Sheri-sade

Rosa Beltrán  
Uribe, Álvaro; Sears, Olivia (2009). Best of contemporary mexican fiction, Estados Unidos: Dalkey Archive


portada-best.jpg I have a lover 24 years older than I who has taught me two things. One, that there can be no true passion if you don't go beyond some boundar­ies; and two, that an older man can only offer you money or pity. Rex doesn't give me any money, or any pity. That's why he says that our passion, which has gone far past any limits, runs the risk of beginning to die out at any moment.


First night

     Before I met him I had attended two book launches without anything ever happening—which is just a manner of speaking, since when you look at it more closely, the time when nothing happens is when things are really happening. And that time it went as follows: I was by myself in the middle of a packed hall, wondering why I had decided to torture myself in this way, when I realized that Rex, a famous writer whom I only knew by name, was sitting next to me. When the first reading was over, I applauded. Immediately Rex raised his hand, scolded and insulted the reader, and settled back down into his seat. With slight variations, this was the dynamic of that whole presentation: papers were read, people applauded, and Rex praised the speaker or tore into him, always peppering his comments with quotes from some of the Great Figures he kept at hand. Someone would read, Rex would critique, someone else would, Rex would critique, I would applaud. If Minimalism involves predictability and the reduction of elements to the least number of possible variations, this was the most Minimalist event I had ever been to. Following the next-to-last presentation, delivered by a feminist writer, Rex critiqued, I applauded and went to the bathroom. I heard him say that human stupidity couldn't descend any lower. On my return, before the whole affair had come to an end, I saw that Rex had laid his open hand on my seat and was absentmindedly talking with someone. When I pointed to the spot where I had been sitting, in which his autonomous and pulsing hand now was waiting like a crab, Rex fixed his gaze on me and said, "I put it there to keep it warm." Two hours later we were making love, frenetically. That's the way you say it: "frenetically." Also, "madly." With love, everything is said using borrowed words, and you're never sure of saying what you mean when you're in love. But when you want with all your might not to be there and you can't make yourself leave, how do you say that?


Third night

     The first thing I have to admit is that I didn't know very well what “nihilistic decadence" was because never had it been explained to me, not before I met Rex. According to him, that term defines Generation X, the most decadent and miserable of all the generations in this century, and the one that I belong to, unfortunately. I didn't do anything to belong it. But if I wanted to set myself on the path that according to Rex I ought to be on, I would only regret one thing: having sat myself down de him, such a famous writer, at a book launch. The golden rule among those who frequent this sort of affair is that no one gets involved with anyone else, and that friendships, if they are to be fruitful, are to be based on the purest self-interest (I give you something, you give me. I present you, you present me. I read you, you read me) or something complete disregard. Rex says that any relationship that does not else on from alcohol is false.


Seventh night

     Today Rex and I decided something very original: that no one, ever, had loved each other like we do. And to confirm it, we used the phrases that all lovers use. A single being in two distinct bodies. Twin souls in a crowd of strangers. A hundred different vaginas and just one true cunt.


Tenth night

     This has happened since the very first time, but I've neglected to men­tion it. We were at the culminating moment, making love frenetically, as I've said, and suddenly the room was overflowing with visitors. The first one to get there was the Extremely Slender Waistline. Rex began to talk about this old lover of his because my posture reminded him of her. She was determined, ardent, and black-haired. He had to hold her really tightly by the waist because if he didn't, she was capable of sliding off him. "Like this," he said, squeezing me. "Ah, how that woman moved up and down!" he added, holding on to me, filled with nostalgia. But then, after a moment, he commented, "A lot of women might try to imitate her, but when it came down to keeping up with her—nobody!"

And, plunged into this reflection, he got up to serve himself a whiskey. After a few minutes during which I myself, having fallen into a kind of daydream, was thinking about this grand passion between Rex and me, broke the silence: “Ah, that was perfect, how she would squat!” he said, referring to that other woman. “Look at this, I get goosebumps just thinking about her!”

True enough: his pale white skin that hadn't seen the sun for years was covered with little white bumps. "Like a piston made of flesh," he said, almost in a state of trance. "Up and down, up and down, completely out of her mind above me, shriek­ing madly!"

According to Rex, that woman who squatted so masterfully had given in excellent "performance": she made him touch the sky, without ex­aggerating, six times, and before leaving that day, Extremely Slender Waistline asked him to make love to her from behind. "It was an offering," Rex said, touched. "A gift!"

After that confession, somewhat unsettling for me, he drifted into silence again. I thought his story was a rather oblique way of asking me for something. So I put my arms around a pillow and offered myself on all fours, my back to him. "Don't move," he told me, and a few seconds later I sensed the flash of a camera. I waited a little longer but nothing "ore happened, and after some anxious minutes I heard snoring from beside me.


Night 69

     "Why is it I like it so much when you tell me about your former lov­ers?" I lied.

"Because flesh is the story," Rex explained, very serious. "Although very few people understand that."

And later, drawing close to my ear, he said to me in a very low voice, "Flesh for the sake of flesh doesn't exist."


Night 104

     Two weeks later he brought me the photo. Together with a letter that read, “I worship the black star of your front side, but I adore the other thousand times more, the shameless one, but unfathomable abyss." The rest of it was endless praise: for my breasts, whiter lovely than those of Venus emerging from the sea; for my thighs, the inspiration for Balthus; my perfect back, my belly. And for every inch of my body, a comparison with some other woman. Never had anyone been more beautiful: my lips, my cheeks, my hair—even the long necks that had come before me could not compete with me, according to Rex. Freud says that in any sexual relationship there are at least four people in the bed. In our case, there were at least twenty. Or thirty. Or that was what I thought at first. Little by little I came to realize that if all of Rex's ex-lovers had managed to squeeze themselves into our room, we would have had to leave for lack of space.

"Wouldn't it be a good thing for us to use a condom?" I suggested.

But Rex was categorical: "How would it have been for the Great Lovers of History to have been fiddling around with those obnoxious doodads?"

He immediately got out of bed, dressed, and went out the door, slam­ming it behind him.


Night 386

     For some reason, I feel obliged to point out that I had a happy child­hood, that my father loved me a great deal, and that he was not a skirt-chaser. Or maybe he was, maybe as much as anyone. But that has nothing to do with Rex and me. What is happening to me with him is a question °f simple polarity: Nice men bore me, just like all the women of my generation, which, as I've said, is the X. This is something I've been able to confirm. "Political correctness" is nothing more than a cynical form of hypocrisy. It is the pretense of sterile conditions in the rubber gloves of doctors with rusty scalpels. And the world is not an operating room.


Night 514

At night; after we say our goodbyes, Rex puts my name under his tongue. He keeps it there, savoring it. As if it were a chocolate. For me, the other hand, his gestures are becoming spectral. When he isn't there, his body over me disappears. I can only remember his voice. As in a movie I once saw where the characters keep making appointments by telephone without ever meeting each other, for me Rex has turned into a pleasant-sounding but immaterial presence. He is the form of his words. And his words, the form of the love inspired by the women who had him before me.


Night 702

     Yesterday he brought more women into the room. Their names surprise me more than they themselves do; they make me imagine a thousand and one possibilities. The One Who Wept Over Cioran; The Scorpion; The Motionless Lover; The Wild Nun. Each one with a story and a very specific way of making love.

"My women were always willful," Rex says. "They knew how to choose their positions: on top, or with their legs crossed, from the side—each according to her taste and preferences."

My unspoken role was to imitate them. Even more: to outshine them. If I improvised any gesture, Rex would subtly move me into the posture of one of them, for example The Woman of Ancient Ancestry, very erect over him and looking at the world with disdainful gaze, and he would tell me her story. I never knew their real names.

Out of respect," he would say. "In case you chance to meet one of them on the street one day."

One afternoon, while making love, I had the slightest hint of an in­spiration and when I started up the path, kissing all the way, from groin to eyelid, he compared me to Eve. "The First Woman," I thought in my pride, and in response I walked naked around the room until Jehovah came and carried me to Paradise.


Night 996

     I had lost count of the frequency with which we saw each other, given the relativity with which time had begun to elapse, and Rex's caprices had increased, as is logical. To put his whims into action he began to put off his trips and conferences, which was no small thing given the returns that he got from them, or rather, that he ceased to get in order to be with me. More and more he would invent unlikely pretexts for being away from his family, for not going to his appointments, and he began to exercise his amatory functions at an implacable pace, like a runner at the Stock Exchange on Wall Street. I was his lover, he said; it was his duty toward me. What else could I do but respond to such devotion with similar fervor? From night until morning I found myself obliged to outdo the squatting of the Extremely Slender One, to keep my legs suspended for hours like The Scorpion, to perfect the strokes of The Frog or to keep my profile still like The Hard-edged Little Spoon. More frequently, no matter how tired I might be, I would have to shake myself in a wild frenzy, throwing my hair to the winds like Yesterday's Medusa, the lover who was the hardest to forget. In addition to feeling the effects of my amatory gymnastic feats I had to go hungry for hours, even whole days, pale and with rings under my eyes, sustained only by Chateaubriand's remark that a True Lover resists assaults like a city in ruins. But if that weren't enough, on one of those days when we had been making love for hours already, with no breaks from the previous days, Rex decided to turn on the TV in the hotel room where we were meeting. I almost died of horror upon observing the stoicism with which Sharon Stone, completely naked and seated upon her lover, put a necktie around on her neck, never ceasing her movements, and holding her breath while he, plunged into the most delicious pleasure, was strangling her during their coitus.

"Leave it there," Rex said, pouring himself another drop of whiskey. "You're not changing any channels."

And then, gazing at me with deliberation, "That way later on we can pickup some ideas."

I got up as best I could and, painfully, walked over to the minibar. He explained to me what he would do with me when I went into the bath­room, what he would do when I bent over while attempting—futilely— to get myself dressed, what he would do when I tried to fall asleep hours later. "There'll be no rest," he warned. I chose a can of Coca-Cola and brought it to my ear. Through it I was able to hear the virtual bombardment of an imaginary city.


Night 1,000 and 1

     Yesterday afternoon I tried to give him an ultimatum: either them or me. It was a moment of despair, I know that. I was tired of compet­ing with the others, I wanted to be loved for myself. "But the thing is, you contain all of them!" he said, moved. On occasions like that I feel I cannot disappoint him. The worst that can happen is that tomorrow morning will come and I, always solicitous, will find myself obliged to surpass the pleasure of the previous nights. The next worst thing is that, having exhausted the repertory, Rex will finally see me for what I am and decide then that the fatal moment has arrived to make me part of the inventory.

Translated by Leland H. Chambers

 
 
 
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Edición: Rodrigo Martínez  
Diseño: Sergio Martínez