“El sitio en que tan bien se está”* / Reinaldo Escobar

I heard the news of the death of Eliseo Alberto, Lichi to his friends, at the very moment when the coffin of Bishop Pedro Meurice was being swallowed by the grave in the cemetery of Santa Ifigenia in Santiago de Cuba on July 31 of this year, 2011. A radio station called me a few hours later to comment on the matter, but I literally had to hang up the phone because I wasn’t able to utter a single word. I made an attempt to write my impressions about the loss of my friend and, unable to do that either, I waited for his remains to rest in Cuba.

The family, completely within its rights, decided to give him a final send off on August 29, in private for family only. It occurred to me to write something under the title of “Lichi between ourselves,” but nothing went as I expected. This September 10 he would have turned 60 and I let the date pass.

This morning Fefe, his twin sister, called me, to tell me the details of how they carried out Lychee’s will.

At the old entrance to the Arroyo Naranjo neighborhood there is an iron bridge over the railway line. It was built over 100 years ago by Eliseo Giberga, who was president of the Autonomous Party, and uncle to the poet Eliseo Diego. The family had a small farm nearby, later seized by 
“the avenging thirst of the Revolution.” That turn in the road occupied a privileged site in Lichi’s nostalgic memory. There he played with his friend, there he cultivated his fabulous imagination, that treasure that no one could confiscate, and it was there that he wanted his daughter, Maria Jose, to scatter the contents of his urn when he took his last flight from Mexico.

The bridge, located in a neighborhood now known as the Wheatfield, is called “Cambo” because that was the name of the French village where the great uncle who had it built had lived in exile. That is still exists is a pure miracle, all around it is filth and neglect, but this is in a really rough area. In that other dimension that is fantasy, there are unscalable cliffs amid lush vegetation, the wrecks of pirate ships, caves inhabited by dragons, castles in whose towers some princess is waiting to be rescued and where a boy, a prince, a hero, is training to save the world. Just as childish naivete began to fade, perhaps on a rainy afternoon, Lichi closed his eyes and promised the goblins of the place that he would never forget them and that, when he had finished the work of whatever profession the future put before him, he would return here to continue the game, the better to say: This is the life.

*Translator’s note:
The title of this post — The place where it is so good to be — is the title of a poem by Eliseo Alberto’s, father, Eliseo Diego. Here is the poem in Spanish.

19 September 2011