To Love, to Fear, to Leave

Maria Matienzo Puerto

HAVANA TIMES, April 4 — When I started studying Spanish grammar, way back when I was in elementary school, I didn’t even notice the romantic nature of the model verbs we used for learning how to conjugate all of the Spanish verb forms. These verbs were “to love,” “to fear” and to “leave.”

Later, in high school, I thought they were only romantic, but now that I live with them (I work as an editor, so I’m constantly checking on their agreement, which is nothing more than the relationship between the verb forms and the subject) I think that — more than romantic — they’re deeply tragic.

I think I’m stepping into a very dangerous zone, but I want to try and find (at least try) a logical explanation for these linguistic signs.

It’s as if we were preparing all of our lives to love, to fear and to leave. For those people who don’t believe in accidental occurrences, this may seem ridiculous, but I love coincidences for explaining my life and those of millions of people here on the island

From childhood we’re taught to love. Its sounds easy, but it’s not, without even mentioning that the meaning of the verb changes depending on how many people it refers to, or depends on the object, subject or the concept of what is loved.

We love our parents, we love our boyfriends or girlfriends, we love our children, we love our country, we love our dogs and all the things we’ve been taught to love. Of course, it’s not always as spontaneous as it seems; rather, we’re often obligated to love as some would have us love.

I’ve met some extremists who say that they love more than anyone, especially our country, and they cling to it because they share ideologies that are as extreme as they are. We must love. There’s no option.

The same thing happens with “to fear.” They say that fear is the opposite of courage, therefore we shouldn’t fear too much, just what some consider necessary to fear.

However, these same people are the ones who with other resources teach you to fear your shadow. Fear too has different degrees and it can sometimes turn into horror.

Therefore with all possible degrees, I confess that I’m afraid that one day my head will fall, cut off with an ax, and drop into a basket stained with dried blood.

With “to leave” the case is no different, but maybe one feels a bit of free will in its meaning. Some people decide to leave as their first option, then there are those who circumstances force them to leave and there are others who spend their whole lives leaving.

At times we might confuse it with the verb “to flee” because the infinitive “to leave” also in some way involves an escape or getting away.

Maybe that explains — from the mystical sense (?) — The exodus of so many Cubans as well as the desire of so many others to leave, those who it seems were born with that leaving gene in them. I would like to leave one day, but my brother’s generation has been thinking about leaving for el yuma (the United States) since the moment they first opened their eyes.

It seems we’ve been preparing all of our lives for these three actions. I don’t know if it comes from the Iberian spirit that has always been tragic and romantic, or from our Cuban pedagogy that is so visionary, at least conceptually. I’m not familiar with the curriculum of schools in Spain.

By the force of repetition, we ended up apprehending these meanings and reacting as if these were the only possible solutions in life. Do we go around in life basing ourselves on these three actions?

I don’t know, but they certainly have a lot to do with the Latin spirit of taking everything to the extreme — and sometimes beyond — for no apparent reason. The one thing I don’t have the least doubt about is that those three verbs are very near to me, to Cuba and its people.

Maria Matienzo

Maria Matienzo Puerto: I dreamed once that I was a butterfly who had come from Africa and discovered that I had been alive for thirty years. From that time on, I constructed my world while I was sleeping: I was born in a magic city like Havana; I dedicated myself to journalism; I wrote and edited books for children; I met to discuss art with wonderful people; I fell in love with a woman. Of course, there are certain points of coincidence with the reality of my waking life and it’s that I prefer the silence of reading and the pleasure of a good movie.

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