SALT AND CINNAMON ON A CHAIR
Translation by Sigfrido Ahsen Nuez Since
It’s midday. Now I’m seated in front of your portrait which you sent to me together with one of your letters. I get the impression you are close to me, sweet girl, like a cat that grazes my neck with her arched back. All the pure and innocent features of your smooth, apparently youthful face become tempting. Your seductive smile catches my eye. Your cherry-coloured earlobe swells up in my mouth. I notice your invasive perfume around me, and I dream of paradise. But there is no paradise without a snake, and then your treacheries, your letters and your small, horrifyingly misspelled words hurt me. “To love is the worst cock-up in the world,” el chato Antonio said to me.
This lonely Sunday, I am in mourning as I sit in front of your portrait. For a few seconds, I listen to a record that repeats, “I was able to love you…but never forget…that affection… you felt for me.” I remember those years, when I asked you to love me the way I was. I remember what I was like: heeled boots, glasses for short-sightedness that gave me an intellectual look, skin full of moles, blue jeans, T-shirts… I also remember how I pleased you by climaxing inside of you. And now, time and distance separate us. The pitiless age crushes us, and misfortune has pushed me down to a hopeless lethargy.
My spine started to hurt intensely, as if a needle was pricking it, and later that pain became unbearable, like lions attacking me or a bolt of lightning tearing through my back. Finally, my legs and the sphincters of my bladder and my rectum decided to never obey my brain’s orders again. It was a cruel blow of fate. My lucid brain feels Brigitte Bardot’s wet sensuality. Fever dries my mouth with every page of the Playboy magazine. But my genitals have neither energy nor strength, like a jellyfish without hunger. A friend told to me that your breasts hang flaccid, with their pride fallen down. Your crow’s feet have left some marks around your eyes. Inconcealable wrinkles draw an old map on your face. Your soft belly appears under your clothes.
My room’s window is dirty. The curtains are tasteless and were not bought at IKEA. There are a couple of shirts, a towel and some underwear on the only chair. There are some books, magazines, old newspapers, faded trousers and broken stockings scattered on the floor. The rugs have the IKEA label, are worn away and have turned an indefinite colour. A large mirror, which leans against the wall, reflects the disorder and the dirt. However, I would have liked you to be here with me, like when we were young: seated, drinking some tea, holding the cup delicately with your fingers and raising your pinky, vainly like a socialite. Would you have had the courage to stay with a grumpy, disabled, old man?
I used to wait for you at number 16 of the Revolution Avenue. My Seiko watch struck 10 p.m. but you weren’t there. “She will come”, I said to myself. I waited one more hour…and two more hours. I went to bed tired, with my hands in my pockets and stung by the painful jealousy. Jealousy? I was overcome by it, but boasted of not being jealous at all. I said to my friends of the neighbourhood, “I trust her.” But that day you shot an enchanted glance at a guy that was walking in front of your house, and I asked you out loud what you were thinking about and why you were looking at him with such lust. You told me, “Nothing. It’s nothing.” But your answer didn’t convince me. To tell the truth, I didn’t care that you undressed men with your eyes. Your tender glance, the excited gesture of your lips… it shocked me! Do you understand? It made me lose control.
I’m alone, in front of your portrait. Memories are like a ghostly rain slipping through my rumbling heart. I remember that day when you put a cigarette out on the pavement and planted a kiss on the policeman who worked his shift at the corner of your street. You told me that it was my fault because I didn’t take you to the movies or parties, and I didn’t treat you to coffee after work. I cried two times that night. I cried because of your betrayal and also because you died of pleasure in the arms of a member of the riot squad. That’s what outraged me most. It humiliated me! El chato Antonio told me, “It doesn’t matter, but when she comes, tell her to wash her arse.” It was terrible losing you to another day by day. “If a stranger talks to you about love, say no right away…” I had whispered this song in your ears, but it had been all in vain.
A French journalist said to me, “True love implies passion. That ‘refined’ love, based only on little kisses, lacks excitement. Besides, distant love is for fools.” She was a freak in bed. She was the only woman that has ever knocked me out after sex. She once told me, “I like that you give yourself to me vigorously and peacefully, without violence. I like that you satisfy my desires silently and talk to me smoothly like an ambassador of love.” It was ten o’clock in the morning and I told her, “Your plane takes off at twelve.” She answered me calmly, “Yes, then we still have two hours.” Her velvet-like genitals bit my genitals and her wonderful breasts brought me to an exhausting pleasure. I still listen to the record, “Goodbye youth… temporary life… you bloom and bloom and finally you waste away…”
I sincerely think that you have done two good things in your life. The first one was to have married me when you believed it was necessary, and the second one was to have left me at the right time. El chato Antonio, who insisted he wasn’t short but rather wore deep-fitting shoes, told me, “That’s life. You can start a couple of relationships, but you never know when they will finish, nor how they’ll end. However, life is the art of drawing without an eraser.”
I’m in front of your portrait and my reflection is like an enormous prison covered by a lonely fog. Could my heart be empty like the autumnal dawns? The wind rises up and lifts the leaves while they complain because they have been separated from their branch, from their tree. Seated on my wheelchair, I see my dark, unfortunate life pass, although sometimes it turns tender and delicate, and a blue sky shines in my heart.
Translation of “Salt and Cinnamon on a Chair” Copyright Walter Lingán.
Walter Lingán was born in San Miguel de Pallaques, Cajamarca, Peru, and obtained a medical degree from the University of Cologne, Germany. He is a contributor for Ila magazine based in Bonn, member of the group ALA (Latin American Authors of Germany) and coordinator of the literary gathering ‘La Ambulante,’ also in Germany. Walter has published various works including the novels Por un puñadito de sal (1993), and El lado oscuro de Magdalena (1996). He also has published short stories which were compiled in the book Los tocadores del Apocalipsis (1999). In 1998. Lingán received the third prize in the 20th International Competition “El cuento de las 1000 palabras,’’ organised by the Peruvian magazine Caretas.