FEEBLEMINDED

ARIANA HARWICZ

Translated from the Spanish by Annie McDermott and Carolina Orloff

I plan how I’ll turn him on. I focus on him. I think about the grimy, altered hand, the upright antennae and I’m lost. Feeling faint, face bloated, still losing my footing. She spots something funny from the vegetable garden, her hands buried among the roots. She can’t believe her eyes. What are you doing back here at this hour? Haven’t you had enough time off? You’re unbelievable. A housewife again with the salad and beetroot and the look of a good little matron. Get up from there, get up right now. The watery awareness of childhood. It’s all there in those precocious experiences, those glorious summers. We’d fish in dry streams and starve till we found a guy with a rod late at night, and then she’d get us dinner. Before that, I’d go from village to village with a rumbling stomach, sitting on the steps of chapels with my legs wide open, spitting SOS messages onto the ground. Or stealing bread from the rubbish bins. Mother from door to door. Mother with wooden heels on her clogs. And me asleep, my face buried in spaghetti or tinned tuna. Me asleep, drooling on the tables of the taverns where they’d dance with their pelvises and smoke cigarettes without filters. Stop wasting your time. She punches me in the chest to wake me. Did they send you home? It’s not school, mum. What did they say this time? Tell me exactly what you’ve done, I’ll call them, put the supervisor on and I’ll explain. Were you punished? I climb onto the crest of my desire. Up there, high in the control tower, nothing can interfere. She’s talking to herself, soporific, saying jobs mean bread on the table, salt on the table, jobs keep us all sane, and I carry on smiling through my fixation. Here she comes, scrubbing her hands, and I have him on top of me, surrendering, sniffing me all over. When was the last time you got laid, mum? You’re so vulgar, you’re such a pig, and she treats herself to a vicious-sounding slap on my cheek. That falling-in-love feeling when they stick it inside you, mum. The rush of joy when they ram it in deep and pull it out but then enter you again, like they’re rescuing you from a quagmire. Yes, that’s it, he thrusts his cock inside me and pulls it out but then he comes back, comes back and I’m afloat. That saying about being cradled in his arms, but here on the other side of sex the saying is endless too. Cacophonic. Mum, you need the rapture of sex. The racing veins of sex. The stabbing, fanatical gestures, the last keys in the piano. Talk to me about praying, about meditating. Mum rears up with her nails. She skins me like I’m a Chinese dog left in a pound on the outskirts. The terror of ending up with nothing. If our power’s cut off, what are we going to do? And the gas? And the freezing mornings without heating? How about having rabbit à la moutarde from time to time, followed by a nice little cocktail in a fancy bar? And how about leather shoes, cute handbags? Judging by how quickly my grandparents and great-grandparents died, she and I will get there before long. We’ll die young and sexy, we’ll be the prettiest in the morgue. And there it is again, a slap on the same cheek. She drags me along by the legs, yanks me through the grass. I’m no longer in this world but another, and it’s bluer, so much bluer, like the sky. Endless, celestial. Heavenly. The world of desperate thrusting, of idiotic purring. The flagrant world of sex against garage doors. See? I’ve learned my lesson. She’s mightily strong but can barely shake me. Agitated, she bends double, asthmatic, she can’t make me listen any more. I despise this life where in the kitchen at a certain time of day the water starts to boil.

Something’s biting my face. There’s no space left inside me. Mum smothers me in goodnight kisses, the child in the womb like a bundle in a washing machine. It starts to lose shape very slowly, the baby tearing itself apart, its appearance fading, you were in here, she says, sticking out her belly, right here, come and touch. You consumed me to the bone. Her hair is combed back and it looks gorgeous, she’s glowing from having made me. But I can see her losing energy, an old lady who reaches the rubbish bin gasping for air. Tomorrow I’ll get you up early and take you. My mind can hold objects high in the air, suddenly I realize the ceiling’s very far away. I show mum my hands against the light. They’re beautiful. We’ll make it all happen, she says, and rubs cream into them, finger by finger, crease by crease. Tomorrow morning we’ll sort it out, I’ll make you a proper cooked breakfast. Good night, she tucks me in, a pat on the forehead from the blonde with no morals. With the story of the wolf and stones instead of lambs, or the one with cows burned at stakes, vaccinated, castrated, wormed. And yet all I think about as I hear her get into bed is a snowy night in the countryside. A night, snow falling slowly, out in the countryside. I don’t know why.