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Saturday
Jun132015

Historias que me cuento (part 2)

The conclusion to a work ("Stories I tell myself") by this Argentine. You can read the original as part of this collection.

So I let her sleep; the story now possessed the development that I always liked in the stories I tell myself, the meticulous description of every item and every act, a super-slow film for a pleasure that would keep increasing on account of her body, her words, and her silence. I still asked myself why Dilia that night and then almost immediately stopped asking, for now it seemed so natural for her to be there half-asleep at my side, every so often accepting a new cigarette or murmuring an explanation about why here amid the mountains. The story would then get expertly muddled between yawns and broken sentences since nothing could have explained how Dilia was here at midnight on the most remote and godforsaken part of the road. At that moment she stopped speaking and looked at me, smiling that little-girl smile that Alfonso termed that of a buyer, and I gave her my truck driver name, always Oscar in my stories; and she said Dilia and added as she always added that it was a stupid name imputable to an aunt who loved reading trashy novels. It was almost incredible, I thought, that she didn't recognize me, that I was Oscar in the story and she didn't recognize me.

After that comes everything that the stories tell me but that I cannot tell the way they tell it. I only have uncertain fragments, potentially false deductions: the lamp lighting the folding table at the back of the truck parked now between the shelter of two trees; the screeching of the fried eggs, then of the cheese and jam; Dilia looking at me as if she were about to say something and then decided to say nothing; that it was not necessary to explain her getting down from the truck and disappearing beneath the trees. I would be facilitating matters with coffee, almost ready, with a cup of grappa, Dilia's eyes, which would close between drink and sentence, my insouciant way of bringing a lamp to the stool by the side of the mattress, tossing on a blanket because it would indeed get colder later, telling her that I was going to go up to the front cab to make sure the doors were properly closed since you never knew on these deserted stretches of road, and she would lower her eyes and say: don't go now and sleep in the seats in the front cab, that would be stupid  and I would give her my back so that she wouldn't see my face when I became vaguely surprised at what she was saying although, of course, it would always happen as such in one way or another. At times the squaw in her would talk about sleeping on the floor or her inner gypsy would take refuge in the cab and I would have to take her by the waist and steer her back inside, then take her to bed despite her tears or arguments. But not Dilia. Dilia would be going slowly from the table to the bed with a hand looking for the zipper on her jeans, the gestures which I could see in the story although I had my back to her and entering the cab I was giving her time to tell me that, yes, everything would be the way it had to be one more time, an uninterrupted and perfumed sequence, a super-slow traveling from the immobile silhouette caught in my headlights on the mountain swerve until Dilia as she was now, almost invisible beneath the woolen blankets, and then the cut that always occurred: turning off the lamp so that all that remained was the vague ash of the night entering the rear peephole with the plaintive call of a nearby bird.

This time the story went on interminably because neither Dilia nor I wanted it to end. There are stories that I would like to prolong but the Japanese girl or the icy and condescending Norwegian tourist do not let them continue, and despite the fact that I am the story's decision-maker there comes a moment in which I no longer have the strength or even the desire to make something last which, after the initial pleasure, begins to slip into insignificance. It is here where I might invent alternatives or unexpected incidents so that the story may continue in a lively fashion instead of going to sleep with one last, distracted kiss or more useless crying. But Dilia did not want the story to end; from her first gesture when I slipped next to her and instead of the unexpected, I felt her looking for me; from the first double caress I knew that the story had not done anything more than begin, that the night of the story would be as long as the night during which I was telling it. Only now there is nothing more than this, words talking about the story, words like matches, groans, cigarettes, laughs, supplications and demands, coffee at dawn, a dream of heavy waters, of fogs and returns and abandonments, with an initially timid tongue of sun coming from the peephole and slicing Dilia's back turned towards me, blinding me while I pressed against her to feel her open herself again amidst screams and caresses.

The story ends there, without the conventional farewells at the first village on the road as would have been practically inevitable, and from this story I drifted into sleep without anything apart from the weight of Dilia's body falling asleep on mine after a final murmur. I woke up when Niagara spoke to me about breakfast and an engagement we had later that evening. I know I was about to tell her and something held me back, something that was perhaps Dilia's hand returning me to the night and prohibiting me from uttering words which would have spoiled everything. Yes, I had slept very well; no problem, we'll meet at six at the corner of the square to go see the Marinis.

At the time we knew from Alfonso that Dilia's mother was very sick and that Dilia was traveling to Necochea to be with her. Alfonso had to take care of the baby, which gave him quite a bit of work, and we would have to see whether we'd visit them once Dilia returned. Her mother died a few days later and Dilia didn't want to see anyone for two months after that. When we went to dinner we brought some cognac and a rattle for the baby and everything was fine: Dilia was finishing up the duck à l'orange and Alfonso had the table all set up to play canasta. Dinner slipped into friendliness as it should have because Alfonso and Dilia are people that know how to live and began speaking about the most painful matter, quickly draining the subject of Dilia's mother; afterwards it was like softly passing a curtain to return to the immediate present, the games we always played, the keys and codes of humor through which we would spend a pleasant evening. It was already late and cognac time when Dilia alluded to her trip to San Juan, the necessity of forgetting her mother's final days, and the problems with such relatives that complicate everything. It seemed to me as if she were speaking for Alfonso's benefit, although Alfonso must have already known the anecdote because he smiled amicably while serving us another cognac, the car problems in the mountains, the empty night and the interminable wait on the side of the road where every nocturnal bird was a threat, the inevitable return of childhood phantasms, the lights of a truck, the fear that the truck driver would also be afraid and just keep on driving, the blinding lights sticking to the cliff, then the marvelous screeching of the brakes, the warm cab, the descent between dialogues hardly necessary but which helped her feel so much better.

"She's still traumatized," said Alfonso. "You've already told me the story, sweetheart, and each time I notice more details about the rescue, about your Saint George in overalls saving you from the evil dragon of the night."

"It's not that easy to forget," said Dilia. "It's something that just keeps coming back, and I'm not sure why."

She perhaps did not; Dilia perhaps did not know why, but I did. I had to drink my cognac in one gulp and serve myself another as Alfonso raised his eyebrows surprised at an abruptness that he did not recognize in me. His jokes, on the other hand, were more than predictable, telling Dilia that he had decided to stop the story, knowing, in addition, the first part but sure that there had been a second, that it was so obvious, the truck in the night, all that which is so obvious in our life.

I went to the bathroom and stayed there a while trying not to look at myself in the mirror, trying not to find what had been horribly there while she was telling me the story and which now I felt once more. But here this very night, this was what began to take over my body, this was what I had never imagined could be possible after so many years with Dilia and Alfonso, of our happy couple friendship of parties and movies and kisses on the cheek. Now it was the other, it was Dilia, and again the desire, Dilia's voice coming in from the living room, Dilia and Niagara's laughs which had to be making fun of Alfonso for his stereotypical jealousy. It was already late; we drank some more cognac and made ourselves a final round of coffee. From upstairs came the baby's cry and Dilia ran up and brought the baby down in her arms ("He's wet himself completely and it's just a mess. I'm going to change him in the bathroom"). In the meantime Alfonso was elated because this gave him another half-hour to talk to Niagara about Vilas's chances against Borg, and enjoy another cognac and a pipe; in the end we were all quite plastered.

But I was not there. I had gone to the bathroom to accompany Dilia who had put her son on a small table and was looking for things in a cabinet. And it was as if somehow Dilia knew when I told her that I knew the second part; when I told her that it couldn't be but she could see that it was so; I knew that second part. And Dilia gave me her back so as to undress the baby and I saw her incline not only to remove the safety pins and diaper, but also because she was suddenly oppressed by a weight from which she had to free herself. This was the same weight she was shedding when she turned, looked me in the eye, and said that it was for sure, that it was stupid and had no importance whatsoever, but it really was for sure, that she had slept with the truck driver. "Tell Alfonso if you want. In his own way he's convinced of it anyway; he doesn't believe it and yet he's sure of it."

This is how it was. I would say nothing and she would not understand why she was telling me this, why me, since I had asked her absolutely nothing and instead had told her something that she could not have understood from that side of the story. I felt my eyes descending like fingers towards her mouth, her neck, looking for the breasts which her black blouse outlined like my hands had outlined that whole night, that whole story. The desire was a crouched leap, the absolute right to approach her and seek out her bosom below her blouse and involve her in our first hug. I saw her turn, incline once more but this time lightly, freed from silence. She swiftly pulled out the diapers; the smell of the baby which had peed and shat himself came to me together with Dilia's murmurs to stop him from crying. I saw her hands which reached for the cotton and placed it between the baby's raised legs. I saw her hands cleaning the baby instead of coming to me as they had come to me in the darkness of that truck which I have used so many times in the stories I tell myself.

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