Men out on all sides looking for the best path to the Rio Grande. We ate the last of the horsemeat. Che said that tomorrow we must move but we must split the groups up because he cannot move fast. Benigno and Julio were happy to go ahead but other volunteers are less forthcoming. I offered but both Che and Pombo told me I had to stay with them. I think they want to keep me close by because they fear for my safety. I heard Pombo tell Che that he had promised my mother to keep me safe. I challenged him on this. I said I did not need or deserve special treatment and that I should live or die due to my own actions. He laughed at me. ‘Settle down Jejenito’ he said. ‘You will stay alive, never fear, you are too irritating to swat off.’
Slow slow progress. What sounds like gun fire or mortar shells in the distance. It is hard, knowing that the army are close by and may attack at any minute. I don’t feel we are ready for them. We killed another horse today for more meat. We were waiting all day for the return of Miguel and Aniceto, but they never turned up. I fear that it is another two men killed. Our numbers are depleting rapidly. ‘More meat for us’ Inti said when I told him my fears. He was joking but hunger does strange things to people as Che has told me many a time. We need to care for each other now of all times.
Che told us that we should start moving and assume that Miguel and Aniceto are lost. Benigno was sent to look for them. Then they turned up from quite a different direction. It’s hard never knowing whether when someone leaves camp you will ever see them alive again. Che is taking the asthma pills and there are not many left. I don’t know what we will do when we run out. I asked him and he said he may send a group to the Nacahuazu to look for the old supplies. I’d rather try and find a pharmacy in a nearby town. If there is a town nearby. He told me not to worry, but I look in his eyes and I see that he is worried too. We only have one horse left now, the old one died today (more meat) and the one left is strictly for carrying equipment Che said that he will walk again tomorrow.
We walked but it is painfully slow. We demanded that Che ride the mare. She was as exhausted as him and at one point in trying to speed her up he slashed at her neck and cut it. This is a sign of how ill he is feeling as he would not normally behave in this way. He told us himself that this showed we are in a difficult situation and that we must all prepare for much worse. He said ‘we have reached a moment when great decisions are called for. This type of struggle provides us the opportunity to become revolutionaries. At the same time it enables us to emerge fully as men.’ He offered anyone who didn’t feel up to this challenge the chance to leave. No one wanted to leave of course, everyone said they would stay and fight.
Che picked eight men to go on a mission which will ultimately bring back his asthma medicine from Nacahuazu. It will be a very difficult journey. He said he was sorry to put men in such danger but that without medicine his health was having an adverse effect on the efficiency and progress of the group. It must be resolved. I volunteered. He denied me. He said I must stay close by. ‘You are my talisman, Jejenito’ he said. ‘I need you buzzing around me to remind me to keep on fighting.’ I felt proud but sad at the same time.
Even though everyone said they would stay, there is a lot of petty squabbling between men. Pombo says it is just a sign of fear and that fear is natural in this situation. But I think people should behave better in front of Che at least. He has given most and is suffering most. It’s hard to stay positive but we have no option. Che cannot eat the horsemeat as he comes out in an allergic reaction to it. So he is getting weaker.
Not only does Che have asthma and weakness to contend with, but when we started to move (slowly) today it turned out he had an abcess on his heel. This was lanced and that meant he could at least put his foot on the ground, though he is moving in great pain. I offered him my boots. He joked with me and said ‘I am not big enough to fill your boots Jejenito.’ I turned away because I thought I would cry. ‘Your feet may be smaller but I will never be a big enough man to walk in your footsteps’ I replied. He laughed again. ‘No one can walk slowly enough to walk in these footsteps today,’ he said. ‘I am just a hobbling man, do not make a hero of me.’ ‘But you are my hero,’ I said. We looked each other in the eyes. He knows what I feel about him. He knows I will lay down my life to protect him, whatever happens in our cause. ‘My life is nothing without you,’ I said. ‘Our lives are not important Jejenito,’ he said. ‘it is the cause that is important.’ Then he tried to laugh and we stumbled on together. ‘come Jejenito, buzz me into action,’ he said.
Good and bad. We shot a turkey and a urina. We found some oranges. Antonio gave one to Che and immediately he ate it he had an asthma attack. ‘What did you do that for?’ I asked Antonio. Pombo told me off and reminded me that everyone was simply trying to do their best in difficult circumstances. But I am so worried for Che. What happens if they get to Nacahuaza camp and there is no medicine? I fear he may die.
We listened to a speech by Fidel on the radio. Cuba seems very far away.
We moved slowly but there was a message from Benigno that he anticipates they’ll get to the camp house in three days. We finished the turkey. Che didn’t eat his as he said food was upsetting his stomach. There wasn’t much for everyone anyway. It’s raining again. Of course.