Every month I find myself overwhelmed by the absence of random staples; it can be oil, shampoo, detergent, milk, eggs or sanitary napkins. Every time the end of the month approaches, the question that comes to mind is, “What are we missing now?” Sometimes I can’t wash, other times cleaning is agony, or my pot of beans is distraught by the abandonment of its inseparable companion, rice.
I try to remember the moment when all this started, and I’m surprised to find that since I was a little girl the economy has played hide-and-seek with me. I still remember clearly the things my mother sighed for when I was only seven: food, cigarettes, shoes for me. Others populated my adolescent longings: chocolate, meat, a pair of shoes, soap. Here I am an adult, still finding myself frustrated by the persistent absence of simple things.
I wonder, as do the rest of Cubans, how long will it be until a bottle of hydrochloric acid, to clean the bathroom with, comes to star in my life? Could it be that when I am eighty a roll of toilet paper will still evoke nostalgia?
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.