The dreams begin, comrades.
Noises in hotel rooms. I begin to hear noises in the hotel rooms where I stay from coast to coast in the United States.
In Cuba, I was never a victim of the homeland paranoia; I only had the certainty of being spied on with criminal cruelty. Millimetric, butcher. I am sorry for Castroism: it failed to sow in me the syndrome of suspicion.
But, in Philadelphia, for example, or in Washington DC, in LA, in Miami, in La Crosse, in Madison, in Chicago, in Boston and who knows in what other city of the union, it is very different. There are hotels, those labyrinths that in Cuba are a rarity in terms of civility. And in the hotels things are heard late at nights. Sounds, whispers. And a cosmic cold that penetrates the soul and only then do you understand that you do not exist here.
Halfway through the late hours of the night, frantic knocks on my room door wake me up. Or not. Perhaps they are at the room across, who knows. The fact is that I wait and wait, but the assault does not repeat itself. Until the next day, during the wee hours of the night, at any time after the silent midnight.
They drag cleaning carts at random times. They scratch the parquet or the cardboard walls that make every building Made in USA.” They walk loudly. They speak a language of unknown accent that in Havana I would have perceived as English. There are little permanent lights that come in through the curtains or fall from the ceiling tiles in the form of a sea of alarms that never cease. And then begin my dreams. My North American dreams. North American dreams about Cuba, it is understood.
At this point in history, to dream of Cuba is purely a preservation instinct. I dream that I am back there, of course. And I laugh, I laugh like a madman.
I laugh at the assassins paid by the powers-that-be who did not arrest me or search my things with the twisted pleasure of rapists at the airport customs. I see things as if they were very small, dilapidated, but with an insane shine, like a drug addict. I see the houses of my city, the ones that I can recognize with my eyes closed. I see the small house of wooden planks, the only one in my life, the one in which I was born and died several times in Lawton; and I see my sacred objects, the ones I barely said goodbye to; and then someone tells me (usually someone I loved a lot, but not anymore): “When are you returning to the United States?”
“Never,” I reply, and suddenly I cannot breathe in the dream, and at that point I invariably wake up crying. With pouting. A baby’s cry, a cry of mental patient.
The United States.
The agony of the fighting fish. Their branchiae wide open, like swords. The oxygen of an atmosphere that will never be my atmosphere. Not having ground under my dreams. To be without existing. Orlando, Orlando…why have you forsaken us…?
I open my eyes. It is not dawning yet. I want to forget. My temples hurt. There are weird noises in the rooms around me. I am alone. Desolate.
If one day I go out on a walk, if it snows, and I get lost erasing my footsteps, who and when is going to ask about me? Who takes care of me? Who misses me? Who will feel sorry for my loved ones if one bad day my country’s military death reaches me by edict so that I do not live my life after Fidel?
I turn to the other side of the bed. I sleep naked. I curl up under the blankets and sheets which the American hotels provide me from coast to coast in the nation. The beds are cold here. More than exciting, they are pure erection. I cannot resist myself.
Nor am I sleepy now, but I surrender very quickly. I yawn, I must be exhausted. I nod. I myself make the noises and whispers that are going to reach, incognito, the other room. Strange. I do not stop myself. It is warm and tender like the deep light of the northern skies. Like the smile of teenagers who dispense insipid dishes at a cafeteria while they complete their PhD. I swallow air. I retain it. I am choking. I am not here.
I think about collecting all the Cuban dreams of exile. They are not here.
I am asleep, we are asleep. Soon it is about to be dawn.
*Translator’s note: The word “Dreaming” appears in English in the original. “Gusano” (worm) here refers to the insult hurled by the Cuban regime and its vassals at every person who has opposed the regime in any way, or who has left the country to escape it.
Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez
29 September 2013