It was April 31, I was seventeen and was walking in celebration with a friend. She studied medicine and was obliged to go. She insisted I accompany her and I couldn’t resist: I gave in.
At about three o'clock in the morning we reached the point where we would meet up with the rest of her department. Unfortunately the Girón students – along with the unlucky Lenin students – belonged in what we jokingly called “the infantry battalions,” that is at the front of the march.
It was not yet dawn when we reached the Plaza and as it had been several years since I’d been to the marches I was behind the times. The first shock was a man in a red T-shirt who came out of nowhere and shouted at each student, “Put this on!” while handing over a red shirt identical to his.
I didn’t want to put it on and then the incredible happened: two strangers parted the Red Sea, picked me up by my shoulders, deposited me at the edge of the group and before finally letting me go declared, “If you don’t want to wear it you can’t be here.”
Feeling different among the sameness, colorless among the red, alone in the crowd, and young, I began to whimper. Interestingly I wrote everything that happened on the 486 computer I had at the time; now I think that perhaps that could have been my first post...
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.