September 25, 2010
Vignette for A Fading Story
First her back, with long black hair, perfectly combed and shining. Her body one of those old Seven-Up bottles, on a single plane, lacking depth and perspective, which is to say, extremely skinny. Angled and, notwithstanding, delicate shoulders with huge, dark freckles in random shapes. Induced, surely, by the firm lines of the bottle that insinuate themselves beneath the impeccable clothing (those freckles become unrepeatable, viscous gas stains on the pavement generated by the explosion of a Molotov cocktail). The shirt could play the role of a fuse, another cliché, a kamikaze without a purpose, without victims, sitting at the edge of the sidewalk waiting for the Metrobus while she seems to be thinking about what the best procedure might be for tearing herself away from this life that grants her such a healthy appearance, and makes her suffer so much, that’s why she pulls her compact out of her patent leather purse and violently rubs her face with the little sponge, she blanches the unspeakable, blanches, until she almost looks like a corpse, and starts to walk in circles around the Metrobus stop. She reminds him of the suicide girls from those tiresome new videos, fashion’s latest death rattle, in which a handful of kids, with impeccable haircuts and the edge of their eyes lined in black kohl, cry at the edge of an imaginary precipice while they sing pop ballads, adopting the pose of implacable rockers.
He notices her brightly colored jeans, a patch sewn at the height of her ass with an out of context slogan, unseasonably scrawled, Keep Your Country Nice and Clean, and a figure printed in red, of the little man from the bathroom signs throwing a swastika into a trash can. It’s an image he had seen before and which, in a certain manner, restores the past above everything that seems foreign to him, the tie that chokes him, that filthy Metrobus stop, the meticulously combed girl. The walls of an amphitheater make way from below, surge like monstrous trees through the sidewalk, a song with lots of drum rolls underpins his memories to an adolescent choreography of simple and painful steps. Push hard with the hands, shove firmly with the shoulders, endure the assaults from the others. Keep your balance, don’t fall, never break the circle and make way towards the center because if you don’t they’ll fuck you up.
He’s secretly happy the girl doesn’t have a cartoon skeleton on her ass. It bothers him so much, seeing kids today with that idiotic tendency of reducing ancient and powerful symbols to the graphic level of sad cartoons. He’s seen hundreds of kids wearing shoes stamped with toy skeletons and each time this happens he feels an absurd desire to beat them to a pulp.
Sometimes he thinks he’s become a dinosaur and that he’s stuck in a past decade, frozen amid a pile of Sex Pistols albums. His thirty-fifth birthday is fast approaching on the 2009 calendar that rises from the corner of his desk like a medieval torture machine. Dozens of red circles strangle his days on paper, tying them to boring commitments and dates. It’s fucked up being an insurance agent when your balls are so green from endless clauses, price quotes and budgets. Occasionally, he thinks he’d be satisfied if at least the phone would stop ringing, especially on Wednesday afternoons when the humidity of a Thursday afternoon, from the immediate future, chills his mood and stirs up that type of mosquito, thick and invisible, that insufflates him with an almost spiritual dengue.
Sergio is tired, he sits down on the edge of the sidewalk and loosens the knot on his tie. The girl looks at her wristwatch nervously.
–The 11:00 o’clock Metrobus is never late, he sentences in an almost familiar tone.
–Now that I don’t believe, the girl answers, the public transportation system is designed for delays, in this city all of us arrive late.
–That happens in the daytime, but the 11:00 o’clock driver doesn’t get delayed, it’s the last loop and the poor guy just wants to go home and sleep.
–I’ve been here for an hour, do you think he’s not coming? She taps her watch and sits down on the sidewalk at a sensible distance from Sergio.
–To tell you the truth, I’d say he isn’t coming, it’s already 11:30.
–Mothefucker, the skinny girl screams, kicking the edge of the sidewalk hysterically with her heel.
–Calm down, you can find lots of taxis around here, we can share one, there’re several well-known cab lines, Sergio consoles her, somewhat disconcerted.
The girl doesn’t answer. Sergio is too tired to continue speaking with such a skinny girl and who, to top it off, insists on looking like a corpse. He was checking price-lists until very late and besides, frustration weakens him, he spent the whole afternoon and part of the night wanting to kill his imbecile boss who, it seems, is only there to ensure the contracts with clients aren’t fulfilled, violating the signed clauses. Sergio’s never been a little sister of sacred charity but that paradise of illegality in which he’s forced to maneuver makes him feel truly disgusted.
He’s told himself he won’t look back, he’ll reach the corner and completely forget the stupid girl who starts to scream from a distance now. He feels like a character in a surreal scene, a total stranger begs him to stay, to not leave; if the possibility of a witness in that large and empty night, which is the avenue at this hour, were to exist, he would surely think they’re one of those couples who spend their time making little scenes in public. He stops at the corner and makes signs at a taxi, the driver returns the signs, he’s busy.
Now the girl is running after him, he can tell by the noise of the steps approaching and by her screams that gather more intensity as she comes closer… Wait up, man… It all seems like a joke to Sergio, he feels like laughing but he uses all his strength to contain himself, he imagines the skinny girl has swallowed her pride, and that now he’ll have to rescue her with the Heimlich maneuver, choking as she is with that big and solid thing known as pride in some women. He stops.
Translated by Guillermo Parra
Dayana Fraile (Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, 1985) received her undergraduate degree in Literature from the Universidad Central de Venezuela, and since 2007 has worked at Monte Ávila Editores Latinoamericana. Her poems and short stories have been awarded various prizes, including the Festival Literario Ucevista, the Premio de Cuento Policlínica Metropolitana and the Semana de la Nueva Narrativa Urbana. Her first book, Granizo y otros relatos, was the winner of the I Bienal de Literatura Julián Padrón and will soon be published. She is a contributor to the collective blog El Apéndice de Pablo, among other digital and print magazines, and is currently doing graduate work in Venezuelan Literature at the Universidad Central de Venezuela.