light of hope is that the cellphones are still working. I am not cut off, although other activists are, like @HablamosPress, and they even received threats from their secret agents not to Tweet even one more character. According to secret colleagues, the www dial-up service isn’t cut either. Some neighbors mobilized to transport fuel to the hospitals, it seems to be a long crisis, but not in the terminal phase. Are there wholesale wounded? At the beginning there was no TV or radio signal, but after a while the Chinese battery-powered receptors picked up it. At worse it was a fake recording from Venezuela, who knows. Or Chavez moved here in a panic with his ALBA treasure to co-govern from here. The truth is they put on transition music, instrumental blinds, debates about the Five Heroes with electricity in their U.S. prison cells, like an overdose, and the most suspicious: Radio Reloj — Clock Radio — doesn’t even mention the blackout, at midnight they are broadcasting recipes and curious “World Knowledge” tidbits, it’s obvious that on Day F their announcers will be forced to talk at gunpoint, like in the incipient spring of 1957. History is a cycle. A circus.

Then it was a part of the War of the Ministry of Basic Industries: just a simple 220,000 volt accident on the central region’s prairies. A relief. I went to bed. Naked. The windows open to a godless cosmos. I composed myself. Stopped typing. Remembered an out-of-phase thermoelectric motor and then an ex-presidential broken kneecap, countless summers ago, in the pre-history of the years zero or two thousand. I breathe. I am perfectly healthy, as Nietzsche said after decades of decadent disease. It passes and with a little luck they forgot about me. At worst it passes and I also survived. Please, don’t wake me up until it’s all over. No one deserves to die more than once.

11 September 2012