HAVANA TIMES — I am unable to access the Internet regularly for now and I don’t know whether I’ll enjoy this marvelous privilege again. I will try to continue writing for Havana Times, even if I have to do so blindly, unaware of what is going on in cyberspace and without feedback. It is because of this that I discontinued my work on cancer in Cuba.
Things, however, are not as negative as they sound, nor have I suffered bitterly over this. On the contrary, I am availing myself of the situation to re-connect with my non-virtual environment. I will turn the lens on me this time around.
History is one of the things I’m passionate about lately. I don’t mean the historical, historiographical or philosophical analysis of facts. I mean a rather odd obsession with jotting down dates in a kind of diary / chronology I’ve been keeping.
I’ve spent my life recklessly squandering my time. I was perfectly happy this way until certain signs drew home the fact I am also getting older. Since then, I am quite stingy with my minutes. To ensure they do not simply slip through my fingers, I give my dear diary a full accounting of how I used my time at the end of every day. I know it sounds a bit oppressive, but, in practice, it keeps me entertained as thoroughly as a new toy.
Now, I know exactly what crazy scheme I was involved in a week or month ago. The diary is also an excellent way of getting to know my biological rhythms and the duration of my menstrual period, to call it that.
I began by jotting down isolated personal experiences, but, little by little, my attention has shifted towards the past and the universe in general (I may need some kind of anchor so as not to wander too far afield). What was happening around the world while I was innocently playing with my toys as a child? I was dying to know.
My birthdate, 1975, was a terrible year. Spain got rid of Franco and the war in Vietnam came to an end, but there was genocide in Cambodia, armed conflict began in Angola and Latin America was trampled by the boots of murderous military regimes trained by the CIA. A short year later, a handful of terrorists working for this notorious agency blow up a Cuban commercial airliner off the coast of Barbados.
Blood was in vogue in the mid-seventies – only that helps me explain how a terrible film like Spielberg’s Jaws enjoyed such overwhelming success. In 1976, mind-bending Polanski indulges in a film about violence among neighbors (with The Tenant) and, in 1980, Kubric capitalizes on our morbid fascination with blood, madness and infanticide and fries our brains with The Shining. Two years later, the dead rise from their graves to dance next to Michael Jackson in Thriller, and the Rambo saga kicks off.
That was the long and the short of it on the big screen, but what was happening out in the real world? In Cuba, we had bunkers in every neighborhood, fathers who went off to a distant continent to kill and die and violent reprisals took place against our very neighbors, encouraged by our supreme leader.
Little Erasmo was not deaf to the message that came from this poisonous environment: nature is full of monsters who want to eat me, a bomb may go off anywhere, my neighbors could torment me to the point of madness, thinking differently is an expedient way of being killed, even my parents could go mad and disembowel me and not even the dead are to be trusted. In short: the Other constitutes a mortal threat and everyone is potentially an Other.
Becoming aware of the way in which so much violent madness came to envelop me in my early childhood has allowed me to understand a number of things. One of my favorite games was playing scientist and dissecting live lizards. Is it surprising that I was indifferent to the pain and death of other creatures?
A diary also makes you look towards the future, and it should help us face up to it. The problem is that an abyss separates the present and future and to extrapolate events from the past would be of little use – not because of the great pace of developments, as futurist Alvin Toffler predicted, but, on the contrary, because of the slam on the breaks we will soon experience.
It doesn’t matter. I will continue to fatten my diary while it proves useful and fun. When it ceases to be either, I’ll sell it for recycling.