They call is the “ghost bus,” but to go from 12th and 23rd to Nuevo Vedado there is no choice but to wait for it. I got to the crowded stop at six, as usual, and calmly sat down to wait for the miracle of seeing the bus appear.
Half an hour later it arrived late and packed with people. Despite the fact that a lot of people get off on this corner of Vedado, there wasn’t enough room for all of us waiting on the sidewalk to fit inside. A foreigner, two old men, and I watched the bus take off, with men hanging out the doors. It seemed the foreigner was interested in conversation, despite my earphones he sat down next to me and started to talk.
It turned out he was Brazilian and had been studying medicine for a year and half at Fajardo, even though his Spanish was very bad. Suddenly we were interrupted by a crash on 23rd, between a motorcycle and a Russian-made Lada. Amid the shouts and carrying on of the curious, he asked me, “In Cuba, these accidents are few, right?”
I didn’t understand his meaning very well, but in any case I said, “There are few cars so I suppose there are few accidents.”
After a short silence, he made another comment, “Cuba is an excellent country to live in.”
“It is very safe.”
I imagined many possible answers:
“How do you know that’s true if the press doesn’t report acts of violence, nor are there any official crime rates?”
“Security is a characteristic of militarized systems and total control over the civilian population.”
“It’s a shame that the sense of security is inversely proportional to that of freedom.”
But I said nothing. I was getting dark, I looked at the time, it was already eight. I was tired, I’d lost the entire afternoon trying to get across the city, and some Brazilian out of nowhere exasperated me with his Perfect Manual of Life in Cuba.
I didn’t want to explain anything, I’d have preferred to simply give him a kick in the pants. But since I am an educated person I confined myself to getting up and leaving; I would go visit my friend another day.
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.