In elementary school they made fun of me because I wouldn’t say bad words, in sixth grade I was awarded the Beso de la Patria prize, and when we entered secondary school I fell like a kick in the chest. My discomfort wasn’t because I was a gusana, a so-called bad egg, from when I was little, it was because I thought the Beso de la Patria prize winner should be me, who had written and read so many communiqués, and also she was pretty with a Paladar restaurant and I was fat with a disgraced father.
But high school threw us together in a field of sweet potatoes, right next to each other, weeding infinite rows, playing with the gusanos and making our debut together as the Unreliable Brigade: we became friends. In three years we changed from girls to teenagers together and there wasn’t a moment between 12 and 14—through good times and bad—when she wasn’t at my side. In ninth grade, despite our good grades, we were already infamous: listening to Rock, reading “complicated” novels, and being as eccentric as possible cost us dearly, me at home and her at school.
At 14 they formed a Disciplinary Board in the classroom, some students got up and denounced her: smoking, listening to rock and roll, running away, saying improper things, meeting with antisocial elements, etc. Even though she had a 100 average, she couldn’t be first in the ranking, they relegated her to third place. That same year her family won el bombo, the immigration lottery, and they all left for the United States. It has been almost ten years since we met and even though we do not aspire to win the Beso de la Patria, nor to understand the origin of the universe, among other ambitions, we’re still friends.
She came recently and wanted to be put in touch a group from high school, those who once wanted to take her academic rights by force of an extremist ideology. My friend doesn’t care, she called for old times sake, for lost adolescence and nostalgia. However one of the girls who pointed her finger her most strongly hadn’t forgotten. For the former denouncer everything meant something else: getting off her chest the guilt of the repressor, the informer, the unjust. She apologized to the one she once vilified and I know that since that day, she breathes more easily. I am happy for both of them.
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.