ISSN 2359-4101

Brazilian Literature in Translation / Literatura Brasileña en Traducción

Issue / Numero

year/año: 2012
issue/numero: # 04

I left, and he stayed there

Author | Autor: Elvira Vigna

Translated by David Lehmann

“Meire is standing in front of me. Her face is the only thing that is changing
in a world where nothing has happened for quite some time. So I follow
every muscle. She tries to do this thing, with her cheek, on the little
apron. Ridiculous, the little apron with the frills. But we already know
that. So she stops.
She looks at my flat breasts. Ridiculous, the little boobies.
I almost hear her say: and when are you going to get this little implant increased,
which is crooked by the way?
But she told me that not long ago. She caught me naked, coming out of the
shower. So she doesn’t repeat it.
I remember everything. I relive it. In the end, nothing had or has any importance.
It is just a story. There must be many like this one, where no one will learn what
happened, nor care. I will, and among other reasons because I like stories. But there
are other reasons.
We stayed a little while like that, me and Meire. She standing in front of my
table, the restaurant empty. I remember the ambient music. It was there all the time,
still is. It is part of a general softening of everything. Too bad it doesn’t work, didn’t.
There was nothing soft about it, there isn’t.
Eventually she asks:
“What are you doing here?”
Now, here is something hard to answer. Anyplace and anywhere.
So far she hadn’t looked once to my backpack all sprawled over the chair. She
has that, Meire, a iron-clad force of will. She doesn’t want to look, so she won’t.
She is taken aback. She seems offended. Maybe I did offend her. She steps
away, grabs a menu. Comes back.
“Jorge Amado Week. Grouper a la gabriella. The Turk’s shrimp.”
That´s a little too much and we laugh. Then we cry. But then, at that moment,
you could still say that the tears were from laughter. I’m not hungry, the grouper is to
be part of the show line. But I haven’t eaten anything for god knows how much time.
So grouper it is.
“Expensive as hell”.
“Screw it”.
It comes with pepper, the grouper, and late. Empty restaurant, turned-off oven.
Everything was like that at the time, then it took a turn for the worse. Dark streets,
unlit store windows, cars only once in a while and me with that roll of cash tucked
into the bra. The only money in town, other than in the banks, scratching my skin
every time I turned my back.
Meire sits. In a corner of the chair, she’s on duty. She looks at the grouper,
so do I. A brown rectangle. I sprinkle the pepper. More. Now we have a brown
rectangle with details in green. The green is shining. Olive oil. Pepper always comes
in olive oil. It wouldn’t appear to be edible if it weren’t for the smell, nauseating,
that says, yes, it is edible.
At the same time I shove the fork inside my mouth Meire speaks. It’s on purpose,
I can’t answer with my mouth full. All that’s left to find out is who did it on purpose, if
it’s her speaking at the time I fill my mouth or if it’s me filling my mouth when I sense
she’s about to speak.
“So you’re really going”.
I nod with my head. Then I add a mime to say very hot, lot of pepper, lot of
spine, epilepsy attack, anything that would justifie my tearful eyes and my delay, a
long one, until the answer.
I end up swallowing. And I still don’t speak, I just shake my head, without the
sound that I wouldn’t be able to hear.
She gets up, heads to the chicken.
This is one of the moments in which I´m alone at the restaurant. Or at least
I thought I was. That night I was alone a few times, and I used it to look around
carefully, where’s the map, any map, a sign, where is the north. Even when I got there
I wasn’t feeling too good.
Then I noticed the middle-aged guy in a table in the corner. He’s drinking. Looks
at me. Drinks some more. He must have been there doing the same thing last week,
last month.
I´m at the table that is closest to the door. As usual. It can be anywhere and I’ll
be staying close to the door. My back against the wall. It never protected me from
anything. But I still do it.
The middle-aged guy wasn’t very close. An excuse for not having seen him
before. I have others. I’ve said it already: I wasn’t feeling too well. And even when I
am feeling well. I pay attention to some things and others not. I usually pick the ones
that are useless.
So I have to know that now. I am starting to tell something that has holes, gaps.
It’s worse than that: I´m going to fill them up.
Meire returns. She had gone to the kitchen not because she had something to do
there but because she didn’t want to stay there with me. She went, she watched the
cook smoke, pick his nose, pick his teeth, clean his ear with the tip of a fork, read the
newspaper, scratch his three-day beard, the balls with different sizes, kill himself with
the meat knife, bet on horses, whatever. And then, what else can you do, she returns.
“I was there today”, I say.
She stares at me.
“That thing I was going to see, from that guy”.
She keeps staring. I know she remembers, she doesn’t want to talk, she wants
to force me to say the whole thing, so silly.
“The guy from the movie audition”.
“Ahh. So?”
“Dead end.”
She sang it before, don’t go, it’s a dead end.
“Ahh. A dead end? That´s too bad…”
“There are some people like that, filming crew, you know, staying at the hotel.
Overnight. They don’t tip at all. Anyone. The women are all foxy and blond.
“Blond? Maybe it’s the same crew.”
“They are always blondes, or haven’t you noticed?”
What I had noticed is that the fish didn’t go down well. That forkful, the one and
lonely, had stopped midway and was threatening a triumphant return. I ask for water.
Meire laughs.
“With lots of ice and lemon?”
“Could be.”
She laughs some more.
Says that if the manager walks in and sees me drinking the vodka I brought
from home, she’s fired. Meire has no doubt that inside my backpack there is the
vodka. That I, on the last day, walking by the closet for the last time, had filched the
vodka and anything else that was there. I say no. Meire always thought I was a jerk.
So did I. She confirms it, we confirm it.
“I doubt it.”
She opens my backpack.
“Crap, you really are a jerk”.
And she leaves, searching for the water with ice and lemon.
Maybe because the guy on the other table is paying attention, or maybe because
I think sometimes that eating disguises jerkiness, which only proves how much of a
jerk I am, or maybe because if there’s a fish in front of a person it means that one will
eat the other, the thing is that at this moment I put the second forkful in my mouth.
And of course, it doesn’t get past the throat. I have to throw it out. There’s more
stuff to throw out. My unhappy childhood, the unfairness of the world, why I wasn’t
born a blonde. The right thing to do is make a list, line them up, organize the vomit.
Or maybe start acting, solve the world starting by the fish. The problem is that Meire,
just for kicks, gave me the full service, bread, gray pâté, pink pâté, yellow pâté, picles
and a serviette. The guy on the other table looks at me without curiosity. I think he
knows that I have a list of things to throw out, starting with the fish, and that I´m not
enough of a pig to spit food on a serviette.
I spit on little paper napkins. It came wrapping the tableware, trés chic. The guy
observes. This was our first relationship, this was what stuck and branded all the rest:
I spit fish, he looks at me as if he expected nothing else.
Meire left my backpack open. I close it. Inside I don’t have vodka but I do have
the key to my former room. Plan B. If anything goes wrong, I come back. I´m not sure
if she saw it, I’d rather she didn’t. She’s already returning with the water. When I drink
it, I drink it fully aware that I´m not supposed to, that it will only make things worse.
And it does. And it is even worse because I remember all the things I´ve done in life
knowing that it would only make things worse, and I did them anyway. Or rather, I
do. I still do.
On the way to the bathroom I pass by the guy that is still expecting nothing less
or more than seeing me running in front of him towards the bathroom.
I vomited for any reason back then. I think I got better. Actually, I´m not so sure.
Writing this is not making me feel so well.”

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