15 Apr April Again
By Carlos Carrión
They each brought a rose. And they left it behind.
Not a single one was missing. Then
they took us to the classrooms, and they
put us on the playground against the wall.
with and without nostalgia
The girl was surprised when she saw me. From behind the door, half open, uninviting, I felt the pure amazement in her black eyes on the bitter face with which I went to let her in after healing the hurried knocks that had brought the building back to life with impunity, and I also felt, instantaneously, confused by the genuine blush of a petrified child, a sensation with which I was entirely unfamiliar. But I didn’t see the danger yet, though it was already too late. The girl was alive and suffering on the gray tiles of the hall, beautiful and without a shadow; as though she had invented the day in the face of the very history of all my badly lived centuries. She held in both arms against her chest, as if by force, a little stack of school notebooks. Her gaze was busy, deeply besides, with an anxiety that would have seemed to be the cause of my own if I hadn’t known such a thing to be impossible.
Are you Luis’s father?, she said, putting into the name her beauty, her tenderness, her immortal childhood, her melancholy that didn’t wear daisies yet, and her anxiety. Which Luis? I answered with the unbearable certainty that this was one of my son’s girlfriends whom I hadn’t met, in which case there was reason for the girl’s surprise. We were identical animals, the two of us, with the sole exception of the unpardonable infidelities that were my years, years made more than anything of the torturous matter of long nights and lonelinesses carefully wasted among sordid bottles and companions. And resolved in what I called a simple compression of life and an old, invisible cynicism applied in understanding it. Apart from the white temples, which I judged a difference in my favor, I could thus live the hallucination of having the age and the face of my son, as well as the name. Luis, Luis Moran.
Yes, I said, and like a fool I opened the door wide for her. When she walked by, almost brushing against me, I felt that every tomorrow remained outside in the street, splendid and useless, and that since a minute ago I needed this girl forever, independently of the cruel circumstance of son and father. She walked ahead of me to the living room, while I, behind her, suffered the humiliation of my disastrous hair, my unshaven face, my old-fashioned bathrobe, the heaviness of the air in the room, the hardness of the furniture, the horrible paint on the walls, and the damned empty bottles.
And wetting my fingers surreptitiously with saliva, I ran them through the disorder on my experienced head and was an adolescent again that morning. The tiny black shoes stopped next to the easy chairs, waiting for me, in spite of the fact that she had heard my invitation to sit. In that brief moment, two dreadful meters from the girl made of a pure, adorable substance, I saw that the anxious depression of her waist, the tender space that went from one hip bone to the other, the splendor of sacred pollen that shimmered in her hair, the solitary beauty of the flesh of her face in her eyelashes, her lips, her tiny freckles, her little nose, and, above all, that child’s time that stretched, taut and undulating, in her body, from head to foot, like a deadly and inevitable leopard, caused me an infinite helplessness and the hallucination with respect to my son, that served to sustain my crazy vanity, assuming the entire reality of his being because he was the only one who was twenty years old in this house, vis-a-vis that marvelous womanly girl who no longer mixed up the two men.
It was nine in the morning. She took a seat after I did, in response to the offer I had to repeat. To one side of us, but more obvious than a cow three days dead, was the small table with the infamous bottles. Her legs, with schoolgirl socks and a short little skirt, adopted a lovely oblique pose, more pronounced because the easy chair was low, and she put her notebooks on her knees and above them, as though they were additional objects, her hands, her tiny bust, and her face. She didn’t use the backrest, that much is certain, tense, tenuous. I did, distinctly and deliberately with my back to the window in order not to face the light and diminish that helplessness, though neither managing nor desiring it from the bottom of my bones. The light, too bright at that hour, walked like the devil through the glass and the sheer curtains, revealing, unfortunately, the room’s desolate surroundings.
But now it was an object happily soothed surrounding the child. Luckily, besides, her eyes hadn’t come to see the house. Then she began on the edge of the chair the tale of the tragedy that had brought her to miss class, swallow her pride, and come to see me, with her beauty. My name is Lilia, she said, and I love Luis very much. I saw that it was a name invented for her body and that what she said was true. She closed her eyes, turning bright red, as though she suddenly forgot what she had to say next, in spite of the ardent beginning, and found herself obliged to read the part that followed. Or as though, on the other hand, whatever she suffered was extremely grave. It was beautiful and sad that this girl loved my son. In some strange way, my fate as monstrous driller felt vindicated, but it wasn’t equal, damnit.
My loneliness continued intact and eternal as ever and paining me more than life itself. My heart longed horribly and deliriously to be twenty-five years younger and with the same ability to produce the suffering in those black eyes. A half a minute had gone by and her lips didn’t find anything, twisting, hurting themselves. Only her eyes, the tears. I saw them grow between the lashes, and the painful and tender force that crushed them, and then stretch out dizzyingly and any minute now fall maybe on top of her tightly clasped hands, or, no, maybe here, on my soul I couldn’t talk at first, perhaps because I wanted to savor her closed eyes and better resist that adored face or because I couldn’t find the way either.
That’s wonderful, I said at last, holding back the painful desire to go over and comfort her, don’t cry my adorable heaven. This kind of luck wasn’t meant for just any rambunctious kid. As though offended by my words, she burst out crying and I was by now capable of abhorring any man and damning myself for the rest of my days, if my hands didn’t knock the stupidity out of that brute of a son of mine And, without a single transition between what she’d heard me say and the new heights of her brimming and gorgeous eyes, she said with a heartrending hardness what she had to say, and she sat there her very open face bearing up under my old stupor, my conviction, and my dreadful indignation, three consecutive predators. Just wait until I…I said and got up transformed into a machine made of pure rage, as though Lilia were my daughter, going off to find that despicable wretch. The voice of the girl didn’t know what to do with its desolate sound, disconcerted by the violence of my determination, and fell silent as she followed my footsteps. Luis would still be sleeping because only the devil himself knew at what time he’d come back last night, if, indeed, he had come back, because the shameless… I took the steps two at a time, quickly. I got to his bedroom door with the blood throbbing furiously in my temples, I don’t know whether due to the sudden effort or to my furious anger.
And just then I feared touching my son’s body with my ire intact. I pounded on the door to wear down my rage, but without giving away the hell. Once, twice, nothing. Luiiiis!, the house boomed. Still nothing. I was about to try breaking it down when I thought I heard a sound in the lock mechanism and I remembered. I turned the knob and simultaneously pushed against the door with all my weight, and I knew that my son, on the other side, was at that very moment trying to lock it. Through contact with the iron handle, my hand became aware of that decision in his, but also of the clumsiness and the bad timing. The door opened suddenly and I landed a light blow, my onslaught paralyzing him. Over his shoulder I saw a naked woman flying to take refuge in the bathroom. I closed the door behind me and gave Luis a push that landed him in the middle of the room.
Only then did I see that he was also naked. Get dressed!, I said, the words hurting my throat. What’s got into you, old man, he said with a knife-like, grotesque cynicism that affected me deeply, not so much because of the cynicism in and of itself, but because it struck me as very similar to my own and without a bit of transparency to mask it. Get dressed, damn it! It was an effort for him to obey. I want to talk to a man, not a savage! In an irritating leisurely fashion, he turned his back to me to look for something to put on. I saw his long torso, his tight buttocks, his hairy legs, and, for a second, I could see myself, distant and identical, on an ancient day twenty-five years ago. I also saw the bottles, the ashtray overflowing on the nightstand.
The posters of Charles Bronson, Omella Muti, Bo Derek, and Che. I saw the woman’s clothes falling from a chair to the dirty floor, just like his, and inhaled the stink of alcohol and the odor of two in the closed air. He finally found a pitiful robe. With his fingers busy making a knot in the belt, he came a few steps closer. What did you want to talk about, your affairs or mine? Shameless shithead, you’ve got a pregnant girl waiting for you in the living room downstairs and here you are with another woman. I heard, almost simultaneously, my own anger and a woman’s sob. From the girl in the bathroom, no doubt, who had the good sense to stay hidden. What girl?, he frowned. Lilia something. Lilia who? Don’t make me any angrier, Luis! Aaaah!, now playful, Lilia. What are you going to do, Luis? Me, nothing. And you?
I punched him straight in the mouth and he stumbled to the bed and fell on it. Still lying down, he touched his split lip as though he were helping himself bear the pain with his fingers, and he laughed. Raising himself up on one arm, the blood poisoned his words. And you, what did you do when you got my mother pregnant?, and he spit blood without moving anything other than his lips in order not to miss my answer. I’d like to kill you!, I said, without breathing more than my own air. And I, you!, he said with the weight of his chest thrown back, resting on both arms in order to aim his hatred. So why don’t you get out of here, you little old shit! The blind conflagration of rage that undid me when I hit him overcame me now. I saw that my hands weren’t far behind in wanting the disgrace, in longing to keep hitting and hitting. I was fighting for a girl, for her enchanting present beauty, for her inexorable tenderness, who had fallen like a bolt of lightening on this house and not the house nor anybody, except me, was supporting her in the flesh, as though born for that reason.
My rancor was no longer based on the wish to protect a daughter as I believed, but disgracefully and hopelessly on the defense of the woman one loves in the eternity of a moment with the mortal dementedness of all the illogic in the world, whose prodigious beauty had been offended by the only face in the world that I could not destroy and that was, instead, attacking me, and I wanted only to take refuge in the heart, in the runaway heart with which I had woke up today. I though vainly of my years and I didn’t want anybody to take away a single one because with fewer I wouldn’t love that girl, just as I hadn’t loved before. Wretch, I should make you marry her even if that means I have to kill you! And I, with whom should I make you do the same, eh? It was awful.
Luis smiled in triumph, but inside he must have been crying for that past that seemed to be all that I had given him of my blood, and that was breaking through my arduous troglodyte fortifications. I gave the door a shove and left so that my son wouldn’t see me die of rancor, or my own perversity, that was his as well, force me to crush him forever and change him into the man that I had to invent so that Lilia wouldn’t suffer any more. I felt his laughter and my tears. Then I saw through them, at the far end of the hall, Lilia who was disappearing madly down the stairs, whimpering loudly, and I knew that she had been listening at the door from the beginning. I ran after her, in desperation, but I stopped when I got to the staircase, thinking suddenly about the lock on the door to the street, and I began to go down slowly, treading on each of the steps.
* From the collection El más hermoso animal nocturno, 1982.