High-pitched voices mix with husky tones. Singing intonations blend with posher lingoes. Bookish talk renders vulgar language silent. The cacophony of various discourses converges in a unique incantation, representative of the confusion this generation is undergoing in this time and place. You are part of this dialect; however one aspect sets you apart.
The shuffling of feet indicates the arrival of the man responsible for the queue. In this place, the Mecca of ice-cream, people quilt the city with their sweat and flesh, hoping to at least be able to gulp down a couple of scoops of the cold product at some point during the long hot day. For the few it will be an after-dinner option, for the many, it will be their breakfast, lunch and dinner. Necks turn to one side, scrutinising the man with the tickets in his hand, the man who holds their future (at least today) in his hand. You also shift forwards. And so does your girlfriend. And so does your friend. And so does his boyfriend.
Yes, his boyfriend. You and your girlfriend lean against the rails now that the man responsible for the food of so many has gone back inside. Your girlfriend rests against your thighs, caressing your face as she looks away from you, absent-mindedly, in utter motionlessness. Only her hand glides around your face as your friend, your best friend looks on. He wants to do the same to his partner, his other half, his love, but he’s afraid that the same incantation will point him out and chastise him. He smiles. Not at you, though. At his boyfriend. That’s all he can do.
The crowd shuffles forward again. Not because of some physical law, but because of hunger. During this split second your best friend’s hand brushes against his boyfriend’s and a moment of instant elation is shared by both. Their eyes connect for one second too long, for an infinite instant too short. The ice-cream is secondary now. Their breaths quicken and their grip grows stronger. They hold and let go of their hands as swift as it takes the mêlée around them to dehumanise themselves in this very common scene of mid 90s Havana. Rows erupt, fists are raised, necks crane, suddenly it is the choreography of the oppressed against the oppressed. Up above someone is laughing. Your best friend is laughing, too. But his is a different laughter. He has stolen a moment and only he knows precious stolen moments like this are.
Ice-cream eaten. Plates emptied. Bellies full (of ice-cream). Stairs trodden. Hands held (you and your girlfriend’s). Eyes staring at other eyes (your best friend and his boyfriend’s). Silence amongst your four as the outside din turns a couple of notches up. You four venture into the night as its mantle descends on the city. On the corner of L and 21st Street you go your separate ways. Rightwards a bed awaits you and your girlfriend to be unmade under the approving eyes of society. Leftwards your best friend and his boyfriend will disappear into the urban jungle as what they are to polity’s watchful gaze: ‘los pájaros de la Habana’.
Thursday 3 April 2008
Word, Movement, Sound, Music (Oda a Walt Whitman-Federico García Lorca)