Literatura en México

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

The Lizard (English version)

Mónica Lavín

I was a redhead, before. I’m not complaining about my hair, or the heavy makeup that I have to disguise my face with, or this little room with a radio and one window with cheap curtains. What I hate is not seeing them; all I have to do is think about them and I feel it like a driving cold knife in me.

My room was so pretty. The one that, when I turned fifteen, my mom had decorated pink, with a mirror-dressing table with lots of little bottles to perfume the occasion. For a month I bragged to my girlfriends at school and my cousins and a few boys who came up to my bedroom just for a moment. The little lamps on the bureaus had pleated rose-pattern shades. The bureaus had white curled feet, and in the drawer with the gold pull was my diary with its little lock, my letters from Lorena and my photos of Robert Redford and Jorge Rivero. I also got hold of one of those forbidden magazines with naked women that made me feel nervous and start to perspire just from seeing them. I had a record player just for me, and my secrets that spun with the invisibles grooves. I painted my fingernails several times a day, sitting on the rug with my stack of records lying all around me all out of order.

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 to the house for three months and the one who learned was my dad, for at night and after a few drinks, I don’t know what of, he used to remember and play very slowly, with a lot of sadness, some Agustín Lara songs.

In any case my little dad forgot that I was his favorite when Mauricio went to him to complain about me. He had the same critical expression on his face as my husband, and said I was his dead daughter. This really hit me, it knocked me to the floor and I begged him to let me talk to him alone. But Mauricio made fun of me while he was poking me in the legs with the toes of his shoes. Dad didn’t look at me, but his hand was shaking, and I held it tight; he allowed me this last gesture.

I would have liked to confide in him before that, when I used to spend the day watching TV and eating crackers, as if that way I was driving away my fear that Mauricio would come late again. Because he almost always did, and I would be asleep and everything and once or twice he woke me up to make dinner for him and his friends. I objected one time and he hit me in the face, and he said if he brought home the money it was my duty to do what he told me. I would be very anxious when I made breakfast for the children and sent them off. He would stretch slowly and yell at me to satisfy his morning desires, which for me had become real torture, a painful thing to do, because my vagina was too dry. I would play with the children in the afternoon, and then I could forget about his acne face and his hairy white belly. It almost seems to me then that not everything was a duty.

“Mauricio--what a ridiculous name,” Andrés had laughed. Then he smelled my neck and full of passion he covered my body with kisses. At night I would promise myself I wouldn’t see him again, but by noon I was ringing his doorbell. Andrés was a student and would always be at home with his mattress on the floor and cushions arranged along the wall. I would fall down on the bed so eagerly and get undressed so slowly that it seemed like he had been holding back everything for this frenzy. We would spend an hour naked making love, looking at TV, me wrapped arround his slender body while he kept studying the book in his hand. He used to say that without me at his side he wouldn’t be able to concentrate. And even though I knew I was too fat and worn out, I began to feel younger and like I had something that was worth putting up with Mauricio for.

I met him in the supermarket arround the corner from the school. He helped me very kindly with the bags and invited me to have a cup of coffee at his place. Saying yes didn’t seem either bad or good to me. I was so bored that I went thinking that something might happen. While we were walking I noticed his strong neck, his relaxed hands, his noble eyes. I began to want him. I don’t know what must have passed through his virgin head, but when we got to his house we put the bags on a table and inmediately, without coffee or wavering, he kissed me. This was what fifteen-year-old dreams of love were made of.

Every day after this meeting I had to buy something at the supermarket. Only, one day we fell asleep. It had been a cold, quiet morning, and we were lying sheltered under the covers of Andrés’s bed when it turned four in the afternoon. When I got home Mauricio and the children were waiting for me in the living room. I said I’d been assaulted, I pretended to be agitated--which I was--and weepy. And they put me in a car and drove me far away and took the rings and earings I had hidden in my shoes. Mauricio wouldn’t believe me. That night he didn’t go out and he stared at me while I was putting on my nightgown. I felt that the caresses of Andrés were showing on my body. He came closer. Why do you have your brassiere on inside out? I blushed. He pushed me onto the bed and left. He came back three days later, completely broken, filthy, said he had gone with Roxanne his little girlfriend who was a prostitute, and so what. And threatened to take the children away from me.

I stopped seeing Andrés, who was calling me, desperate, in the afternoons, and Mauricio got really ugly. He made me make love till I was exhausted, three times a day, by force and with a kind of morbid pleasure in it, and with a range that I accepted as my punishment. One day he turned affectionate and almost nice. He gave me a drink and then insisted that I tell him what the other man was like and if I liked him in bed. I looked at him without saying anything, and the tears burst out of me in a silent torrent.

The next morning I wanted to see Andrés. I made sure Mauricio was at work and I escaped by bus. I knocked at his door and crazy with happiness he hugged me while I cried like a baby. We loved each other for an hour and I left promising myself not to go back. But I did, I said it was only for a little while and that was enough for the door to fly open and Mauricio and some other guy to come in. I felt ridiculous covered with the white sheet among Andrés’s physics books and with his body shaking, and in a low voice he asked them not to do anything to me. Mauricio hit him in the nose and he was bleeding and they took me to the police station almost without any clothes on.

He took the children away from me and with them, the illusion and the fantasy that Andrés had been giving back to me. They told the children I was crazy. I imagine that little by little they came to believe it, especially when my mother brought them to visit me and they found me with strange makeup on and anxious--in such a poor room and my hair half black, half red--and they didn’t know how to approach me or what to talk about, and I didn’t know whether to hug them or give them candy.

One day my mother came alone and said that they didn’t want to come anymore, they were afraid of me. After that, nobody came, not even Andrés, who loved me so much, not even the reflection of my pink room, just the distant melody that my father used to play on the piano. Then I started climbing out the window of my room and stretching out on the narrow window ledge where I could barely fit, and warming myself in the afternoon sun. One day I heard children’s voices and I saw one pointing to me: “There’s the lizard.”*

Translated by Reginald Gibbons

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"Los jueves" y "Uno no sabe", in her own voice (UNAM)

La isla blanca (short stories. Google Books)

"Una tripa muerta y seca", cartoon (YouTube)

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Fuente: * From the book Nicolasa y los encajes. México, Joaquín Mortiz, 1991. Serie del Volador. New Writing from Mexico. USA, Northwestern University/TriQuarterly Books, 1992.



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