I was picking up bricks. There was a huge pile of rubble at my feet and I was picking up bricks. Sifting through the pile with my bare hands, scraping away with my fingers, leaving little traces of blood on each brick I managed to salvage. I sifted through rocks and pieces of shattered concrete. Dust rose from the heap with each touch of my hand. Large chunks and small pebbles I pushed to the side. I was only interested in the bricks. The ones without chips or cracks or pieces missing. Whole, heavy, concrete bricks.

Some of them, the bricks, turned to dust in my hands. Leaving their dry particles, grainy and rough on my calloused hands.

It was unbearably hot, so humid it was hard to breath with the thick dust wafting from below. Drops of sweat clung hopelessly to my forehead, my nose, my chin until they felt they lost their battle with gravity and commited suicide, releasing their grip on my skin and plunging to their deaths on the detritus below. I followed their voyage to its end: dark, round stains meeting arid stone. Disappearing almost as quickly as they came to life. I’d never met a sun so unforgiving, so heartless.

The pile in front of me was relentless. Brick after brick, rock after rock, pebble after pebble. No matter how many bricks I lifted, no matter how much gravel I brushed aside, the pile, the rubble remained. Dauntless, stoic. As if it were mocking me, for each brick I lifted, saved from its fate, two more appeared.

My clothes clung to my body, glued with sweat. My back screamed with pain with each hunch down to the rubble altar. My fingers bled from the feelingless tips. Nicks and cuts and bruises graffittied my legs. And that sun. Oh that shameless sun beat down upon me, pounding incessantly upon my back, setting my neck afire, sucking my strength out through my pores. I could feel the grit on my face, my forehead, around my eyes, my lips. Deposited there each time I swiped the debilitating sweat from my brows.

But the bricks. The bricks needed saving and I could not stop. Brick by brick. Stone by stone. Breath by breath. One after another I bent, I grabbed, I lifted, I dusted, then turned and lay each neatly, away from the rubble. Lined and rowed like cement soldiers.

I heard the constant shuffling of footsteps behind me. People speaking a language foreign to me. Saying things I should not understand but that I knew nonetheless.

“What is he doing?”

“He’s crazy.”

“In this heat?”

“Who does he think he is?”

I did not know who I was. All I knew were the bricks. And the bricks had to be salvaged else it would all be a waste. So I continued. Bend, grab, lift, dust, align. Bend, grab, lift, dust, align. Bend, grab, lift, dust, align. Bend, grab, lift, dust, align.

“Why is he doing that?”

“What’s he trying to accomplish?”

“Those arent even his bricks.”

They werent really my bricks. I just needed to get them out of the rubble. They’ve been ignored too long, those bricks. Crushed under the weight of ruins. Inert. Helpless.

I found them beautiful, those bricks. All they needed was some breathing room. All they needed was to be pulled out from under the pile. Their dust carressed away. Set next to their fellow bricks. A single, clean, dusted beautiful brick will have some use, but altogether they can build a wall. Ten walls. A hundred walls. Millions of walls made of millions of once discarded bricks.

Bend, grab, lift, dust, align. Bend, grab, lift, dust, align. Bend, grab, lift, dust, align. Bend, grab, lift, dust, align.

“Hey, you there!’ I felt something other than the sun tapping my back. “What are you doing with those bricks? Those are not your bricks. THOSE ARE NOT YOUR BRICKS!”

I stopped for a second and stared into a face I could not see. “No.” I said. “They are your bricks.”

“THAT’S RIGHT. THEY ARE MY BRICKS. Why are you touching my bricks?”

“Because theyre crushed under their own weight. Crushed under all this rock. Under all this gravel and dust.”

“But tthey arent your bricks so why dont you just leave them alone?”

“They dont want to be left alone. They want to be bricks.”

“They are bricks.”

“No. Bricks in a pile of rubble are nothing but square rocks.”

“Bricks are just square rocks.”

“No. Bricks are useful. Rocks are just rocks.”

“But those are my bricks and I will use them as I see fit. Even as rocks.”

“These bricks just want to be bricks. The want the fate of bricks.”

“The fate of these bricks is to be whatever I make them be, even my rocks.”

“They dont want to be rocks, yours or anyone elses. They just want to be bricks.”

“But these arent your bricks.”

“Theyre only bricks when they are out of the rubble. Right now theyre just rocks. You can help me make them bricks again.”

Bend, grab, lift, pass.

Grab, dust, align.

Bend, grab, lift, pass.

Grab, dust, align.

Bend, grab, lift, pass.

Grab, dust, align.

Bend, grab, lift, pass.

Grab, dust, align.


I woke up, took a shower, got dressed and came to work.

8 thoughts on “Ladrillos”

  1. Whether it’s bricks or chasing after kids — like my mother says when she dreams like this, “Me pase toda la santa noche trajinando.”

    Que malo es eso … you wake up more tired than when you went to sleep.

    Colada, my friend, colada.

  2. the eighties were good to you werent they.. lots of nights at casanovas and alcazaba and the mutiny i take it?!?

  3. Is val calling usa bunch of “seborucos”?

    I think folks should all take their own meaning to the brick story. As with a good song, a good story can be interpreted many ways.

    This is kind of weird timing. But, It will share with Babalu readers a conversation I had last night with mrs gusano.

    Just 2-3 years ago a google search about anything Cuban would have produced an avalanche of communist propaganda. That has changed, drastically. Val pioneered a movement that has created a wall of truth around the Cuban issue one brick, one post at a time, so that the rocks out there can become bricks.

    Val does what he does because of his principles and although he doesn’t want to hear it, we are indebted to his masterful brickwork.

    But, then again, sometimes a brick is just a brick.;)

  4. I don’t need Val to tell me that I’m “seboruco”. I already know that. I’m kind of tired so maybe my ability to read between the lines and detect what the allegory is about is impaired.

    I will say this about real bricks though, the red Chicago kind: A friend of mine found out about this house that had been torn down. It was a house with exterior brick walls. What was left was a huge pile of bricks like the one Val describes. My friend called his family and friends and liberated those bricks in several truckloads. Today those bricks are enjoying their second lives as a beautiful patio, and several sidewalks around Miami.

    Every thanksgiving I get to sit out on that red brick patio under a beautiful lighted tree with my wife and her family. Val’s story reminded me of those bricks and the almost always perfect weather we’ve had the last few thanksgivings.

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