Every day I catch the P4, several times. It makes me ill when people say the buses are good. Last week, coming from the Naútico neighborhood to Vedado at 10:30 in the morning, with the bus about to explode and even without a cold front, I had one of my moments of Pure Hatred, as I call them, which fortunately passed quickly. I couldn’t get even a meter inside the door because I couldn’t fit (I weigh 110 pounds) and all around me everyone was sucking in their breath trying to get comfortable in the sea of humanity. An old man was always putting his hand on my butt, and when I protested loud enough for the whole bus to hear, he withdrew it without even blushing. Those who are sitting generally never move a muscle; I am used to see elderly and disabled people trying unsuccessfully to make it to a seat, nearly four yards from the door. But I already know that here there is no limit to the absurdity and, to take us all well beyond our limits, all the seats for the handicapped and the pregnant were already full that day. An old woman next to me was shouting to her daughter at the other end of the bus that she had already sat down, she had been given a seat; this shouted dialog was very entertaining to the woman sitting in front of us, who laughed about the situation with her husband. On the 42 there is an old blind woman who climbs aboard and, shouting, tries futilely to reach her seat; in all the confusion her purse strap breaks and she begins hitting everyone around her with her stick while the people, who can’t even move, receive the blows and shouts; the conductor is impassive as long as they put the money in the farebox, which is now so ignored that they’ve come up with some new laws that are very harsh. Finally the little old lady disappears from my tiny field of vision, a woman says they treat us like cattle, nobody answers. I think at the end of the ride the pressure will ease, but no, a blind man that got up from one of the seats glued to the entry door decides that it’s better to exit there since it’s closer; I succeed in telling him he won’t fit. The bus starts up and, already hysterical because he’s missed his stop, he doles out another dose of the cane. The bus driver manages to stop him, or they stop him, I don’t know, because by then everyone is roaring with laughter… meanwhile, I can hardly keep from crying. At last I see my beloved intersection, 12th and 23rd, squeezed almost vertically up against the second door which I hope will open the exit to paradise, I hear a seated fat woman telling the bald man in front of her: That one, I don’t know what she has, she has her disability card and is always sitting, but I can’t see that she has anything… I nearly vomit in her face and, if it weren't for the fact that I write so badly, someone would think this is an unpublished story from Kafka.
This is an excerpt to a version of the song, Epitaph for Vladimir Visotski by Karsmarski Jacek (Polish dissident songwriter), which includes Ciro Diaz in his latest album, The Blue Slug, that I listened to compulsively for at least two months, especially on the street with my mp3 inherited from a friend who now has an I-pod. (Download the lyrics here) (Download the recording and album cover here) The song (in summary, which runs about ten minutes) is about a desperate artist going through the circles of hell in search of an answer or death, and at the end of his journey there is only loneliness and the weight of the supreme power above himself. So I found myself at times catching the bus across Havana at 12 noon in August under the perennial sunshine and with the distressing feeling of not going anywhere, or arriving too late, or going for pleasure ... I feel that I have already arrived at the eighth enclosure (this is the finale of the song) where there is nothing, and I feel useless and empty, and I look at people without faith who walk along the street and who have so much fear that they no longer know they're afraid, and who have seen so many Roundtables and so many news broadcasts that they no longer know what belongs to reality or just to the TV screen. They cannot discern that they no longer believe, but cannot disbelieve either, and just move along past me not going anywhere.