Literatura en México

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

Deserted Dreams (English version)

Iris García Cuevas

That isn’t me. The woman splayed out with her legs open, dressed in the ridiculous hospital gown held together by two straps at the back, that isn’t me. I was always scared of needles. Just imagining the slither of metal piercing the flesh makes my skin crawl, my teeth chatter. They’re going to stick one in her slender vein and she doesn’t scream, she doesn’t cry, she doesn’t run away. No. That isn’t me. It can’t be me. She is someone else. A stupid girl. A real stupid girl because these kinds of things only happen to stupid girls.

The stupid girl is dying of shame because the doctor is going to put his hand between her legs. The stupid girl’s legs shake when she feels the alcohol-soaked cotton swab on her wrist, the needle pinching the vein, a little plastic tube being attached for the fluid to flow through, the sticky Band-Aid pulling at her arm hair. The stupid girl listens to the voice of the nurse who asks the doctor something or other about the anesthetic, and to the doctor who replies, “give her five hundred. No, eight hundred. Yeah, eight hundred would be better.”

The idiot watches the fluid as it gradually turns yellow. Out of sheer curiosity she follows the plastic tube which buries its head in the Band-Aid stuck on her wrist. It gives her chills and makes her want to escape. If only she could escape! If she had the option, she would run away as fast as her shaking legs could carry her. But no. The poor girl keeps nice and quiet, with her legs open, watching the round lamp above her head like a dumb-ass.

The naïve girl tries to convince herself this isn’t happening. There is no doctor. There is no smell of syrup to bring up the phlegm. There is no needle, nor yellow fluid, nor fear. No, there is no fear. There is only a fixed point in front of her eyes which she can go towards, just like when Dad would come find her at night. There’s a ceiling. There’s a light on the ceiling, round, metal, gray. A light. There is sleep, so full of dreams.

“I need you so much,” he said looking into her eyes, holding her hand as if his life depended on it.

He felt helpless. His life was so unfair. His father abandoned him when he was young, his mother became an alcoholic and spent her time crying over his father’s absence. He had to work to support his little sister. He fell in love with a bad woman, she made him feel miserable. She cheated and left him for another. He had such bad luck!

I need you so much. For her, it was unusual to feel important to someone. She thought about her own mother, always so attentive to her grades, ready to strike her daughter on the back with the blender cable whenever a B appeared on her report card. She thought of her own father, always so affectionate, fondling his daughter’s breasts while they watched TV. She doubted, just for an instant, that this man who sat in front of her really did want her. But her fear abated as she was contented with the touch of his fingers slowly stroking her collar bone, sliding gently round to the back of her neck and then winding through her hair.

I need you so much. The memory of his breathless voice acted as a charm so that they did not catch her escaping, so that she was not afraid of anything, not even as she was stealthily opening her parent’s wardrobe while they slept and she took the box in which they kept their savings. She ran away from home with a very small suitcase, just one change of clothes and a toothbrush. She would buy everything else over the border.

That isn’t me. The one who’s naked on the bathroom floor, vomiting up yellow, that isn’t me. It can’t be me. It’s someone else who listens to the nurse banging on the door for her to hurry, telling her “you can’t be late; we have to clear out quick. It’s a rented space. Put your clothes on quickly, they’re in the wash-basin.”

The poor little idiot feels how everything, literally everything, is spinning. Her insides hurt. The nurse laughs when she sees her come out. What the hell could she find so funny? The nurse comes over to tidy her hair, button her blouse and tell her with false tenderness that “it’s normal to feel like this, everything went very well. You should rest and not lift heavy things. It’s late, you should go. Don’t forget the pills to stop infection and the pain. The boss is waiting for you downstairs.”

The frightened little girl goes down the stairs, she tries to persuade herself that her knees are not trembling, they are not buckling, they don’t make her fall down the stairs and yell, yell loudly, until the woman comes to offer her help, because the boss does not make the slightest attempt to reach her. He just looks with his characteristic expression of reproach that makes her understand that everything she does is wrong.

She gets up all by herself. She says to the nurse “I’m fine. Yes, I can walk. It wasn’t weakness, just a wrong step. Nothing, honestly, it was nothing.”

And she walks backwards towards the man. She does not want to stop looking at the falsely kind face of the nurse who smiles behind a pair of pearly frames. Without a doubt kinder than the face she will see when she turns around.

He takes her arm. She lowers her gaze, lets him lead.

“Why do you make things so hard? It’s not a big deal,” the man says before pushing her inside the car. “Take the pills. At least three,” he orders.

She obeys. She settles slowly into the seat. The car is already moving. She wants to close her eyes to sleep but she cannot, she is queasy. No, she is not queasy. The car is not bumping, shaking her guts. The sharp feeling that shoots through her abdomen is not pain. No, there is no pain. There is a desert. Dancing sands uniting at a magical point on the horizon, dry shrubbery at the side of the road. A highway. Yes, there is a highway and sleep, so full of dreams.

“I need you so much,” said the man lying in her lap, with tears in his eyes, after confessing that he gambled all the money. Yes, even the money stolen from her parent’s house, and yes, he lost it. Now they couldn’t cross the border; there was no way to pay the coyotes. They did not even have enough money for food or rent for the room, but he already saw a way to solve it all, he only needed to be sure that he wanted it.

Those words – I need you so much – were with her again as another man fondled her small breasts with his rough hands. She remembered them, as well, to stop herself from crying as yet another man bit at her shoulders, squeezed her ass and whispered obscenities into her ear. So many, many words, which she would then repeat through tears when the man with whom she had fled asked her for the details. She would also describe how the other man turned her over and penetrated her from behind until she bled.

“No. You’re no whore. And he forced you to say that you liked it. You won’t have to do it again,” he told her hours later while he caressed her sweat-soaked hair and wiped away her tears, grateful to her for being willing to do anything to achieve their dream.

“I need you so much,” he dared to say after numerous men helped to cover the rent and food, all because he never managed to find a job or even get enough money together to pay someone to take them over to the other side.

“Let’s go back home,” she suggested, sick of being used to steady the nerves of the men who wanted to possess a woman before venturing out into the desert or into the river’s waters.

“Why? Are you missing your father’s cuddles?” he’d taunt her until she cried.

That isn’t me. That piece of meat that two men pick up and dump in the back of a pickup truck. That isn’t me. It’s someone else. A dumb-ass. These kinds of things only happen to real dumb-asses.

“We’re crossing the border,” he whispered in her ear.

She searches for the eyes of the man who loved her but all she finds is the reflection of her own fear in his dark lenses. The others’ laughter confuses her. What the hell could they find so funny?

The wretched girl suffers when she feels her jeans slip down her thighs. She thinks that he sold her. Yet again. She thinks that they are going to rape her even though she is still recovering. But instead of a penis, a sharp blade enters her. She looks down at her abdomen, open and red, like a blossoming flower. The men take out some small bags. He mentioned what it was they were going to put inside her. Some powder. Not a lot, but enough to get them out of debt. He never mentioned how they would get it out again. She thinks about the scars. The pills are really very good. There is no pain. Even the initial fear is dissipating. They’re done. She feels the men pick her up again. She feels the thud on the ground. She hears her own cry and the car engines as they drive away.

This isn’t happening. She isn’t left abandoned in the middle of the desert. No, it isn’t blood that’s flowing. There aren’t vultures flying overhead, waiting for her to die. There is no pain. There is no fear. No, there is no fear. There is a light in front of her eyes. There is sky. Clear. Blue. There is sleep, so full of dreams.*

Translated by Kathryn Morgan, MA Applied Translation Studies, University of Leeds, UK

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Muerte artificial, blogspot by Iris García Cuevas

"Ojos que no ven corazón desierto, 'melodrama negro', dice su autora Iris García Cuevas", interview by Vanessa Hernández (La Jornada Guerrero)

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Fuente: *From the book Ojos que no ven, corazón desierto, México, Tierra Adentro, 2009



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