ISSN 2359-4101

Brazilian Literature in Translation / Literatura Brasileña en Traducción

Issue / Numero

year/año: 2012
issue/numero: # 04

Death without a Name

Author | Autor: Santiago Nazarian

Translated by Lidia Luther

p.16 - 18

When I looked in the mirror, thirty five years had gone by. In the corner
of an eye, behind the smile, reflected in the mirror, a sadness that
must be hidden. Between the teeth, indentations of my own bites. My
life oozing out of my hair. I combed it, one strand at a time. I brushed
one tooth at a time. I put on make-up, one eye at a time, and looked again in the mirror .
I was still there, behind myself, between the tiles, dripping down the drain,
everything I could not hide. Mould in the cracks, hairs in the sink, blood in the toilet,
laughing at me. I kept on scrubbing, my mind a blank. And the more I scrubbed, the
worse the blood spread. And from the drops I made a puddle. From the puddles I
made a lake. From the lake I made an ocean, where I could drown.
I sat in the living room and smoked. A cigarette. Between my fingers. Between
my nicotine stained teeth. Burning with my insecurity. Disappearing like smoke.
Ashes on the floor, between the seams. I picked up a broom, but order, order kept
escaping me.
My footsteps followed me wherever I went. I could not escape. My fingerprints
stained all that I touched. They became ashes, dust and mould. My hands, my lips,
my neck, my heart. I needed to be swept, scrubbed away, brushed, no shower could
ever do it. My footsteps followed me wherever I went and my fingerprints were
always on my fingers.
On the dirty plates. On the fork and knife. In the kitchen, my fresh blood slowly
draining down the sink. Detergent, washing powder. I washed the dishes and the
cutlery. A thousand broken pieces on the floor. All over the kitchen. My fingerprints
on each of them. My fingerprints on the drain. My fingerprints on the knife. My
fingerprints cutting the line around my neck.
Into the garbage. I was thrown away in small pieces. I turned my eyes from all
that I could not face. Orange juice. Chicken bones. A heart beating. Hoping it would
not leak through the house. Hoping the trash bag could hold my weight.
In the bedroom, I made up my bed. I changed the sheets and shook my orgasms
through the window. Pubic hairs blowing in the wind. Blood on the mattress. Rumpled
pillowcase. Every fresh sheet put another wrinkle on my face. On the pillow. I looked
in the mirror, and I was not there anymore. A mess. I changed my clothes. I put away
the smile. I closed every bottom, one by one, each in its own hole. And I, in mine,
trying to close it. One pound more, one pound less. Cheese pastry to be filled. Toilet
to vomit it all down. Tits too small to breastfeed.
Who is asking? Who is looking? Between the legs, between the teeth. Bites on my
breasts. Hairs in the pubis. Retained blood. Open zipper. Belly sucked in. Legs shown
off. Broken nail. Lack of care. I looked in the mirror to see if there was still any hope.
You turned out to be a beautiful woman! Pride beating my face up, leaving
bruises. I looked behind my ears, under the wardrobe. I looked for my tights, put on
my shoes. One at a time. One step at a time, I can go on. My footsteps still follow me,
but at least I am wearing high heels.
I looked at the watch. It was late. But still there was all the time in the world.
Life was not waiting for me. Outside, let the time go by. Outside, let the sun go
down. Outside, let the world end. I had time to end my own. I would close the
windows, I would shut the doors. I would turn off the radio, and the gas. And the
fridge. I would drink the last drops of water. I would take one last look in the mirror.
I would sit on a chair, and I would wait. I would wait for whatever time, whatever
time for my death to arrive.

p. 84 - 87
I sought the tallest tree, the one where bees make their hive. I climbed it as I always
did to enjoy life. And took the rope with me to hang myself.
About time, right? Fourteen years gone, so many imagined deaths, and I had
forgotten about the gibbet. A good strong rope, new and thick and long, soft around
my neck. Caressing me like a warm embrace, a new lover, a woolen scarf, a snake. I
spotted a good, strong branch to hold my weight and tied the rope.
One of the ends posed no problems. If I did not know how to tie one strong
knot, I would make several to be sure. The end around my neck was a little trickier.
The knot could not be undone, could not be jammed, could not be too loose lest to
reach the floor. I needed to be cool, needed to master the technique, needed some
planning. And you thought that only desperate people commit suicide! Look at me!
I only thought about that when I was up there. There was no point dying this way. I
needed a man.
I climbed back down and decided to look for Jeremiah. My cousin was skilful
and indifferent enough to help me. Dying to get there, I walked calmly, feeling that
the more I sped things up, the less I would feel the pleasure of the moment. A long
preparation, from the knot well done to my heated up neck. I sat on the grass and let
Death come in the early evening. I lit a cigarette.
“Mother will not like when she finds out that you are smoking,” said my little
Seraphim. Seriously? the smoke disdainfully snaking from my nose. My poor cousin
still thinks somebody would care. He thought about telling on me to his mother, my
aunt, but gave up before leaving me. I threw him the rope.
Know how to make a knot?
“I know a few”
I only need one. The hangman’s.
“I know the sailor’s hitch. Do you want to see it?”
No, my child. I want to see you make the hangman’s, very pretty, well done,
tight. Otherwise, I will ask your brother.
Seraphim picked up the rope and silently started to make a serious knot. It took
longer than I thought it should. Nine years old, small hands, fooling me. He could
not satisfy me. I took the rope from his hands and thanked him, throwing away my
cigarette butt.
“I know how to do it! Let me finish it!”
You missed your chance. I got up from the grass and went on my way, Seraphim’s
protests following behind me. “Please, let me finish it. I know how to do it.” If I knew
it, the rope would be around your neck. We found Jeremiah before that happened.
He was tightening a screw or something.
“Give me the rope” shouted Seraphim.
“What are you up to?” Jeremiah wanted to know.
The kid wants to hang me with this rope. But I know you can do better than that.
I threw him the rope. Jeremiah was tall and skilful, late in his teens. A stub of hair
on his chin. Blond, unkempt hair. Slim and full of pimples. Thin hands working for me.
He threw me back the rope, the hangman’s ready, without saying a word. He
went back to his loose screw. Seraphim went away indignant. I thanked him with a
long kiss on his cheek. He turned. And kept on looking as I walked to the gallows.
I wondered if I should wear a gossamer dress, long and thin, to float while my
limp body swings in the air. So everybody would think I was a virgin, young and
romantic. It would be beautiful. But I had no dresses, no time, no money, no virginity.
So it had to be my old tee, my jeans shorts. I climbed the tree, tied the rope, seven
knots around the branch.
Below I saw my cousin Valentim, the one in the middle, my age, pimples and
bad hair from the older; stubbornness and calories from the younger. I thought how
funny it would be to fall right on top of him with the rope around my neck. But he
would freak out and let me loose. Hey, Valentim, want to push me?
“What are you doing up there?” The sunlight behind me made him squint.
I am getting ready to jump on top of you with all my teenage weight. I would
suggest you push me back, to be free of the burden. I promise I will not tell your
parents, nor your brothers. It will be our secret.
Valentim did not understand. For him poetry was drunkenness. But he was a
teenager. Would refuse nothing to a girl.
“OK,” he said.
And I flew like a bird in the sky, like fish in the sea, like the chicken stuck in my
throat, choking, strangling.

p. 142 - 144

Mako was eating sardines in a downtown bar. Fan on the ceiling. Playing shadows.
And cockroaches hinding in each of them., and each one crawling with a
thousand stories. Crawling over Mako’s body, with his shirt open, over his scars, the
smell of fish and of something gone. Me. Traces still under his armpits. Between his
pubic hairs. Something not yet washed away, scrubbed away, set free.
Cockroaches can feel.
Thousands of stories crawling in a downtown bar. And Mako chews his food,
oily fingers, oily counter, oily trousers over a body that is lean and hard. A good meal
to satisfy any woman. Knife to cut, teeth to bite. And chew.
Mako thought of me, when I no longer thought of it. My hands on the knife,
cutting at the fish. My hands over his face, moving his hair away from his forehead.
My hand wiping away his sweat, opening his trousers. My hands pulling at his
trousers, holding his feet. My hands in the mouth of the dragon, crawling with a
thousand stories.

And another hand, heavy, masculine, tapping his shoulder. He turned.
“You know this girl?”
My identity in the hands of examiners. Leticia no. Lorena. Beer to swallow. The
mouth full to deny the truth. “No,” never met her, never met me.
Eye to eye. Examiners around him. Checking. A reflex of Lorena in his retina? No.
But my smell was still there. Behind the fish and the sweat. Between cockroaches
and armpits. In the cracks, in the gaps, in the shadows, I had been his woman. My
oriental lover, with knife in his hands, having lunch.
And the way he cut through the sardines. The way he chews with pleasure. The
way he found excuses for the dirt and the fat. I was in his belly, my death digesting
inside. Drops of blood, gallons of oil. No one would feel it. Only the examiners. That
is why they were there.
“How you hold that knife with gusto, young man? We could even say you are a
And he was. Cutting fish, cleaning the scales, selling it in the public market.
Everybody knew and could buy it. There was no secret. “Is that why you came to
interrogate me?”
Better be careful. My death caused a great mess in a cheap hotel room. Nobody
wanted to clean it up. The examiners would use the mop on the first one who crawled
near it. Case closed. Just another woman, in just another afternoon, just another
death, to justify their salaries. My dears, I justify your salaries.
So, I take the knife and slide it into Mako’s back. I open myself, I throw myself, he
has to clean it all up. He goes away, as if nothing happened. Work to do, new women
to meet. But I stay, longer than he can forget. Fingerprints, DNA, drops and hairs, in
his hairs. Strands of hair, between his teeth. Lipstick smears in his collar. A woman
like me cannot be killed that easy.
They will examine every inch of you to find traces of me. They will try a little of
your taste and take a sample of your kisses. They will rub your skin and shave your
hair. They will take down your trousers and spread open your legs. They will mark
your back and kill your dragon. Until everything that went through me is spread
out on the floor. A huge sacrifice for someone who never loved me. Then again for
someone who never loved me, you made a huge mess.
But before all that, the examiners leave. They leave everything behind. They leave
Mako to his last meal. He is already condemned. I grab on to his legs. He is not going
too far. Let the cockroaches keep him company. Let the cockroaches be his witnesses.

p.149 - 153

Valentim opens my grave with his own hands. Idiot. Soil under his nails. Worms
in my stomach. Let them inside me. Leave them with me. He opens the coffin
and the light stings my eyes, in my memory, in my imagination.
“And that Lorena stays always in our hearts,” like a parasite. Forget me, kill me.
I will not give you palpitations. Seal the coffin. Seal the coffin.
He does not forget. He opens me, he closes me. He asks me and answers me,
the dead cousin he never had. He wants to know who I was, wants to know where I
come from. How my body was and where it was found. Wants to know why, wants
to see me closer. “It is enough now, Valentim. Leave your cousin alone.”
We never had time together, right, my little one? Closer to my age, but much
less, much smaller. I was a full woman, or dozens of little pieces of her spread out.
You were just a growing boy. We did not help each other, did not enjoy. We threw it
away. Now it is too late. Lorena is gone. And suddenly she seems more interesting,
more mysterious, more attractive to Valentim.
Death does strange things. Certifies you as a noblewoman. Turns you into a
Saint or a Queen. A killer. Or crazy. Something I must be. One woman less, I could
not. One woman more, yes. Queen. Crazy. The Crazy Queen in the farm, Valentim.
Nobody wants to talk about this. Forget it. I die in the arms of Seraphim, I kill in
the arms of Jeremiah. I live in the lips of Valentim. “Shut up.” If the guilt makes them
clench their teeth, they chew on a slice of bread. And day after day they swallow my
death in silence, at breakfast.
Not Valentim. He spits, vomits, regurgitates. He becomes more like me, while I
become less. Heredity. After all, we are family. Did you notice the shape of our nose?
Did you not see the colour of my hairs…? pubic, that is. Have you paid attention to
the curve of my waist, deflecting the guided missiles?
He pokes me with a stick. He sticks me at the sharp end of a pencil. A drawing.
A journal. A torn page. Pictures, dresses and hidden hairs. Treasures. The secret of
my death in traces of my life. Take care of it all, Valentim. This scarf can strangle. This
mirror can crack. My hair still grows, among yours, in your hands.
Time goes by, for me and for him. He goes up, I go down. A going-up to go
away and a come-down to come back. Boy, boy, boy. Fight against the violence of
time that takes over your body and steals mine. The same that punish the hairs in
your body makes the hair in your head grow. The same that slips through the fingers,
makes you bite your nails.
Nobody wants to talk about this. Valentim keeps me in silence. He gathers my
ideas and swallows them. A woman inside of him, less of a boy, because to occupy
that space, I need to push something out.
He vomits, bleeds, menstruates, gets sick, becomes a teenager. He becomes
more of me, while I become less. Heredity. After all, we are family. Did you not notice
the shape of our nose? The curve of our waist? The colour of our lips… smeared?
He prods me with a piece of cotton. He sees me in the prick of the pencil. A
woman. Make-up. A torn boy. Pictures, dresses, long hairs. Treasures. The secret of
my death in traces of a new life. Take care, Valentim. This scarf can strangle. This
mirror can crack. My hairs still grow, between his, between his legs.
Time goes by, for me and for you. You go up, I go down. A going-up to go
away, a come-down to come back, in a single jump. Boy, boy, boy. Be careful not to
fall. Fight against the violence of time that takes over your body and steals mine.
With razors, he punishes all the hairs but leaves the head intact. The same that slips
through the fingers, let the nails grow, mine. And yours.
Nobody wants to talk about this, but they notice my stare in his smeared
eyes. Black. Red. Tears or make-up? Valentim keeps me in silence. Takes my sins
and swallows them. A woman inside him and less of a boy. A boy inside him and a
woman put on the outside.
He vomits, bleeds, feels guilty, gets sick and becomes hard. He becomes more
of me, while I become less. Heredity. After all, we are family. Have you not notice in
Jeremiah’s eyes looking at you? Have you not seen Seraphim’s lips? Have you not
notice how much he has grown, since I was last in his arms?
He jabs me with tweezers. He asks me in front of the mirror. A woman, how does
she do? Less of a boy. Pictures, dresses, magazines and long hairs. Treasures. The
secret of my life on his way to death. Be careful, Valentim. This scarf can strangle.
This mirror can crack. Those tweezers can gouge your eyes that earth will devour.
Time goes by for him, no more for me. He goes down, he goes down. Woman,
woman, voman. Be careful not to fall too fast. Fight against the violence on the
streets that steals your body and spits it back. With razors he punishes the hairs, the
veins and the fat in his body, inside him, in his bed. The same one who pays for his
lipsticks, his dresses, my memories.
Nobody wants to talk about this. Nobody answers his calls. So Valentim gives
me away in the streets. A woman lost in the world. A man inside him. And a boy,
very, very far away.
He vomits, bleeds, feels guilty, gets sick and dies. He becomes more of me,
while I become less. Heredity. After all, we are family. Have you not noticed the
worms in the drain? Have you not noticed the speed of the cars? Have you not heard
the alarm in the streets, in the buses, in the seedy rooms? Have you not noticed how
much the city grew since you left home?
He touches me with his fingers. He asks me in the puddle, in the gutter. Less of
a woman. Good try. Pictures, hairs and dresses. Ripped apart. Discarded treasures.
The secret of my death in his. Now you understand. Valentim, this scarf strangles.
This mirror cracks. Those tweezers gouge your eyes that the earth will devour.
Time goes by, but we hardly notice here below. I will keep you company, if that
is what you need. But be careful not go further down than myself. Six feet is enough.
Fight against the violence of worms that take away your body and devour it whole.
Chewing on hairs and veins and the fat that covers his body, inside him, in his coffin.
The same ones that wipe out his lipstick, his dresses, our memories.
No one else wants to talk about this anymore. No one would have looked after
you in the emergency room. So, Valentim, find me in the streets. A woman thrown
in the gutter.

to the top