|LOVE BENEATH THE INTIMACY OF THE MOSQUITO NETTING
There is a stage in falling in love, the stage of attracting and flirting. These attitudes are mysteries to no one in the guerrilla world; they all know the gestures, the attitudes. They send messages from camp to camp, they talk on marches, when they are alone. Sending notes means you are interested in the compañero or the compañera. The initiative can come from either one, many times the guerrilleras take the initiative. "It's the language of getting closer," explained university-educated guerrilla Diana. Words still can't decipher feelings.
Then maybe someone will appear as a go-between: "so-and-so likes you..." The guerrillero or guerrillera bursts with joy if the note is answered. They seek each other out during games, during calisthenics, during rest time, in the bathroom, on guard. They seek each other out in common places: the dining hall, the news room and the study room. Romance is born in this world of marching, camping, when night is just beginning. "The process goes like this: I like a compañero, you see? Or he likes me, so you talk to him, hey, I want to be with you, that this, or that..." Commander Sonia smiled as she explained it to me.
Guerrilleros with harsh mannerisms, perhaps a bit ordinary, suddenly show up clean-shaven and smelling of deoderant, cologne you can smell from three meters away... The ladies dress up, put on make-up and fix their hair. Then comes the tender embrace, the knowing smile, holding hands. Combatants become sensitive: "they talk, you see them there with their kisses and their hugs. If they have to work each goes where s/he must. Some people are very shy... we aren't so public, we wait until night falls to come together," explained Commander Eliana.
"If they want to build a relatinship then they talk to the commander: "I want to have a relationship with such-and-such compañero, or the compañero says "I want to spend the night with such-and-such compañera," and they let them. They make sure the woman is using protection and that they don't have any STDs and they let them," said Commander Sonia.
To form a couple they talk to the commander: "We want to be partners." The commander calls them both in and explains: "you have to behave in such-a-such way, respect each other, be with this person only, not with one and then another because if there is not respect, they don't let them be together and they separate them..." Sonia expanded her observation.
It is made official before the group and the high command. "There are no marriages here, there are loving Associations," stated Diana. There are very intense relationships. The intimacy of any relationship follows: they join their tents and their beds. Intimacy is born beneath the intensity of the mosquito net, the neighboring tent doesn't matter. Cries are stifled, you learn how to stifle the passionate outburst of orgasm in complete silence, in the silence of mingled sweat and the pleasure that invites blissful sleep, intertwined. "The couple shares the same tent and you get used to intimacy with other tents close by. It is not like intimacy in civilian life. For example, there are also places where they are in general quarters, so you sleep in one bed on one big frame or blanket. Sometimes they put a couple beside you, or a single compañero/a, and then you could say that privacy is the mosquito net. This is intimacy in the guerrilla." said Eliana.
Love's counterpart is the order that obeys concrete plans. Love life is subject to the daily unfolding of the internal regime. In this sense internal order comes before love and affection. It is the daily face of military life, of constant mobility, of bridging distances.
Couples nurture their unions with the way they treat each other, with affection. Constant annoyances can lead to one leaving the other. Then come the sobs of despair. One of them does not want to continue loving. "Yes, often, for example, when I am living with a muchacho, all of a sudden he says 'I don't live with you anymore, let's break up.' We split and maybe he has someone else, maybe he's going to live with another compañera or he's going to be alone; the same thing can happen with the guerrillera. Then the question of the couple reaches a different plane. He left for someone else; in time the jealousy passes and everything goes back to normal." At the beginning the wounds are fresh, jealousy is repressed, so are violent attitudes. No one is the master of another's body or love. According to Diana people don't dwell on it. Of course it hurts, so you feel the wound deep down inside and your eyes reflect sadness.
The separation frees the man and the woman. There can be no relationship without a word like affection. The distance between bodies is immediately discussed and made official, they are freed of the tedium, the desperation. There is no obligation for absolute fidelity until death. "Things are put right or they split," it's that simple, said Diana.
Divorce is made official just like the loving "association" is. They didn't get along in the first month, in the next six months, in the year, time is not important: with no reproaches or hate the "dis-association" is made official. "There is no rule that says so-and-so has to live with such-and-such, live with him or take time for him, or respect him, no. There was a time when the woman was in the shadow of her compañero. She couldn't advance in her work because she was always in his shadow. Then the Eighth Conference declared women free to make her decisions about her personal life, whenever she wants, whenever she wants," Eliana explained.
Hateful reproaches do not exist as a tool for bribery after a break up. Neither does feeling sorry, though it may be it born of compassion, for the one suffering. They both carry long range weapons, but they cannot raise them against one who once gave everything possible in the act of love. Anyone who tries to is immediately sanctioned and ostracized from the group.
Death stalks the loving act under the disfigured and insignificant guise of a gunshot: the compañero's life bleeds out of him, the companion of intense days and nights. Then mourning accompanies the march that recalls military successes, and later returns to the painful silence of the loss of the person who will not walk again. Memory stays like the image of one who experienced the intensity of the kind of love that at one time graced her lips with a smile: "my son's papá died when we took Las Delicias. Three years ago. Sadness constantly invades you - you don't want to do anything, you want to be alone. Then, because of your compañeros' solidarity - they talk with you - so you start to, like, forget, forgetting you overcome that stage..., " Commander Sonia mused with some nostalgia. "I hurt and was very sad when he fell; I started to feel empty and you miss the one who was your compañero. When my second compañero died it was the same because you still feel the void he left, even if you didn't live with him for very long. It was harder with the kids' papá. We lived together for 11 years." Eliana stopped to breathe deeply. The mourning lives as long as sadness does, until sadness again becomes anxiousness to seek out new company. Life has so many doors.
Children become secondary in the life of the fighter. According to the guerrilleras, if children came like the harvest for every couple, it would be hard for women to be in the guerrilla. Stable couples can have a child they want. They both agree and ask for permission to have the child. It's something normal.
"We have mountains of condoms, we use all types of contraceptives." It is not something to leave to chance. The doctors control the use of contraceptives. The compañera has to let them know if she accidentally gets pregnant." These controls have existed since the Eighth Conference. There is one rule: guerrilleros cannot get civilians pregnant.
The children go to relatives of the couple. There are even women with an immense maternal feeling who end up raising children of guerrilleros. Normally, according to Diana, women have children when they are around 30. The child is born of of a decision made in a mature stage.
Men and women become professionals of the revolution. They do not receive a salary, they get everything they need to live: food, medicine, clothes and arms. "I don't need money," if I have everything, Jenny explained.
Family relationships depend on the previous ties between children and parents. The guerrilla is, in a way, family. Every day you miss your family less. Sometimes the guerrillero has family pressures from outside. They visit, they explain, the family ends up accepting the child's decision. Other times the family doesn't exist because of the inertia of forgetting childhood, due to abandonment or abuse. Or the memory of a world of misery that has marked their skin with scars.
It is a process of assimilation to a life that slowly produces a deep uprooting from the nuclear family, because what is outside means civilian life. So a profound rooting of identity with the group appears, it brings friendship, complicity, and unity of blood in life.
Perhaps in this world of mountains and jungles, this uncivilized, daring and unrefined world, another way of life and loving exists, a way that would be difficult in such a civilized area as ours is, so urban. We still have the idea that likeness should be like a sore tattoo that will never be removed from a skin always waiting submerged in insomnia and never offering anything.