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Palabras Errantes Latin American Literature in Translation

Isabel Arteaga 4
To Those That Never Finished Anything

By Oscar Marcano. Translated by Claire Parsons.

It was 11AM and I was drowning my sorrows in Tony’s bar when I noticed her walk in. She was wearing a red dress and high heels. A real sight for sore eyes. She looked like Bettie Page but with darker skin and a larger behind. Crossing the dank, muggy room, she sat down at the other end of the bar, where it was dimly-lit. An apparition. All body. All breasts, hips and legs. A real pear. But pears were not to my taste.

She took out a cigarette and looked over at me. There wasn’t anybody else to look at. Just a Bougainvillea plant that Tony grew behind the bar. She crossed her legs. Half removed one of her shoes and swung it from her toes. I could see her heel and up to the part where her shoe met her foot. I’ve always liked feet. Their mystery. Their shape. Their smell.

I admired the raised, firm arch of her foot and a slice of her ankle. They seemed rapacious. Tough and sullen. The soles slightly hardened by callouses.

I asked Tony for another beer so that I could fantasise about her smell and the image of nails hidden in the beige toe of her shoe. I added a couple of moles in the arch of her foot. They couldn’t be Pecorino. Not even Provolone. They would be more like two fresh Fontina cheeses made in the Aosta valley. At some point, I would have had them with a Grumello wine. Though these girls with fresh cheese feet have a Gorgonzola soul. They taste of coagulated milk with Venezuelan ricotta. You notice the holes and the penicillium from the first kiss. They must be worked, preferably with a bottle of Sassella or an Inferno.

“Buy me a drink,” she said while slipping on her shoes and fitting her feet in comfortably.

She had attitude. A few years back she would have made me nervous.

She walked towards the bar. Towards me. Quite urgently. I used to sell old magazines and now I was working with a bookseller. At 50 years old I was a bookseller’s skivvy.

He said it wasn’t like that, that I was his assistant, but I only ran errands and had just popped out to cash a cheque, That’s why I had rather a large sum on me. She stood on her tip-toes and propped herself on the barstool. She opened her thighs as she made herself comfortable. It was a real sight.

She turned to look at me.

“Order something, honey,” I said “Order what you want. I’ll be back in a second. I’m just going to make a phone call.”

I left the bar and walked to the corner in search of a phone box that would accept coins. There was one there, but it didn’t take cash. Last week it did. Suddenly coins weren’t worth anything anymore. I inserted the card and called Julio, the bookseller. I told him that I was going to borrow some money from him. There had been a minor emergency. Nothing serious, obviously. I would give him it back. The money was in my wallet and not in his. Maybe that’s why he didn’t turn me down. He was nervous, I noted, but didn’t dare to say no.

When I got back, she was still alone and still hadn’t ordered.

“Well?” I asked her “Did you think I wouldn’t come back?”

“No. I just didn’t know what to order”, she lied “How much have you got?’

I smiled.

“Order. Order whatever you want.”

She looked at me sceptically.

“Order,” I insisted.

She ordered a Dewar’s.

“What about you?”

“I’m going to have another beer.”

“A beer?” She was surprised.

“Yes. Start off slow.”

“Like a cook?”

I didn’t understand.

“Like a concert” I replied.

She tilted her glass and drank half. She relaxed. She told me that she had been on her way to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting when she’d noticed that Tony’s bar was open. That was when she knew that she was going to defect.

“So early?”

“So early.”

“What do you do?”

“I wasted my life,” she said, getting out another cigarette.

She had style. All that we needed for proof was to see her sat on the toilet.

“There was no other way.”

“No?”

She lit her cigarette. Took a drag. Breathing it in as though she were grappling desperately for oxygen.

“No. At this time of the day, those that are meant to be here are here.”

Her mouth contracted. She was about to let me see her pain.

“Never mind”, I said. “Let’s talk about something else. About fashion. About baseball. About the Caguan mosquitos, famous for their bulky physique”

“What?” she replied.

“Mosquitos from Cagua. They are vertebrates, pot-bellied and long-haired. Flying is tiring for them. They land on your arms and suck up as much as they can. Like a drainage pump.

She kept her gaze on me.

“Forget it. You’d have to meet Nestor.”

She smiled. And I could see her fleshy lips opening above two rows of perfect teeth.

Tony came back in from the yard where she was stacking crates and poured herself a Campari. She said something about the weather. The heat, the rain. She opened a tin of peanuts, placed the contents on a plate and put them in front of us. She asked me if I would stay and eat.

Tony’s real name was Antonieta. Sometimes she altered my clothes or she gave me meat pie and schnapps on the house. I’m not sure if women know this, but fixing a stranger’s clothes is the most genuine demonstration of love for humanity. Tony was German, from Kassel. She was sixty four years old and played the accordion.

“What about you?” She asked.

“You what?” I replied softly.

“What do you do?”

“My future’s also pretty bleak.”

I picked up the packet of cigarettes, toyed with them a little and then put them back in their place.

“After all this, we haven’t even introduced ourselves”, I said, turning back to face the scene before me. I held out my hand.

She looked as though she had been slapped in the face. As if I had just congratulated Simone de Beauvoir on the National Day of the Secretary.

“After all this,” she said categorically.

“Pedro”, I said.

My hand was still held out to her.

She sucked on the filter of her cigarette, turned her head and looked at me indifferently. She took another drag and turned towards me fully. She looked at my hand disdainfully and finally shook it.

“Rat”, she said. “My name is Rat and I’m not going to sleep with you.”

 

A los que nunca terminaron nada.

Escrito por Oscar Marcano.

Eran las 11.00 A.M. y ya estaba clavándome puñales en el bar de Tony cuando la vi entrar. Llevaba un vestido rojo y zapatos de tacón alto. Era todo un espectáculo. Se parecía a Bettie Page pero más morena y con más glúteos. Atravesó el tufo húmedo del salón y fue a sentarse al otro extremo, en la penumbra. Era una aparición. Toda cuerpo. Toda pechos, cadera y piernas. Un verdadero botín. Pero los botines no se habían hecho para mí.

Sacó un cigarrillo y me miró. No había nadie más a quien mirar. Sólo una buganvilla floreada que Tony cultiva detrás de la barra. Cruzó las piernas. Descalzó a medias uno de sus tacones y lo empezó a columpiar. Pude ver el talón y hasta donde alcanzaba de aquel pie. Siempre me han gustado los pies. Su misterio. Su forma. Su olor.

Admiré el empeine alzado y firme, y un trozo de tobillo. Los imaginé rapaces. Resistentes y hoscos. Mínimamente endurecidas las plantas por una pátina callosa.

Pedí a Tony otra cerveza para fantasear sobre su olor y el dibujo de unas uñas ocultas en la puntera beige. Puse, adicionalmente, un par de lunares en el puente. No podían ser Pecorino. Ni siquiera Provolone. Correspondían más bien a dos Fontina frescos del valle d’Aosta. En otro tiempo los habría acompañado con un Grumello. Aunque estas niñas con pie de queso fresco tienen el alma de Gorgonzola. Te hacen sentir su leche coagulada con cuajo de becerro. Adviertes los agujeros y el penicillium desde el primer beso. Hay que trabajarlas preferiblemente con un Sassella o un Inferno.

—Invítame algo —dijo calzándose el zapato e incorporándose.

Tenía porte. Hace unos años me habría ruborizado.

Caminó hacia la barra. Hacia mí. Un elemento en apuros. Vendía revistas viejas y ahora trabajaba con un librero. A los cincuenta años estaba haciéndole mandados a un librero.

Él decía que no era así, que era su asistente, pero sólo le hacía mandados y había salido a cobrarle un cheque. Por eso llevaba cierta cantidad conmigo. Se empinó en la punta de sus pies y se sentó en el banco. Al acomodarse abrió los muslos. Era un verdadero espectáculo.

Volteó a mirarme.

—Pide, nena —dije—, pide lo que quieras. Ya vengo. Voy a llamar por teléfono.

Salí del bar y caminé hasta la esquina buscando el teléfono monedero. Ahí estaba el teléfono pero ya no era monedero. La semana pasada lo era. De pronto las monedas no valían nada. Metí la tarjeta y llamé a Julio, el librero. Le dije que iba a tomar algo prestado. Había surgido una pequeña emergencia, nada serio, claro. Se lo devolvería. La plata estaba en mi bolsillo y no en el de él. Tal vez por eso no me lo negó. Noté su nerviosismo pero no se atrevió a decir que no.

Cuando regresé seguía sola y no había pedido nada.

—¿Y? —la inquirí— ¿Creíste que no volvería?

—No. No sabía qué pedir —mintió—. ¿Cuánto tienes?

Sonreí.

—Pide. Pide lo que quieras.

Me miró escéptica.

—Pide —insistí.

Pidió un Dewar’s.

—¿Tú?

—Yo otra cerveza.

—¿Cerveza? —se extrañó.

—Sí. De menor a mayor.

—¿Como los cocineros?

No entendí.

—Como los conciertos —respondí.

Inclinó su vaso y bebió la mitad. Se relajó. Me contó que iba a una reunión de Alcohólicos Anónimos cuando vio abierto el bar de Tony y supo que iba a desertar.

—¿Tan temprano?

—Tan temprano.

—¿A qué te dedicas?

—Desperdicio mi vida —dijo sacando otro cigarro.

Tenía estilo. Sólo faltaba verla sentada en el váter para corroborarlo.

—No podía ser de otra forma.

—¿No?

Encendió el cigarro. Lo chupó. Lo aspiraba como si buscara desesperadamente oxígeno. Como si su vida dependiera de ello.

—No. A esta hora están aquí los que tienen que estar.

La boca se le contrajo. Estuvo a punto de dejar ver su dolor.

—Disimula —dije—. Hablemos de otra cosa. De la moda. De béisbol. De los zancudos de Cagua que son célebres por su corpulencia.

—¿Quiénes? —repuso.

—Los zancudos de Cagua. Son vertebrados, barrigones y lanudos. Tienen un vuelo pesado, se posan en tus brazos y succionan todo lo que pueden. Como una bomba de achique.

Se me quedó mirando.

—Olvídalo. Tendrías que conocer a Néstor.

Sonrió. Y pude ver unos carnosos labios abriéndose sobre dos hileras de dientes perfectos.

Tony volvió del traspatio donde agolpaba gaveras y se sirvió un Campari. Comentó algo del tiempo. El calor, la lluvia. Abrió una lata de maní. Puso el contenido en un plato y nos lo dejó al frente. Me preguntó si me quedaría a comer.

En realidad Tony se llamaba Antonieta. A veces me cogía un ruedo o me invitaba pastel de carne y schnaps. Yo no sé si las mujeres lo saben, pero cogerle el ruedo a un extraño es la más genuina muestra de amor por la humanidad. Tony era alemana, de Kassel. Tenía sesenta y cuatro años y tocaba el acordeón.

—¿Y tú? —preguntó.

—¿Tú qué? —respondí a media voz.

—¿A qué te dedicas?

—También tengo un futuro parco.

Tomé la cajetilla de cigarrillos, la manoseé un poco y la volví a dejar en su puesto.

—A todas estas no nos hemos presentado —dije volviéndome hacia el espectáculo. Le alargué la mano.

Puso cara de mierda frita. Como si hubiese felicitado a Simone de Beauvoir el día de la secretaria.

—A todas éstas —dijo concluyente.

—Pedro —dije.

Mi mano continuaba extendida.

Chupó el filtro de su cigarro, volteó la cabeza y me observó displicentemente. Fumó de nuevo y se volvió completa hacia mí. Miró mi mano con desdén y finalmente la estrechó.

—Rata —dijo—. Mi nombre es Rata y no me voy a acostar contigo.

El texto completo se puede leer en prodavinci.com

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