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Para Frank, mi pa

Ahora que estuviste haciendo el rondín, me acordé de esta canción que siempre me hizo pensar en ti.  Aquí la pongo.

I Got A Name

Like the pine trees lining the winding road
I got a name, I got a name
Like the singing bird and the croaking toad
I got a name, I got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did
But I’m living the dream that he kept hid

Moving me down the highway
Rolling me down the highway
Moving ahead so life won’t pass me by

Like the north wind whistling down the sky
I’ve got a song, I’ve got a song
Like the whippoorwill and the baby’s cry
I’ve got a song, I’ve got a song
And I carry it with me and I sing it loud
If it gets me nowhere, I go there proud

Moving me down the highway
Rolling me down the highway
Moving ahead so life won’t pass me by

And I’m gonna go there free

Like the fool I am and I’ll always be
I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
They can change their minds but they can’t change me
I’ve got a dream, I’ve got a dream
Well, I know I can share it if you want me to
If you’re going my way, I’ll go with you

Moving me down the highway
Rolling me down the highway
Moving ahead so life won’t pass me by

–Jim Croce

Tengo nombre

Como los pinos que bordean los caminos sinuosos

tengo nombre, un nombre

Como el ave que canta y la rana que croa

tengo nombre.

Y lo llevo conmigo, como lo hizo mi padre,

y vivo el sueño que él ocultó.

 

Es el que me impulsa por la carretera,

el que me lleva adelante para que la vida no me deje atrás

 

Como el viento del norte que silba desde el cielo

tengo una canción,

como el gorjeo del añapero y el llanto de un niño

tengo una canción,

La llevo conmigo y la canto a toda voz

y aunque a nada me lleve, allá iré orgulloso

 

Es la canción que me impulsa en la carretera

la que me lleva adelante para que la vida no me deje atrás

Y  llegaré libre.

Como el iluso que soy y siempre seré

tengo un sueño,

Que los demás cambien, a mí no me cambiarán,

porque tengo un sueño,

Y lo comparto contigo si quieres…

pues si vas por donde voy yo, iré contigo

 Es el sueño que me impulsa en la carretera

y me lleva adelante para que la vida no me deje atrás.

— Traducción, Martha Macías

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Deserted Couches

A story by Luis Bernardo Pérez

They just show up on the street, cumbersome and worn, as if boasting how out of place and abandoned they are. Only yesterday they were  furniture in a respectable home and had their own place in a living room or den, but come the morning, you find them on any street corner or under a lamppost -alone- contending against the weather. Their only chance for survival is for a stranger to come by  willing to pick them up to furnish his own house.  This rarely happens.  The dirty upholstery, the cigarette burns, the broken leg, the tattered, shapeless seat make deserted couches objects of scorn.

Most often they sit in the same place for weeks, months even! Harboring every kind of vermin, drinking in rainwater and slowly rotting until at last (to the neighbors’ relief!) the municipal garbage service hauls them away.

Yet just before this happens; just before the weather, moisture and canine detritus completely ruin a deserted couch, you should take the opportunity to stretch out in it.  Don’t let such a chance pass you by !  Any morning as you hurry to work, if you  run into one, take a few minutes… Muster up the courage to overcome your natural disgust over sitting on a piece of furniture in such a state.  Yes, it is very likely that the other passers-by will produce a certain discomfiture, but don’t feel embarrassed.  Act as if you were in your own living room: just sit down and try to find your most comfortable position.  What if the backrest is torn, its innards spilling out everywhere, or if the armrests are loose or stained?  Cross your legs.  You might even feel like smoking or scratching your head.  Let yourself go! Little by little you’ll begin to experience a feeling of placidness, of serenity beyond words that will let you view the world with new eyes.  This perhaps could even be the first time in your life that you momentarily stop to distance yourself from everyday events to view them as if you were sitting in a theater. From that vantage point everyday realities may well appear like a laughable spectacle; like a play with an absurd and ridiculous script.

All at once, this experience will reveal to you the meaning of existence and your own reason for being. Then upon such a revelation (quite comparable to an epiphany!) you will stand up, tidy your suit and be on your way. Nevertheless, it is very likely that you will not be in such a hurry as before… you might not even want to get to work.

Translation: Martha Macías

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The Lizard

A story by Mónica Lavín

I used to be a redhead, but I’ve no regrets about my hair or the heavy makeup I need to disguise my face with, or this little room with a radio and the one window dressed in cheap curtains. What I miss is not seeing them; just the thought of them makes it feel like a long cold knife is running through me.

I used to have such a pretty bedroom! The one my mom decorated in pink with a mirror and a vanity full of little bottles to perfume my fifteenth year.  For an entire month, I showed it off to my school friends and cousins, and a few guys that went upstairs to the bedroom just for a second.  The lamps on the night tables had pleated shades full of roses.  The night tables with their white curled up legs had a drawer with a golden pull where I kept my diary with its little key, letters from Lorena and pictures of Robert Redford and Jorge Rivero.  I’d even procured one of those magazines that were off limits to me, the kind with the naked ladies that made me nervous and sweaty just to look at them.  I had my very own record player and my secrets would spin inside those invisible furrows on the LPs.  I used to paint my nails several times a day sitting on the rug with a messy stack of records lying around me.

My dad used to spoil me a lot.  He said I was just like his sister Chata, who had died very young.  One time he even bought me a piano because I wanted to learn how to play. The teacher came by the house for three months, but my father was the one who ended up learning, and after a few drinks who knows what memories got hold of him as he very sadly and listlessly played Agustín Lara songs.

Anyway, my Daddy forgot I was his favorite when Mauricio went and complained to him about me. Dad made that same reproachful face my husband wore and said I was dead to him.  That really hurt me.  I kneeled on the floor and asked to speak to him alone, but Mauricio made fun of me as he kicked my thighs with the tips of his shoes.  Dad didn’t even look at me, but his hand was shaking and I held it tight.  That gesture was the last he gave me.

I would’ve liked to tell him the truth before, ever since the time I spent days watching TV and eating cookies as if that would ward off the fear of Mauricio coming home late again.  Because he almost always did, and once or twice when I was already asleep he had even woken me up to feed dinner to him and his friends.

One day I protested and he struck me on the face. He said that if he was bringing in the money it was my obligation to serve him.  After a sleepless night, I fixed breakfast for the kids and sent them off.  He’d  stretched out slowly as he woke up and called me to get his morning pleasure, which had become torture to me, a painful act that hurt my dry vagina.

Afternoons I’d play with the children. That’s when I stopped thinking about his acne-scarred face and his white pot-belly. Sometimes I would even imagine that not everything was a mere chore.

Mauricio, what a corny name! Andres had laughed. Then he had immediately begun to sniff my neck and so inflamed had covered my body with kisses.  Every night, I’d promise myself never to see him again, but the very next day at noon I’d be ringing his doorbell.  Andres was a student so he was always there with his mattress on the floor and pillows against the wall. He’d knock me down on the bed with such a force, and then would undress me so slowly that it was as if he’d been saving himself completely just for this frenzy. We’d spend an hour naked making love, watching TV. I’d hold his slender body while he studied with a book in his hand.  He used to say that he couldn’t concentrate without me beside him.  And even though I knew myself to be fat and a little bit of a wreck, I began to feel younger and had something that let me bear with Mauricio.

I met Andrés at a supermarket around the corner from my kid’s school.  He politely helped me with the groceries and invited me for coffee at his house.  I didn’t think accepting was either good or bad.  I was so bored I went there despite the feeling that something could happen.  As we walked there I noticed his thick long neck, his free hand hanging beside him, his noble eyes. I began to want him.  I don’t know what came over his virgin head, but as soon as we got to his house we put the groceries on the table and right away -no coffee or hesitation- he kissed me. After dreaming about love at fifteen, I finally knew it.

After this encounter, I had to buy something at the supermarket every day. But one day, we fell asleep. It had been a cool quiet morning, and as we cuddled from the rain under Andres’ blankets the clock struck four in the afternoon.  When I got home Mauricio and the children were waiting for me in the living room.  I said I had been mugged, pretended to be nervous (which I actually was), and weepy.  They had put me in a car and taken me far away. They’d stolen my rings and earrings that I had hidden in my shoes.  Mauricio was reluctant to believe me.  He didn’t go out that night and stared at me as I put my nightgown on.  I felt that Andres’ caresses were showing through my skin.  He approached me slowly.  Why are you wearing your bra inside out?  I blushed.  He threw me on the bed and left.  He returned three days later completely out of sorts and dirty, he said he’d gone to see Roxana, his little whore friend, and so what.  He threatened to take the children away from me.

I stopped seeing Andres who became desperate and called in the afternoons; meanwhile, Mauricio became increasingly brutal. Three times a day he had me make love forcibly and morbidly until I was exhausted, with such a rage that I accepted this punishment.  One day he got nice, almost even good. He gave me a drink and insisted on my telling him who the other guy was, and if I liked him in bed.  I just looked at him as the tears began to stream down silently.

The next morning I wanted to see Andres. I made sure Mauricio was at work and escaped on a bus.  I knocked on Andres’ door and he held me crazy for joy while I cried like a baby.  We loved each other for an hour and I left promising myself not to return. But I did. I’d said just for a while, but that was enough for them to come and tear down the door. In came Mauricio and a guy.  I felt absurd covered by a white sheet amid Andres’ physics books and his shaky body that kept asking them in a low voice not to hurt me.  Mauricio made his nose bleed with a single punch, and I was taken to the police station with almost no clothes on.

He took the children away from me, and with them, the dreams and fantasies Andres had restored to me.

Mauricio told the little ones I was crazy.  I imagine that little by little they began to believe it; more so after my mother brought them to see me and they’d found me heaped in makeup and nervous in such a poor room and with half my hair black and the other half red, not knowing how to approach them or what to say, or whether to hold them or give them candy.

One day my mother showed up alone and said they didn’t want to come anymore, that I frightened them.

After that nobody else came, not even Andres who loved me so much, nor the reflection of my pink room; just that distant melody my father used to play on the piano.

That’s when I took to climbing on to the window in my room and stretching out my body on the narrow sill (where I barely fit) to catch the heat of the afternoon sun.  One day I heard a child’s voice and saw another pointing at me: There she is, The Lizard!

Translation: Martha Macías

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Initials

I don’t know much, it’s true.  Two people who call themselves my children come over; their faces downcast when I don’t utter a word.

 

Dad, I’m Hilda, insists this over-fiftiesh lady with the copper hair.  She takes some pictures out of her wallet and introduces me to my grandchildren: Rodrigo and Azucena.  And I nod just to sweep the sadness away from this woman who claims my fatherhood.  I don’t know if I should believe her; and if I did, it would only be out of mere transient good will, that’s all, because I have nothing to tell her about her childhood, her adolescence that must have cost her mother and I more than one headache, and her brother Hilario even more so. Hilario who only wears a suit and just has lunch breaks to come stand near the bed and tell me about how I used to take him to play football.

 

The notions that come over some people! Like naming their children Hilda and Hilario, both with an H!  My name might as well be Hugo or Hector, or their mother’s could be Helena, so Roman-like and intent on keeping an H. But something I can be sure of is that my name does not start with an H, and I know I am meticulous because I wear a shirt with my initials: CLM embroidered on my pocket.

 

These initials say something about me. They don’t just reflect my name, but also my mania for being embroidered, for identifying my garments.  The shirt is light yellow, good quality.  At night when they help me undress I ask them to read the label for me and I find out that it’s made by a tailor, a certain Leopoldo Guerra.

 

I am Carlos Lira Morales and I have a yellow shirt with my initials on it. I am a maniac when it comes to workmanship and identification.  I’m a lawyer. Lawyers do that kind of thing.  And my wife ran away with my partner, who is a lot more likeable than me.

Ortuño took advantage of my having to settle a case in Germany to call her and send her flowers, ask her out to dinner to charm her and get her to move in with him forever, just so I could return to an unkempt house, none of her perfumes in the closet, nor in the drawers or in the bathroom; and to find no jewels or clothes of hers.  That’s probably why her children don’t mention her.  They are not speaking to her. She’s to blame for my being here cared for by nurses, bereft of any memory.

 

***

Hilda came with a young man who calls me grandpa. What was that moment like? The moment when besides becoming a father I became a grandfather?  They bring up a mirror so I can see myself and then look at the grandson.  How alike we look, murmurs an excited Hilda.  The young man matches my own indifference and feels compelled to hug me.  I say, pleased to meet you young man, but the copper-haired lady replies, how can I say that when we used to see each other every Sunday. The alleged grandson looks at his watch.  He’s uncomfortable. I tell him to leave, not to pay attention to that lady I don’t know.  The young man says good-bye grandpa for the sake of the visibly distressed lady, and leaves.  Dad, she gives me a serious look, the doctors say they’ve changed your medication and that you are on a routine of concentration exercises.

 

I run my hands over the embroidered pocket.  The shirt is sky blue and has the initials: CLM.  Are you by any chance Hilda Logroño? I ask the woman who is there, because I am Celso Logroño Méndez.  Dad, please. Where did you get that idea from?  I don’t tell her the story because I don’t want to disappoint her and make her go look for another father in one of the halls here.  I keep to myself the fact that I inherited the hotels that my father started in Tlalpan, that I have managed them since I was twenty and that I’ve seen good and terrible things happen in those rooms. But that I’ve made some money and have been able to travel to Galicia with the family once a year, a family which of course does not include her nor the young man who just left.  I feel nostalgia for Ribeiro wine and chorizo.  I ask her to take me to the dining room even though I’m not hungry yet.  She can’t go in there, and I want her to leave.

 

 ***

 Hilda and Hilario came together this morning.  They introduce themselves and say it is Sunday.  And they start telling me how I used to make paella in the garden of the house in Cuernavaca, and how it was there that Hilario had gotten drunk for the first time and had thrown up all over the azalea in front of the guests and that his scandalized mother had sent him to his room. But that I, instead of scolding the boy and supporting my wife, had laughed and laughed and had brought him a cup of coffee, and that the one who had marched out feeling offended had been the mother of both of them.

 

How is she? I dare ask to humor them.  I don’t want them to have a bad time because I like what they’ve been telling me.  I like that they should think I was a man who knew when the rice was just right, and that butifarra sausages had to be bought in the second stall at San Juan Market, just as they were telling me.  But they remain quiet. Hilario shakes my hand tightly.  I dare not ask any further.  When they leave I sigh with relief at being César Luis Macías and having nothing to do with paella nor children and grandchildren, only with keeping the company accounts, of having a proper job and an apartment in the Cuauhtemoc neighborhood of the city, and of having fallen in love with the assistant accountant who keeps my shirts clean and ironed and who smells so good as she sleeps by my side, and excites me in the mornings with her female body, all plump with meaty calves.  I’m surprised by an erection that I hide under the blanket wrapping my legs.  These poor visitors believe I suffer from the absence of the woman I once had.  They know nothing of the true passions of César Luis.

 

 ***

Today I asked copper lady to leave.  She responded in a voice reserved for babies asking if I had taken my medicine, if I had slept well. Dad, I’m going to call the doctor. You seem very upset.  And I told her that I am not her dad, to let me be, that I don’t know her.  Very serenely as if she hadn’t noticed I was annoyed, she turns on a device and a song starts coming out of it. She looks at me expectantly.  Your favorite, dad.  I’ve never heard that song and I’m tired of having to be in front of a stranger.  Leave, lady! I say.  Get out! I throw the tiny device on the floor and when she goes out to get a nurse, or so she says, I discover why I’m so irritable: when I put my hand over my pocket I don’t run into the embroidery.  Today I’m not wearing a shirt with initials.  I anxiously open the closet to discover that my clothes are not hanging there like usual.  I throw myself on the bed and stare at the ceiling.  I very likely fall asleep.

 

 ***

 

 

 

A man came over today, says his name is Hilario.  He’s accompanied by a fat woman with curls in her hair.  It’s his wife he says, my daughter-in-law. I touch my pocket. I don’t answer.  He tells me that someone called Hilda is on vacation and won’t be coming for a few days.  I don’t care about what he says. I don’t know him.

 

 ***

 

A woman comes in and arranges the clothes in my closet.  Her hair is copper and her skin tanned. She comes closer and kisses me.  I’m upset by this treatment. I don’t kiss strangers.  I wipe her saliva off my cheek.  She laughs. Oh, dad! I look at her sternly.  They tell me you’ve been down.  It’s probably because I haven’t been here to see you, but I’m back from Cancun.  I won’t go away any more, dad, I promise. I’m going to bring you photo albums.  I’m tired of that voice, terribly tired. The woman rises to close the closet door.  No, I tell her. I’ve just seen the pocket on a yellow shirt.  I catch three embroidered letters: CLM.  I feel happy. So does she.

That’s a relief! I exclaim.  I am Cecila Landú Martínez.  What are you saying, dad? I ask her for the shirt.  Bewildered, she gives it to me.  I run my fingers over those symbols.  I could sing so well, but falling in love makes you loose your head… and voice. He bred horses, Quarter Horses were his thing.  He wanted me with him. I was his good-luck charm. When I accompanied him to the racetrack his team did well. He’d buy me presents, and so much caressing at night!  I missed practice, rehearsals.  The new fillies were all named after opera characters: Mimi, Iphigenia, Tosca because he would ask me to name them.  And as he went on winning I went on losing my voice.  I can’t sing any more!, I tell the lady with tear-filled eyes.  Cecilia is over! The woman looks at me with alarm and runs out quickly. I attempt a few trills, notes that will bring back the soprano I once was. It’s useless.  Sad and resigned I stroke my initials and hide the shirt under the pillow.

 

Translation: Martha Macias

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