Things Everyone Knows
For Jacqueline Sandi Zárate, one of my best friends, and her fearful habit of believing in me more than I do.
It’s just a shoebox that contains his whole life. That’s what I said before entering, and it might be why they looked at me so strangely, or it might be precisely the reason they let me in without any fuss.
You have to leave while they can still miss you. And this is why you shouldn’t stay very long in places that aren’t intimately yours, I mean, that aren’t truly, deeply yours, challenging destiny with a rebelliousness against anything that might happen, or maybe, in the end, might not happen.
Attacking, revealing, or omitting words, keeping silent, it’s all the same. Because you already know, silences aren’t what they are, or at least, they aren’t what they seem, because silences also have a voice and it tends to be scandalous, sometimes damning.
It’s strange, but that’s what I was thinking about when I (un)heard an unusual clanging on my street’s sidewalk: a taxi door that closed with a crunch, a couple of male voices and some far-off steps, but it didn’t seem so important to me. I shrugged, set my medically-prescribed glass of Merlot on the corner of the table and kneeled, in the dirt, so I could trim my rose bushes which kept flowering. I had every table and surface in the house covered in roses and lacked containers to put them in.
It was noon but the air was cold, like the morning air, even while the sun bathed my face. My eyes absorbed the semi-dark brightness, and it was then that you knocked energetically on the door with your hard, strange, firm, rheumatic, knuckles. I opened, my eyelids still half-closed because of my retina that has such a good memory and hadn’t forgotten the solar shock and, what’s more, I was surprised, because I almost never had visitors: my cook, who I trusted so much, had her own key (of course you know that I was never a good cook). McLaren, the Ducati driver, had one too, although he usually entered through the garage and not the front door, leaving an acute trail of perfumed smoke in the air, only to come right down, taking off his helmet and brushing off his hair, always playing with his motorcycle keys that danced between his expert fingers, producing an inevitable jingling, very similar to a live, intense tribal sound of happiness.
You arrived from your trip - that eternal and inexplicable trip that was your life - and, as if it were no big deal, you came home dressed just as if you’d been about to go to a cocktail party or a wake. White shirt, grey tie, a black formal suit, kind of worn out because of the wide lapels that ended up getting all crossed up, that matched perfectly with your greying hair combed back with an infallible fury. A wrinkly paper kraft bag under your arm suggested the obligatory gift brought from who-knows-where. Your plain luggage hanging carefully from your arm seemed to be all that you had in your mysterious life. Nevertheless, such was the air of rhythmic disorientation floating in every muscle of your emaciated but well-shaven face, and your dark, seductive eyes, doubting, that I couldn’t do anything but feign a sort of sensitivity and let you in.
So, while you walked with tired steps, short steps, you gave an explanation of your travels: trips, a work trip that led to another, and to another, and yet another, to a long stay at a big transport company right in the middle of the Sahara desert. And then, the Namib trip for a few years until the appearance of a rare and serious autoimmune disease, something like emphysema brought on by tobacco abuse. Then the feared job termination, ‘and here I am,’ you announced, followed by a resigned ‘That’s how life has gone,’ said with a trace of a smile that seemed more like a stupid, anodyne, untimely, and incoherent excuse, that I just managed to look at you, perplexed, preoccupied, not for you nor for your strange arrival, but rather because I hadn’t finished trimming my roses. It’s not really me to leave things half done, you know this.
I went back to work and, while I made quick, small cuts with my garden shears, you asked me if I knew that you were alive, and I responded that I did, that in spite of me, your honorable family took care to let us know. Without skipping a beat then, like an excessive digression, you looked around and asked:
‘Where are my slippers?’
It was strange, but without taking my eye off the rose, surprising even myself as if I’d seen you just yesterday and not thirty years ago, I automatically responded:
‘In the same place.’
‘And my pipe?’ you asked insistently, and I responded, insistently too:
‘In the same place.’
‘And my dominos?’
‘In the same place.’
‘And my Eric Clapton discs?’
I blinked then, and I won’t deny that my fragile patience was about to break, when I momentarily abandoned my garden chores in order to answer you properly, piercing my ring finger on a thorn in the process. Restraining my breath, I stood up, drank a generous sip of my Merlot, blessing my wise doctor, and I blurted out, my hand in the air, the truth of the situation:
‘My god, man!’ I shouted like a crazy woman. ‘Everything is exactly where it’s always been.’
I stepped toward you a bit, and three thick drops of blood fell onto the beige ceramic floor. But you weren’t even bothered. Rather, apparently paralyzed first and in disbelief second, you opened drawers and cabinets and when you confirmed that I wasn’t lying to you, you got your beloved objects, you put them safely in a box in the guest chest of drawers, you looked around scrutinizing each and every detail, always doubting everything, because nothing ever seemed up to your standards. Then you took your white handkerchief and cleaned the floor, silently, painstakingly, concentrating on the dark red ridges becoming purple, so purple that, obstinate, they refused to disappear all the way.
Well then, for me to dirty my own house with my own blood like this, that was my problem, Ignacio, and I know that I didn’t deserve your approval, but you know; I didn’t need it anymore, just like we hadn’t needed you - not my children or me - in these long thirty years of your absence.
Maybe to reaffirm that I didn’t run to wash my injury or bandage my finger like I would have done in any other situation, rather I dropped my hand - which, thanks to gravity, bled more and more - and during those interminable moments I held my bitter gaze on you. I couldn’t help but think about Nena Daconte, the girl from that story by Gabo, and the incomprehensible similarities: a girl leaving a trail of blood, she in the immensity of the snowy European fields and I, an old woman, also bleeding but in my own home garden. Do you remember, Ignacio, that wherever I walked more and more blood dripped, and you, nervous, followed, cleaning after each step, not even being able to sustain my inquisitive stare, until your handkerchief was completely red?
I was sure, then, that there’s nothing you can do when it comes to certain absences. The absence itself turns out to be better than the remedy against it, like a vaccine that has elements of the illness so you don’t get sick, like a white flag that no longer signals truce after having gotten all bloody. Because the opposite of peace isn’t war, but rather blood.
When you arrived, Ignacio, I had to leave the house. I, who - I don’t know if you remember or not - hates leaving home (now more than ever, ever since I officially retired from the bank), in order to tell McLaren to wait for me in his cheerful, big, modern apartment with imposing windows, that he not visit me for at least a little while. Because even though it is my house and not yours, I want you to know that we weren’t at your disposition - not him, not me, and certainly not my children - who thank heavens have gone to Europe, so that you won’t bother us with your questions, with your looks and your nonsense, in short, with your presence, with everything that you are and, for better or worse - only God knows – everything you’ve been up to.
So, when you arrived, I was certain that the little well-known metallic noise of his motorcycle keys clanging one against the other would hurt me, and perhaps more, the smell of that fresh and young Dior or Rabanna, a woody and citric perfume that McLaren used, so intensely present in every fiber of my light-yellow couch. Because of this, before you could even go up to my living room under whichever of your ritualistic pretexts - mysteries of order and perfection - like watching the horrible news shows on television, I got sheets out of the trunk and put them on top of that sacred sofa where – with pistachios and canapés - McLaren and I had spent so many hours watching movies and making love.
It goes without saying that the sofa became a paralyzed and solitary ghost, totally covered, or I should say, I must say, like a covered space of happy memories.
I put you, then, in the guest bedroom on the first floor which, like you wanted, also had a television.
On the second floor, I locked my living room, right next to my bedroom (I locked this one too), so you wouldn’t have access, after thirty years, to seeing me with messy hair or without makeup. This I would definitely not allow, you know, time gives you the right to everything, or almost everything.
But one Saturday morning when, in a hurry I was looking for the keys to my Jeep so I could go visit McLaren - movies, pistachios, and canapés were, again, our plan for the day - I found you standing in the middle of the living room, looking at everything, astonished, from my new furniture to my art and even my glass flowerpots, and on a small table, the infancy of my children frozen in portraits: their first day of school, smiling on a toboggan or blowing out the candles of a big birthday cake. You were scrutinizing my world, certainly seeing yourself far away and asking yourself where, in what chapter of our story had that man remained, the man who lived there with me and with our little ones. Where was his youthful enthusiasm, where were his healthy lungs and bones, not this body massacred by the tar of his Marlboros, those rheumatic knuckles like dead leaves, dry bones, sordid and sick.
Without giving any explanation about how or why you were there (I’m sure I forgot and left the door open), you asked as if you were giving a prison sentence, while I read an imminent witchcraft in your eyes:
‘And what the hell is this about the sheets over the couch.’
But that wasn’t even the worst, because, I’m telling you, you had such a dangerous look on your face, as if you knew a hailstorm was coming and I saw, clearly, that you were strategically guarding that secret, like a sin committed in a silent war. Your eyes like two storm clouds of doubt and blame. You asked again:
‘Can I sit there and watch television?’
‘No,’ I answered, and deep down, I swear, I meant it. ‘Dust comes in through the windows and always wants to land on this couch and not even the sheet keeps it from getting dirty. You’ll get your clothes dirty if I let you sit there.’
I got quiet, feeling stupid for giving such an elaborate explanation to someone who didn’t deserve it. I laughed, then, because of the absurd, nervous situation and in an almost friendly tone I said:
‘God, you, Ignacio, always reprimanding me for everything.’
So, with that phrase I easily avoided you with a skill that only comes with time and, locking the door to my most intimate spaces, I left, leaving you there alone. I warned you that I wouldn’t come back until late, and I added - jokingly - that you should refrain from setting the house on fire, since if you did we wouldn’t have anywhere to live - neither you nor me.
I never told you, but I know that you were a mind reader and already knew. After spending the whole day with McLaren watching movies, I came home around 11pm. Despite being exhausted, when I saw that two flowers were dying I couldn’t help but change the water in one of my innumerable vases, - mysteries of order and perfection, maybe. I went upstairs, and when I was about to put on my pajamas, you came out of the guest bedroom and shouted from the patio that you were hungry, looking up, never taking your eyes off the door to my room. I answered, fearing that the neighbors might think I had a starving prisoner and invent some story, so I put my finger over my lips and, surprised, since I’d already explained to you all the rules of my house, I faced you, very serious, whispering:
‘Ignacio, the cook left your dinner in the microwave.’
For some reason, you said that you didn’t know how to use a strange microwave like mine, so, defeated, I tied the pink waistband of my robe and went down to the kitchen.
‘This is going too far,’ I grumbled. ‘You can’t ask me to come down to the kitchen at this time of night to heat up your dinner.’
‘Don’t get mad,’ you smiled. ‘Forgive me, but my appetite couldn’t wait.’
Taking a seat, you immediately started to move and drum your fingers on the table, like an out of tune pianist, keeping the rhythm of an endless bolero.
So, while the microwave did its work spinning infinitely at its own pace, I breathed deeply and faced my own, kind of fearful paraphernalia. I had read too much about that so-called “empty nest syndrome,” made up or not, it doesn’t matter, the fact is that this is what well-educated therapists name the loneliness that invades a house when the children leave. ‘How nice,’ I remember having thought, ‘well-educated loneliness therapists exist.’ Well, anyway, I had decided that it wouldn’t happen to me (that loneliness wouldn’t overcome me, I mean) and it’s difficult to explain, but in effect, it didn’t happen, or maybe I was so busy with work at the bank that I had never felt it, especially in the last two years that passed like the blink of an eye. So, in the fourteen years since my children went to that university, I opted to do the same things that I had done while they were home. This is why you saw me making their beds in the mornings and, at lunch time, afternoon snack, and dinner, set the table with their respective places, empty places that calmly accompany me with their sweet silent voices.
Or perhaps it is just a habit, like McLaren thinks.
Habit or not, faithful to myself, I set the table for four: my children, myself, and you. Four plates with silverware, four glasses, four napkins, and the glass pitcher filled with water in the center, like a barrier separating us forever.
‘Is anyone else coming?’ you asked, smiling continuously, preoccupation floating in your voice, like a dismal little whisper.
You didn’t believe me when I told you no, explaining that it was just a survival technique, a life or death ritual.
‘No way,’ you judged, shaking your head worriedly. ‘Our children already left the house, you can’t go on as if they were here.’
‘Sure, I can,’ I argued, realizing now that I loved arguing with you.
‘Are you going to eat or not?’ I asked, some time after having served you the warm plate with baked chicken with Russian salad.
I was going to sit with you while you ate, but I didn’t because it was interesting to see your tight fists against your temples, like a man completely devastated by my actions, my movements. If you could surprise me, whether I wanted to or not, I was going to as well.
Your fists remained tight against your temples, staring at me, only staring at me as if it were your thoughts that spoke, almost shouting on their own. What is this life, who is this woman who I have in front of me, with her know-it-all attitude, with her worn jeans and her flat tennis shoes and her white shirts, and her long necklaces, looking younger than she really is. This woman who goes through life with her long, expert arm over the steering wheel of her Jeep Wrangler making her Mickey Thompson tires screech. Who is this woman who leaves, comes home, doing whatever the hell she wants to do, visiting who-the-devil-knows, going missing all day long, who is this woman with so much blood in her veins, who is this that doesn’t care that her hypocrite neighbors smile while talking to her, knowing that they criticize her behind her back, pretending to be a gardener while she drinks her Merlot, Cabernet, or Malbec or whatever the hell it is. Who is this woman who I now see moving so decidedly with her bathrobe so fiercely pink, with her strange charm, what is she doing in my life. What:
And something else: who are these two unknown beings that are my children, although I feel incapable of missing them because when I left they were in diapers and I wouldn’t even know how to miss them. Who does their mother think she is to force me to eat with these perfect strangers, or is it that she doesn’t see me seated here, trembling out of fear before these two empty spaces for dinner guests that are so absent that I’m not even hungry anymore? Who does she think she is. I should go, I’ll pack my pipe, my slippers, my dominos and my Eric Clapton discs that I came for and early tomorrow I’ll leave this house of crazy people. Even though I don’t have anywhere to go.
Cut it out, Ignacio, don’t look at me like that, we both know that’s exactly what you thought. Or are you saying you’re the only shaman in this whole thing.
And since I couldn’t take any more of those comments or respond to any of those intricate questions, I left you alone in the coldness of the dining room, at the will of the near darkness of the night. To be sure, I wasn’t so inconsiderate, because you know I left you with our children as company.
But you didn’t go like you planned, or I should say, like we planned, perhaps because it is sometimes impossible for us to set out on a sad trip on a Sunday. Perhaps because on Sunday we are exhausted by the fatigue of the six previous days or perhaps because we became tired of ourselves, of being who we are with no other way out.
That Sunday, after eating lunch, I found you sitting at the table in the garden; you were focused on reading Los Tiempos. A beam of winter sun was cast down on your face, and maybe because of this you looked older than ever to me. We said good afternoon like two perfect strangers, or like two civilized neighbors, and as I did I noticed the package of kraft paper that you had under your arm when you arrived, resting now on your lap.
I served myself a little of my favorite Merlot, I left the cup on the table and once I had carefully put on my leather gloves, since my ring finger still hurt, I started moving dirt around, casually. I only had two more roses to trim.
‘Those poor people,’ you murmured, referring to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which you were reading about, and you added, almost tenderly, fixing your gaze on my hands: ‘Be careful with that finger because your roses like to hurt you.’
I didn’t utter a word, but I thought: “you, always so you.” Nothing else, I swear to you nothing else, just those four words rolling around slowly in my silence, and I limited myself then to drink a long and soothing sip that was like a warm consolation for my soul. McLaren was waiting for me at his house - again, movies, canapés and pistachios - and I hurried along my garden work, thinking of his large hands drawing pictures in my hair during the coming hours of pleasure that you couldn’t keep me from.
That you couldn’t keep me from, I repeated in my head. I smiled.
Suddenly you stood up, and walking like Pedro through his house, you went to the kitchen and came back to the garden with a pitcher of crushed ice and two glasses in your hands. Finally, you let go of that package and, extending it to me so I could see it, you said:
‘Forget about your wines, I have something for you. The new luxury liquor, here I’ll serve you.’
I told you I was in a hurry and that I had to leave, but you insisted so much that, taking off my gloves, I sat down in front of you, thinking it would just be five minutes. (How wrong I was, you know, it is as if that Sunday continued floating in time, up until today, which by chance - chance? - is Sunday, another Sunday, child of that one and the one before.)
As you removed the packaging the Baileys became visible and, as you said, the flavor was luxurious; you always had good taste in everything, everything except leaving thirty years ago, just like what men always do. (I remember that it was also a Sunday, we had just eaten breakfast and the four of us were watching Sesame Street on the television. Out of nowhere, you stood up and said you were going to buy cigarettes around the corner and you never came back. Even now as I see you, I almost can’t believe it.)
‘The world is upside down,’ you said, reading the newspaper this past Sunday, the Sunday of our current misfortunes. ‘In the United States people are dying because of Hurricane Katrina, and here, Evo Morales is starting a campaign to regain access to the sea. Unexpected things, don’t you think?’
‘I asked what you think.’
‘What, the unexpected things?’
‘Well, unexpected things happen all the time, Ignacio.’
A quick silence cut through the air, making it dense, turning it toxic. You folded up the newspaper, your reading finished, and you stared at me compassionless, with your thunderous fortune-teller eyes.
‘I’m leaving, Bárbara.’
A cough that contaminated even the environment even more. So many years of smoking couldn’t leave you unscathed.
‘Well, that’s fine with me. It wasn’t a good idea for you to show up here out of nowhere.’
‘I just have one question, before I go.’
I finished off another Baileys, I couldn’t deal with you any longer and you knew it. You showed up at my house, a house that was more mine than yours because, even though we had bought it together, I had made it a home in all these years of absence, with all its flower bushes, its living room with an enormous television and a number of chairs positioned here and there where no one watches Sesame Street anymore, now movies, and a dining room with a few empty seats. A house privileged by the control of its chatty, curious, hypocrite neighbors that could, oh yes, in case of emergency, defend me from thieves. And you expected, aha, that I would answer one question. After all of this, you expected me to clear up one question.
‘A question,’ I said slowly, meticulously, looking at the nearby objects, as if it were necessary to pick them up and throw them through the air, brushing against your irascible grey hairs.
Patient and calm, in their place, the garden shears, the shovel, and the ice pick watched us.
‘I am trying to understand all this about our children, that you pretend as if they were still here with you. But I don’t understand the thing about your couch covered with a sheet, and that you won’t let me sit there. What has happened to you that you always dress, talk, and act so strangely.’
I smiled, controlling the air as it entered my lungs. No blunt object would be sufficient, ever. I got up, causing a racket, accidentally making my glass tip over and fall to the floor, shattering into pieces in an instant. Mrs. Gordillo pulled back her curtains, but it was too late, the show had ended, because standing up and going leaving like this, I brought the conversation to an end. So, I quickly grabbed my purse, the keys to the jeep in my tightly closed fist.
‘Leave everything like you found it, and your sheets in the washing machine,’ I ordered.
I started the engine and, through the car’s rumble, I heard you shout:
‘The neighbors told me a motorcyclist used to come around!’
‘Yes,’ I responded, shouting too, enunciating each word carefully, and I added: ‘and he is lovely!’
I looked at you one last time, or for what I thought would be the last, a man in decline, standing in the middle of an unfamiliar garden, with a glass of Baileys with crushed ice in his hands. The shards of my glass at your feet, with crushed ice as well.
I imagined all sorts of things: that you’d leave me a note, that you’d become a priest, or that you’d return to the Sahara or Namib Desert, but I didn’t anticipate what could have happened and what, in the end, did. You, always surprising me, I should be used to it by now. I didn’t know that you would follow me and that, a little later, you would find McLaren and me, lying serenely in his wide bed, eating pistachios while we watched Casablanca for the bazillionth time, and that with an old shotgun you would open fire on us, like only an out-of-his-element man - who lived on the road for thirty years - could do.
If it weren’t for your terrible aim, I wouldn’t be here today, visiting you in this prison named San Sebastián, dead like the martyr in the pagan Rome of 288 B.C.E., although your bad aim was sufficient - it is ironic to say this - for them to bring you here, because the authorities can’t let an attempted murder go without punishment. Do you remember, Ignacio, that we left you breathing difficultly, trembling and in tears, seated on the bed, socks dripping, your back covered with shards of glass, a little scattered blood on the carpet and the clear walls, pistachios here and there, while Humphrey Bogart, stolid since 1942, pronounced some mythical phrase? Do you remember, Ignacio?
In your statement, you assured us that you didn’t want to kill anyone (you didn’t, but the unexpected gale of shattered glass injured us on our arms and neck; some worse than others), rather that an inexplicable blindness came over you and that you only wanted to frighten us and you didn’t find any way to do it other than shooting towards the large window, destroying, by the way, all that interior design that McLaren, who as you might guess, is an architect, had spent so many hours studying for. That your plan was to escape but that, given all the racket, the neighbors wouldn’t let you leave the building until the authorities arrived.
Whatever the case, I don’t blame you, Ignacio. I only came to tell you a couple of things, so don’t look at me with your questioning eyes.
I already know what my neighbors thought, and I know what they must have told you because they said it to me before: that they thought McLaren was a family member, my nephew perhaps, the son of some friend who was passing through town, not the kid who spent so much time with me, with whom I went around town on his fantastic motorcycle, with whom I went to the movies, to coffee shops, to concerts. We walked through the streets of this city holding hands, dying of laughter.
The most curious neighbor of all asked me directly, Mrs. Gordillo who watched us from her window every day and passed the time eagerly pulling back her old curtains and found me cutting roses or in the exact moment that McLaren diligently handed me some garden tool, while he told me about his day and I told him about mine, calmly, in general, now that I don’t work in the bank anymore (and I drink two medically-prescribed Merlots - one at noon and another at sunset - that brighten my life and protect me from coronary disease).
Doesn’t it seem terrifying to you that just for having the misfortune of living in front of the house of an insufferable old woman I have to explain or justify my life?
Doesn’t it seem terrifying to you that my neighbors don’t understand that I can dress myself however the hell I want to? (Because twenty-seven years of work in a big bank have made me tired of heels, pearls, and formal suits.)
Doesn’t it seem terrifying to you that my neighbors don’t understand that even the most familiar loneliness can break?
Doesn’t it seem terrifying to you that people think themselves owners of our everyday lives?
Oh, Ignacio, I don’t know why you ask me such silly things. What did I tell her? Nothing really, man, I told that old woman, like I told you, that that boy is lovely.
This situation is too ridiculous, clearly improper. You can’t ask me anything about him.
For example, you don’t have the right to ask me anything about his beautiful fingers. The only thing I’ll say to you is that it was the first thing I noticed about him, from that morning, two years ago, when he sat down on the other side of my executive desk at the bank.
McLaren had gone to the bank with a friend, but I didn’t even realize that he was with someone, until later at home I went over the incident again in my mind. Just after the warning from my assistant, who had already let him come into my office, I saw him approaching through the window, long and thick hair, dark and well-trimmed beard, blue checkered shirt, short sleeves that allowed you to see the extensive forest of tattoos on his arms with big, strong bones, quartz green eyes. He crossed the threshold of my door, leaving the fresh aroma of masculine cologne floating in the air, smiled cheerfully, showing his perfectly straight teeth and when his hand reached for mine, oh God, effortlessly, like a fortune-teller, that as soon as his pupils made their first contact with mine, soon my fingers would be between his, intertwined, which is how it happened a couple weeks later in the gas station.
He signed a few documents necessary for his transaction with his long and bulky fingers, and after asking me for my number - which I never gave to any client because then they pestered me with their questions and doubts at all hours - and if you ask me now, I don’t know why I gave it to him. Perhaps, Ignacio, lacking any sophistication, because I wanted to. So, after getting to know each other a little, one of the many nights we’d gone out to dinner, we drank a couple beers and I noticed something strange in my watch; time was heavy, it was as if it weren’t passing or as if it were passing too slowly, bubbling out. We were driving on Blanco Galindo Avenue, windows down, listening to Lana del Rey while we told jokes and talked about movies. The warm, rainy, and summery February air intensified, caressing our faces and sometimes, small, flirty, and invasive drops of rain sprinkled us.
Something shined on his nose, so even though my jeep had enough gasoline, I pretended to need gas and stopped at a gas station, and while we waited our turn, I dried the bright raindrop posed on his nose with my finger and that was it. I noticed then those disconcerting and fearful eyes over me, and I didn’t want to untangle myself from them; not from those eyes, nor from those fingers that suddenly, warmly grabbed onto my fingers, just as I had predicted.
And now you see (a couple of explanations that I had to give because of you), but here we are, cinephiles and addicted to pistachios.
Forgive me, Ignacio, I mean it. I don’t know why I bother you with my little things. The truth is that I only came to give you this shoebox where I put all your things, because in the confusion of your jealous, inappropriate, and outrageous pursuit you forgot your pipe, your dominos, your slippers, and your Eric Clapton discs at my house, and you might imagine that I can no longer keep them, because they are abhorrent to me.
You’ll get good use out of them now that you don’t have anything to do in this jail except think about the past. And your objects have so much to tell you, but to be sure, be careful because their silent voices are cursed. You see, if it hadn’t been for them, you probably never would have returned, and I wouldn’t be here visiting you, remembering what happened whether just the other day or a long time ago, talking like a crazy woman through these metal bars, while your delirious eyes, eyes of war, of procession, of storms, of premonitions, of thunder, of witchcraft, of apocalypse, your eyes scrutinize me one more time, silently, but pronouncing so many, many things like a hailstorm that destroys. Blood, ice, and crystal rain, your remainder, everywhere.
Now I’m going home, because it is almost time for my customary Merlot and, more than anything, because there is nothing else to say to a man married to the wrong moment.
I only came to tell you that you didn’t want to understand that even though your beloved objects remained decrepit in the places where you left them, everything, everything had changed at home. And you didn’t think it through, otherwise things would be different today. Maybe, you, taking care of the world, would be in Madrid, Mexico City, or Beijing - what do I know - or maybe we’d be together still in this slowly falling dusk, talking in the garden about your fancy trips in the Sahara or Namib desert, or about Hurricane Katrina, or maybe playing a game of dominos with a glass of Baileys.
Translated by Daniel Runnels
Rosario Barahona Michel is a Bolivian writer and historian. Her first novel, Huésped [Guest] (2010) was a finalist in Alfaguara’s national novel contest, and her short story Cuando tus palabras resonaban armadas [When your words echo armed] earned an honorable mention in the fifth Adela Zamudio short story contest in 2011. In 2012, her novel Y en el fondo tu ausencia [And in the end your absence] won the National Novel Prize supported by Santillana de Ediciones (Alfaguara Bolivia) and the Ministry of Culture.
Daniel Runnels is Ph.D. student in Hispanic Literatures at Indiana University. His research focuses on 20th and 21st century Latin American literature, political thought, and critical theory.
LALT No. 6 goes from the gripping true stories of literary journalism to the strange worlds of fantastic short stories and graphic literature. We highlight chronicles by Colombian journalist Alberto Salcedo Ramos, speculative fiction in a dossier curated by Mexican writer Alberto Chimal, and Yucatec Maya poetry and prose in our ongoing Indigenous Literature series.