This post does not contain an image of R because I didn’t have the heart to ask her to let me photograph the hole in her butt where she was stabbed. It was nearly two in the morning on Saturday and Ciro, a journalist and I were at Juan Juan’s house when the call came. R was shouting at the other end of the phone, we could hear her sobs and the words “blood” and “they stabbed me,” she was just in the block of the “La Mariposa” store in Nuevo Vedado, at the corner of her own house. The men went to look for her in Juan Juan’s car. Minutes later there in front of me was a woman with her face covered in blog, her mouth swollen and a hole with a red ring around it in her pants, just where they give you a shot. They stole her cell phone, kicked her, and to finish off, “stick her! stick her more!” which, thank God, they didn’t do any more or she wouldn’t have come out of it alive. I helped her wash while she kept repeating, “They were boys, the age of my son”; she was shaking like a leaf.
“We have to go to the hospital because the wound is bad, later you can rest.”
At the Surgical Clinic the surgeon on duty, after we woke him up, asked, “What happened?”
“They assaulted her, they stabbed her,” I told him, and then the surrealism began for real:
He sat at a desk, took out a form and a pen, looked at R and without any transition between the hole in her butt and his routine for tonsillitis, began to fill out the form.
“Name? Surnames? Age? Municipality?”
While he tried to get his pen to write, I killed a cockroach ambling lazily across the table and skirting, without any difficulty, the form. When he finished his formalities he took a look – I thought he was never going to get around it – at the wound.
“Just a stitch and it’ll be fine.”
We left to get the stitch. The doctor looked at me as if I were completely off my rocker when I started to swat the flies out of the infirmary. He, who could share his desk and write with cockroaches, must of thought I was some kind of cleaning maniac. R laid down – I won’t give you the details of the stretcher – and the doctor prepared the thread to sew her up. A second before seeing the needle pierce the skin I asked, “Isn’t there any anesthetic?”
“It’s just two stitches, it’s not necessary.”
Juan Juan, standing next to me, as white as milk and breaking out in a cold sweat broke in, “But they just finished kicking her. Isn’t there any anesthesia?”
Thank God they had some and they gave it to her, because the “two stitches” took fifteen minutes to put in and R wasn’t in any condition to bear any more pain. At some point it all finally got to be too much for me and I felt like vomiting: the flies, the blood, the heat. I went out to get some air.
“What liquid is this?” cried Juan Juan near the end when I was again pursuing catharsis with the flies, going after them with a fury.
“Iodine, the best disinfectant in the world,”
“Luckily I’m not allergic to it,” said R, giving me a smile, otherwise I’d have fainted.
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.