Big Tears (English version)
Rafael Pérez Gay
The sun was beginning to warm the morning when Javier Espitia approached the front door of the house and gave two urgent knocks.
“Good day, ¿what can I do for you?” said the fat man who opened the door.
“I'm here to cry,” Espitia said, his eyes already full of tears.
“You don’t say. ¿And you expect me to believe such a big lie?” The fat man pushed out his chest as if to drink in the air of that warm April morning whose mildness was unexpected and uncertain.
“Really,” Espitia repeated, “I’m here to cry.”
“lf someone’s died, forget it.”
“No one close to me’s died.”
“lf your woman’s left you, tough.”
"No woman’s ever left me.”
“lf you’ve lost your job then, better move on along.”
“I've never been run off a job.”
“I’ll tell you something: people come here to cry, to cry buckets. But frauds have it tough. We don’t accept little crocodile tears.”
“I'm not going to be a slacker, I promise.”
“We’ll have to make some tests,” Fatso told him with the look of someone about to uncover an imposter. Espitia had two swollen eyes and a red nose.
He now had to follow the fat man through a corridor of colonial arches. At the back was the fountain of a central patio onto which the upper storey rooms opened with their high ceilings and opaque glass doors. In the inner corridors some men were walking, looking down at the toes of their shoes, moving along the way sad people do. There were women sitting on the benches of a side garden where geraniums were growing and chestnut trees gave a cool, peaceful shade.
Espitia entered the office, its antique furniture surrounded by carved wooden bookcases. Behind a writing desk, this Mature Man, looking neat and agreeable, sipped the salt of his own tears. He wiped his nose with a pink Kleenex and said, as if he had known this man for many years, “Very well, Espitia, ¿and to what do we owe your visit?”
“I’m here to cry,” he said, his eyes brimming.
“I'm only going to warn you of one thing, Espitia,” Mature Man said as he pulled out another Kleenex. “We’re not going to help you. We’re not going to tell you your daddy didn’t want you, or your mother was a wretch, or that you’re irredeemably mediocre. Not at all. You’re going to cry all by yourself, without anyone helping you. But first, tell me, ¿why do you want to cry?”
“Because I feel very bad. Life doesn’t mean anything --it's hell,” Espitia said, convinced of the strength of his arguments.
“Please, Espitia, that’s a vulgar theory. One cries because one cries, period. Don’t confuse matters. It’s possible what you need is psychoanalysis. Lots of chances for tears there. Or even better --three friends and three bottles of rum, or a dog that’ll bite you. But let’s get on with it. Make yourself comfortable in that armchair ¿Kleenex or handkerchief?”
“A handkerchief, please.”
Fatso offered him a brand new strikingly white handkerchief. Espitia felt along the edge of the armchair and put his elbows on his knees and his hands on his face, in the classical position of the weeper. He began with timid little moans as if he did not want anyone to hear them. A minute later, as if all the world’s sadness had dropped on his head, he began panting, letting out choked cries, then inhuman howls that verged on hysterics. He slid out of the chair as if its height might have hampered him in spitting out his despair, and he sank to the floor in the fetal position. He kept crying that way, as he hadn’t done since he was ten and found out his father would die from trouble with his pancreas, a swollen, useless pancreas, and he was dying too from sadness and rage because his business had fallen into absolute shambles.
Mature Man rescued him from his sadness. “Not bad, not bad. But don’t try to impress us. We’ve dealt with exceptional mourners, men and women who cried masterfully, people who’ve spent years in a melancholic pit perfecting the difficult art of crying. We’ve dealt with people who cried for just anything, real Magdalenes at the foot of the cross.”
Espitia blew his nose in the handkerchief and cleaned his visibly swollen eyes. He even moved as if he were on a train bound for Morelia and was bouncing in his seat with a motion that was rhythmic, definite, ceaseless.
Mature Man wiped away his own tears and said, “We need some data to fill out your application card and begin proceedings. ¿How often do you cry?”
“All the time.” Espitia snorted his sinuses clear.
“Please, Espitia, answer.”
“At least three times a week.”
“And with a batting record like that --worthy of the Culiacan Tomato-Pickers-- you want to be one of us. ¡Oh, Espitia! I believe you’re fooling yourself. The least outstanding cry a daily quota. ¿How long have you been crying?”
“Okay, as a kid I cried enough, from one corner of the house to another.”
Before he went on, Fatso Mourner put the box of Kleenex near him. Meanwhile Mature Man asked him his age.
“Thirty-three,” Espitia answered.
“You do have the advantage there, I admit it. The thirties are the ideal medium for tears, a veritable petri dish. It’s a biological matter: Having just left youth behind, you have entered maturity. During those years one cries a great deal, and with admirable force. As for those entering the realm of the thirties, everything --no matter how trifling-- makes them cry. Thirty-year-olds feel they have everything before them, that they’re in the best time of their lives --and, of course, that’s reason enough to cry. On the other hand, at forty, crying loses its drive, although a certain lachrymose wisdom does come about. Even so, forty-year-olds are only ocasional small-time criers. What’s worse, they always make use of friends, alcohol analysts. Besides, they forget the reason for their tears too fast and invariably end up saying they're on the old age train and they’ve done nothing with their lives. On the other hand, twenty-year-olds cry without knowing why --they’re blind mourners, so to speak. And when they cry, just think, they hug each other. It’s embarrassing, an embarrassing spectacle seeing twenty-year-olds tightly embracing and lacerated with juvenile griefs, getting each others’ shoulders and bosoms wet.
“Then the ftfty-year-olds, for their part, suffer a lot when they cry, and it’s because they know they’re shipwrecks of time: neither young nor old, they cry in the afternoon --sunlike the old, who cry at night and in the dark. The old ones have learned that tears are the only truth there is in us, so at night they cry for their children and grandchildren, for the dead husband or vanished wife.
“Now, at whatever age, there may be timid mourners, and shameless mourners. There are also the contained and the explosive --which aren’t the same thing as those I've just mentioned. The latter are dangerous because they tend to break things when they sob.
“We also know that in times of birth, death, or separation there are always tears. I’d like to know what kind of crier you are. Cry again, please.”
Javier Espitia remained confused; he had already cried as he hadn’t since he was ten. He could not repeat the act with the same intensity. Fatso Mourner put a new box of Kleenex near him, but he chose the wrinkled, wet handkerchief he had in his hands. Neat and agreeable, Mature Man assumed a kind look.
“Go on, Espitia, cry, cry in peace, openly.”
Javier Espitia threw himself down on the camel-colored carpet and began beating the floor with his fists and set about crying because life was shitty. He kept on crying, with genuine distress, because no one in the world understood him, because he felt himself the loneliest man on the planet, because he worked like an ass and didn’t have enough money; he cried because he was frantic about his unfulfilled hopes, and all his shattered illusions and squandered dreams. He cried about love and about rage, he cried about his thirty-three years and his solitude.
“Noted,” agreeable-looking Mature Man said, directing his remarks to Fatso. “A case of Shameless Mourner who can spill tears without any grief, as it were. Not bad. Well, Espitia, your public presentation will be tomorrow. The gentleman will take you to your room. You can come and go if you want; this isn’t a jail, or a rehabilitation center eithe.”
“¿Can I take a book?” Espitia asked, scanning the bookshelves, and still sniffling.
“¿What are you saying? I'll take up some little books with discouraging plots, I'll make myself very sad and tomorrow I'll cry as if my mother had died ¿Who do you think you’re dealing with? You thought: I’ll take upMadame Bovary, read the suicide chapter, remember too those days when I read Flaubert, when I was a young man full of loves and enthusiasms and ready to get with it. Or better: I’ll look on the shelves for something by Onetti, I'll read ‘Bienvenido Bob’ or ‘Tan triste como ella,’ and surrounded by the ingenuous air of those years when you believed life was like that, reading and writing like Onetti, you’ll go into such a depression that tomorrow you’ll give us a historic cry. Not at all, Espitia. Youre going all by yourself to your room without books or music, without a single poem. ¿Or what? ¿Do you want us to give you ‘On the Death of Major Sabines’ in order to pass the night? ¿Do you think we’re stupid?”
On the way back to the corridor of colonial arches he’d entered through, Javier Espitia saw coming toward him a young woman, thirty-six and crying with infinite sadness. Without saying anything she hugged him as if she were his sister. They cried together for severas minutes with a profound, inexplicable grief. Farther on, as he went up the stairs which led to the rooms, a man hailed him in the distance while he wiped dry some large melodramatic tears.
The room was very much like a room in a colonialstyle hotel, perfect for rest and happiness: period furniture, wide bed, secretary for writing letters, indirect lighting, thick curtains with symmetrical pleats, bathroom with a tub, and TV-radio fixed to the wall.
Espitia threw himself, fully clothed, on the bed and turned off the light. Before going to sleep he recalled the days when his mother had taken him to school and fried tortillas in oil to make tostadas when there wasn’t any money in the house. Extending that branch of memory, he drew into the darkness of the room the very afternoon when his father carried him to Chapultepec Park with a soccer ball and showed him the chanfle, the magical spin-kick. That was the day he was sure his dad was a wise, unconquerable, happy giant, and felt proud of having him and no other father. Not knowing how, he came to the point where he saw him again, this time afflicted with business troubles; the creditors came one morning to take away the living room and the dining room and the flowerpots before the undaunted, proud gaze of his mother who has tended them with such exceptional diligence.
Espitia could not hold the machine back: he had seen his big brother go to Europe with a suitcase full of illusions and books and dreams of triumph; he had seen his sisters on a corner, scared to death, kissing a suitor who was filled with some unlikely certainty of the Sixties. He saw the women he had wanted, those who had forgotten him, those he had dropedd.
He cried all night, until he heard the first steps outside and light filtered through the pleats of the curtains. He got up from his bed then, put his shoes on, fixed his hair, fixed everything that needed to be fixed before leaving the room. He went in the bathroom, turned the cold water faucet like one opening the door of hope. He felt the cold water on his face and, turning to the mirror, told himself, “I’m ready.”*
Translated by James Hoggard
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BOOKS BY RAFAEL PÉREZ GAY (CNL-INBA)
Conversation with Andrés Roemer (Google Books)
INTERVIEW (Contraportada. YouTube)
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|Fuente: * From the book Me perderé contigo. México, Cal y Arena, 1990.|