Cuentos

De a pie . . .

by S.G.

                                                       Para Nati.

1.

La población de la Costa se ha visto obligada, por años, a realizar el viaje de ida y vuelta a Montevideo en unidades con varias, muchas o todas las siguientes características. Las ventanas suelen vibrar tanto que se abren solas cuando el ómnibus está en movimiento. También puede pasar que las ventanas no abran en lo absoluto. Generalmente, se abren o están totalmente cerradas en oposición a lo que urgentemente necesita el pasajero. Seis de cada diez asientos reclinables tienen los almohadones vencidos, lo que hace que al sentarse uno se hunda casi sin retorno a la posición original; o puede ser que los respaldos se encuentren tanto en un ángulo de setenta grados en relación al asiento, como en uno de ciento ochenta y que esa posición sea inamovible.

Éste año, la compañía de transporte más importante puso en la calle decenas de unidades nuevas, flamantes. Verlas transitar por la carretera es motivo de admiración y no sólo da la sensación de progreso, sino de que uno al final es tratado como ser humano y no como vaca que va al matadero. Luego de los primeros viajes inaugurales, casi todos coinciden. La mayoría de la población prefiere viajar en los ómnibus viejos. Es posible que sólo sea una reacción típica de un pueblo al que por lo general, los cambios le cuestan un Perú; pero hay ciertas realidades que deben tomarse en cuenta antes de juzgar el asunto. A todo este confort de última tecnología se le oponen las necesidades y costumbres de un pueblo tercermundista. Las unidades, de origen asiático, deben haber sido pensadas para una población más pequeña, por lo que la distancia entre asiento y asiento no es suficiente para que un uruguayo obrero promedio, pasado de peso gracias a una dieta rica en harinas y grasas animales, pueda acomodarse. Si el pasajero de adelante decide reclinar su asiento, el de atrás queda atrapado en una trampa de la cual sólo podrá salir si se desliza hacia el piso y luego, casi gateando, logra alcanzar el pasillo.El pasillo es otra trampa mortal. Que lo hayan diseñado en Oriente es casi una garantía de desestimación del concepto de espacio vital. Posiblemente creyeron que si el bus tenía cuarenta y tres asientos, sólo viajarían cuarenta y tres pasajeros; y en su defecto, ¿a quién le interesan los pasajeros? Seguro que no a los que diseñan trenes en Japón y/o aledaños. ¿Para qué entonces, derrochar espacio en el pasillo? Aquí en Uruguay —- como en muchas partes de Asia, la ganancia de las compañías está en cuántas personas extras, paradas, pueden entrar en un viaje. En un pasillo tan angosto las personas se amontonan en formas inconcebibles; sin contar con que nadie recordó que por regla general, ésta gente siempre va cargada con las cosas más insólitas. El ómnibus es su único medio de transporte. Es así que un día ordinario de mala suerte, uno puede viajar estrujado entre cuerpos, bolsos, valijas, mochilas, cañas de pescar, compras de supermercado, tanques plásticos, bicicletas, cochecitos de bebé, plantas de todo porte, rollos de alambre, etc. Todo vehículo que se precie de moderno debe tener las ventanas blindadas y aire acondicionado. Al principio éste último fue recibido con gran alegría y esperanza — las mentes de los pasajeros fijas en los cientos de filtraciones en invierno y las ventanas trancadas en verano de los buses viejos. Muy rápidamente, viajar en los buses nuevos se convirtió en la peor pesadilla de los días más fríos. El inocente pasajero espera en la parada, al aire libre, fuertemente abrigado contra las inclemencias del tiempo. Sabe que la mayoría de los lugares a los que debe ir a lo largo de su día no tienen calefacción; esto es Uruguay. Al subir a la moderna unidad lo abraza un calor asfixiante de 38°. El chófer, en mangas de camisa se adivina extasiado con su nuevo juguete. Ha puesto la calefacción al máximo y no ha creído necesario encender el aire acondicionado; él tiene todo el aire fresco que necesita en cada apertura de la puerta a su derecha. Pero para el pasajero ubicado medio metro mas atrás, la situación es muy diferente. El calor de los cuerpos inflados de ropa y apretados en un espacio tan pequeño es insoportable. No hay cómo sacarse ni donde poner sacos, bufandas, gorros y la sensación de ahogo aumenta. Todos se quejan por lo bajo; nadie le habla al chófer.

Algo está muy mal aquí y Syriana lo detesta. Una vez, luego de cientos de reproches silenciosos, tomó el valor y con un nudo en el estómago le pidió al chófer que prendiera el aire; pero estos exabruptos la dejan con una molesta sensación de desubicuidad; como si hubiera hecho algo muy fuera de lugar.

2.

Llega a la parada de ómnibus y mira el celular, 11.15. Cuando venía caminando, a mitad de cuadra, vio pasar el bus que siempre se toma. Casi sin darse cuenta comienza a hacer los cálculos por enésima vez. Hay seis líneas de ómnibus que pasan por esta parada hacia Montevideo. Eso da un promedio de un ómnibus cada diez minutos. Pasan veinticinco minutos y la carretera está desierta. Su vista está perfectamente entrenada, luego de tantos años de otear el horizonte, así que a lo lejos, a más o menos tres kilómetros de distancia los ve venir. Son cuatro techos altos. Hacia el kilómetro y medio ya puede distinguir a qué compañía corresponden: dos C.O.P.S.A, un C.U.T.C.S.A y un R.A.I.N.COOP. Los cuatro juntos. Ha sido así desde siempre. Con lógica uruguaya las compañías de ómnibus no arreglan sus horarios para hacer el transporte más eficiente; lo acomodan para que varios buses salgan de sus terminales separados por unos escasos minutos y de esa forma, jueguen carreras entre ellos para ver quien gana más pasaje. Mientras tanto, los pasajeros se acumulan en las paradas esperando veinte minutos, media hora. Lo único que le queda por desear es que el C4 y el 222 pasen primero. Ella tiene abono de C.O.P.S.A y si estos vienen detrás entonces tendrá más oportunidad de ir sentada. Los astros le sonríen hoy; encuentra un asiento junto a la ventanilla. El día es cálido y el ómnibus relativamente confortable. Se sienta y se dispone a transitar el recorrido. Tal vez hasta duerma un poco y saque algún provecho de tanto tiempo mal gastado pero la paz no dura mucho. Dos paradas más adelante comienza el show.

Primero es el caramelero. Sube y ofrece su mercancía: “Chicles, caramelos, bombones”. No terminó de bajar cuando un par de cantantes suben. Con una guitarra y un bongó se ubican en la mitad del pasillo y cantan a todo volumen “sin intención de molestar al pasaje”; luego pasaran la gorra para recoger donaciones. El ómnibus recorre un promedio de diez kilómetros en cuarenta minutos en los cuales han subido: un hombre joven a pedir limosna —-aparentemente estuvo en las drogas, en la cárcel, salió y ahora no tiene trabajo y prefiere pedir a robar; una señora vendiendo medias; un señor vendiendo medias; otro señor vendiendo la revista de los sin techo; otro señor pidiendo limosna —- no tiene trabajo y tiene que pagar la pensión. Aunque ya está prohibido por ley y ciertamente se ven mucho menos, igual suben un par de niños que reparten marcadores de libros a los pasajeros y piden una limosna a cambio. Otro vendedor de chocolates y dos cantantes más; ésta vez por separado. Un señor vendiendo una pomada que saca todo tipo de manchas; un joven que vende muy barato, por decomiso de la aduana, lo que no puede faltar en la cartera de la dama ni en el bolsillo del caballero: lentes, corta uñas, agendas. Una señora que ofrece artículos de mercería. Un señor mayor que vende repasadores de cocina. Otro señor mayor que recita poemas y pide monedas a cambio. Otro muchacho joven que pide monedas para no salir a robar. Un hombre que pide monedas para darle de comer a sus hijos. Syriana observa este desfile interminable de personajes y sus sentimientos son encontrados. Algunos de los cantanes son muy buenos y Syriana se maravilla de lo talentosa que resulta ser la Humanidad. La mayoría son amenazadores; sobre todo los que suben a pedir limosna. Aunque una les diga: “No, gracias” y quiera devolverles el marcador o la fotocopia del poema; la más de las veces obligan al pasajero a tomarlo. Pero por sobre todas las cosas, es insoportable. Syriana se fuerza a reconocer cuán peligrosamente cerca está esa realidad de la suya y se repite a sí misma que esa gente tiene que ganarse la vida de alguna forma y ciertamente el Uruguay no ofrece muchas oportunidades, más no lo resiste. Se dice a sí misma que debería enojarse con los que realmente podrían hacer algo y no lo hacen. ¿Y por qué lo harían sí han encontrado la solución perfecta? Mientras se quedan con todo y no dan nada, andan en auto . Se ha desarrollado una subcultura en la que los pobres que aún pueden pagar un boleto deben hacerse cargo de mantener a los pobres que ni siquiera llegan a o no tiene ganas de pagarlo. De cualquier forma, ya no los resiste. Durante unos años guardó cierto dinero para dar; ahora ya no da nada y cuánto más le piden, menos da. Está furiosa y asqueada; vulnerada y amenazada; con el correr de los años cada vez son más. El deterioro, la desidia; la miseria que no tiene nada que ver con la pobreza; Syriana es pobre. La degeneración que no tiene nada que ver con la falta de educación ni de oportunidades; Syriana conoce gente muy humilde pero digna. Es una falla moral. La gente se acostumbró a despreciarse a sí misma y todo alrededor afirma que eso está bien. Cualquier voz que se levante en contra es simplemente fascista, retrógrada, fanática fundamentalista u obtusa. Todo debe justificarse en base a las injusticias que la sociedad comete con los más débiles; todo debe aguantarse y perdonarse. ¿Es que nadie mira en perspectiva la historia de la humanidad? Los seres humanos llevamos toda nuestra existencia abusando unos de otros. El hecho de hacerlo consciente en éste preciso momento no tiene que involucrar la idea de que todo debe ser perdonado; sino es sólo la misma perpetuación del abuso pero con un vestido discursivo diferente. Syriana le dedica un pensamiento de augurio a quienes se están beneficiando directamente al debilitar hasta tal punto la autoestima de las personas. Syriana baja del ómnibus, el cuerpo entumecido del largo viaje. Una hora y cuarenta minutos para recorrer treinta y ocho kilómetros. Sí querés saber si una persona es pobre podés observar su ropa, pero es mejor observar el calzado. Sí querés saber si un país es subdesarrollado podés tomar en cuenta qué medios de transporte utiliza, pero es mejor fijarse cuánto demoran.

3.

5.37 am. La madrugada está congelante y Syriana le hace señas al bus. Se levantó, vistió y lavó los dientes en modo automático. Tomó sus cosas y salió a la oscuridad reprochándole al éter, una vez más, el tener que madrugar tanto para llegar en hora a trabajar. Sólo quiere subirse al bus tibio y dormitar un ratito para enfrentar un día largo y cansador. Las puertas se abren y la golpean 1000 decibeles de música disco. Un par de escalones y se encuentra pagando el boleto envuelta en una semi oscuridad plagada de luces de neón multicolores. Quien quiera que haya estado a cargo de la decoración de este bus jamás abandonó la pista de baile de sus años ochentosos. No hay forma de escapar. Recorre el pasillo con paso derrotado; al menos encuentra un asiento. Mira a su alrededor y envidia por un momento a quienes contra toda lógica se cruzan de brazos y aparentan dormir bajo la ensordecedora música. No se sorprende al pensar que en unas horas, muchas víctimas inocentes sufrirán ataques de ira incomprensibles por parte de estos treinta y pico de prisioneros torturados. Cuando cree que todo está perdido, puede ver claramente como un pasajero se acerca al chofer y sin decir una palabra le descarga ocho tiros a la radio. Al darse vuelta, Syriana confirma lo que ya sospechaba; esto sólo podía solucionarlo John McClane.

 

 

INSIDE JOB

by S.G.

To Dirk Benedict, Mathew Macfadyen, Matt Damon, Edward Norton, and Robert Pattinson for having served their purpose well.

1.

And now, she’s forty.

The first couple of years it was mere survival. Sheer determination not to go through anything like that ever again; E-V-E-R.

The following three or four years, it was an attempt to martyrdom. A forced, submissive acceptance of the burden she had inflicted on herself. Failed in advance.

After that, a decade of vaccum.

And when she finally glanced out, she found herself numb and unable to operate. Flunked in contact 101.

Now, she’s gasping. No matter her efforts, her hopes. The spiral turns once more, tighter.

The truce has collapsed; no way of knowing how or why, but the battle has become open again. This time it’s royal. Light distraction has been cut out from her bluntly. She’s been denied to fantasize with reality; thwarted till the point of making a knee surgery necessary. Out of havoc, it is summoned. What else but illusion would come to her aid? It engulfs her in a sec. Seizes her and wounds her. Cuts her appetite. Leaves her sleepless, shaky, and obsessive.

This moon, she’s loving through movies again.

The conjuration follows its ancient ritual. It’s happened so many times so far, it’s more like a drill now. She’s hooked up immediately, with such strength, she speaks in tongues this time. Apparently, one random act is all what’s needed and she backslides to experience the world through the lens of a camera. Every move is in slow-motion; every comment is measured for the appropriate English tone. Surroundings are constantly assessed as possible locations; the light, the pace, the exact gesture. Everything is a take. She freaks out and speaks up, loudly, incontinently so as to everybody can hear what’s happening. No use; everybody’s deaf and she’s left alone to deal with the ghosts, the soliloquies, the impersonations. She knows she better not, but keeps on anyway. The spell is too needed to be fought back.

Within the first ring dwell the character and his story. They serve as spellbinders. Within the second ring, the search is unleashed with the force of all winds: Why does an actor choose to play certain roles? Why is he chosen for it in the first place? Is it just chance or is it a hint of the true self behind?

When it comes to the threshold of the third, anxiety takes turns with madness. There’s no rest for the soul at this point. She’s driven by a thirst with no chance to be quenched. He might be the one for whom she’s been enduring. She needs to reach out. There should be a way of making him know she’s on this other side, waiting for ages. Meeting halfway with delusion burns like ice and certainly not even Shakespeare could have imagined a more unmerciful tragedy for this Ofellia.

Reach out!

But, she’s silenced. So powerful words just choke her. At daylight, when the enchantment loosens part of its power, they disguise as such nonsense! Who would care? Who would find them important? All of a sudden, all the private drama might be taken away from them and they’ll be exposed as the plain gushy fake they really are. The ridicule would be intolerable. At the centre of the third ring, she sways between dreams of fame and dreams of transcendence. Why does she need them so badly? As ravenously as the force that holds her secret. She’ been taken by the just one sin no religion, philosophy, or social standard in human history would ever trully forgive.

But she yearns to belong to that high; to that kin. They seem so plenty! Cool, detached, and nonchalant of having everything the rest of the creepy mortals just crave for. The longing is driving her dry. She desperately needs to belong to someone. She needs to show up. She needs to be home and safe again.

She needs to wake up.

She needs to wake up because all this shit has gonne too far and she’s running out of resources to cover the quota. Loneliness is charging heavily. The mind is, definitely, the most vicious dealer of all. No assets, commodities, or promises in the entire universe would suffice to pay for a moment of release. There`s no round trip on this dope because once hooked, you’re done.

2.

It is night.

Too late for being awake if tomorrow’s a workday. The room is clean but has that aura of untidyness that comes with a space which hasn’t been furnished to the purpose it’s playing. She’s sat in front of the computer staring at the screen but her eyes are glassy. She’s watching the scene again. What clashes are not the images though, but the inner eye analizing them.

Why did it have to be like that?

A mere human emotion. A simple, innocent fantasy which other millions constantly indulge themselves in. She had found a place where finally smell them, live, and it was making her feel so good! It had swelled her with opportunity and self-liking. She had dared to watch; and choose; and sigh. It was a mind game, that was all! What difference is there? Unattainable from Hollywood, unattainable from Earth. Couldn’t wait to get to the volleyball court and see if he was there! Worried about the clothes she should wear. Blocking out any inner whisper about age differences. Keeping the secrecy! It seemed so harmless, so naïve.

Nothing warned her.

It took her a million microsecs to reach the floor. When she started falling, the sound of her own giggling was still lingering on her ears. He had come earlier and had caught her by surprise.

She tried to manage the situation asking her friend to toss the ball. It seemed a good strategic move to create a parallel event in order to deviate the tension, but he stepped front and offered to play too. When the tennis sole got stuck, she was barely moving. Her foot continued moving for a couple of milimeters within the tennis shoe and her knee twisted hardly towards the outer right side of her leg and went back to the left.

Crack! Pain, shock, distress. Exile.

She will need a knee surgery that has involved unaccountable loss and threat to her fragile balance: Autonomy, health, economics, primal fears; not an area was left out.

Endure and prevail. She’s tough. She thinks she’ll handle it as all the rest of the manure; pretty much like a gorilla who sits down quietly and puts up with the pouring rain just waiting for it to stop eventually; but the enemy always knows best. It never loses a chance to outrun her when her guard is down; but that’s the enemy’s job, isn’t it?. As it almost always happens, whenever one’s deceived for an hour or two and everything seems as easy and light as sugar cotton, the blow strikes hard and precise. The TV’s on, friends are chattering around while unawares of what crouches behind it, she glimpses at chunks of a stupid, stupid teen’s melodrama.

Damage’s done so easily!

The suffocation makes her focuse her eyes again. She can’t take those songs out of her mind. She must sing. She limps to the kitchen and places the cheap, oil-stained CD player on the wooden table. She plugs the headphones and plays the first track 4 times in a row. U.N.K.L.E’s hipnotic sound in “With you in my Head” quiets her mind a bit. Maybe it will suffice.

“Oh holy holy water washing over the soul. Collecting all the people you love to sing you a song Even if they stick to humming Holding on a song to see them When you’re really sick-a-sick-a sick of love.”

It doesn’t.

She plays track two: Sia “My Love”. After three times, she unplugs the headphones and turns her back to the speakers. She needs to hear her own voice. She needs to take it out or she’ll risk an outbreak at an inconvenient place or moment such as the school, or the bus. This might be the first time she opens to a song in her key. It’s so beautiful in all aspects that somehow it doesn’t feel annoying to sing so high.

She sings it three more times until it happens. It isn’t the exquisite lyrics or the powerful performance what brings it about. It isn’t the compelling music. It hasn’t been the last days frenzy of watching it 4 times until she learns the dialogues by heart. It isn’t the residual emotion from the other movie where she could picture him better. It isn’t the frantic net searches, nor the youtube video questings. Neither it is the realization of her stupidity and weakness. It’s not even ridicule! It isn’t that scene repeated again and again in her mind either. It isn’t the infatuation, nor the pangs of hopelessness.

It is the memory of a sigh.

Last time she watched it, she turned the commentaries on. Always prying underneath! It’s the inhaling of his sigh, while he watches himself holding Kristen’s leg, what breakes her heart out of longing. A whole world expressed through that thin air motion.

How’s that for a vampire, Rob? She covers her eyes with her fingers and cries her heart out while Sia sings her requiem. She rocks almost imperceptibly to the lullaby while the camera turns around her and slowly moves up and away.

3.

It’s in the blood.

A family curse that’s torn apart one child of each generation: Granny, the twin uncles, her. All of them so clever, so talented, so powerful; so thirsty for glory and recognition.

All of them infected by lack.

Lack of confidence, of certainty, of chance, of determination, of self-esteem, of wit, of timing. Lack of drive, of courage, of compromise, of interpersonal skills. Lack of looks, of charisma. Lack of a Commonwealth passport! Shattered by gravity force, they all became tame and more or less law-abiding. Most of them took on drugs, of various kinds. None strong enough to silence the moans and wails. They just faked to subside and became more erratic, irascible, feeble, nagging.

After reality spat on their faces and chemicals proved to be just fancy placebos, they turned to the most logical alternative. There’s something more desirable than fame and it doesn’t need to be fed by the constant slaving of oneself and the masses; it’s just for an elite and it guarantees complete satisfaction:

They tried transcendence.

Each embraced the religion, practice, or metaphysics that most suited their particular personalities. In her case, as inclined as she is to the clan archetype, the hallucination came full-equiped with the small group of chosen ones (so extraneous to this world!), walking confidently in a triangular formation, moving in slow-motion against the breeze, thrilling music playing preferably. With them, she finally finds allegiance, a bond of recognition that can never be lost or broken and she never feels disabled or alone again.

So far, it has proved to be as persistent a need as deceitful.

4.

“With you in my head.” “With you in my …” “With you in my head.”

The trance is so vivid se has no difficulty with the embodiment. It’s like she’s been expunged and he’s taken her place. Sometimes, it’s the girl too.

She can be in the bathroom brushing her teeth and suddenly, she vanishes and becomes he. Now, it’s Rob who proceeds. She can feel his muscles moving underneath her skin and his facial expresions on her face. It thrills her. It fills her with warmth. There’s no deeper way of feeling closer to somebody. For a couple of seconds, loneliness is completely gone and she’s whole. As a side effect of the osmosis, in between raptures her English flows perfectly and effortlessly.

When it’s the girl it’s not so intense. It’s more like an alien experimenting with a rare specimen. She’s always been intrigued by women who can make men love them; she’s always wanted to be one. Kristen becomes an innevitable target of embodiment because she’s aimed high and the higher the game, the more fascinating the creature. When she starts shaking uncontrollably watching an interview, the red light turns on.

Sleep and food deprivation have contributed to her vulnerability, but the shakes are something somehow expected. She knows the following days will carry the hardest stages. She must decide right away. The mechanics of sorrow are clenching over her with their crooked logic and she knows, for sure, she’s near the point of no return. It’s a matter of time, short time. A well trained self-preservation instinct urges her to start evasive manoeuvres. They are imperative if she wants to stay minimally operational.

However, these absorptions always bring the utterances with them.

She knows the emergency protocol by heart: Input must be cut out, so DVDs and net searches related with the subject will be avoided. Lines must be stretched, so her female backup will soon be texting back and mom will gradually start receiving 20 calls a day. Mental assailing will be soothed by mastered responses. Time will pass.

She’ll mourn for a while. Eventually, she’ll be able to subdue the force of the feeling to a melancholic tenderness. New petty distractions will suffice for a while (three years last time, not bad) and she’ll be contained again; pretending to perfection she’s a most sensible person concerned with work, cleaning, bills, and the hideous system of transport. Sane and mute. Bluring into the decor until next episode. All in all, that is indeed much desirable. She’s walked the other path before and the possibility of a relapse scares the shit out of her.

Whatever.

One thing’s for sure; she’s on her own. All along the line she can’t tell anybody what’s really happening. People just dodge the impression when she inevitably let it slip out. “It’s just this weird eccentricity of hers. Nothing to worry about. (Nothing you’d want to be involved with either).”

However, these absorptions always bring the utterances with them.

While comfort brings oblivion, sorrow gives her the drive to write. She must decide, quickly, between fear or gorge. This could be a good time to make her mind up and leave register of her path along this dimension since everything is about to end, they say, and somehow, she doesn’t picture herself as a nominee for the new beginning.

5.

Maybe, a truly interesting conversation would suffice for a while, or at least, would lighten things up a bit; make the wait more endurable.

But she’s learnt her lessons well. People just get shocked and recede; EVERY TIME. Poor things! They really don’t know what to do. There’s no easy way of coming back from there and she always finds herself in pains trying to erase the impression from the interlocutor. To make matters worse, all this scaring people away has developed within her a self-constrain that hasn’t allowed her to manage the excitement of joy when a miracle, now and then happens and she contacts somebody momentarily. The flooding makes her hate herself. Pity! She’s like a sun pulsing, almost a magnet when she gets to that sharing.

She’s a gregarious spirit, though.

The kind that immediately feels the knot in the throat if she notices a bunch of people sharing any kind of bond. With all this ego-talking, who would say she’s of a compassionate nature! She has this considerate character who would always try to include everybody in everything. She’s the gatherer, the organizer, the dog guarding, the volunteer walking the mile in some other’s shoes, the engine that creates the centripetal force.

As a child, she remembers spending hours and hours, before falling asleep, imagining that Battlestar Galactica had come for her, her true love finally arrived, and she could only choose to take with her the people that her bed could hold. She’d start with her mom and sister and follow with relatives, friends, neighbours til everybody she knew’d be on it. She could never lift off because accommodation was a big issue.

Later, when loss and pain and anguish and loneliness started to be understood, she found herslef driven by this sensitivity, just for the sake of giving a soul, seemingly as lost as hers, a moment of companionship. Fair enough, but she’s made of misjudgement almost a sport.

Yet, there’s always this degree of detachment between her and the rest of mankind. That’s probably why so very few people have recognized her, and from them, no one remained at her side.

6.

She walks. OK; she limps along the streets.

The back of her head aches. The eyes are heavy, the ears buzz. Those three songs are played endlessly in constant succesion underneath her parietal lobe. They don’t bother her, they are like a mantra actually, but they contribute to the general state of daze. Her mind displays those slides at such speed she must redouble her efforts not to get hooked too long to any of them. His face appears, angst rises, she deviates it.

“Wait, I’m coming!” She looks at the early Spring, late afternoon sky. Definitely impressionist today. After a couple of meters the images have become a film clip where she’s at Ellen DeGeneres’s show talking on how she wrote such a wonderful book that’s shaken the whole world. She thwarts it. She needs to pay attention to the traffic lights. She needs to keep sanity too. Her knee hurts. Will she ever stop limping? She definitely needs to sleep. Hunger grips her stomach but appetite is lax. Not unwelcome though. She could use some kilos less as every damned woman in the whole capitalist world. She needs to sleep. Those songs won’t stop at dark either. They don’t bother her, they’re like a mantra actually, but they contribute to the general state of daze. Gratefully, she’ll doze off on the bus. A forty minutes shutdown for physiological purposes.

Getting home is the hardest part. She’d blast it all! Once her refuge, it’s been pervaded by that humid, cold, still atmosphere of a mausoleum. Just holding the key arises a gasp that freezes in her throat and chest and remains imploding within her like a fucking black hole. She’ll do a little housework, prepare her stuff for next day’s work, get a shower, feed the cats, get ready for bed. Every movement swiftly and mechanically done as a terrorized concentration camp prisioner who implores not to call the attention of the guard. She’s innerly panting from exhaustion. The songs playing repeatedly on the battered CD player give her the drive. If she sits down and writes she’ll stop fleeing like a hamster on the wheel. She’ll shed tears but she might start getting something out of all this; although, she can’t go much into it now or tomorrow her eyes will give her away. Then, she’ll need to give some explanation and good-heartedly people will try to comfort her, advice her with words. It’ll make her a lot more uneasy.

Nothing’s more useless than words; like condolences in a burial. She’d need someone willing to FEEL with her. A man for a change. Like her private AA group. Anyway! Even IF THERE WERE someone like that, she wouldn’t give in that fast. Trust has been ripped out from her and it won’t come back easily again. She goes to bed with cold compresses on her eyes in an attempt to reduce the swelling.

In the dark, those songs keep on playing endlessly underneath her parietal lobe. They don’t bother her, they’re like a mantra actually, but they contribute to the general state of daze. She needs to sleep. There are so few hours left before the alarm sets off. She must rest, but she can’t shut down. Starting all this writing thing must have seemed a good idea, like finally making the break through, but now she’s worried to death. What if she never comes to finish it? What if she never comes to show it to anybody? What if nobody thinks it’s the masterpiece she’s been counting on? What if they just suggest a mental therapy? But what tears her apart is the possibility of no responses at all.

What if nothing changes afterwards?

7.

The doctor told her she needs to start excercising her quadriceps.

Sense takes over for a while and she finds herself reaching people to hang out. All women; there’s no other choice. Hydro-gym in the pool in the afternoon. Among all this tension, the resuming of ordinary interacting ammuses her and makes her chuckle readily. She’s gladly surprised to be genuinely interested in the small talk, for a couple of minutes at least. She briefly enjoys the splashing, although she’s withdrawn into silence swiftly. Water neutralizes the power of some emotions leaving her with the engrossing but momentarily without the pain.

Yet, what she relishes for in advance is meeting this evening with the gang to watch “Depicable Me”. Her sister will come. They’ve never had a smooth relationship, but this they share; absolute delight in watching youngsters’ movies. Nobody backs her up better than her sis in these matters, even when sis’d never go as far as she. As a bonus, little sister’ shocking humor makes her own bizarreness so much easier to deal with. The pack will be completed with her 10-year-old niece along with her easy-going friend and her 13-year-old daughter.

It’s so relieving to be surrounded by these guys! No pretences of adulthood. Just sheer being. A couple of hours of eating popcorn on the bed, drinking fizzy drinks, pausing to go to the loo and then shifting places depending on the climax of the scenes; of shouting to the screen “Expecto Patronum!”; but mostly, the ageless sensation. The absolute freedom to enjoy being.

Besides, these guys REALLY know about the roughness of living without a safety net. They don’t go around fussing about the hardships of life, they can’t afford the luxury. They take them with noblesse. She knows them her peers, at least in this matter and that’s solace. She wouldn’t have made it these past months without them. She’s so grateful and anxious at the possibility of snapping the bubble.

Next morning, she awakens to one new song in her mind. It’s Adele’s song about lost love,

“I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited, But I couldn’t stay away, I couldn’t fight it,”

She wonders at the change, at the calm. She turns the TV on and catches a Futurama episode halfway where Fry dates a Lucy Lu robot. She grins. “Intra-textual messages from The Beyond?” She feels relaxed. She gets up and does some chores. She’s planned to write today, but she resists the idea. All that bullshit will get nowhere. It’ll become another frustration of many, so she better accepts insignificance and moves on. There are a couple of sitcoms she never comes to watch and today the bank of clouds lets her tune channel four. However, something tells her that she should keep on writing and finish what she started… but she’d rather text her friend and see if she can play cards this afternoon…

There she is; substancial decision about to be made.

Will she pamper herself with some distraction? Give herself a much needed break? Will she delay? Or will she force herself into conflict and sorrow to get through a business she’s gambled her soul on but she has no confidence in?

A choice between illusions; that’s what her reality has come up to.

8.

Rational Being wonders “What shit are you up to?”

“I mean, isn’t it enough to deal with all the ‘extravaganza’ again that this time you chose a kid? What’s next? Justin Bieber? What were you thinking?!”

She’s taken aback and retreats to her corner in the dark. She puts her back against the wall and squats. She hugs herself and looks to the floor. Nothing disturbs her more than being caught in an inappropriate behaviour, mostly because she can never tell one from another so she’s always so defenseless. She needs to find a good answer, a logical one, or things’ll get nasty.

“I can’t think. I just react to fields.”

She’s made a good start. She knows it because R.B’s put the sword down and is listening. She must keep the pace or she’ll lose out. “See big-head! E-motion; energy-in-motion. It just seized me! What was left for me to do? They’re so vital, so compelling! Have you seen them together at a premier of the Twilight saga? They pretend to be unaware of the presence of the other, but the field lines stretch every way they go. You can almost see the exchange of electrons between them. They’re a covalent bond. Perfectly linked by physics; meant to be; primeval, inevitable, whole.” At this point she hugs herself tighter and looks up to R.B. She needs R.B’s nerve to soothe her rage. She’s been taught that you mustn’t envy people who get what you’ve been urgently needing forever. You must be happy for them and wish them well and accept your karma graciously because otherwise, it’ll either eat you up, or people will. Nobody is moved to sympathy in front of such a weakness!

Oh, good, old, reliable R.B who always does THE RIGHT THING! She’s again as harmless as a lamb to her fellow beings. SHE, instead, won’t receive any pat on the back for containing all the pain inside, let alone be absolved. It seems that sorrow and misery are considered minor collaterals and she’ll still need too proceed with her defence fiercely. (No wonder why she can never figure appropriateness out).

“For God’s sake!” She sighs. “He’s so hot and enthralling, and translucent, and candid…”

“He’s just utterly vulnerable!”

“Exactly! How could I’ve helped reacting to his field when he just seems… fractured underneath the pure gold? I mean, he’s so lethally attractive with that eager, witty, politically incorrect personality… Oh, God!… and that derisive, irreverent, ‘I’ll drink- myself-to-death-but-what-the-heck-enfant-terrible’ attitude! He’s a shot and I’m prone to addictions; you know that! I would’ve helped it if I could; please believe me.”

It was so slight she almost loses it, but there it was; the vibration is unmistakable. She knows she’s gained some advantage and must take profit from it. She looks R.B straight in the eye and finds the courage to say it. “Come on, give me a break! It’s obvious you like him too. He’s clever; with that type of cleverness you really like!”

“Commiseration won’t change facts. He’s in his TWENTIES! Have you no decency left?”

How could she explain to this close circuit that the concept of age has no meaning to her? She just IS. She’s always been timeless: same as today, same as she’ll be in a million years. She has no recollections of the arrival. She just happened! At first, she just sensed the vibes around. Everything was so carefree! Not that it was painless, though. Pain was the very first field she interfaced with here and she’s never been able to get rid of that configuration since. After a while, she realized that she was somehow attached to a device which was actually affixed to time. She had no other choice but to accept coexistence but she’s never been part of “the tempo”. Then, R.B popped out of somewhere and everything started to be inappropriate, embarrassing or wrong.

“Bla, bla, bla.”

“You put it so easy! You’ve taken the avoidance of responsibilities to a masterful level. By the way, have you seen your last reflection at the changing room? Because I DID, and believe me, the rest of the world DOES TOO. Even if you are ageless, your body isn’t; I’m not either! That flabby flesh all around you is screaming we’re not twenty any longer; we won’t be (let God be praised for that!). And if lycra can camouflage the fact, your speech gives you away even before you open your mouth! You’re just deluding yourself; poorly let me add. This has gone too far and it won’t end well. It must be thwarted before we cannot recover from ridicule!”

She knows R.B’s right. She’s always so sensible. Sensible and obtuse.

What alternative does she have? It’s not that she wants to be twenty again. How ludicrous! She’d never choose to go back to any past age (well, maybe, to that short period three years ago) least of all her twenties; not even to change things. The pain would be excruciating, the confussion intolerable. All this appeal is not just her disjointed judgement wishing nonesense again; it’s the World! That World R.B craves to be part of, to experience as an equal. This world is designed for twentieses! At least to those with firm white skin, perfect teeth and slim bodies. Everything is for them to seize, to conquer, to enjoy! After thirty-five, you become a walking dead; an obsolete, disposable by-product. (Precisely when all dwellers start co-exisitng without trying to annihilate each other instead).

She doesn’t need to look up to appreciate R.B’s glare; to read her vibes. So much time lost in nothingness. So many opportunities gone by, like in any war. The contentment with life came too late for their own good it seems. Tuning came too late. She’s about to engage in a skirmish of accusations, but that won’t get them anywhere. Cause and effect, it’s all there has always been. Both are to blame equally. She wishes R.B could forgive. She wishes they could forget! But the losses have been great, and she doesn’t like the feeling of inadequacy either.

“I wish you were less insatiable” says R.B sheathing the sword tiredly and turning her back to HER.

Cul-de-sac. They won’t get any further any soon. Still, they both have clear in mind that short time, three years ago, when they were completely at peace with each other. Back then, illusion wouldn’t assail them; wouldn’t be needed. SHE, being, was good enough. Best six months in the whole history of mankind! But they don’t have the money, the drive, or the trust to go and get it back.

9.

Nobody would believe her, but she INDEED SAW HIM, live!

Well, nearly.

He was at the bus stop. So white and blonde! A boy of twenty more or less; so alike Rob she stopped dead! She saw him from half a block away, but the impression was so strong, he reacted immediately to her stare, even when she was wearing sunglasses. The bus stop was full, but anyway; it wouldn’t’ve made any difference if it had only been the two of them.

He kept on looking at her, fixedly and ready. She’d sent the signal loud and clear; the kind that can’t be missed or brushed off. Now, he was eager to decode the rest of the message. She gave him her back and tried to ignore everything: him, her thoughts, her impulses. Why does it always have to be like this? She can’t control those emanations, nor the intensity; least of all, the implications of them. They scare her to death. SHE JUST DOESN’T KNOW WHAT TO DO! It’s so totally embarrasing and disabling.

She ignored him most of the trip till the point of forgetting she had at hand the chance to sublimate her most engrossing fantasy at the moment and maybe free her from a lot of mental, and physical, pain; but at some point she noticed him again with the corner of her eye and the dilemma hit her again:

“LOOK AT HIM! Don’t let it go!” “NO! Don’t expose yourself.”

She forced herself and made eye contact for 0’10”. His eyes were wide with expectation. He was waiting instructions to procede. She looked back to the window and admitted defeat. He kept on drumming on his lap part of the trip, in the most apeish fashion, trying to call her attention; but she had already frozen. They got off the bus at the same stop, but when she passed him at the stairs she’d been changed into cutting glass.

There’s nothing more to add. In a universe where “the readiness is all”, she’s a consummated looser.

10.

She’s fucked up.

She can’t figure out an ending; and nothing will come out of all this without an ending. She has some hints in her head, but none has solidified, as if the threads refused to be woven. She can’t find a way out. She can’t think of any ending she’d trust in at all. She thinks in those children’s books her niece loves to read in which several endings are offered to the reader to choose. She must do something anyway because it’s better to start with a feeble attempt than to freeze and be swallowed by deferment; so she tries out following the thin, fragile filaments to see where they lead her.

The first one leads straight to the Hollywood ending. Cheap, as usual. At some point in this plot she’s taken from her abstraction by a random event. It might happen while she’s walking, daydreaming carelessly. She stumbles onto somebody and they exchange some amicable excuses and part. Some days later, they meet again and he falls irrevocably in love with her. He’s not only adorable and perfect for her; but, most vitally, he’s brave and certain enough to go through all her weirdness until she trusts him and opens her heart. Then, she doesn’t need to fall in love with movie stars any longer because she’s gone real.

Much as she dreams of it, it somehow seems it wouldn’t work for this girl. Each and every spiral of DNA in her structure has been programmed to expect that. It’s been fed up on her by traditional tales and the fantasy industry since she can’t recall, but it’s proved not likely to happen. As crazy as it may seem, the syrupy chain of events could be plausible if the reader advocated for causative destiny or the “suspension of disbelief”, but men are attracted by women who can fake vulnerability, not to those who actually are; and if they do, they lack the guts to go for it. At least, it’s what she’s learnt from experience. Bitter, bitter realization that makes this ending too far-fetched for this tale.

Yet, she doesn’t let it die out easily. She prays for the grace of finding a way in which it would be possible after all, because at some tiny spot in her chest, she clings onto it as to the breath that keeps her alive. Giving up on it would mean the annihilation of hope and hope’s an illusion you can’t spare if you intend to wake up to tomorrow’s reality.

Hollywood line’s extinguished, so she gets ready to follow the next. The sci-fi ending is basically an adaptation of the first. 2012 has arrived and against what everybody believed, the world has truly come to an end. In an apocalyptic world, extraterrestrials have invaded Earth because someone had to put some common sense into all this after all. Fleeing from natural disasters and fellow beings’ instincts of survival (both unleashed without mercy), she eventually figures the truth out. She’s been feeling awkward and alone all her life because she IS a foreigner to this ruling species. Separated by eons from her kin she’s finally reunited. The wait has finally come to an end. The embedded loneliness thaws out and she experiences acknowledgement and such relief she’s healed up to her ancient roots. From that moment on, she doesn’t need to despair trying to make contact through the screen because they have; he’s come for her.

A favourite; but for the plot’s sake, she can’t think of a credible reason why they left her here in the first place apart from the trite argument of cosmic punishment. Besides, she doesn’t feel like provoking the extermination of humanity just not to be lonely anymore. Moreover, there’s still that issue to solve: How could she manage to gather her people on the bed to escape?

She keeps on scouting. In a post-apocalyptic ending, she lives in a world where images can’t be transmitted, by no means. After a huge and violent worldwide crisis things begin to calm down and humans, as always happens, start adapting to whatever there is. In this case, there is no films, no movie stars, no pictures, no interviews, no paparazzi’snapshots; basically, no fuel for her madness.

The idea is promising. If she were as clever as Margaret Atwood, she could follow the implications of this idea up to the level of perfection she wants for this tale; but again, she can only think vaguely of a few outcomes to which she can’t give any reliability. Maybe, in a world no longer dominated by images of twentieses, people in their forties could have a chance to thrive while they still have their blood hot but not boiling. They might even become valuable and everybody reacts nicely to appreciation. Reliable parenthood could be an interesting spin-off for youngsters if their olds were worth something.

Maybe, in a world without massive advertising, a pair of tennis wouldn’t worth a life; or maybe, some crooked teeth could become a fascinating and unique trait of character of which average people would be proud of. Maybe, in a world where most technology has become useless, people would start connecting with other people, live. Maybe, if they couldn’t take a thousand photos of a landscape, they’d seriously care for the very one they live in. In such a world, the World might have a chance after all; but who knows?

There would be many losses for sure; related with culture, health care and things like that; but that 10% of the global population who would actually experience the loss might gain some humility instead. For the rest, it’d be brutal life as usual.

Good idea; shallow, shallow, attempt. She wishes she could embody Kurt Vonnegut right now. Then, with three brilliant, hilarious paragraphs she would give this tale a masterful ending; but the fucking trance won’t happen when it’s really needed. Whatever; seriously considering the idea, she knows it has no real scaffolding. In a world without images to cling to, she would hook to voices; then, she would need to imagine a world without radio waves either. And what about writers? Dead end.

She’s tired. Last stage has just started.

11.

There’s a fourth ending.

The one she refuses to write. The very one why she didn’t want to start all this in the first place. The one this story was meant to have from chapter one. The one to which she may yield but N-E-V-ER surrender. She’s disappointed and upset. She’s furious. She’d rather plagiarize, with all her might, an Austenian ending than a Shakespearian one, but she realizes you must be much more skilled to come up with a cheerful denouement than with a tragic one.

Yet, if this must end up a tragedy, it won’t have any bloodshed, violent deaths, or suicides as it’s expected. It would be very visually dynamic and proper and striking but it’d be too trivial too.

In this case, there’ll be just a continnum.

She’ll wake up one morning and just mutter “silence” to those songs. Then, she’ll know the conjuration is coming to an end. She’ll get up and go about her ordinary life as always, but the world will seem extraordinarily solid. She’ll gradually gain density, a couple of atoms at a time. Every time she’ll order “back off” to an image underneath her parietal lobe, the force fields will strengthen and she’ll anchor a bit more. She’ll play the inconsequential for a while; but the inconsequential is OK for a while. She’ll have some fun and excitement at the tiny things of life. She’ll start reading loads again; sci-fi preferably (it’s easier to keep your distance there). She’ll watch the same amount of movies, but with pretty different eyes.

Her English will recede to its habitual level of inaccuracy.

November will be specially hard. They’re releasing Breaking Dawn then, so they’re going to be everywhere! Temptation will be great and she’ll fall, but whatever she goes through, she’ll weather it with the veteran’s endurance. She’ll compensate finding some new project to engulf in and she’ll put all her vitality in it.

As for the mornings and evenings of any given month, they’ll be always harsh. She’ll continue playing chess with loneliness and whenever it checks her too tight, she’ll castle to her well-known rook for a while until she comes up with another good evasive move; not that she knows how to win up, though. Sunday mornings will be definitely the worst. She’ll try to sleep them away, but at some point in the late afternoon, Sleeping Beauty will always awake to the piercing knowledge that there’s no charming prince at her rescue.

Still, all in all, she hopes she’ll be all right. She’ll survive and even sometimes forget. She’ll wax and wane; always at the edge but coping. She’ll adjust her expectations and interface with lighter fields and everything’s gonna be mild. She’ll miss it though. She’s always missing.

There’s not much left to describe but for that ever present sensation, an awareness, that won’t abandon her despite all her efforts. A silent warning that’ll give her stomach cramps and back pains now and then, but most times it’ll just be the continuous stabs of anxiety; an eco reverberating in the cavern of her skull:

“Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.”

Meanwhile, whatever it takes, her soul won’t give up on her. It’ll just sit down quietly, like a gorilla putting up with the pouring rain, waiting.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.

To Gladys for inspiring me, by her example, to give this deal a try. To Majo. Thanks! To Gabriela. Thank you for your kindness and generosity. To the following songs and artists which served as the chants for the conjuration: “With you in my Head” by U.N.K.L.E; “My Love” by Sia; and “Let’s Get Lost” by Beck and Natasha Khan (Bat for Lashes).

To the following websites:

http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/ which would always open on the word “awaken” no matter what. • http://www.wordreference.com/es/en/translation.asp?spen=http://thesaurus.com/browse

which wrote this tale with me.

 

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