ISSN 2359-4101

Brazilian Literature in Translation / Literatura Brasileña en Traducción

Issue / Numero

year/año: 2012
issue/numero: # 04



Drained


Author | Autor: Lourenço Mutarelli


Translated by Alison Entrekin

1. Everything the World Has to Offer


Soran was an anagram. That was what he said.
He also said he’d paid a very high price for it. He took an old solid gold
pocket watch out of his coat pocket.
I noted that it had once had a cover, a protective cover.
He swore it had belonged to Professor Soran.
I asked who the hell Soran was.
He told me Soran was an anagram. He took the timepiece back and returned it to
the inside pocket of his coat.
So, how much are you going to give me for it?
A strong smell of sewage was wafting up from the drain hole and invading my
nose. It was invading the whole room.
Smells like shit. It’s the drain, I said.
I think I was ashamed he might think the smell was coming from me.
He said Soran was a wise man, a visionary. My back itched and I realized that when
I’d looked at the watch I hadn’t even taken the opportunity to see what time it was.
I was in a hurry, but it would’ve been awkward to glance at my wrist.
Can I see just one more thing on that fine pocket watch that belonged to Sólon?
Soran, he corrected me. Two thirty. I didn’t know if the old ticker could be trusted.
Did it still work? Almost instinctively I held it to my ear. It used to play a beautiful
melody. That was what he said. Confirming that it had once had a cover and had
played music when you opened it.
He said it used to play the song that the gas delivery trucks play nowadays.
I couldn’t help myself and glanced at the knock-off strapped to my wrist. Fifteen
to one.

He told me he’d come into possession of the watch through an archaeologist. I told
him I had no idea it was that old.
He didn’t get the joke. He said that the archaeologist, whose name escapes me
now, worked as a spy. I knew I was about to hear one of those stories that I didn’t
feel like listening to.
He told me Soran was an anagram.
At the end of it all he concluded that in spite of the inestimable value of the watch
he could do me a special deal.
I told him I wasn’t interested.
If it at least had its cover, I added.
He scowled.
He looked at it again.
He said I didn’t understand the opportunity that was before me. He said luck opens
its doors to everyone at least once in a lifetime, but if the opportunity is wasted,
luck shuts its doors.
He left, slamming it as hard as he could.

The girl really was slow.
Her face was melancholic. Almost inexpressive.
The sandwich she served me was equally as dull.
I remembered the joke we used to make in the cafeteria on my first job. 007. That
was our name for the steak.
Because it was cold, hard and had nerves of steel.
As I ate, I devoured the book I had open on the counter.
American Tabloid. James Ellroy. It was a good book. Ellroy wrote at the pace of my
thoughts. Astonishing. Vertiginous. A twister. A twisted soul.
I left my food half-eaten.
The soft drink was in a can.
I started thinking at James Ellroy’s pace.
Suddenly I found myself contemplating an enormous arse.
Bulging. Almost deformed.
It was the girl’s. Underneath it all she was good, I thought.
I smiled. She looked back at me with her melancholic face.
I asked her name.
I couldn’t pronounce it.
Underneath she was good.
I asked how long she’d been working at the lunch bar.
One week.
With that face, I thought, she’d be out of a job in the same amount of time.
She turned and bent over to pick up an order that had slipped out of her pocket.
She could retire in that job. She could be promoted to manager. She asked what I
was reading. I showed her the cover. James what? Ellroy, I said.
She told me I looked like the guy from that TV commercial.
I tried to remember his face.
I smiled at her.
Didn’t you like your sandwich?
I’m not hungry.
I ordered another soft drink.
She turned around to get it.
I thought I could spend a week just looking at her rump.
I went to the cash register, paid and bought cigarettes.
I was given a sweet as change.
Raspberry.
I went to the counter and gave the girl the sweet. What’s your name again? I asked.
I’ll never be able to pronounce it. She didn’t smile.
She put the sweet in her pocket.
I wanted to ask her to turn around again.
I went back to work. I wanted to want to stop smoking.

He came in holding a cutlery set in a case.
It’s silver.
I made my offer. He told me life was tough.
I explained that the smell was coming from the drain.
He accepted the offer shaking his head.
This cutlery set has lots of stories.
I swore I believed him. I took the key out of my pocket and opened the drawer.
I placed the money on the desk.
He didn’t even count it. He thanked me with his head.
He went to the door.
He came back.
He looked at the cutlery set with dull eyes. He ran his hand over the top of the case
as if stroking it affectionately.
He said life was tough. He left.
My mouth was starting to taste bitter.
Suddenly I was looking at a shoe. It was mine.
He came in. It was a strange animal he was carrying. Chinese porcelain. Such-andsuch
dynasty. I don’t know if it was a dragon or a cat. He worked out for himself
that I wasn’t interested. I lit a cigarette.

When I tuned in, she was asking me what I thought about it. That’s the way things
are, I said. So you think it’s right for a family man to do something like that? What?
Gamble everything away. Of course not.
She asked if I didn’t want my salad. I said I wasn’t hungry. She told me they were
already at the printer’s. The invitations. She said she loved me. She said that with
me she’d be happy.
I said that only the naïve believed in happiness.
She covered her face trying to cry. You insensitive boor!
That’s what you are. Insensitive.
She got up from the table. I filled my wine glass.
Sorry. She said.
Sorry for what? I got upset. I don’t want to ruin the evening. It’s just that sometimes
you pretend to be so insensitive. There’s just one month to go.
I told her I didn’t want to get married.
She made a funny face.

No one slaps a man in the face. My dad used to say.
Are you crazy?
Course not. And to prove it I’m going to put an end to all this bullshit.
You said our relationship’s bullshit.
She slapped me across the face again.
I got up.
She pushed me so hard that I sat down again.
I don’t like you. I never have. I’ve never liked anybody.
She was kneeling on the ground. The way she was crying was funny.
I laughed. Get out of here! You’re crazy! Now I’m the one who doesn’t want to get
married to a madman. Have a bunch of crazy kids. Get out! And don’t come back
here ever again! You madman.
What are people going to think, with the invitations at the printer’s?
That’s what I heard as I shut the door.
She slapped me across the face.

I’m staring at a white pigeon. More grey than white. It has more missing toes than
toes on its feet. Kites? Here in the centre of town it’s unlikely... It flaps away as it
takes a crap. The shit, whiter than the pigeon itself, splatters on a bald head.
Someone knocks at the door. I go back to my desk. Come in. He comes in carrying
a flute.
My mouth tastes bitter. If I only had a sweet. Raspberry. This flute has lots of stories
to tell. He plays a few notes. I can’t help myself. I laugh. I laugh, unable to contain
myself. I laugh at everything and everyone. He stops. The flute goes quiet. I make
my offer.
He laughs.
Life’s tough. I say.

She comes in crying.
She begs my forgiveness.
She says she loves me.
She says she’s not going to let me go that easily.
She hugs me. I just stand there. I tell her she has nothing to offer me.
She slaps me across the face.
She says I’m not going to get away that easily.
She says I’m going to grovel at her feet.
I’ve never liked her.
I’ve never liked anybody.
She leaves.
The smell of shit infests my nose.

Paul Auster confuses me. He writes at the pace I think. Vertiginous. All those Mr.
Whites, Mr. Greens. Like in the board game.
Mr. White, with a knife in the library.
Hand to mouth.
She hands me my sandwich. She almost smiles.
She turns around to get my soft drink.
I could spend a week just watching her turn around.
Is that already a different book?
I show her the cover.
Paul what?
She says she likes reading. Just magazines. Stars Magazine. TV stars. I’d pay just
to look at that arse.
I order a coffee.
Lost your appetite again?
Yeah.
Her name is a mixture of at least another three.
Her father’s, her mother’s and some TV star’s.
She asks what mine is.
I tell her.
She repeats it out loud.
I bet she moves her lips when she reads.
I bet she moves her lips even when she sees photos of TV stars.
I bet she moves her lips as she remembers their names. Roberto Carlos.

I find myself staring at a jug of juice I made myself.
I close the fridge.
I turn on the TV.
I imagine a series of things. Mixed with what the TV says.
Three people are going at it on 80, in the old choreography of porn flicks.
On Discovery, a frightened beast.
The American series comes with pre-recorded laughter.
On Cartoon Network a cartoon I used to watch as a kid.
On the ceiling an unscrewed light bulb.
On the sofa the clothes I wore yesterday.
On the bookshelves there are still books to read.
The news program repeats the assault of a world I made myself.

He comes in carrying a cage with a canary in it. Stuffed.
This has stories.
I make my bid.
He laughs with his eyes closed.
I get the tiny key and open the drawer.
He counts the money, note by note.
Three times.
He counts the money moving his lips.
He tries to shake my hand, like someone closing a big deal.
I pretend not to see his hand. I don’t even bother to justify the smell.
He leaves. He thinks he’s happy.

She comes in.
She’s shaking.
She doesn’t look me in the eyes.
Eyes that don’t even seem to move.
She’s holding a jewellery box. In it, a bracelet, a pair of earrings, a tie pin, an Agnus Dei
pendant.
All gold.
I complain about the smell as if I’ve never noticed it before.
It’s from the drain.
I ask where she got it, just for the sake of haggling.
She says she inherited it.
I lowball her.
She accepts my offer straight up.
She’s shaking.
I know she’ll stop shaking soon.

He comes in.
I catch myself gazing at the sky.
He says: It’s going to rain.
The gramophone is heavy.
He rests it on my desk.
Does it work?
No, but it makes a nice decoration.
I say I’m not interested.
He asks if I know where he’s come from.
I don’t even answer.
And by bus.
And you’re going back, I say.
This gramophone has stories.
The smell’s from the drain.
Life’s tough.
Tough my arse. He curses me.

Even with no appetite and feeling queasy, I sit in the same spot.
Ah! The book’s the same as yesterday.
Paul Auster’s hard.
If the food here were any good, this’d be paradise.
I say it without realizing it.
She laughs.
I laugh back.

She brings me my sandwich. I yearn for my soft drink.
She does it.
She bends over.
Her arse.
Her arse, immense and deformed, smiles at me.
I break into a cold sweat.
Why did you say that?
I like it here. It’s always empty, I always get the same spot at the counter. You know,
these things are important.
Well, the time of day you come, the workers have all gone.
She must be their queen. The lot of them.
She must inspire their dreams.
Not mine, unfortunately.
I never dream.

He comes in.
He places the violin on my desk. He doesn’t say a thing. Not even good afternoon.
I stay quiet. After all, he’s the one looking to sell. Then he says, how much? I make
my bid. He scratches his beard. This violin must have stories, I say. He looks at me.
His look bothers me. He picks up the violin and leaves.
But before shutting the door, he says:
It smells like shit in here.
It’s the drain.
No. No it isn’t.
Of course it is. The smell’s coming from the drain.
He comes back in and shuts the door.
The smell’s from you.
Look. I get up and go over to the toilet.
Look, the smell’s coming from the drain.
He laughs scratching his beard.
Who uses that toilet?
Me.
Who else?
Just me.
With a smile still on his face, he says:
So, where does the smell come from?

When I tune in, I’m staring at a jug. Empty.
I turn on the TV.
I open Paul Auster. A series of thoughts mixes in with everything.
I put out my cigarette. I’m quiet. I don’t move.
I only twig when the water falls on my head.
I lather up over and over.
The food at the lunch bar doesn’t agree with me. Soggy. Stinky.
Worse than the smell from the drain.
It’s my smell and I don’t have to explain anything to anyone.
Not here.
Not here in my own home.
I should have taken a crap before getting in the shower.
The telephone won’t stop ringing. It must be her. It is her. You’re not going to get
rid of me that easily. I’m going to talk to your mother. I’m going to tell her that you
want to call off the wedding with less than a month to go. While you’re at it, give
her my regards. I don’t like calling her. I don’t like her. I don’t like you. I don’t like
anyone.
You show me what you’ve got, I say if I’m interested and how much it’s worth.
Life’s tough. And fuck you.
If she were here, she’d slap me across the face.
She doesn’t like me swearing. I think something’s about to change.
I don’t give a damn about anyone.
I just don’t want people to think the smell from the drain is mine.
I’m going to bed.
I’m not going to dream.
Today’s Saturday.
And that’s why no one enters and no one leaves.
I smoke staring at the ceiling.
I know it’s six. I always wake up at six. I remember the pocket watch.
What was that professor’s name?
I want to get up. But I know breakfast isn’t ready.
I feel lazy.
To hell with it!
Today’s Saturday.
I think about the rump. Rosebud. If I were to die now like Welles, no one would find
my Rosebud. If that rump were here with me now, I’d play with it so much. I’d play
with it like a kid plays with his Rosebud.
They say a piece of arse can drive a man crazy.
I believe it.
Look what this arse has done to me.
I put the grounds in. I turn on the coffeemaker.
I leaf through the newspapers.
I get aroused by the classifieds.
Saturday’s a long day.
Sunday’s worse.
No one enters, no one leaves.
I’m staring at a giant toenail.
I cut it. It flies and disappears in the carpet. I cut another one.
I remember the pigeon. I remember the bald guy. I finish Auster. I open Ferréz.
“Peace to those who deserve it.” That’s what Ferréz said.
I get a slice of bread. I don’t spread butter on it.
Today’s Saturday... “and there’s a great build-up of syphilis”. “Because today’s
Saturday.” I don’t like going downtown on the weekends, otherwise I’d get in the
car and go eat at the lunch bar.
Because today’s Saturday, I’d be capable of telling her that I’d pay just to look at
her arse. I read to the end.
I defrost something in the microwave. I try to eat. I can’t taste anything.
I watch TV. The back-and-forth in close up reminds me of gears.
I fall asleep.
Sunday.
I wake up in the living room. The gears are still working. Cable TV, round-the-clock
entertainment. I make breakfast. I eat a slice of bread. I don’t spread butter on it.
I turn on the radio. Chico Buarque is singing the way I think. I put on a CD. Philip
Glass, Music in twelve parts. It’s not piece of music, it’s an organism. I appreciate
the work as if I were observing an alien creature. A living being. I feel its breathing,
the beating of its heart, its movements.
Life seeks to live.
Art imitates life.
Life imitates life.
Art imitates art.
“Solomon Grundy; born on a Sunday; baptized on Monday; courted on Tuesday;
married on Wednesday; took ill on Thursday; worse on Friday; died on Saturday;
buried on Sunday; and that was the end of Solomon Grundy.”

If the god damn arse were mine.

[...]





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