share


Mária

This all happened in Barcelona, in the spring of 2017. I haven’t spoken to him ever since, we never got back in touch for some reason, and plus after I went back to Buenos Aires I met Agustín and soon we got together and I believe we were happy for a while, so I forgot about him and my brother and Barcelona and all of that. And yet sometimes I still think about him, I don’t know why. I remember I used to look at him, my head on the pillow, trying to make out his body moving through the semidarkness of the room, picking some clothes and then gradually coming into view at the foot of the bed, where he would sit and get dressed. I remember I used to watch him walking out onto the balcony for the first cigarette of the day (stiza or stizza, that’s how he used to call it in Italian) and then stepping back in and leaving the windows and the white shutters ajar so that the sounds and the smells and the light of the city might pour into the room once the sun rose, once the city rose, because before that, as I quietly, almost secretly watched him getting ready for work, I would often find myself under the impression that he was the only human being alive in the whole of Barcelona, that I was spying on him, that I shouldn’t have been there, in his flat, in the flat of a man I barely knew, and in fact I never got used to that impression, to Cesare’s silent figure groping his way through the obscurity in the early minutes of the day,

go on

yes

please

don’t stop

and this is the more surprising the more I consider that on the other hand I did get used, during those twelve days we spent together in Barcelona, in the spring of 2017, to the basic rhythms and patterns of his routine. I was surprised by how effortlessly I got used, for example, to going back to sleep once he was gone and then waking up alone in the late morning, the dusty Spanish sunlight taut in between the slightly open shutters as the smell of fuel and bakery streamed into the studio flat from the street below. How much did I enjoy lying in until around eleven, when my mother, waking up beside the body of my father in Buenos Aires, would message me first thing in the morning, enquiring about me and my brother, especially about my brother, although she could not have imagined that I had not seen Adrián since the night I’d arrived in Barcelona, she couldn’t have imagined where I was or what I was doing, and yet the freedom I’d sense in those moments had nothing to do with where I was or what I was doing, with my relationship with Cesare, with the fact that I was twenty and visiting Europe for the first time in my life, I suppose it had more to do with the knowledge that nobody knew where I was or what I was doing, and so I would think of my mother, of my mother as something separate from my father, and then I would think of freedom as the ocean that separated us, freedom as an empty damp space, freedom as a tiny windowless bathroom where we lock ourselves in so that nobody may see what we are doing. No, my mother could not possibly have pictured me there reading her text, rolling off the bed, grabbing the city map from the desk, crawling back into bed, propping myself up against the headboard, spreading the map open on my legs and messaging her back saying that yes, I was with Adrián, yes, he was renting a nice flat in the Barceloneta – the old port district – and everything was going very well, we’d visited this or that place and we were now in this or that other place and the weather was great, yes, Adrián was well and being nice to me, no, he hadn’t aged too much, no, he hadn’t lost his Argentinian accent, if anything it had become even more pronounced, yes, I had enough cash on me, no, she shouldn’t be worried, Barcelona was very safe and beautiful and sunny all the time, and no, no for god’s sake, the Montjuic Castle was not as dreary as Zafón described it in his novels. That’s right, my mother was an avid reader of Zafón, an avid reader of any European or North-American commercial writer, Stieg Larsson, say, or Dan Brown, the point is that Zafón’s novels must have given her the peculiar impression that Barcelona was a kind of gloomy and dangerous city, and that’s exactly what she’d said a few months before around the dinner-table in Buenos Aires – when we learnt, via one of his infrequent emails, that Adrián had left Paris and moved to Barcelona – she said, why there of all places?, that’s a dangerous city, whereupon my father let his cutlery drop onto the plate and shook his head and said, you don’t know what you’re talking about, and so my mother said, go on then, what do you know about Barcelona?, and my father said he didn’t know much about Barcelona, what he knew was that no European city was quite as dangerous as Buenos Aires or else they were dangerous in a different way, in a way that was invisible and incomprehensible to us Latin Americans, and I said, I think dad’s right, mamá, although I don’t think we really understood what my mother was trying to tell us, since we had never been to Barcelona, nor had we ever read a novel by Zafón, him because he simply wasn’t a reader, me because I was reading other things. I was in my second year of Latin American Letters at the UBA and I was reading the good stuff, I was reading Roberto Arlt, Silvina Ocampo, Federico Falco, Luisa Valenzuela, Edgardo Cozarinsky, Sergio Chejfec, Pablo Katchadjian, Samanta Schweblin and many more, mostly writers of short stories or short novels, mostly from Argentina. At the time I was working on several short stories myself, which I only sporadically completed and never published, something that according to Cesare was very advisable, admirable even, he thought young writers were all too tempted to publish, as soon as they could, as soon as they had a little something going they would endeavour to push it out into the world at all costs, and I remember he had this quirky theory about publishing whereby you should only publish your first novel once you already had your second one in mind or even better once you were already well into your second one, and this was because Cesare saw writing as a subtractive process, every book, every story a hurdle or an obstacle separating you from the next one, which in turn separated you from the one after that and so on and so forth, as in a mad hunt, no, not a hunt, that’s not what he actually said, he said writing was like a mad fishing spree, that’s it – we were in the Almirall or the Pastis or the Marseille, one of the fusty bars in the old town in Barcelona – and he said writing was like one of those fishing competitions where fishermen strenuously haul their preys out of muddy rivers only to toss them back into the water immediately afterwards, hardly ever examining the prey, if anything taking a photograph as they hold it aloft or in their arms and then stepping back into the dark waters and blindly going after the next one, hoping that it will be bigger and shinier and better, though it rarely is, actually the new prey more often than not looks exactly the same as the previous one so that from the outside the whole process appears as a series of repetitions, a series of unintelligible repetitions that some see as accumulation and that he, personally, saw as subtraction, and that’s how he thought good writing was or should be. But this, by his very admission, was only a theory and like all theories was purely ideal, it hadn’t quite worked out like that for him, for example, he’d published his first novel when he was my age, when he was twenty, and I felt like he now regretted publishing it. Not that I was running any such risk myself, firstly because I was not interested in writing novels (I have never been), secondly because I barely had anything ready at the time, as I said, barely anything finished. To be fair, I think the fictional messages I sent to my mother every morning were the only writing I did during those twelve days in Barcelona that I was supposed to spend with my brother Adrián and that I ended up spending, instead, with Cesare, in the spring of 2017, twelve days of unabating sun and warmth during which even the nights, in hindsight, seem full of light, although I did bring a notebook with me, yes, I remember that, it must still be somewhere in my room at my parents’ place and I believe it is largely empty apart from the first few pages, which I frantically filled up during my flight out to Barcelona. I recall a conversation with the man that sat next to me on the plane, a handsome Spanish man in his forties who had some dealing or other in Buenos Aires, possibly a journalist or something like that, I remember telling him how I felt like I was becoming more and more Argentinian, right there, on the plane, en route to Barcelona. Then we spoke about Argentina and Spain and Catalonia for a while, and then I took out my notebook and began to write about the books I was reading, by Federico Falco or Silvina Ocampo, wondering why we Argentinians, who inhabited such a vast territory, should so blatantly excel at short literary forms, why we weren’t, say, like the Russians, who had always written books and made films that were as long as their country, and then I thought of Echeverría, and then I thought of Borges, of course I thought of Borges, and I also thought, though only for a moment, that maybe we were just a country of lazy readers. But the years have led me to the conclusion that ours isn’t a question of space, that there is no connection between the size of a nation and the size of its texts, not in the case of Argentina at least. It is rather a question of time. It is about the way a nation collectively perceives its own history, and perhaps our literature in some way speaks to our perception of history, as it urges us to write fast and brief, as if we Argentinian writers were always short of breath, panting, running, with history at our heels, history as a swarm of wasps hounding us as we run in circles spiralling down into the abyss, or perhaps history as a fishing competition, soggy and odorous and fraught with numbing, unintelligible repetitions that some see as accumulation and that some others see as subtraction. Either way, as I said, I remember writing a lot on the plane, and yet as soon I set foot in Barcelona, as soon as I met up with Adrián in his flat in the old port district, I stopped writing altogether, and I didn’t jot down a single word during the whole of my stay there. Instead, after messaging my mother in the morning, I used to have a shower and get dressed and leave Cesare’s flat and spend the rest of the day walking up and down the streets of Gràcia or the Raval or the Gòtic District until Cesare came back in the late afternoon. It was only after lunch that I would allow myself to think about Adrián, around three or four in the afternoon, when I’d message him asking how he was and saying that I would stay with Cesare for another day, and although he never answered any of these texts (or maybe for this very reason), I kept messaging him with a sort of stubborn, remorseful punctuality, in the hope that he wouldn’t answer, that he would remain silent, and in those moments, no matter how hard I tried, my thoughts would unwillingly race back to my mother, how carefully she’d helped me pack for my trip to Barcelona and then entrusted me the red plastic envelope for my brother, I could still see her small watery eyes as she waved at me from across security at Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires

I know why you’ve come here

I know why they’ve sent you here

but I suppose I also texted my brother to clear my mind of the thought of him, the image of him, the inelegance of his body, his face, whose features had hardened and aged, the air of fatalism he seemed to carry about himself, the unsurprising way he had become a man of few words, like our father, though I could not clearly remember whether Adrián had always been so silent, before he left our house I mean, nine or ten years before, I was about ten, I remember being upstairs in my room, my father and my brother were arguing – this memory is almost empty, their voices have become potent and wordless, like music – and then everything was quiet. Everything was quiet for many days or weeks or even months. It almost went unnoticed at first. Then one afternoon the phone rang while I was alone in the house, Mária?, yes, who is it?, it’s me, it’s Adrián, I am in London, he said, wow, very nice, I said, how is London?, it’s good, it’s all good here, he said, very nice, I said, when are you back?, and Adrián said he didn’t know, he said he was just calling to let us know he was ok, and then he hung up, and I immediately dashed to the small bookshelf in our living room and picked one of the hefty blue volumes from my grandfather’s encyclopaedia and looked up London… London, London, London… London, capital of England… and I didn’t even tell my parents, because I felt that I had just discovered London, it was only my brother and I who knew where it was, it was our secret, and honestly I can’t remember how they eventually found out, since Adrián didn’t call very often, I must have just blurted it out, with that horrifying honesty of children, around the dinner-table perhaps, or perhaps as my mother helped me get dressed for school, Adrián is in the capital of England, Adrián is in the capital of England. But that didn’t last for long either, because a few months later my brother left London, and thus new cities, new countries came, names I had never heard of would begin to circulate in our house in Buenos Aires, whereas others, to which I had by then become accustomed, I would see fade into an unspeakable distance, so it was with a kind of affection, a kind of nostalgia, if that’s the word, that I saw London and Dublin and Marseilles and Siena rise one after the other and then fall and disappear until they were never mentioned again, as if the cities themselves had been founded and obliterated by the passing of my brother through them, and by the time Adrián informed us he had moved to Paris, I was probably sixteen and I knew perfectly well where Paris was, I knew it was the capital of France as well as the capital of innumerable other things, such as symbolist poetry, of which I was reading everything I could find online and in the second-hand bookshops lined up along Avenida Santa Fe in Buenos Aires. But at this point my parents and I had already found a way of describing where Adrián was to be found, and that name was Europe, I’d just say, to my friends, to my teachers at school, my brother is in Europe, oh, that’s nice, they’d say, and what’s he doing there?, and I could never answer, I did not know, what did people do in Europe anyway?, the usual things, I imagined, the usual things everyone else did everywhere else in the world. My brother left us silently, imperceptibly, or at least it was silent and imperceptible to me (who was only around ten, who had only just found out where London was), and it wouldn’t be until that night when I saw him again after so many years – first in the flat he was renting in the old port district and then in the neighbourhood of Gràcia, with Cesare and Horacio – that I understood why, because nobody could suspect it, not even Cesare, who apparently was very good friends with Horacio. Well, that night when I saw my brother in his flat and we talked for a bit

I know why you are here or

I know why you’ve come here

that night when I saw my brother and we argued and then we went out nonetheless to meet Horacio and Cesare in the neighbourhood of Gràcia – well, that night I realised that Europe had not made Adrián more European, not at all: he had developed, over the years he’d spent away from home, the unmistakable masculinity of certain Latin-American men who become the more Latin American the less they stay in Latin America. It’s true, he’d always been a very masculine type, masculine in a somewhat arrogant way (or so it appeared to me that night), his silences were particularly masculine, like our father’s, whereas Cesare was much more feminine, in what at the time seemed to me a very European way, and that’s perhaps why I liked him. Yes, there was something feminine or else androgynous about Cesare. It was the suppleness with which he would sit at the foot of the bed in the early morning as I watched him getting ready for work, the way he’d walk, the way he’d wear that brown fake-suede jacket of his which he thought made him look like a lawyer – and still these things, like many others I’ve now forgotten, were not as feminine as that other thing he did or else didn’t do, I never got to understand it (although I did get used to it), not even on the tenth or fifteenth time we had sex, if anything the more we did it the less was I able to understand it. Other than that the sex was good, apart from the night we met, my first night in Europe, when we got drunk and he fell asleep while we were at it, god, how much I hated him that night as I emerged from under the bedsheets, the metallic taste of his penis in my mouth, and stared at him, fast asleep, his legs splayed out, his arms folded on his chest, his face tilted sideways, where an expression of doubt or concern surfaced, his mouth slightly open as if about to say something, like

go on

yes

please

don’t stop

and I remember lying awake in bed next to him, I didn’t even feel drunk anymore, then I went to the bathroom, locked the door, turned on the shower and sat on the toilet and started touching myself. I remember fantasising about various men that night, my feet firmly anchored to the slippery edge of the toilet seat, and then for some reason my attention focused on the man who’d sat next to me on the plane the day before, the Spanish journalist, I could see him unfastening his seatbelt and leaning my way, his hand lifting my blouse and caressing my belly and easily finding its way into my trousers as he stroked my hair with the other hand, the hand gliding down my forehead and onto my mouth, an enormous, thick-fingered hand that smelt of iron and tobacco and a wet mouth pressed against my ear, and so I kept going as the tiny windowless bathroom filled with steam and with the tangy smell of my sex, I felt my feet sweating against the cold ceramic of the toilet seat, the light in the bathroom was sharp, clinical, I shut my eyes and I didn’t think about anyone in particular for a while or perhaps I thought about several men at the same time, a storm of ownerless limbs and torsos and mouths and thighs, and then I thought about Cesare, on top of me, awake, hard, incessant, I imagined his body, his body that had blacked out and was now sleeping just a few inches away from me beyond the bathroom wall, I imagined my body, our bodies, and a slightly open mouth

saying

go on

yes

please

don’t stop.

This all happened the night we met. It was in Barcelona, in the neighbourhood of Gràcia, where Cesare used to live, a maze of cobbled streets and bars and plazas that reminded me (or remind me now) of the neighbourhood of San Telmo in the south of Buenos Aires, which is, I think, where Horacio lived for a year or two while studying History at the UBA, that is to say before he met my brother, that is to say before my brother left our house, that is to say before the two of them dropped out and spent a few more months in Buenos Aires and then decided to get the hell out of Argentina and move to London together. My parents never knew this, of course. They always thought Adrián had made it straight to Europe after he left our house, I guess they had to imagine him faraway and beyond all choice, faraway and beyond return, if that was necessary, in order to sense his proximity, in order to forgive him. But that’s not how things unfolded, as Adrián himself was to tell me, ten years later, the night I got a bus straight from the airport in Barcelona to his flat, a messy one-bedroom flat above one of the many fish restaurants in the old port district: he told me that after he left our house he spent a few more months in Buenos Aires with Horacio, in San Telmo, months that I envisioned as golden and weightless and delirious, even if my brother did not tell me what he did during those months, how he kept himself busy, how he supported himself, whether he was happy, nor did he say anything about his time in London after he left Buenos Aires or why he left London, too, after a couple of months, and moved to Dublin. The only thing that I could be sure of was that he must have left London alone, that is without Horacio, because I knew that when they arrived in London Horacio started a course in creative writing at some university there – that’s where he’d become friends with Cesare – so I suppose Horacio must have stayed in London for at least three years in order to get his degree, or at any rate longer than a couple of months, longer than my brother did, and as my brother spoke to me in his flat in the old port district I was struck by the vision of the two of them in London, Horacio and my brother, Horacio, the only son of a well-off Anglo-Argentinian family doing university in the capital of England, and my brother, young, penniless, barely able to string an English sentence together, and then my brother alone or surrounded by strangers in a dingy living-room on the outskirts of Dublin. Today I wonder how many more things I would be able to remember from those days in Barcelona had I recorded them in my notebook as they happened. I may be able to remember, for example, why my brother and I ended up arguing that night in his flat, I just can’t recall how everything escalated,

I know why you’ve come here or

I know why they’ve sent you here

or something on those lines, I don’t remember the exact words. This all happened the night I ended up sleeping with Cesare, so the next day I got a bus down to the port district and went back to my his flat. He was not in. The small window onto the inner courtyard had been left ajar and a smell of fried fish was wafting in from the restaurant downstairs, and a general feeling of gracelessness, of utter bad luck, was lingering in the air. I rifled through my bag to make sure the red envelope was there, took the bag with me and went out and then I no longer know what I did that day. Even my meeting Cesare, the night before, is somewhat of a hazy recollection. I remember heading to Gràcia with Adrián after our argument and sitting at a little table in one of the plazas and ordering wine, soon Horacio joined us and my brother introduced me to him, this is Mária, he said, hey, hi there, and that was it. Horacio looked even taller when sitting down, as if the objects he came in touch with – the table, the chairs, a glass, other people – had all been built for a world he was only temporarily inhabiting, as if he was hanging out in this world waiting to be reallocated to a different one, I remember him and my brother in the small plaza talking politics or literature or history and I also remember thinking that they were just talking about themselves, obliquely, in a code that was beyond my comprehension, so I wondered whether they’d been seeing each other at all since Adrián had moved to Barcelona, and then I wondered what Adrián or Horacio or for that matter anyone else was doing in Barcelona, all their lives and beds and food and languages instantly felt boundless, unimaginable, I sensed the city and its people stretching out in all directions beyond the coloured buildings surrounding the plaza, beyond the stately avenues that led down into the city-centre, beyond the Catalan coastline and the sea and the far borders of Europe. I decided to go for a walk around the neighbourhood, and when I came back Cesare was already there, there at the table with the others. Horacio said he was his friend from university in London. I didn’t find him particularly beautiful or charming, but I liked him, perhaps out of boredom, perhaps out of spite to my brother, I don’t know. After a while he mentioned the name of an Italian writer, Bimbati or Bimbatti, an Italian novelist who apparently had written in English and now lived in Barcelona, though he hadn’t published anything in over twenty years, and then I heard myself saying I knew him, I’d read him, he was such a good writer, a classmate from the UBA had lent me a couple of novels which according to her were enjoying a certain revival in Argentina, and Cesare, who until then had barely said a word, suddenly livened up, and that got us talking for god knows how long, his eyes feverishly searching for my approval, asfeverishly as he would search for Bimbatti in the streets of the city centre during the following days, dragging me along on frenzied, hopeless quests that very often ended up with the two of us drunk at the counter of the Centric or the Almirall or the Pastis or several other bars on the same night, asking, enquiring, interrogating the waiters about the novelist, whether they knew him, whether they knew where he lived or where he drank, whether they had ever heard of him or seen him, and we were unfailingly met with faces frowning and heads shaking behind the sticky counters, and I never quite gauged the extent of Cesare’s obsession, as it appeared to me, until he told me that he was writing a novel about Bimbatti or else a novel about his own quest for him (even though I never saw him write on those twelve days we spent together) and then admitted that he was making things up, that he was desperate for stories, that he was writing a meta-biography, and that anyway the real protagonist of the book was the city

I know why you’ve come to Barcelona

I know why they sent you here

and now – but only now – do I understand that Barcelona, to me, was never one, that the city was somehow multiple. There was the city I was not visiting, the famous parks, the museums, the churches, and this city corresponded to the stylised map that I would spread open on my legs and peruse every morning from Cesare’s bed while texting my mother, trying to come up with a fictional itinerary my brother and I were not following, city-tours we hadn’t done, monuments we hadn’t seen, popular avenues we hadn’t trodden, a city that only existed as a possibility, which in turn made the real city look imaginary, potential, unreal, as unreal as my mother’s image of the city, a city cobbled together from exoticism, worries, failed attempts at Google Maps street-view, Zafón’s novels, ignorance, myths, the nebulous description of my uncle Matías, who had honeymooned there more than thirty years before, and now, at last, my morning texts, which were probably giving her the impression that my brother and I were the sole dwellers of the city, and as I wrote to her every morning I had the feeling that I was helping her build this imaginary city, an imaginary city where she, in fact, was the sole dweller. And it was only on my fourth of fifth day in Barcelona that she finally asked me whether I’d talked to Adrián about that thing, whether I’d shown him the envelope, and I could not help noticing that this question was not part of our usual morning text-exchange, but came later, in the afternoon, in a separate text, as if my mother wished to convince me that the question had accidentally crossed her mind during the day, while driving back from school or laying the table under the impatient gaze of my father

I know why you’ve come here

I know why you’ve been sent here

as if she wished to pretend that that wasn’t the reason why they’d put me on a thirteen-hour flight bound to Barcelona. And then there was the city I was exploring alone, after texting my mother, when I would leave Cesare’s flat in the late morning and wander about the narrow cobbled streets of Gràcia. I remember the deafening yellow light of Barcelona, creeping up along its geometrical stony façades or beaming into your face just round a corner, and this city was so incommensurate to the one on the map, this city was the expression of light and matter fashioned into an inscrutable scheme that the eye – and the mind – could never fully apprehend. This city, however, only existed at specific times, until Cesare came back from work in the late afternoon and I abandoned my Barcelona and entered his, and this is perhaps the only thing I truly remember about him, not so much his life, not so much his ideas, barely his face – what Cesare left to me, if anything, was his image of the city, his own Barcelona out of all the possible Barcelonas. And it is this city that I recall most vividly, though I would not be able to establish the order in which things happened, all those nights spent searching for Bimbati or Bimbatti have now merged into a single night. Sometimes it’d just be the two of us, sometimes we would be accompanied by people who were friends with Cesare, all Spanish or English people, most of which were writers or else writer-wannabes. One night alone stands out, probably because Horacio came with us and I didn’t like him (I was pleased we only saw him once). It was the night the two of them argued with the owner of a bar in the Raval, I’ve forgotten the name but I remember that Cesare said it was the setting of one of Bimbatti’s short stories. We walked into the bar, got a drink and then they asked the waiter if they could have a word with the manager or the owner of the place by any chance (who, as it turned out, was the same person, a short and stocky woman with a squint), so they explained to her the whole thing about Bimbatti, and the woman listened to them with an improbable mix of curiosity and impatience, so that when they eventually suggested arranging a reading of Bimbatti’s short story and putting up a commemorative plaque the woman just shrugged her shoulders, told them she wasn’t interested and added that she knew nothing about Bimbatti, that she’d never even heard of him, and that at any rate she doubted it was worth doing an event, unless there was some music, of course, but they didn’t give in, they insisted, the woman insisted that they shouldn’t insist, then they started arguing in Spanish, then they switched over to English, then Cesare said something in Italian, then the woman insulted them in Catalan and even her squinty eye began to stare at them, then they insulted her in English, and then we were kicked out, and I remember that Cesare popped into an off-licence and I found myself standing on the pavement next to Horacio. It was the first time I was alone with him and for a moment I thought I should ask him something about my brother, and as we stood on the pavement facing the off- licence across the empty street, Horacio said to me, you don’t actually know shit about Bimbatti, do you?, and I remained silent for what felt like an extremely long time, then Cesare came out with a few cans of Estrella and we started walking towards nowhere. Then I remember Cesare’s rant about Bimbatti on the way back to his flat: Bimbatti, a fierce storyteller in another language, a man in exile, an author who had never been translated into his mother-tongue, and when later that night I asked him why he believed Bimbatti had never translated his novels himself, he said that he sort of understood that, that you do not translate yourself, he said, you just don’t do it, what he couldn’t quite work out was whether Bimbatti had deliberately chosen not to be translated into his mother-tongue, indeed, he was aware that there were other writers who’d written in different languages, but they’d all come to discover different things: Conrad had discovered that all language was mystery, Nabokov that all language was seduction, Beckett that all language was failure, and Bimbatti? Well, Bimbatti had discovered something else, he had discovered that all language was parody, imitation, laughter. But had Cesare ever heard of Juan Rodolfo Wilcock, who migrated from Argentina to Italy and wrote in Cesare’s own mother tongue – in Italian? Had he ever heard of Hector Bianciotti, who personally knew Wilcock and followed into his footsteps and one day boarded a ship and left Argentina and moved and died in Paris and wrote in French? No, he had never heard of these people. I’ve never heard of them, he said. And actually what did Cesare – what did any Western-European born after the war know about exile? What did they know about failure, about imitation? What? And that night, for the first time, Cesare and his friends, Cesare and Bimbatti and Barcelona and Europe finally appeared before my eyes in all their anachronistic, provincial self-celebration. But this doesn’t matter now, this is not what I was going to say. I was going to say that we would do it before he went to work, at six in the morning, and then again at night, before falling asleep, I remember our moist young bodies and his mouth pressed against my ear, I can still hear his voice turning unexpectedly

coarse

go on

yes

please don’t stop

those were the sole moments when he would be crass and vulgar, in fact, the sole moments when he would use the word follar, that’s why I thought of them as tender, candid, even childish, though he was (and still continues to be, wherever he is now) a few years older than me. As I said, we would have sex at night and then again in the early morning, around six, when the alarm would pierce the semidarkness of the room with its sound of adulthood, so I guess we fucked about twenty times (perhaps twenty-five), and yet he never came, not once, and that’s why I found him feminine or else androgynous, androgynous and sad, perhaps he could reach orgasm without coming, I thought at first, perhaps he could come without coming, come internally or something like that, which must be like speaking to someone without saying anything, like opening your mouth slightly and being about to say something but saying nothing. And I now think of all the silences from those days, in the spring of 2017, when I went to Europe for the first time in my life, unaware of the fact that I would move back there just a few years later. I now think of my brother’s silence on the eve of my return to Buenos Aires, when I finally saw him again for coffee in a bar on the Ramblas, an anonymous café brimming with gaudy caps and sunglasses and tourists and ice creams, I gave Adrián the envelope and he opened it and placed it on the table without saying a word

I know why you’ve come here

I know why they sent you here

I know why you are here

I think of my mother’s silence in the car, the following day, driving back home from the airport, and I also think of Bimbatti’s long literary silence, of my very own silence as I watch Cesare getting ready for work, every morning, in the semidarkness of his room in Barcelona. He was even supposed to come to Argentina at some point. I believe he was planning to move over there, I don’t know whether he managed to in the end, we never got back in touch for some reason, and plus, as I said, after I went back to Buenos Aires I met Agustín and we fell in love and I forgot about Cesare and my brother and Barcelona and all of that for a very good while. And yet, sometimes, though very rarely, I still think about him, I can still see him, in bed, his legs splayed out, his arms folded on his chest, his face tilted sideways, where an expression of doubt or concern surfaces, his mouth slightly open as if about to say something, like

go on

yes

please don’t stop.


ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

lives, writes and works in London.

READ NEXT

feature

October 2011

This is not the place: Perec, the Situationists and Belleville

Karl Whitney

feature

October 2011

I stood near the columbarium at Père Lachaise cemetery. I was there to see the locker-like vault containing the...

Prize Entry

April 2016

Role Play

Naomi Frisby

Prize Entry

April 2016

Your right hand is the first to go. One Sunday afternoon as you’re sitting on the sofa reading the...

fiction

June 2016

Beast

Paul Kingsnorth

fiction

June 2016

I stood in the river up to my knees and the river was cold. The water filled my boots...

 

Get our newsletter

 

* indicates required