I’m already leaving Pittsburgh as if to say I am already leaving Havana. The city of hundreds of bridges, and a downtown that imitates Manhattan’s, and a steel paste coagulated in the lungs of half of the 20th century, until the slave labor in China ruined its metallurgical industry and saved that of tomato sauce. And the Penguins. And the Pirates. And the Steelers.
I’m already leaving Pittsburgh, as if to say I am already leaving the United States.
I never wanted to know the name of its rivers. That would be treason. I name the rivers when they themselves reveal their names. And they revealed them to me, one by one by one. And in the three cases it was the secret name of love. That is why I hush now. For mercy. For prudence. Because to abandon a city where one has loved is to bury in her an unknown sliver of our heart.
Here I leave it to you, Pittsburgh, so when the archeologists bring down your mountains and uncover the fossil homes with parquet floors and sinister little windows, your parks and highways still at a human scale; your hospitals, where the silence is broken only by helicopters that travel between life and death. Your universities, where even the glances are carnal and where freedom would be tangible except in books where they talk guiltily about the Cuban Revolution (and where the teachers admire Castro but denigrate the Department of State in neighboring Washington DC).
Here I leave you my Havana heart Pittsburgh; the one that you couldn’t steal after months of seclusion. The one illuminated by your northern solitude in the wee hours of the night; naked between the blinds of the crazy moon; but that now has to continue north, always north, like someone who flees blindly from the malefic magnetism of an island south of all the socialisms.
The beauty of the United States of America starts with the anachronistic feel of this city; it even looks like Pittsburgh but, really, it no longer is. The multitudes, the drunks, the almost childishly innocent bars, the pornographic websites, the community festivals and the teenagers’ tattoos (almost always fake), the pills that get you high (almost always fatal), a blimp that almost never catches fire and falls to the ground (like in my nightmares resurrected from childhood), the food that is better than most cities because it’s less American, the fluffy snow that I didn’t see, but for which I will return one of these Novembers and deeply bury myself in; like in the womb of a loved one.
It’s hard to say this, but the light in Pittsburgh allows an explosion of colors that is unthinkable in the tropics. The greens here are ephemeral and absolute. The sun is rough but noble. The fall announces itself a few days after the end of spring. I have worn an overcoat in August. I have breathed pollen. I have started the novel to end all Cuban novels. I have been happy.
Goodbye my female friend, goodbye my male friend. I could not even decipher the grammar your gender. Don’t forget my steps and bike rides through the North Side, Pittsburgh. Do not laugh at the day I heard fireworks, and I thought they were gunshots and threw myself on the floor of my room; the day when I was poisoned by a shampoo, and I thought of the silly immortality of coming to die here; alone in a huge house where the fire alarms do not even let you fry a fish-stick.
I must declare your airport the smallest in the world, and the jitteriest too. Through those jetways my wonderful memories of eternity come and go through the air.
No Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, and no Wright House either.
You and me, insomniacs, accomplices in the desire and the wish to keep on surviving here; away from the suffocating concept of motherland. Incognito so that I don’t hear the despotic voices of my countrymen. In the antipodes of the Cuban Revolution.
Pittsburghabana, mon amour.
Translated by: LYD