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Literatura en México

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Cinco Décadas de Cuento Mexicano. Antología. Perea, Pitman, Taylor, Tedeschi, Valenzuela

Grafitti (English version)


Rosa Beltrán
Foto: Archivo/El Universal

Rosa Beltrán



You may be a woman of a certain age, wear glasses and in the event of having to mind your husband’s opinion, be a little flighty, though certainly very enterprising. Going to university, for example, and trying to pursue an Arts major –let’s say Classical Literature– even though you may have to polish your powers of reason which are a little rusty, as they say, and lay in stocks of courage to raise your hand in class like a good schoolgirl and express some opinion, anything at all, with a certain degree of solemnity.

You may sit, not on the right-hand side where the beau monde sits –as they are given to calling themselves– but here on this side, or in other words, where the rank and file sit –as they call us– and so refrain from going about pronouncing truths without that being a fundamental issue either, because after all we do sometimes have difficulties understanding our readings of Tacitus, Publius Ovidius Naso and specially Professor Pelegrí’s questions.

You may then get up from your seat and leave the class and head toward the bathroom. Wait a bit, let’s say about ten minutes, and take the first vacant stall. Prepare to do what one normally does in these situations, and I say normally because you might look in front of you at the closed door and encounter that, no less, and be surprised.

It may be that you look around as if ashamed even though no one is there (a person sometimes feels spied upon), or that you feel the touch of some intimate eyes grazing your skin with their coldness, but that nevertheless compel you to remain impassive. Fortunately, you know it is nothing but a passing discomfort, so you can cautiously move closer and observe in comfort the cock of monumental proportions and inside it, the inscription in red ink, “kiss me softly,” and again feel yourself blush and suffocate every time you silently repeat the words. You can’t help but smile and feel some titillation, specially since you know everyone else must be discussing Homer and Xenophon, not counting those up front who would by then already be maligning, composing, correcting The Science of the Experience of Conscience.

Suddenly, beside the enormous cock, you notice a maxim, as they say, “we all love it because we’re all sluts.” And you feel how your expression abruptly changes because you have to ask yourself the fundamental question of whether you are or are not what it says there you are. But you breathe a sigh of relief and nod your head slightly to yourself, and smile at the futility of your doubt because you know that fortunately you are one of those people that devote their lives to other matters, that is, you don’t belong to the aura mediocritas, as they say, and even though human stupidity shocks and disturbs you inordinately, you are no less the intellectual for taking a closer look at a red line forming a penis culminating in a mouth and the warning, “Careful: cucumber is fattening,” signed by the artist Betty “Mommy” Fucker. Then your eyes stray toward the most obscene inscriptions, the most flagrant drawings, and you feel a little dizzy, just for an instant, with all those ribbons of color of all those letters that are also bows ready to place on gifts for schoolgirls and boys, because you know men must also make their bathroom Confessions, quite different from those of the medieval saint, but the thought has barely crossed your mind and you feel embarrassed again.

You suspect the person waiting outside must be getting impatient, but at that moment you discern with surprise the smallest of messages, as if it were trying to hide itself amid all the others; you hear it ask with tremulous penciled letters, “Help me get an abortion,” and you are stunned and jump in fright because at that very moment they start knocking on the door –two sharp, angry raps– and telling you to hurry up. Before opening the door, you obey a strange impulse and look in your bag for a pen that emerges from among receipts and notes and you write with strokes barely larger than the inscription itself, “Abortion is murder;” you step back, observe your work and smile. You feel something akin to pity, combined with the smell of the greasy fries cooking downstairs where, amid dogs, garbage and food, Latin students can be overheard intoning phrases of Carmina Burana and you add to the inscription, “God will help you;” you flush the toilet pointlessly and exit the stall feeling satisfied.

Outside, a group of women with wooden faces await their turn while others preen and put on make-up; you may think they must have their reasons because outside that stronghold, inviolable by men and with a door that reads “ladies”, one can also think about things besides Seneca, Virgil, Cicero. You don’t know much about other areas because you have only just begun –forty years old and with little culture to speak of– to study toward your degree but you can imagine that in essence, besides the names, nothing changes in the neighboring classrooms.

You do however think, and get flustered for thinking it, that Professor Pelegrí’s remarks on Catulus would be truly moving if they came from a man who, let’s suppose, said them while looking at your legs.

You may see how the light filters in through the windows in the hall and have every intention of going in for what remains of the class, because after all that is why you decided to assert your wishes before your husband, but then you feel an irresistible urge to turn on your heels and reenter the tiny stall in the ladies’ room.

Leaving the leatherette purse, which is in fact brown plastic because it didn’t cost as much in the shop, sitting down and contemplating the door are done in an instant: immediately afterward come incredulity and laughter. You may suspect the others will think you’re crazy, but if you were unable to contain yourself it was because of how swiftly you see they have answered your message. You read it and then blush: “You mean God’s moonlighting as a backstreet abortionist?” and then something like guilt that hasn’t completely surfaced and immediately after, a diminutive blot of ink: a phone number. You rummage in your purse and take out a piece of paper that is the dry cleaning bill and also take out a pen that is the same pen with which you were writing earlier and, without quite knowing why, copy down the number in a scrawl. Before the knocking on the door begins to sound desperate, you verify the telephone number you have jotted down and put away the scrap of paper. You then flush the toilet again, pointlessly, and leave the bathroom feeling light, nearly volatile.*

Translated by Michelle Suderman

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MULTIMEDIA:

BOOKS BY ROSA BELTRÁN (CNL-INBA)

"Réquiem" and "Shere Sade", in her own voice (UNAM)

INTERVIEW (YouTube)

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Fuente: * From the book Amores que matan. México, Joaquín Mortiz, 1996. Narradores Contemporáneos.

 

 

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