Marta is tired of hospitals. She, like most of her fellow citizens, has had bad luck with the public health service. One of the pillars of the Revolution in which she was born, it seems to her more and more like a building completely worm eaten to a miraculous static, one pillar short of destruction.
A few weeks ago she was caring for a relative in Calixto García hospital. Among other vicissitudes, the blood serum her patient needed was bought on the black market, most of the medicines were “resolved” and the treatment had to be supervised by her own relatives. By sheer effort they managed to remind the nurse of the exact time of each treatment, the name of each pill and they themselves undertook the measures needed to avoid bedsores.
As there was rarely water, they brought buckets; as there was no way to heat the water for a bath, they bought a heater; as it was too hot in the room they asked to borrow a fan. They brought everything: the soap, blankets, food, a chair for the visitors, cream, alcohol, vitamins and cotton.
The only problem that remained unresolved was the obstruction in the bathroom; but the fact that the toilet always had stinking reddish-green water and the tap on the sink wouldn’t stop running, could be considered minor in view of all the layers of grime everywhere, the destruction of the windows and the wires hanging from the false ceiling.
Marta told me she ended her stay exhausted; all she asks of heaven is that she dies of a heart attack in her own house, without having to enjoy the comforts of the Cuban public health system.
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.