What We Leave Behind

By Irina Pino

HAVANA TIMES – The other day, I took advantage of having some mobile data left from a top-up to download a few videos I wanted.

These included several string and flute quartets by Mozart, Maria Callas singing the Arias from the Carmen, Tosca, La Traviata, Madame Butterfly operas, songs that Donovan composed for the Franco Zeffirelli movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon, and one by Billy Joel: Honesty.

The last one takes me way back, to my youth, to the ‘80s, a period I miss, as if it were the best time of my life, when we didn’t think about diseases, getting old or dying. We just lived life to the full, with a recklessness that we didn’t have enough hours for, always setting up last minute plans; or there was no plan and we winged it.

If we wanted to go on a trip, to a campsite, for example, we did, we’d get the money we needed and would leave without looking back.

Those were wild times, it didn’t matter if the cabin we rented wasn’t in the best condition, if the running water didn’t last very long, if there were mosquitoes and scorpions slipping in through the windows. We would dodge problems, we’d go to the beach in the night, naked; run through the forest, talk to strangers, make love with strangers. Nothing could stop us.

Going out to the movies was a luxurious affair, we would dress up elegantly to go to the Cinemateca, where they would put on series of the greatest directors. That’s where I saw Rocco e i suoi fratelli by Luchino Visconti, Vertigo and Psychosis by Alfred Hitchcock, this wonderful movie by Claude Lelouch, Un homme et une femme, with music by Francis Lai. I also remember how Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour marked me, with a poetic script written by Marguerite Duras.

I was captivated by actors on the silver screen, such as Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Olivia de Hallivand, Marlon Brando, Marlen Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, Montgomery Cliff, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Elizabeth Taylor, and the unforgettable Gregory Peck in To Kill The Mockingbird.

Then, on a winter night in the ‘90s, we enjoyed a color screening of Gone With the Wind, directed by Victor Fleming. We watched it another three or four times, when we traveled to the province. We learned it off by heart.

My friends and I were thirsty for culture, and we were always busy soaking it all in, going to theaters, museums, galleries, the National Library, at the music hall, where we’d spend long hours listening to classical music.

It makes me laugh now thinking about the headphones they had there, which were extremely uncomfortable, they were like the headset of an old phone, and our ears would hurt after a while.

But listening to pieces by Mozart, Chopin, Vivaldi, Gershwin, and many other composers, was what was important.

Having new experiences formed part of our everyday adventure. Pepe, my homosexual friend, proposed I pose for some risqué photos, and I didn’t think twice. The session was fun, I put on a garter belt, black tights and displayed my charms without any shame.

The series of photos were shot in black and white, they were poor quality though because the reel wasn’t in the best condition, but it really makes me happy to see how my body has changed, and even my gaze.

Literature was out on the streets, street booksellers had interesting titles, both Cuban literature and universal works, so reading was cheaper if you bought second-hand books.

Now, we miss this large quantity of physical books that we could buy for a cheap price. Back then, I started identifying with English, French and US poets. They influenced my own writing to some degree.

What else can I tell you? Youth is beautiful, your body is beautiful, your mind is clear, that’s what we keep for our memories. Our own story is just a passion-filled novel.

Read more by Irina Pino here.