The City

pistola

I saw this guy crouched in front of my car, letting the air out of the front tire. I was maybe 100 yards away and I came up behind him as quickly and quietly as I could. When I was about 10 feet away I recognized him: no doubt about it, he was one of those dirty-rag guys, you know, the guys with filthy rags who’re always coming up to your car when the light turns red and offering to clean your windshield with the world’s most disgustingly filthy dirty rag, the guys who offer to watch your car in a bad neighborhood for only $5 but you know if you don’t pay them, they’ll steal your hubcaps, windshield wipers, tires, wheels, everything that isn’t nailed to the car, so you’ve got no choice, you fork over your last fiver, all the time telling yourself this is it, this is the last straw, I really have to move out of this fucking dirty crazy city before I turn into one of these crazy dirty freaks myself – and this guy, my local dirty-rag guy, he’s taking all the air out of my tire, probably cause he got pissed off, cause I parked my car there in the one empty spot on the street, the one spot he thinks belongs to him, where he does business, offering to fleece more idiots like me out of their $5. And he’s muttering to himself like those crazy guys always do and now I’m so close, I’m less than 10 inches away, like the shadow you never see till it falls on you, like the aroma of that new perfume I can’t afford, Carnal Iris, which I’ve only tried in Palacio de Hierro where they give you free samples from ‘testers’, one second you don’t smell it, the next it’s like this carnivorous flower is all over you, taking you prisoner and driving you insane (soy Totalmente Carnal), and the snotty blue-haired bitch who was behind the counter never noticed the tiny bottle disappearing inside my pocket, and meanwhile my rag guy is so intent on his fucked-up criminal enterprise he still doesn’t notice me, doesn’t feel me breathing on his neck, and I’m feeling pretty insane myself as I pull the gun out from inside my jacket but when I press its metal barrel into the soft flesh of the nape of his neck he freezes and my voice is so low most people wouldn’t hear it, but I know he does as I tell him, “that air you took out of my tire, now you can put it all back in, inflate it just like it was,” and I realize his pants are getting all stained as he’s peeing himself and a little stream of it is flowing down onto the pavement where he’s crouching, and when he mutters one word under his breath, a word that begins with ‘b’ and ends with ‘itch’, my voice almost has a smile in it as I add, “and don’t get one drop of that on my car, cause if you do, I’ll turn your face into a new rag, you got that, Jack?” and when he doesn’t answer, the barrel presses a little deeper into the base of his spine and I’m asking again, “you got that?” and he doesn’t want to say it, but the metal is pressing harder and finally he grunts, “yes,” and I go, “yes, what?” and there’s a long moment and finally, he really doesn’t want to fucking say those two words but he’s got no choice cause he knows just how crazy people get in the City, so he does, “yes, ma’am”.

And I’m grinning to myself as he’s pumping the tire back up, putting back the air he stole from me, and my free hand, the one that’s not holding the gun, slides inside my pocket, closing around the Carnal Iris and the next instant that cannibalistically dangerous smell is invading my nostrils and I can’t help my instinctive reaction, my reptilian brain taking over, losing any final veneer of civilization, of compromise, as my finger tightens on the trigger and –

No.

It didn’t happen.

None of it. Except in my head, where it happens every day … and except on the street … the street outside my apartment … the street where I go to work … the street outside your apartment … every street I know, cause that’s the way we do things around here … that’s the way we roll … in the City.

Original text by Adriana Degetau
Translation by Miguel Tejada-Flores

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Eyestrain

llamada
My cell phone started ringing again at 3 in the morning. Which is not all that unusual given my schedule lately: I’ve been going to sleep somewhere around 3 or 4 in the morning. But I didn’t answer. I reached down, switched the phone to mute, and kept on reading, even though the lines and the words were swimming in front of me. My eyes have been feeling really tired, I’ve been suffering from excessive eyestrain. Which is not all that surprising seeing how as I’ve been using them to see things with for 25 years of my life. And I’m not counting those first few years, because that’s when you’re learning to see everything around you, to focus your eyes, to really look at stuff. But I don’t get why those doctors are always telling you, you have to rest your eyes but how the hell can I? What with reading, and watching TV, and working on my laptop, not to mention that I’m always staring at people in the streets, people stuck in traffic, or on buses or whatever. There’s so damn much to look at. For sure, in previous generations, you know who I’m talking about, when people didn’t have much life expectancy, they were already elderly at 40. And when they died, their eyes were in great shape, they never suffered a day of eyestrain in their entire lives. How could their eyes get tired when the only things they ever looked at were the leaves of trees, the earth, the moon (not the sun, obviously), the stars, fire, firewood, or rats, or moths, or the swollen udders of the cows they were milking, or the pork kidneys they were cooking up with mushrooms and onions…? Who was that scientist, the one who went nearly blind after trying to study the Sun through the telescope he’d just built? Galileo, wasn’t it? Talk about eyestrain…! There’s only a small handful of people in his class, the demented geniuses, the intense obsessive researchers who went blind or lost their sight through absent-mindedness or just because of pure and simple exhaustion. And what about the scribes. Or the truly dedicated readers. The pirates. The warriors. The abused mothers or daughters. Special cases, all of them. Who all suffered from…from special kinds of eyestrain. But not ordinary people, not the rest of us. Unless –

Unless maybe there was a rare disease – a virus of some kind, or one of those parasites that slowly suck the life-force from inside you and implacably consume every one of your internal organs, always saving the brain for last. The brain and the eyes. (Are brains really tastier? George Romero thought so in ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and so has every other zombie-obsessed filmmaker or writer ever since but…are they, really? Or could some other body part be that truly gourmet delicacy which obsessed cannibalistic foodies will spend years searching for?) Unless –

Unless the disease was more widespread, an epidemic, in all those houses with no soap and no personal hygiene, all those beds that never get cleaned, the sheets never ironed. Breeding grounds for weird mutant alien viruses. And think of all that dirt, the unwashed hands of poor working men and women, the unclean hands of slaves or indentured servants. With those conditions it’s no wonder that the plague – this unstoppable lethal pestilence – starts literally eating away at your very flesh, little by little, consuming every part of you and finally reaching the muscles and tendons of your eyes, and the surrounding layers of flesh and sinew. Leaving you not just with unimaginably horrible eyestrain, but literally with no eyes at all…unless –

Unless you were abandoned, alone, in the middle of the night, smack dab in the middle of the largest wooded area of the entire region, a place where a band of crows – no, not a band, not a tribe, what’s the word? Yes…a “murder”! A Murder of Crows! are congregating – and they swoop down, attacking you in savage avian waves, like the remake of that Hitchcock film, and they literally pluck and rip your eyes from their sockets. Or unless –

Unless you happened to be downtown, leaving a bar or whatever, and you stumble across some violent drunk, in the middle of a dark, abandoned street or alley (and weren’t they all dark and abandoned back then?), and he just slides the tip of his razor-sharp knife into your eye by mistake (it’s always a mistake), it was an accident, I swear to God, an honest accident! Or unless –

Unless you run across an angry and misunderstood artist, a Caravaggio, fleeing down the main thoroughfares, running hell-for-leather to escape from his vengeful pursuers, you don’t see him coming till it’s too late and he shoves you out of his way and you stumble and fall head-first and face-first and eyes-first directly into a small mound of hardened brittle straw whose needle-sharp points pierce your cheeks, your lips and your eyes, blinding you.

That’s what I would call eyestrain. And –

My cell phone starts ringing again, distracting me from these all-too-vivid and too visual images in my mind’s eye (or maybe they’re not in my mind’s eye…but in my eye’s mind? do eyes have their own minds? do they operate independently from the rest of us? is that why I can’t control the scary images which sometimes come to me, at 4 in the morning, after drinking too much Absinthe? Or too much of that new, cheap brand of mezcal, the only one I can afford, ‘Los 400 Ciegos’, the Four Hundred Blind men? No, Adriana, I tell myself, don’t let yourself go there) –

The phone is still ringing.

I grab for it but I miss it. I can’t seem to see where it is … I can’t seem to see much of anything right now, but somehow my blind, fumbling fingers find the small vibrating mass of metal and plastic and electronics (vibrating the same way those microscopic worms do, the ones which eat your eyes in the final phase of the ocular virus) –

I answer it: ‘Hello! Who’s there?’

There’s no answer. I blink my eyes rapidly, fighting tears, trying to see the world around me again, the world I’ve always taken for granted, my office, the pile of dirty clothes, the half-filled ashtray, the empty bottle of 400 Ciegos, the last drops in the glass next to my laptop – the world I would literally give my right arm, right now, to see, just to glimpse, once more.

‘Who is this? Don’t play games with me! Or I swear, I’ll–

The stranger’s voice is cold and gravelly as –

‘Don’t get cute with us, babe. We’ll be there in an hour for the money you owe us. And you better have all of it or…’ (and you can almost hear the evil smile in his voice) ‘…we’ll cut your eyes out.’

I’m frozen. The blood in my veins has turned to ice water. I’m not breathing, I’m an eskimo, a zombie, I can barely form my lips and mouth into the words –

‘Wh–what?’

Laughter.

The goddamn faceless stranger on the other end of the line is laughing at me. And this time, when he speaks, I recognize his voice, his unmistakeable accent—

‘Hahahahaha, I’m joking, Adri. Don’t have a fucking heart attack.’

My heart is beating again, and something else is happening, little by little, the impossible thing I wanted more than anything else: objects are coming into focus…the world is reappearing around me.

‘Miguel Angel? Is that you?’

He’s still laughing. My room is coming into sharp relief. I can see everything now. The stack of unpaid bills. The half-empty containers from Hara-Kiri, my favorite Japanese takeout. The tightly rolled dollar bill….which I sometimes use as a telescope for watching ants through. The old clock, which I inherited from my crazy aunt, the one which supposedly stopped on the day she died. And last but definitely not least, my unfinished glass of 400 Ciegos.

‘Of course it’s me. I’m calling cause we’re having a little emergency. The guy who was writing the front page story, Vincent, he’s in the hospital…’

I need a drink. I lift the glass, raise it to my lips. And freeze. Something small and round is bobbing in the clear liquid…something that looks suspiciously like…. No. It can’t be….

Miguel Angel continues, totally clueless, like most of the editors I’ve worked for: ‘Vincent got attacked outside of a bar, some drunk with a knife who cut out his – hey are you still there?’

‘I’m still here’, I tell him. The tiny eyeball stares up at me.

‘So, we need another story. And we need it now.’

I raise the glass to my lips and chug it all down in one swallow, mezcal, 400 Ciegos, eyeball and all. I bite down on that small round globe. It tastes exactly like one of those olives, stuffed with gorgonzola. I’m smiling.

‘Okay, Michelangelo,’ I tell him. ‘Any particular theme?’

A long beat. The silence is broken by…a sound I’ve never heard before. It’s my aunt’s clock. It’s ticking again. Tick. Tick. Tick.

‘Can you write me a story which starts with a phone call at 3 in the morning?’

Texto de Adriana Degetau
Traducción de Miguel Tejada-Flores

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My stalker is wearing my clothing

peeping tom

It was sometime around June, last year, when I started suspecting I had a stalker. You know, like when you get that feeling someone’s watching you, but when you turn around, there’s no one there. And you feel like a fool.

My stalker is a man.

I say stalker – not someone who’s following me or always after me – because these days saying ‘stalker’ is such a cliché, that makes it sound less real.

But the whole thing came out in the open this week and it started when I lost my shopping cart at the supermarket. I was trying to find some ripe tomatoes and when I turned around, my shopping cart wasn’t there anymore.

“Weird,” I thought, “why do these things always happen to me?” Seriously. Who the hell loses their supermarket shopping cart inside the supermarket? That’s the kind of idiot I am. Or maybe just hopelessly absent-minded.

So then I had to go back, get another cart, and go looking for all the same things again. I guess the good news was that this time around, I only got what I really needed, the basics. No more impulse buys I couldn’t really afford, like bacon marmalade. Or like those hyper expensive coffee beans, the ones from Indonesia which some feral cat eats and partially digests and poops out, and which cost an arm and a leg. Stuff I really didn’t need.

So I pay at the cash register, and get everything into my car. I drive back to the building where my apartment is, I park the car and then I start going up the stairs in slow motion like a tortoise cause I’m loaded down with eight or nine bags of groceries. At this point I’m so hungry my stomach is growling louder than my neighbor’s bulldog. “But before I can eat,” I remind myself, “I really have to finish editing those articles so they can be uploaded onto the Home page for the morning edition.” Cause if I don’t finish my work I won’t get paid and if I don’t get paid how can I afford to go shopping for groceries?

But as I’m walking in, I notice that the light is on in the kitchen. And there’s also a light on in my bedroom.

“Fuck.”

And then – and this is the weird part – in the kitchen I see all the other groceries – the ones I’d picked out the first time around – the ones that had been in my shopping cart, the first cart, the one that disappeared.

“What the fuck?!”

I’m really freaking now. And nervous as hell, what should I do? Call the cops? Get a weapon, to defend myself? But no, I’m like one of those brainless blonde heroines in horror movies who always waltz right into the ‘bad place’ where if you had half a brain, you’d know the psychokiller was waiting for you, and the whole audience is screaming at them, ‘No! Don’t go in there!’ – but they do it anyway –

That’s exactly what I did. I walked into my bedroom and –

There was my stalker.

Sitting in my chair, in front of my desk, at my laptop (and the part of my brain which is still functioning is asking: how the hell did he figure out the password to turn my laptop on?), and on the screen –

No! I can see what’s on the laptop screen – he’s editing my articles, the ones I’m supposed to finish tonight, to finish right now and –

And the stalker – I still can’t see his face, so I don’t really know yet what he looks like, or even if it’s a ‘he’ like I’ve thought all along – the stalker is wearing my clothing, and not just any random clothes, he’s wearing my favorite teeshirt, the ‘Bad Bat’ one and –

And right next to the laptop is my lipstick. My favorite lipstick, that expensive French brand, “Protège-moi” (Protect Me…from Myself), a deep blood-red. And it’s open …

I’m still at the wrong angle to see his face, but as I involuntarily jerk sideways I glimpse his lips, covered with Protège-moi, and his tongue slides out, how can a guy have such a feminine tongue? and it’s licking the blood-red lipstick off his lips which are unusually full and –

I don’t hesitate, I don’t even think, my hand shoots out and – Click! – I flip the lights off.

Texto original de Adriana Degetau
Traducción de Miguel Tejada-Flores

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Los irónicos

Chekhov2

Las personas tristes y los melancólicos siempre escriben cosas alegres, mientras que los animosos deprimen a la gente con sus escritos. Yo soy un hombre alegre; o al menos me parece que me he divertido durante los primeros treinta años de mi vida.
–Anton Chéjov

(Murió a los 44)

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Selfie del Universo

Ahí estamos. Yo viendo el universo en una foto, formando parte de ella. Viendo puntos, que forman mundos, que forman nuestro mundo, que nos forma para sacarle una foto, para verse a sí mismo.

milkyway

Fuente: Spacecorp Instagram

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Colgar la línea del tiempo

El niño de 1o años agarró la línea del tiempo que estaba frente a él, la colocó como un caleidoscopio sobre su ojo derecho y vio el punto, el inicio, el final y el transcurso en un solo vistazo, en una sola mirada. El destello del supuesto Big Bang, los dinosaurios, otros animales y plantas desconocidos, su gato -que murió atropellado cuando él tenía siete-, vio a sus abuelos, sus tíos… Se vio a sí mismo de 1 año y medio sentado en la bacinica llorando por dejar el pañal, se vio a sí mismo hace tres años comiendo sal debajo de la mesa escondido de sus papás, se vio a sí a mismo viéndose a sí mismo en un caleidoscopio formando y juntando figuras de elementos y seres del tiempo y espacio que fueron, son y serán, moviéndose al ritmo del caleidoscopio, cayendo en sí mismos, casi tropezando, reformando figuras de lo que ha sido y será, helechos jurásicos sosteniendo la caída de las salas médicas laparoscópicas, calamares gigantes luminiscentes sostenidos de torres de luz de Iztapalapa… el niño creando nuevas formas y elementos entre agua, aire, tierra, fuego, ondas de luz, sonido y silencio en el espacio.

Muy entretenido. Lo llamaron a comer. Colgó la línea del tiempo como quien cuelga la katana.

caleidoscopio

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Never, Never, Land

rebecca.PNG
Foto de Rebecca Rütten

Cerveza de desayuno, desayuno por cena, levantarse pa cerrar ventanas y cortinas “y cosas que no te puedo ni contar” -he oído decir.

Una explicación del Never – Never Land mochilero nicaragüense, de  Cultura Colectiva

El proyecto fotográfico de Rebecca Rütten

Y UNKLE con su Never, Never, Land:

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