Gracias a la vida . . . (episode 53)

Corda strappata by 'Idea go.' http://freedigitalphotos.net

Corda strappata by ‘Idea go.’
http://freedigitalphotos.net

December 26 1998

Castro Central Women’s Prison
Havana
CUBA

I have been very ill Mum – and frantic with loneliness.

My eyes have ached in the dark. And there has been great pain in my head. I think I have been screaming, day after day. The glands in my neck have swollen.

Eventually, they opened the door: a door which never opens. And I could not bear the light. I think they brought a doctor for, if I died, might it not be embarrassing? The doctor spoke English. She said I had a rash on the backs of my hands, the tops of my feet, and she used the word Dengue. So then they brought tablets, day after day, and water to wet the heat of my lips. But the door, mostly, remained shut and the darkness stayed.

The only beat of a heart, that I have had, has come from the body of a rat. A female rat with babies in her belly. She has not bitten me. And I have not shunned her. This rat has kept me warmer than Austen ever did.

Over and over again, I have tried to remember some words from the Chilean song, ‘Gracias a la Vida’ (by Violeta Parra I think). I have not got it quite right, I know, but these are the words that have kept me alive and wanting, somehow, to vindicate my life, in the eyes I still have, and in the eyes of the world.

Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto
Thanks to the life which has given me so much

Me dio dos luceros que cuando los abro
It has given me two bright stars and, when I open them

Perfecto distingo lo negro del blanco
I can perfectly distinguish black from white

Y en el alto cielo su fondo estrellado
And in the sky above, her starry backdrop

Y en las multitudes el hombre que yo amo
And, amongst the multitude, is the man whom I love

That’s all Mum. The door, which never opens, is opening now. They are lifting me out.

Hasta pronto

Harriet

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