It’s been about three years since the wires in my building, constructed in the 1940s, said enough and walked out on us.* Bit by bit, in less than a month, our apartments lost power, we gradually slipped into darkness.
So the neighbors had three meetings a week to decide on a fast and effective solution, while those of us who were most desperate shared the cost of a private electrician who soon arrived and temporarily strung a cable for each of us from the box to the apartment. Tied to the pipes and among the pipelines, climbing over walls and hanging in the air, colored cables began to enter our doors and windows to rescue us from the gloom.
But suddenly the ground floor of the building shook with an explosion and the lights on the stairs and in the hallways also went out (I started welcoming my visitors with an ironic: “Welcome to Kosovo!”) Everyone was condemned to the clothesline current.
Four different political solutions were quickly suggested. Those retired from the Ministry of the Interior and the building’s fighters began a super-optimistic effort with the government: visits and letters to the ministers; those well-placed made their telephone calls; the CDR board contacted the micro-social; and we, the infidels, found a professional who, for 10 CUCs per apartment, would give us a new building in three days.
Months passed and no one could agree, even though our “clotheslines” were passing through the room of the director of the electric company, not even he came up with anything concrete. Those from MININT had Faith and took the position that everything would be resolved soon, as promised. Because there were apartments who in no way could pay 10 CUCs because they didn’t have it, our delegation undertook to pay, among ourselves, what they could not, but others demanded patience, they didn’t want to pay the 10 CUCs: to them it seemed an impudence and an abuse.
The electric company, micro-social, and housing all tossed the responsibility back and forth, kicking us around. Finally, the electric company gave an answer: their responsibility was the cables from the electric pole in the street to the electric box in the building; from the box out to us was beyond their jurisdiction. Our building was officially declared a no man’s zone.
As the boxes were old (the same age as the cables), the electric company did what belonged to it: came and changed them. The neighbors built a wall to take them off the stairs for safety. After 15 days we had all new boxes and all the lines were well oriented to each apartment. We continue to pay, of course, the same for electricity as before.
Some years have passed and several hurricanes, sometimes spreading panic, and many leave (as I do) when there are atmospheric events. Now no one remembers sending letters, calling their contacts, or convincing people to pay. We are accustomed to it, the danger has become ordinary and everyday reality: it has lost completely its semantic sense.
* "This great humanity has said: Enough! and has started to walk, and their march of giants will not be halted.” Ernesto Guevara
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.