Literatura en México

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

Angels (English version)

Ricardo Chávez Castañeda
Foto: Antonia Kerrigan Literary Agency

Ricardo Chávez Castañeda

With angels it makes sense: that image of two trains moving in opposite directions, converging for a few seconds in the same tunnel and the same asphyxia. We cross. One could say absurd things about their time, just as the course of our minute hands and our calendars and accumulations must seem ridiculous to them. They, the angels, travel backwards: towards our youth and the lost years of infancy. They are not, however, the inoffensive creatures of the films that are projected backwards in the Cosmos theater, by way of a Saturday morning matinee. They are not limited to unwalking, uncaring, unliving. They are not beings without consequence.

They appear for the first time in the nightmares of certain old people. They protect them from bad dreams, forcing them to get out from under the covers and go back out to the streets. That's what they do night after night: shake them, drag them out of their beds, turn on their televisions, put them in their rocking chairs, force them to bring up the fistfuls of Valium, the tablets of diazepam or whatever they swallowed this time.

The angel with the thick hands and luminous eyes, for example, is the guardian of an old woman in a nursing home, of a night watchman, and of a poet who has learned only to cry in familiar images: a metaphorical spider's web among parents and children. The poet rolls over his naked buttocks, on the rough floor of the hallway, until the angel obliges him to take up his pen, prop it on the page and move it in a pretty tracing from right to left, gathering up each of the letters in the word Malediction or Legacy or whatever signifier for 'relay' he's used this time. With the old woman it's enough to take the urine from the mattress to her robe and from her robe to between her legs to restore her to dryness.

The sacrifice is visible: with time the angel stops being ethereal. He has a scar on his cheek now and has become covered with thick white hair. Conversely, the woman sees the green arterial seams disappear from her legs, and the night watchman recovers his teeth, one by one.

One "today" the angel manages to take a knife away from her. She was crying when he forced her to rewrap it, put it back in a second drawer of the sideboard, and return it finally to her husband's pocket.

Nevertheless, there are benign days when they appear to live without their angel. The night watchman has become a policeman, the poet is caressing the swollen belly of his wife, the formerly old woman opened her legs and let in a clumsy but beautiful boy. 

Independence is false. They are under their care eternally and, nevertheless, as if it wasn¿t enough, the angel has started to gather some more. To the blond young woman, he restored her the blood that dirtied the curtains and the walls of the washstand, he helped her to erase a note illegible anyway because she has decided to omit him, her angel. To the thirty-six-year-old man, he extracted the bullet from his nape.

The angel accompanies them and keeps them safe getting more visible every time. Now he has an unmistakable smell of wet wood, one of his fingers lacks of nail; in a line of the new poet has been achieved the fortunate evocation of a hand posed on the nape.

Guarding is a labor that ends becoming exhausting, even for angels. The monotonous ritual of make cries and shouts thinner, and of give back to his now five children the dry and dead expression of the fish ¿-round, opaque eyes, asphyxiated by the glass-- pushes to the last sacrifice. A couple of days ago, it was the blond girl¿s turn. Today it is the boy¿s with the bullet wound, turned back to a childhood interrupted by sedatives and long sessions of questions he doesn¿t understand. It is almost the same with each one. There is a hospital and suddenly, the hospital does not exist anymore, and this boy with blue sweater, short pants and scrapped-point boots finds himself in a familiar but desert living room. The deformity that the angel shows is the immolation proof. He¿s mouthing and the chaps in his forehead are like a second pair of eyes, his lower lip is bruised and the smell that escapes his neck is hard as sandpaper. The angel holds the boy to help him with the retching and the kicking; he presses him against his body in spite of the slap that has just hurt his cheek. He murmurs something on his ear just like to the little girl, he holds him by the nape with his giant hand like to the boy that will be a poet after, and little by little he makes that the blood goes back to in between the legs. Then the angel pushes himself one last time and takes out something solid and outstanding, like an stake, that passed through the boy.

Afterwards this boy and that one that will write tenths of books get calmed without escaping the silence. This boy and the future policeman recover color progressively. This boy and that who was an old woman, then an adult, then this shy girl with divided chin, try a smile. 

Each boy and each girl put then their hands on the angel¿s hand and start walking by the streets of the city in front of dozens of people that don¿t manage to get marveled because such tiny creatures need that enormous angel to guard them.

The last time they meet, the children look over their angel without thankfulness, without recognizing him, with the exception of the one that in thirty years will shoot himself on the nape and now is with the angel, seating right beside him, biting a lollypop. The other children play with the rope, with the marbles. The angel, on his side, watches them from the car, without lowering the windows, with an expression that reminds the dead gesture of the fish. The opaque and arid eyes of the condemnation, the heritage, the legacy or the vocable used this time by the poet to fill in the page and to end up naked, rolling over on the rough floor of the hallway, without never finishing this text.

Translated by Persephone Braham

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