He is 75 with a pension that exceeds his age by only 100 pesos. He is not suffering from anything except poverty and hunger. Three years ago he applied to have two pounds of milk included in his ration quota, along with a piece of chicken each month, as ordered by a supportive, and anonymous, doctor who agreed to classify him as a diabetic. It was not enough to normalize the protein levels in his body but, for better or worse, he managed, miraculously, not to starve through various efforts: selling newspapers, running errands for a neighbor overwhelmed by her work and children, and selling his quota of cigarettes.
Like any other year, he expected in 2010 to renew his medical certificate. Bad news awaited him, however, across the desk at Oficoda, the ration bureaucracy: to renew the entitlement certificate he would need to undergo a medical examination. He was wary of this game, playing with his life, but did not let himself be overcome by the adversity of the new regulations and prepared as for an interview at an embassy or for a job.
Thanks to several home urine tests he was able to find out what his normal glucose levels were, some glasses of water with brown sugar helped him study the ideal pattern of those who has the right to eat chicken and have milk with breakfast. Finally, some IV fluids purchased on the black market him reach the magic number: 12.5.
After two weeks of training he was ready. He went with all his blood samples before the alarmed examination board who strongly advised him to heed his doctor's instructions, as his diabetes was dangerously out of control. The last time I saw him he coming from the store he was smiling, with his shopping bag of powdered milk and a frozen chicken leg.
Translated by anonymous and trelex
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.