Her parents taught her to study, to read, to love knowledge. When she was little she took classes in many things: piano, art, English, swimming and gymnastics. She studied at the university, graduated and started the statutory two years of social service. They were the two most irrational years of her life; she earned 148 pesos a month working 40 hours a week and with that salary barely managed to pay for the products in the ration book.
She finished the two years of paying for her career, hung her folder on the back of the door and refused to continue. She took some training courses to pass the time, enrolled in another career by long distance learning. Her father pressured her: it’s not good to get used to living without working. Her mother convinced him: better to continue studying than sit around doing nothing.
But she didn’t understand why everyone insisted that she should be working, while no one seemed to worry about whether she would be paid. Her parents were old and for some months their family abroad had not sent any money. She knew the crisis was coming, but work or no work made no difference, she wasn’t a girl any more and she knew, with legal employment she would starve.
Before she knew it, she was thirty; the old folks were now older than old, and the roof peeling away from the house reminded her that nothing is eternal. Selling clothes from time to time, working as an illegal tourist guide in Old Havana, or housecleaning for a rental was the most she could aspire to. The years passed and she became obsessed with her stagnating life. She put her name on the list for all the U.S. visa lotteries, put an ad in High Five to meet a foreign husband, talked with all her friends about getting an invitation to go abroad… but nothing.
Forty found her sunk in depression, like Penelope giving up hope for a day that never came, an exit she couldn’t manage, a house never realized, a wage that never rose, a husband that didn’t stay, some kids she never had, and a life she never lived.
Translation team included: Mafernan
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.