It has been nearly six years since I decided not to leave Cuba for good and it’s only today that I can calmly reflect on that moment. It was not a patriotic decision, nor a conformist nor a cowardly one, but rather completely irreverent. I still cannot find a single logical reason to justify the “I’m staying” that gives up the whole world. They say you can spend the rest of your life without weighing the consequences of your actions, but me, fortunately, I always knew: not leaving implies staying on the broken ship, drifting aimlessly, and assuming, also, that I will not be silent for a single moment while it sinks (I always was a bit of a rebel).
I threw the dice at my destiny and the random number that came up hasn’t haunted me: I have been happy. I abandoned my possible life “outside” – it’s an interesting syndrome we’ve been left with by geography and the revolution, “we are inside, the rest of the universe is outside” – and it didn’t leave me too many options: I could have spent the rest of my days climbing the ladder of opportunism or filling out useless papers in the Payroll Department at the Ministry of Education. I didn’t salute anything and ended up finding the recipe to survive the daily Armageddon without doing too much damage to my soul, and never thought any more about leaving.
But one day it wasn’t enough to keep my windows shut and barred, my almost perfect strategy for seeming invisible, my enormous pleasure in discovering that my neighbors didn’t know whether or not I and my world inside the walls existed: the intimate remained elusive, work poorly paid and, most of all, a bunch of sinister characters in my head wouldn’t stop saying that I was an inherent part of the ever-aging Revolution, heavy and omnipresent. I decided to open my blog because my bubble cracked, and still I didn’t analyze it too much.
Today I look at my refusal of permission to travel and it gives me peace: I was not hurt, not surprised. It is the long line that I have been drawing of my path, it’s the certainty that I wasn’t wrong, it’s the proof that the Cuban government has taken the trouble to give me so I will know, despite the Party and its State, the security forces and their impunity, that I have managed to live as a free woman.
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.