— You are a glory. You are the glory of God — he told me while drinking in my fear with his look.
I began to tremble even before the mass ended. Sometimes I closed my eyes and hoped that it would last longer; instead, the sermon just got shorter each day. Neither the flittering nuns nor the impromptu confessions took away the time that I was dreading. I simply did not want the mass to end, but rather wished it would last forever.
I also remember the cold. Every evening, before he approached and spoke to me about the glory, my body became an ice floe that yearned to take flight. Frozen and silent, I was already shivering when the lights went off. I longed to run and hide myself where the sun didn’t shine, where not even the stars would illuminate me, all so that he would not find me.
I helped the sisters tidy up the altar. We ate frugally in the dining hall after murmuring the blessing; then the group members dispersed to their rooms to continue praying.
But I wasn’t safe in my room. In fact, it was there where the danger was the greatest. There, his hands became charged with energy. Something took control of them as the parishioners departed and I was left alone. Nobody knew it, but an unknown force took possession of his fingers. Even in the darkness they could find their way, abandoning the rigid and serene gesturing and starting to shake with fervor as they were placed on my bosom. When his hands approached my body, all his fingers began all to shake over it, later immersing themselves in it until they made it clammy.
— It’s your fault. You have the glory. Before it, the flesh is weak.
It’s true, I thought, it was my fault. There must have been something that I did or thought to make this happen only to me. I was the glory, he reminded me.
But there was evil within my mind. This he did not know; nobody could have known it. If I could have killed him, I would have done so. It did not happen because his hands were faster, whereas my thinking became slow and stagnated, like water trapped in a ditch where leaves pile up and prevent it from flowing.
I stopped counting the nights and the days. Do whatever I might and even when I did nothing, he always came. It was a punctual and daily ritual, despite my prayers — a punishment that was born of original sin and eventually took root in my body.
One night I told him that my stomach ached. A swollen belly prevented me from fastening my clothing, and I had to use Sister Sofia’s tunic from then onward. Every day I felt worse, especially in the mornings. He stared hard at me. A bitter sheen spread over his face. His eyes fell like weights upon my abdomen, and the wrinkle in his left cheek moved abruptly, as if about to burst open and exorcise the hatred sown by my words. There was silence. Then, half of his mouth drew into a smile, and he stroked my head, almost like a father.
I could not sleep all night; I could not close my eyes; I could not think. Dinner was left untouched in the bowl. I was really scared, not from not knowing, but from thinking that I knew, or might know, what was happening to me. The next night I had to ask, because my mind needed to confirm my fears.
— Father, what is happening to me? It hurts all the time. Could it be that … ?
— Sh … Do not say anything. It is the glory. You have the glory of the Lord there inside.
At that moment, a very clear image came to me of a life growing inside me. Alicia already went through this, throwing up her dinner at night. She had to drop out of school and was the shame of everyone.
I knew then what I had to do.
They may ask why I didn’t tell anyone. The reason was that I was sure no one would believe me. He said that, if I spoke of it, the demons would come and haunt the house — that they would devour the souls of the sisters. Afterward, they would roam into the town, and that would also be my fault, because glory was created to be revered. I should be pleased … and silent. It was not something to be scorned.
The mass ended, and I went to the room after the ceremony. He took so long that I thought he would not come this time, that my words had driven him away. The relief did not last long enough, though, because I later heard footsteps and became terrified. It happened just at the very moment when I decided that I was going to tell one of the sisters or write to Aunt Josefa. I had not done it before out of fear.
In the end, however, the fear of demons was less than the fear of the father’s footsteps, because they were real. They sounded first behind the door and then, after the rattling of a key, came swiftly intp the bedroom. And then they stopped. The cassock fell. I remained still. And it all began again.
This led me to kindle my light and walk toward the patio. I have to hurry because the dogs will begin to bark at any moment. They are in the habit of filling the night with noises at the smallest hint of movement or at any strange sound. He had told me that the demons got into the dogs at night and, because of this, I should not flee. If I had thought about it, fleeing was dangerous and I should have been afraid. But I was no longer fearful. Not of the dogs.
I have known the well and the wall around it since childhood: every fissure, every cracked brick, every centimeter of cement. I know the grass at the base of the wall and also know the temperature of the stones that form it. I remove my shoes. I climb. Before jumping in, I look at the world that I am leaving. I do not want what is growing in my womb to experience what I have, to feel the same hands moving over the pathways that they took with me.
The fear will end here. The burden of guilt and the demons. I jump so that the glory and I will be inside. Safe from everything.
Translation: Jennifer Jones Howitt
*Original title: La Gracia, from Agujeros negros. National Short Story Prize José María Sánchez 2015.
TEXTOS EM PORTUGUÊS
Tradução: Antonio Miranda
Que não és
O que digo
É o que vês
E o que vês
Não é certo.
O perdão é uma desculpa
Não apaga as feridas infligidas
A quem mutilas
É o sangue rubro que dilui os ocasos
Nostálgicos dos postais
O perdão não se pronuncia
Não se pensa
Necessitamos e basta
AMOR É A TEMPERATURA (Amor es la temperatura)
O calor dilata as horas
Contrai os corpos
Sobre o deserto e o assombro da noite
Está nevando uma canção entre as pernas
A melodia foi refeita
E o amor era um disfarce
Algo se afastará quando estejamos perto
E quando estivermos longe
Aproximar-se-á de nós
DA JANELA DO PRECIPÍCIO (De la ventana al precipicio)
Encontrar a janela aberta
Enfiar a cabeça e o olhar para fora
E ver passar as sombras que a noite deixa
Na lente aquosa sob as pálpebras
E um foto aprisionando-se em tua garganta
De La nieve sobre la arena. Premio Nacional de Literatura Ricardo Miró 2014.
The thousand and one nights
History bleeding to death
Over the dunes.
A thousand and one nights
Feeding their fears via satellite
A shooting image will not be a star
Those of the cross and those of the star and crescent
Play their fates
Here and now
Not in a impregnable galaxy
That there will be no Oscars for the effects
For those lights
For those stunts that will not see the sunset
This soft child who escaped from your arms
One evening went to hell
Getting up is the censored end of the tale
The fall was identical to the things that gravity
And she fell without a break
She could not get up
I look up at you from the floor and I do not find
The right path
I look at you
And my eyes they study how I do get lost
The boat left
As never before
Loneliness caressed the bones
And already out of the tale
I want to sleep
All at the same time.
But it is not possible to escape to another orchard
The apple trees perished in the winter
The broken wings
Already exposed in the crystalline trunk of any museum
I ask you for an other
For a last birth.
Translation: Edilberto González Trejos
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