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Sunday
May292011

No se culpe a nadie

A work ("No one is to blame") by this Argentine.  You can read the original here.

The cold always complicates matters; in summer we are all so close to the world, skin to skin.  But now at half past six his wife is waiting for him in a store to pick out a wedding gift.  It's already late and he notices that the air is cool.  I have to put on that blue sweater, he thinks, something that might go well with a grey suit, autumn is all about putting on and taking off sweaters, locking oneself up, running away.  He whistles a tango perfunctorily as he moves away from the open window, then looks for a sweater in the wardrobe and begins to put it on in front of the mirror.  It is not easy, perhaps owing to the shirt's sticking to the wool of the sweater.  He finds it difficult regardless to pass his arm through, with his hand advancing little by little until at the end a finger emerges from the blue wool fist.  And yet, in the twilight, the finger has the appearance of having been shriveled up and placed towards the inside, with one black nail ending in a point. 

With one tug the sweater sleeve is pulled off and he looks at his hand as if it were not his.  But now that it's out of the sweater the hand again looks like it always has, and he lets it fall from the end of his lazy arm as it occurs to him that it would be better to pass the other arm through the other sleeve to see whether it would be simpler that way.  It seemed like it would not because hardly has the wool of the sweater gotten stuck to the shirt again, owing still to the operation as well as to his habit of beginning with the other, difficult sleeve, when he starts to whistle again so as to distract himself, feeling that the arm is barely advancing and that, without some kind of complementary manoeuvre, he would never get out of here.  Perhaps it would be best to do everything at the same time: throw back his head to catch it at the height of the sweater's collar just as he places his free arm in the other sleeve, straightening the sleeve and pulling at it at the same time with his neck and both arms. 

It seems absurd to carry on whistling in the sudden blue darkness enveloping him, and it begins to feel hot.  His face, still part of his head, ought to stay out; but his forehead and his whole face remain covered and his arms are barely halfway through the sleeves.  No matter how hard he pulls, nothing comes out, and he realizes that perhaps he made a mistake owing to the ironic anger with which he resumed the task, and that he was stupid enough to have placed his head in one of the sleeves and a hand through the collar of the sweater.  If this were so his hand would have to come out easily; yet he still pulls with all his might and cannot advance either one of his hands.  On the contrary, it seemed like his head is about to make its way out because the blue wool is pressing against his nose and mouth with almost irritating force, suffocating him more than he could have ever imagined and obliging him to breathe deeply while the wool gets moist against his mouth (it will probably fade and end up staining his face in blue).           

Fortunately at this very moment his right hand appears in the air of the outside cold; at least one of them is out although the other continues to be imprisoned in the sleeve.  Perhaps his right hand was indeed caught in the collar of the sweater, and for this reason what he believed to be the collar is pressing down on his face thus, suffocating him more and more each time, whereas his hand was able to come out easily.  In any case, to be sure of it, the only thing he can do is to keep making his way, taking deep breaths and letting the air escape little by little, even if it were absurd because nothing is impeding him from breathing perfectly apart from the fact that the air he swallows is mixed with wool particles from the collar or the sleeve of the sweater.  Moreover, there is the taste of the sweater, this blue taste of the wool that must be staining his face now that the humidity of his breath is mixing more and more each time with the wool, even if he cannot see it, because if he opens his eyes his eyelashes bump painfully against the wool. 

He is certain that his wet mouth is being enveloped in blue, then his nostrils, then his cheeks.  All this fills him with dread and he wants to stop putting on the sweater right then and there, without taking into account that it must be late and that his wife might be waiting impatiently for him in front of the shop doors.  He tells himself that the most sensible thing is to concentrate his attention on his right hand because this hand outside of the sweater is in contact with the cold air of the room, a signal that he has only a little way to go and can help himself by going up the back until, in that classic movement so helpful to putting on any sweater by energetically pulling down, it clutches the lower edge of the sweater.  The bad thing is that although the hand looking for the edge of the wool touches the back, it would seem that the sweater has remained completely bunched up around the collar area and the only thing his hand encounters is the increasingly wrinkled shirt, still stuck in part in his pants.  Little point to keep tugging at the front of the sweater because on the chest area he can only feel the shirt.  The sweater must have barely gotten over the two shoulders and here may be rolled up and tense as if the shoulders were too narrow for this sweater, which proves without any doubt that he really did make a mistake and place a hand in the collar and the other hand in a sleeve.  As such, the distance between the collar and one of the sleeves is exactly half of the distance between one sleeve and the other, and this explains why he may have his head a bit tilted to the left, the side where his hand is still prisoner in the sleeve, if this is in fact the sleeve; and, in contrast, his right hand, which is already out, moves with full freedom in the air even if it may not be able to get the sweater down which is still rolled up on top of his body.

Ironically, it occurs to him that if there were a seat nearby he would be able to relax and breathe better until he's put on the sweater completely.  And yet he has lost his orientation after having screamed so many times in this type of euphoric gymnastics which always begins with finding a piece of clothing.  It has something of a concealed dance step about it, irreproachable because it reflects a utilitarian aim not some guilty choreographic tendencies.  Basically the true solution would be to remove the sweater, provided that he has not been able to put it on, and verify the correct passageway in the sleeves for each hand and in the collar for his head.  Yet the right hand keeps coming and going messily as if it were already ridiculous to give up at this advanced stage, and as if at any time it would comply and rise to the height of his head and he would pull upwards without understanding in time that the sweater has stuck to his face with that humid rubber-like quality from his breath mixed with the blue of the wool, and when his hand is drawn upwards he feels pain as if his ears were being ripped off and his eyelashes yanked out. 

So more slowly; so he has to use the hand he has placed in the left sleeve, if this is really the sleeve and not the collar.  And in so doing help his left hand with his right hand so that it can pass through the sleeve or retreat and get out, although it is almost impossible to coordinate the movements of the two hands, as if his left hand were a rat trapped in a cage and another rat on the outside wanted to help it escape.  Unless, instead of helping it, it were biting it because all of a sudden the imprisoned hand hurts and the other hand is pressing down with all its might in this endeavor, which must be his hand and which hurts, hurts to the point that he gives up trying to remove the sweater, preferring to make one last effort to get his head out of the collar and the left rat out of the cage.  And he tries to do so struggling with his whole body, throwing it forward and back, turning around in the middle of the room, if this is indeed the middle of the room because now he comes to think that the window has been left open and that it is dangerous to keep turning around blindly.  He chooses to stop even though his right hand keeps coming and going without engaging the sweater, even though his left hand hurts more and more every time as if his fingers were bitten off or burnt.  Nevertheless, it is this hand that obeys him, contracting little by little the lacerated fingers so that he manages to seize through the sleeve the edge of the sweater rolled up on the shoulder and pulls downwards almost without any force.  It hurts too much and his right hand, in any case, would need to help instead of rising or falling uselessly towards his legs, instead of nibbling at his thigh as it is doing, scratching and nibbling through the clothing without being able to stop itself from doing so because all his willpower is contained in his left hand.  Perhaps he has fallen to his knees and is sitting there as if hung from his left hand which is drawn from the sweater one more time. 

And suddenly it is cold in his eyebrows and his forehead, in his eyes.  Absurdly, he does not want to open his eyes but he knows that he has gotten out, this cold material, this is delicious in the free air.  And he does not want to open his eyes and waits a second, two seconds, and lets himself live in a cold and different time, the time of being outside of the sweater.  He is on his knees and it is lovely to be as such until, little by little, he opens his eyes free of the blue drool of wool inside, he opens his eyes and sees five suspended black nails aimed at his eyes, vibrating in the air before jumping against his eyes, and he has the time to lower his eyelids and throw himself back, covering himself with his left hand, which is his hand, which is everything he has to defend himself from inside the sleeve, so that he can pull the collar of the sweater upwards and so that the blue drool can envelop his face anew while he straightens himself to flee elsewhere.  So as to arrive at last somewhere else without a hand and without a sweater, somewhere where there may be only a fragrant air that surrounds and accompanies and caresses him and twelve stories.

Reader Comments (2)

Only Cortazar could make such a simple act so suspenseful.

May 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmichai Levy

I agree! Thanks for your comments, Amichai!

June 1, 2011 | Registered Commenterdeeblog

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