My friend the Argentine was born in Marianao. He was a writer, photographer and freak, and in 2000 he married an Argentine woman and went to Buenos Aires, where she discovered the deception: he was pure Argentine, not a poor Cuban artist.
A few years later he came to visit, but only came to my house once because a friend brought him. He told me he was very frightened of taking boteros (10 peso private taxis), because since he was a foreigner anything could happen. He also told me that he was very excited about the new Congress of the National Assembly (our very original assembly because in order to be part of it you have to be at least 80 years old and have been a communist party member since the age of 3) and assured me that there would be changes but he didn’t tell me which ones. He made allusions to our situation, thinking we didn’t have it that bad, and to prove it he told me that over there they had to save for a little while in order to buy a computer and that the workers were imbeciles because they went on strike over anything and they wore Che T-shirts for pure snobbery, without even knowing who Che really was, without knowing his ideology and his heroic career. He was sure that socialism was the best thing for a country and that Cuba was on the best path, that in spite of everything we had education and free health care and, good or bad, we could eat… I would have liked to go with him to see the documentary “Looking for you Havana” by Alina Rodríguez but by that time he wasn’t around.
When Ciro came he was critical, said he hated Porno Para Ricardo and that I was advised to be warned. Sure that I was being monitored and that it wasn’t desirable to be seen with me (he wanted to do some business in Cuba), he didn’t want to go to G Street (he’d never been and I thought he would like to see the new hang out for freaks), he didn’t even want to meet my friends. In private he risked asking me to go have a few beers with him, but I begged off saying I had a prior engagement with my boyfriend.
We said goodbye like two strangers, with the certainty that we wouldn’t meet again, because you can’t return to find someone you don’t know. I don’t miss him, but sometimes I remember him; it doesn’t hurt me that he changed so much, but it makes me sad that he no longer writes, no longer sends photos.
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.