‘. . . and the siege dissolved to peace, and the horsemen
all rode down
in sight of the waters’
St. John of the Cross
Friday, March 20.
As I saw the lights of Mexico City spread out below us before landing I caught myself mentally humming the tune of ‘Volver’ – an unbearable affectation. Just as Carlos Gardel sings in that classic tango . . . the snows of time have silvered my temples. His turned silver because he was away for twenty years, mine because premature gray hair runs in my family: I’m condemned to suffer low-impact drama. I remembered my grandfather saying that Agustín Lara was a hick whose one single virtue was that he liberated us from the tango thanks to his impossible talent for composing boleros. Then I forced myself to think about Guadalupe Trigo, the later improviser of boleros, who says that at night the city dresses up like a mariachi. But that doesn’t really describe it: it’s more like the Milky Way, a sacred host of fire which you must swallow whole, without – chewing.
I wonder what Teresa would think if she could see me with so much gray hair. Since I bought a computer for my apartment and managed to get myself online, I’ve been back in touch with el Distrito Federal. They tell me that she’s been living in Mexico ever since she broke up with my student, that when she runs into one of our mutual acquaintances she always asks about me. I doubt that she’s weathered the silent ravages of time very well either.
My mother and my sister picked me up at the airport. I will stay with them for the weekend and on Monday I’ll go over to Raul’s apartment: my family’s house is too crowded – there I’ll be better able to practice the monkish discipline to which I’m accustomed. They’re not happy with the idea, but they realise that it’s better than nothing. I’m going to stay with Raul through the week, then on Saturday and Sunday I’ll be back with them again.
Monday, March 23.
Too much family. At my mother’s house I was able to stick to my schedule, but the demand for socialising there is heavy: my brothers show up every little while with their wives and kids, and then my aunts and uncles come around, and then the visits with Grandpa who’s been sick forever.
I’ll be better here. I’m staying in a room that seems much more like my apartment in Mount Pleasant: a bed – iron, perfect for a convalescent like me – a table, and a wicker chair; it even has a window. The kitchen is an abandoned wreck – being a restaurant owner, Raul only uses it for making coffee – but I’ll see what can be done. At any rate, I have enough business appointments the whole week to end up eating out every night.
Today we’re going out to have a drink, for old times’ sake. It’s Monday, so I imagine we’ll take it easy. I have a lot to get done in just a few days. Some gallery owners from Colonia Roma want to make me a business proposal. I don’t feel quite ready to come back and live in Mexico City, but here I am, after all. Tomorrow I’m going to the Universidad Nacional to visit the archives at the History Institute. They’ve got a collection of women’s letters from the colonial era that I’ve never heard about before. If I want to capitalise on my run of good luck that started after doing Lard, it’s absolutely necessary for me to publish a cookbook: my tome about eating habits is too dense for the rather frivolous direction my life has taken, something I no longer really understand.
Tuesday, March 24.
I hadn’t remembered Mexico City being so wild. We went to a simple, nicely designed bar where they serve tapas. Despite being Monday, it was full – it must have been past eleven o’clock when we got there. We were all chatting pretty carelessly. On a trip to the bathroom I ran into Esther, whom I’d dated back during the sad, hazy years of high school. She got married, then divorced, earned a relatively worthless postgraduate degree in France, and now she’s doing well as a psychotherapist. She introduced me to her boyfriend. He’s pretty much what you’d expect for someone in her situation: bald but otherwise hairy, almost fat, patient, well-intentioned. We didn’t talk much. She’s around 130 pounds, maybe 110, very curly blonde hair: a Polish princess maturing into a queen in exile.
When I returned from the men’s room, Raul was already chatting with two women about a thousand years younger than us. Who knows where he found them. One was a big talker, over the top, perfect for him; the other one had crooked teeth but a moving smile. Esther walked by on her way out, and when she came over to say good-bye to me, told me it would be nice if we could chat, that we might see each other later at such-and-such a bar. It made sense to me because I was already drunk. Raul took notice.
We dumped the girls when it became obvious that they were too nice and modest – we left them in good company with a couple of lesbian filmmakers who might find a way to cure them – and we went to the bar where Esther was waiting for me.
She said Hi and I didn’t peel my tongue off of hers until I got way down deep, far enough to taste the café con leche she’d drunk with her breakfast. I felt all the vertebrae in her tiny, childlike backbone, and she pretended to be indignant that I’d unfastened her bra in public. I told her I was so loaded she should be thankful I didn’t just tear her shirt off. Now, up close to her, I admired once again her tiny ears with their little girl’s shiny hoop earrings, barely visible. She smelled the same as always, the quasi-synthetic odour of distillation shared by all women who don’t sweat. Before leaving we snorted some coke in the bathroom vestibule.
It was hard for us to walk because Esther was wearing a pair of jeans that were too tight to admit my hand, which I kept glued to her ass the whole time. I had to unsnap them before we could get comfortable in the back of Raul’s car, where I went right back to groping the plush pissoir of her sex. Something inside of me made peace with my lost childhood – one without Baudelaire, without rhyme, without a sense of smell, as López Velarde said – as I kept on masturbating her in the back seat.
Once we got into the iron bed and carried out the first assault – pure muscle and fury for all our missed opportunities – she said, as she turned around and offered me her backside, that the second time she wanted me to put it up her ass. I started rubbing my nose up and down her milk-white spine, and then ran my tongue from the seam between her cheeks up to the back of her neck. We didn’t do that when we were kids, I told her. She turned to look at me from the persecuted depths of her nearly transparent eyes, and said that her being married to the world’s biggest idiot had at least been good for something. Then she began stroking my member with her hands. She meticulously examined my sex, running her fingertips along the folds of skin that were expanding from the miraculous touch of her skin and my memory. You’re the only uncircumcised man I’ve gone to bed with, she told me. Then she asked me to stand up and she raised herself into a sitting position. She smelled it carefully, kissed it, and licked it from the scrotum to the bulb; she took it in her two hands and slipped the tip into her mouth. She caressed it slowly with her tongue, sucked on it, and tickled me at the base of my shaft. I turned her around again, working it between the hemispheres of her ass. She stretched out an arm from beneath her open rosebud and caressed my testicles. She turned and looked me in the eyes and said: Come inside, with her face somewhere between fear and fervour.
I slipped my penis in and out of her vagina several times to get lubricated. She was so worked up that my balls knocking against her clitoris stimulated her even more. She buried her face in the bed and opened herself up. I pushed inside and she gripped the edge of the mattress and yowled. Her back moved like one single muscle as it flexed with each new thrust. She took my left hand and clasped it to her breasts – overcome by gravity – snorting so wildly I thought it would earn me a standing ovation from the neighbours when I stepped outside the next day. We did it once more, this time with pure tenderness, before passing out.
I woke up really late, totally destroyed but still savouring a generous satisfaction. I rousted her out of bed and she told me not to worry, she had no patients until the afternoon. I told her I was in a hurry, that I had to go and do some research. I didn’t even offer her an apple for the road. She asked me for the house phone number and I told her I didn’t know what it was. Once I was good and sure that she wasn’t going to return, I went back to bed.
Raul is taking a bath. I don’t remember who he brought home, if he brought anyone, that is. We’re going to go have lunch at a nearby restaurant – I’m in no shape to go to the market to buy any better ingredients than the horrors he’s got in his fridge. The archives will have to wait until tomorrow; my pupils are shrunk down to pinpoints and the bright light from the copier would be unbearable.
Wednesday, March 25.
Tijuana. Around 130 pounds, maybe 110, gigantic eyes, matte-black hair, the occasional diabolic smile, married to something that seems like a Russian, slow but friendly. She used to go out with Raul until the days came when we all turned into predators of our own karma: they’d believed in the nice little house with flowers in the windows, in having little children, in taking them to Mass with their hair neatly combed on Sundays. When they broke up she took vengeance on him by sleeping with all his friends, which both did and did not include me: even though I’d always lusted after her, once I had her at my disposal, my loyalty to Raul proved stronger than my desire. Either that or I was really stoned and I just couldn’t get it up.
We ran into her when she was having lunch with her husband at the restaurant, so we sat with them and started talking shit about half of Mexico City. We’ve got quite a few friends in common, Teresa among them – she told me that Teresa doesn’t have anyone steady right now although she’s got no lack of company, and insisted that she’d been asking about me. At a certain moment she discreetly placed her hand on my leg.
More people we know showed up: my first editor, the dyke filmmakers on whom we dumped those young girls last night – they still haven’t forgiven us – another refugee from the history department who ended up a millionaire by founding his own crisis-management agency: specialising in World War II turned out to be good for something. He was with his wife and a baby. During dessert Tijuana sent her husband off to do some lowly errands, dispatching him with a wave like a goddess. Before he’d even finished saying goodbye she’d already moved her hand to my fly.
More people arrived along with the coffee: the culture editor for a magazine supplement and his assistant reviewer, a young man who must be his lover – even his wife calls him Socrates – and a movie critic I hadn’t seen since graduate school, followed by his wife, who’s obviously involved with Raul. We went to have some drinks at a place nearby. I stayed sitting at the bar chatting with Tijuana: she quit dancing, teaches Italian classes, eats lunch every day at her parents’ house, and is generally happy. She had to get home at a reasonable hour and I wanted to get to bed early, so we left a little before five o’clock and went to a hotel that she suggested. They were offering a Tuesday discount and gave us a Jacuzzi suite for the price of a regular room.
The thing with Tijuana is that she always ended up causing a scene – there were so many times when we were younger that I pulled her out of some club totally bombed and half naked – so I just let her do her thing. You’ve got to treat me like your whore, she told me in an almost motherly tone as she sat me down on a tiny chair in the gigantic room they’d given us. Then she started undressing. She’s still got the same amazing body she had when she was young, except for her breasts, which have shrunk, thanks to the horrific diets I’m sure she follows. Her buttocks are full and high, her sex mysterious, nearly hidden beneath a thick, trimmed bush. She’d kissed me on the sly in the bar and then, in the taxi, with an almost painful intensity. Once we were in the room she didn’t kiss me again until she was naked. She still smells like some stone-age fruit locked away in my Neanderthal memory, which is the one I access the most.
She removed my shoes and socks – the sole offensively placed on her thigh while she untied them – then stood me up and undid all my buttons. She showed a demonic smile when she felt my member lurking around, searching for the opening in my underpants. She played with it for a while, first with her hand and then with her nose and tongue. Once in bed, I first let my face melt into her vagina. Then I plunged in ruthlessly, ripping into her as she begged me through clenched teeth to grip her ass with both hands. Although she was soaking wet, she was still very tight, so we did a lot of wriggling and dancing, and as I started thrusting it felt like something ruptured: if our hips didn’t synch up just right she dug her nails into the base of my spine. I asked her two or three times if I was hurting her; with glassy eyes she told me that was how she liked it.
We did it twice, almost back to back. In between I entertained myself playing with the fine soft hair that grows around her coccyx. I’ve got a little tail, she told me. We phoned her husband: she told him that she was out with Teresa and that they were heading to the movies. Then she phoned Teresa and told her that she was with her lover (another demonic smile as she rolled around on the bed), so would she please not call her house. We put on our underwear and sat down to chat in the little sitting room. We brewed some coffee and from her bag she produced a package of Choco-Rolls that made me melt with tenderness.
When I got up to piss she followed me. She watched the stream in a saintly rapture and stuck her hand into it. The liquid glazed her olive skin, ran down her fiery veins, splashing up in a tiny cascade as it struck her wedding ring and found its way blocked. When I finished, she caught the last drops on her index finger and brought them to the tip of her tongue. She licked her palm, then dried the back of it on her bush, which she went on playing with for a while. My turn, she said, and sat down on the toilet. Her glassy urethral pitter-patter started to wind me up again: I took off my T-shirt and pulled her nose to my belly button. She pulled down my boxers and took my member in one hand, my testicles in the other, smelling herself in the folds of skin. She licked and caressed it until it rose up. Wait for me, she said, tearing off a piece of toilet paper and standing to wipe herself. I grabbed her by the hand, pulled her to the bed and cleaned her off myself.
She rested her legs on my shoulders and I entered her from the front. Next, I turned her over and penetrated her from behind as she lay face down. I finished by taking her again from the front, her feet wrapped around my calves. We rose at least four inches in the air while I was coming.
Before heading back outside we decided to take advantage of the Jacuzzi. As I opened the faucets I suddenly felt like I had to go to the bathroom again. Don’t waste your fluids, she told me, stretching out to lay back in the tub. The water barely covered her body. Piss on me, she ordered. After a moment of indecision I opened the floodgates and gilded her sex, her stomach, her breasts, her shoulders, her neck, her smile. She then pissed out her own waters into the tub. We made a pact: no soap or showering until the next day. And this? I asked her, pointing to the impossible erection that was starting to grow again. Masturbate, she said. Look right at me.
It was after ten o’clock by the time we finished getting dressed. She pulled out her cell phone, to call her husband I suppose. Before dialling she asked me where we were going to have dinner. I told her that she was eating at her house, I was having dinner with Raul like I’d already planned, and to call for two taxis.
I found him and the movie critic’s wife in a rather mediocre French place where we’d agreed at midday to meet up. They were already finishing dinner when I arrived. By coincidence an old friend came walking by our table. He used to be a novelist and now works taking pictures of people’s auras for curative purposes. I went off with him to a techno club so as not to inconvenience Raul and his lover at the house. We ended up dancing with some drop-dead ugly girls.
Thursday, March 26.
Susana. Bluish white, strong shapely legs, ethereal dress, expensive shoes, huge enigmatic purse. She went out for a while with Socrates when they both lived in London. She says that she’s his best friend, and isn’t sure if he does it with men, but that he definitely can’t do it with women. Susana is my new editor’s ex; his wife introduced her to me at breakfast when we were discussing the terms of the contract for my cookbook, on which I haven’t made the slightest progress.
Susana has a research permit for the History Institute at the Universidad. The idea was that she’d take care of the paperwork so that I’d be able to study the letters before tomorrow, which will be my last working day in Mexico. She doesn’t mess around: we were eating breakfast at a crêperie in San Ángel when she suddenly pulled a library catalogue out of her bag. Without saying anything, she stood up and told me we were leaving because they were just opening up the archives desk at the university.
Once in the privacy of her Volkswagen she asked me if I was the chef who ended up becoming famous because Teresa had dumped me. I told her that chefs weren’t famous, and that those were two separate events; that I’d earned a certain amount of recognition because I have a disciplined imagination and a tremendous capacity for work, and that Teresa lost me because she was a stupid cunt. That made her laugh, and she told me that as soon as Teresa learned that I was going to sign with the publisher she started phoning her just as if they were best friends. She’s looking for you, big guy. I shrugged my shoulders and said that she could find me if she wanted to. You’ll see, she told me. Today she’ll just casually show up when you’re having dinner with those gallery owners from Colonia Roma. And how do you know who I’m having dinner with? I asked her. Now she was the one shrugging.
Of course it turned out to be impossible to gain access to study the damned letters. The best we could get was the vague promise that they’d scan them within a few weeks, and Susana would mail them to me. On the spot, she pulled the discs to burn them onto out of her bag. I asked her if she always carried around blank discs. She told me they were rerecordable, like her.
It was by now past twelve o’clock, so we went down to celebrate the snafu with a vermouth at a bar in Coyoacán with tables on its patio. We had lunch on the other side of the plaza, at a place with more sophistication than taste. Naturally she no longer felt like going back to the publishing house, so when we got around to her dropping me off at Raul’s house, I invited her to come in and sleep it off, and then we could have a coffee. She thought that was a good idea.
She took off her dress and shoes in a flash and got right into bed under the blankets: houses in Mexico are always really fucking cold. Now lying comfortably by her side – chastely, I swear – I told her that she seemed to be the only thirty-something woman in Mexico that didn’t have at least one, if not several, boyfriends. Not for long, was her reply: in my new role as a star of international gastronomy, I was going to need a real tough bitch by my side. Then she fell into a comatose sleep.
Her nose in my neck woke me up. She was lying comfortably on top of me, resolutely naked. You’re really warm, she said to me when she noticed that I’d opened my eyes. I liked the smell of her fine, straight hair all mussed up, almost like a baby’s. She flicked out the tip of her tongue and began licking up the sweat that had pooled in my collarbone, then she worked her way up to the embarrassing gob of saliva in the corner of my mouth. Before thrusting her tongue down to my tonsils she said that, yes, this was an ambush.
She yanked off the blankets and slid down to my knees. She pulled down my shorts as I took off my T-shirt, my calves clenched tightly between hers. She has a large mouth, just the right temperature; getting head from her was more like getting a massage than the kind of sharp pleasure that most women deliver. Give me something too, I told her, and she turned her body around so we formed a sixty-nine. To access her rather pale sex required parting the curtains of her fleshy lips. Quite suddenly, she raised herself into a squatting position, rearing and bucking, using my groin like a handhold.
She’s got perfect breasts: round, high-set, intelligent. Grasping her thighs, I let her do the work but she didn’t come until I stretched her upright, squeezing her breasts, her back arching sharply, her nails sunk into the backs of my knees. I laid her out beneath me. She clenched the bedstead rail, her breasts even more beautiful in repose. Like a salsa dancer, she had smooth, still shoulders and a voracious agitation in her legs and hips. Put your tongue here, she said, panting like a wounded doe, pointing her nose at her left armpit: I don’t use deodorant. She’d spread herself out across the bed like a manta ray. I came for a long time, while she went on making even more noise. She wrapped her legs around mine and took advantage of my slow softening to masturbate by pressing her clitoris against the base of my pubis. I remember her spine pulsing from the successive waves of pleasure. She murmured: my pleat, my pleat, my pleat, from inside some joyous place where I was no longer present. After she stretched herself out again she spent a very long time running her fingertips up and down my shivering back. I fell asleep again.
She woke me when it was almost evening. You’ve got to get cleaned up, she said, so you can look handsome. I gave a little smile, trying to seem sweet. Don’t look at me with that face like a toy clown: I’m sure it helps you to get laid, but it looks pretty lame to me. It’s the only face I’ve got, I answered her. You’re just sad because nobody’s treated you like a star. She told me to turn over and then she gave me a massage from my neck down to the soles of my feet. When she finished I had an erection again. She hopped off the bed and said: Wait for me, just a minute. I planned on doing whatever she told me to. She reached for her bag and took out a silk scarf that she used to tie both my hands to the bed rails. She knelt over me with her open legs resting on mine, her whole sex exposed for my benefit, and began to masturbate with consummate skill. I’m dry, she said, speaking to herself, I believe, without the least affectation. She brought her sex close to me so that I could moisten it. At first my tongue burned from the lingering drops of my semen but soon enough I was going full steam again. She moved her hips in circles then suddenly said that was enough, pulling away from me and continuing to rub herself with her hand. At a certain point she gave a long sigh, went quiet, and then asked me to wait just a moment. She reached for her bag again and after digging through it a bit extracted a slender, elegant metallic vibrator. Do you always carry a vibrator in your purse? I asked with amused curiosity. ‘I’m only interested in really insecure guys, and, you know, they can’t always . . .’ she said. I thought about this later on and didn’t find it so funny, but at that moment I wasn’t in the mood for contemplation. She slipped the silver missile into her sex and turned the switch at its base, tensing and twisting as the vibration in her hand was transmitted throughout her body.
When she finished, her face wore a beatific smile. I was on the point of exploding. She grabbed hold of my sex and, waving the vibrator in the air, said to me: Your turn. Terrified, I had visions of a proctologist. Feeling my wrists tied tightly to the head of the bed I told her that I’d never done that and I wasn’t at all interested. You’re really stupid, she said, this one is vaginal; anal ones have a different shape. She grabbed her bag, slipped the metallic phallus back inside, then searched again through its interior. This time she took out a plastic bottle of honey. You carry honey in your purse? I asked her. It’s for coffee, she said, I don’t eat meat, so I’ve got to get my nutrients wherever I can. She popped open the top with her thumb, turned it over, and squeezed. A thread of gold spilled over my sex. Good little boys, she explained, come quickly when you do this to them because what happens is that the flavors mix. She closed the bottle, licking her finger. She put it back into her bag and fell to work voraciously. I came almost immediately. While she was untying me she told me that the bastard’s smile on my face had improved. Now, get cleaned up. You’ve got to look great, so that whore Teresa sees what she lost. Go on, you’re already way ahead of the game.
By the time I got out of the shower she’d left. On the bed she’d laid out for me my best-cut suit with a French-collared shirt and one of Raul’s Italian ties; he always spends more on clothes than I do. On the shirt was a note torn from a stenographer’s notebook in which she’d written that she’d come by to get me at eight thirty, and that I shouldn’t comb my hair until it was totally dry – that’s the secret.
Dawn, Friday, March 27.
The gallery owners from Colonia Roma made me an offer: bring Los Empeños to Mexico City, its natural location. They showed me the house that a couple of them had just bought together; the restaurant would go on the ground floor. The location is unbeatable and they’re prepared to invest in a kitchen that would be a faithful copy of the ancient ones I’ve envied.
Just as Susana predicted, Teresa appeared, now late, seated at the bar. She looked spectacular, more beautiful than ever behind the veil of an adult melancholy that I was not expecting. She was with someone. She’s always been more skillful than me in the fine art of watching her ass. We exchanged kisses in the air – I liked the shape of her crow’s feet – with the promise that we would talk; she introduced me to the millionaire she was with but I didn’t even listen to his name.
When at last I was able to get away from the gallery owners I went down to the bar to look for her and they’d already left. The bartender handed me a napkin on which she’d written the name and address of a café near Raul’s house, saying that we should have breakfast at ten.
Not only am I going to go, I’d marry her again right this instant.
Monday, March 30.
I find airports and airplanes exasperating: we’ve only just taken off and I already feel exhausted. The worst is yet to come: passing through the police fortress the gringos have erected to protect their obese bodies from the muscular universe beyond.
I enjoyed spending Sunday at home with my mother and sister: I was able to rest a little, go to bed early, eat reasonably well, visit again with the endless parade of my brothers and their wives and their children – I had no idea whose they were; they all look like each other and like the rest of us. I found it very moving to see how eagerly they listened to the possibility that I might take up the gallery owners’ offer and come back to Mexico. All this blood is your blood, said my sister after the second glass of anís, indicating the gathering around the table with a vague gesture that took in the whole family, as well as all those others who, at some time, had believed in the miracle of the Incarnation.
When I’d first arrived home, a little before midday, my mother was openly upset with me: Your aunts and uncles are pretty offended, she told me, that you haven’t gone to eat dinner with them; God knows how many days Alicia spent making tamales for you. I told her that I’d already explained how I’d run into Teresa: I hadn’t seen her in five years, we’d gone to lunch, and I was a total wreck when I called to cancel. It was better that way. You haven’t seen your aunts, either, she said. But I was never married to any of them. That made her laugh. I shrugged my shoulders and told her to believe me, that it hadn’t been easy. She nodded her head and pinched my biceps just like she did when I was little. It’s all right, kiddo, stone has got to be stone.
During the meal everybody asked me – with ageless wisdom – how Teresa was doing, but without prying into any of the details of our meeting, which I suppose went very well. I arrived at the café a little bit after ten o’clock and she was already there, nervous; Mexican women, like their counterparts in Lima, are the last women on earth who maintain the mysterious art of knowing how to style their hair. Who knows if it’s because they understand their body as one single harmonious mass, or because the bad taste of the hairdressers at large is so awful that they have to find some way to defend themselves. Contrary to all my own expectations, I acted like a wholesome, self-assured, grown man. She’d called in sick to work, so we had the whole day ahead of us.
We spent breakfast arguing, as if we were friends, the advantages and disadvantages of my moving back to Mexico, and some other minutiae: the eternal difficulty of her relationship with her parents, Tijuana’s shortcomings, how fucked life in the United States really is – the word Chicago never passed her lips – her fantasy of being a professional hooker, and her inability to carry it off: I turned out more rude than slut, she told me. Up until that moment I’d had all my senses focused on the spiritual quality of her mature beauty: I’d arrived at the café with my fear of another rejection weighing much heavier than my desire to have her, but the image of her receiving a succession of unknown men gave me an electric jolt that was immediately translated into the memory of her body beneath mine and a rending of the veil way down deep in my testicles. I asked for the check. What are we going to do? she asked me. I told her we should stop by the market then go cook something at Raul’s house. She thought that was a good idea.
Leaving the café, it was no trouble at all to hold her hand while we walked along; I was telling her about the success my restaurant was enjoying thanks to the enormous public humiliation of being the first contestant eliminated from Lard. My clients began bringing their friends out of pure sympathy – it’s true, I didn’t say it just to amuse her.
I bought a big piece of rump roast so I could stuff it with pulped carrot and guava; also dried shrimp and rosemary for a broth; dragon fruit with cream and honey, amaranth, a chunk of heavy brown cane sugar, and pumpkin seeds to make alegría balls. We stopped to pick up a bottle of Ribera del Duero wine, and some Tehuacán spring water. Loaded down with shopping bags, we walked the four or five blocks that separated us from Raul’s house, the sunlight streaming through the blossoming jacarandas.
While I unpacked the bags, she crouched down to check the oven – we had no idea if it worked. As she was walking by, taking the meat and the dragon fruit to the fridge, I calmly reached out and grabbed her ass as if we had never been apart. She stood straight up, turned around, and planted a tight, high-pressure kiss on my lips. We went running upstairs to the bedroom.
We undressed without any formalities. There was no strategic foreplay, simply the dialogue of tongues working as a metaphor for the communal vortex of the flesh and the desperate wish to disappear into its depths. To enter her body, to feel again the clean, precise embrace of her vagina – we’re tailor-made for each other – was to return to a state of original, mysterious grace: achieving the shamanic power of entering the other, being transformed inside her, with her; becoming indistinguishable, like the spiralling, entwining strands of DNA in their mesmerising chromosomal dance at the wondrous instant of conception.
I can scarcely recall the ghost of her tight lips, the colour rising in her cheeks, her eyes so wide yet seeing nothing, because I no longer possessed a body. We synched up with the same steady rhythm as always. Our extremely slow ascent toward orgasm raised a heat wave that shook the curtains in the room. I clenched her hair in my teeth. Coming was like momentarily abolishing the opacities of the world and making it transparent, like a drop of saliva that contained the sketch of the universe that God never showed to anybody.
That’s the paradox of what English speakers call true love, which I can find no way of correctly translating to Spanish, perhaps because in the end we always turn out to be bigger bastards. To be able to use the body to escape the body, to be transubstantiated into a mortal mess of secretions, to forget about oneself and the other, to be nothing but a surface: the odour we give off, the oils that lubricate us, the skin that protects us. To be a nameless sum of muscles and fat. To feel pleasure is to trade the body for bodily sensation; sex at its best is the most spiritual experience available to us.
I returned to wandering her back, the ridge of her coccyx, her buttocks. I let my fingers play in the tiny bushland around her ass and masturbated her to a climax, and then I entered her from behind, my hands squeezing her fists.
The third time she sucked me. With Teresa I take more pleasure in giving than in receiving, so that when I felt myself on the verge of exploding I told her I wasn’t going to hold out much longer, and how did she want us to do it? She rose up and without unclenching my member she told me that she wanted me to come in her mouth, that I could take however long I wanted but I should drown her in semen. I sat up comfortably against the headboard to get a better view. She curled up perpendicular to my body and scooted forward a little, so that I could put my hand between her thighs or her breasts, follow the curve of her back down to her buttocks, and play with her toes. When she felt like that was enough, she opened my legs and dove between them. She looked me in the eyes and said: Come. I did so, exorbitantly, until it hurt. She gave me a salty kiss and thanked me. I lost myself in an almost dreamlike trance and slipped into sleep.
I was awakened by her riotous laughter – like shrieking in a cathedral – mixed with the deep sound of Raul’s voice. I got out of bed, put on my shorts to go to the bathroom and, in that near state of grace, descended to the kitchen. It turned out that besides Raul and Teresa, who were drinking some tequila in the living room, in the kitchen there were also – knocking back their first drink and gossiping in whispers, surely about me – the movie critic and his wife, Socrates and his young lover, and Tijuana sans husband. Teresa gave me a long kiss and sent me to say hello to the other guests, among whom I went delivering hugs and kisses. Tijuana stuck a finger in my belly button and told me I looked very cute. I told her that I’m no angel.
We chatted about nonsense while I brewed myself a cup of mint tea. When it was ready, Socrates poured in a little tequila and told me that they’d heard I was going to do the cooking; that was why they all came over. I told him that I’d need some galley slaves because people were already hungry. Tijuana and the movie critic volunteered to help, and the others went to the living room. Teresa came in with a stack of pots and pans.
I set Tijuana to prepare the brown sugar and Teresa to cut the dragon fruit. I gave the movie critic – clearly the least talented – very specific instructions for how to prepare the shrimp broth, handing him the little bunch of rosemary that he had to use, and precisely measuring the salt and the water, never taking my eyes off him. I sliced open the roast, so fresh that it was dripping blood. I set my cutting board next to the one Teresa was working on. Her hands were stained with the vegetable blood of the fruits – she was slicing them with careful devotion, as cleanly as coins. Another tequila. We made potatoes with the remaining rosemary and a jar of mole sauce we found in the refrigerator. When the critic finished with the broth – anyone else would have done a better job in half the time – I set him to work peeling carrots. We heated the oven and I suddenly remembered the hellish family dinner awaiting me at home. I called my mother to cancel.
When I came downstairs again, Tijuana and Teresa were waiting for me in front of the bag of guavas without the least idea what to do with them. It’s an Aztec game: you’ve got to split the fruit in half and remove the pulp that surrounds the seed as if it were a heart, then you’ve got to peel it with the same tender loving care as if you were bathing a little child. We didn’t have a fourth knife sharp enough for the critic to use, nor enough faith in his ability to carry out such a delicate operation: what remains of a guava after the sacrifice is an extremely delicate little rosy pink strip barely an eighth of an inch thick, just a leftover, which is, simultaneously, the sweetest and most sour thing in the world, and which denotes the metaphysical nature of Baroque cuisine: more theory than food. I told them that rump roast stuffed with guava pulp was the favourite dish of Bishop Palafox. It’s out of this world, I said, the meat enveloping the remains of something that no longer has either an inside or an outside, just like the sacred host.
And my vagina, said Tijuana, sticking a finger in her mouth. She pulled it out shining with saliva and slipped it into Teresa’s mouth. We made the guava paste in the same bowl in which we’d cooked the sweet base for the alegría balls. I stuffed the roast while Teresa poured the cream over the dragon fruit and Tijuana mixed up the pumpkin seeds and amaranth with the honey and brown sugar.
By the time I finally put the meat in the oven I was exhausted. Teresa gave Tijuana a long kiss and she slipped her hand into my shorts. I let her do it for a moment, but at last I decided it’s always better not to mix things up too much, so I went upstairs to get dressed. They stayed a while longer in the kitchen. When I came in for a glass of wine to take with me to sit down in the living room they were chatting.
Everything turned out really well: we talked, we ate, we drank like gluttonous patricians. We sat over our coffee and brandy until very late, rendered every moment more civilised by the work that our excesses perform on the soft, pulpy flesh of our sad human lives.
Teresa helped me to clean up afterward and then spent the night. In the morning I didn’t even offer her a cup of coffee.
‘Last Supper in Seduction City’ is extracted from Hypothermia by Alvaro Enrigue, published by Dalkey Archive Press.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
is a Mexican author based in New York. His novel Sudden Death will be published in England by Harvill Secker.
Brendan Riley’s writings and translations have appeared in, or at, a wide variety of print and web-based publications, including The Review of Contemporary Fiction, n+1, Little Star Journal, BOMBLOG, Three Percent, Asymptote, Numéro Cinq, Bookslut, Publishers Weekly, and The New York Times. His translation of Eloy Tizón’s story 'The Mercury in the Thermometers' was included in Best European Fiction 2013. He has published two books in translation: Juan Velasco Moreno’s Massacre of the Dreamers (Editorial Polibea, 2011), and Álvaro Enrigue’s acclaimed Hypothermia (Dalkey Archive Press, 2013), named by the Times Literary Supplement as one of the best books of 2013.