Then you turned toward the mirror, to the image of your face reflected there in the murky surface, to prove your existence. No longer did you recognize yourself. You were the other woman, dressed in an outmoded nurse’s uniform.
And then the last of them: Denisse, from the waist up. I was seventeen, and I hadn’t seen that photo since I was a girl. I had been entrusted with it as with her eyes—now mine too—and the old suitcase I hadn’t opened in ten years.
She was pretty. That blouse always looked good on her. But her favorite was the white one with red flowers around the neckline, over her breasts, almost over her areolas, which I could make out when I saw her dressed.
There were her crooked lips, painted red. Her blank eyes. Underneath those eyes you could make out the clean tongue, the even teeth. A mouth not made for talking.
Denisse was laconic. She would reserve verbal communication for moments when there was no other solution, like on that night when, perhaps convinced of the contrary, she said, “Don’t worry, honey, I’m sure nothing’s going to happen to us.”
Then the clacking of the metal knocker sounded at the door. Startled, I dropped the photo album next to my feet.
I bent to pick it up before going to the door. It had to be Lilian.
“Since I was six, there’s been two types of doors to me. The ones that make me sick with nerves and give me this harsh pain in my stomach, and the ones that don’t. The first smell like glue; the second like all kinds of things, or they don’t have any… wait, no, it went out, give me a light.”
I reached out toward Nara, but before she could react, Sandra lifted her lighter and helped me relight the joint. I smoked some more.
Soon, I didn’t feel like chatting anymore, and I rubbed my fingers together as if to demand something. Maybe I was only trying to palpate my sudden desire not to speak another single word for the moment. I passed the joint.
“Hey, hello over there, girl.”
They were all looking at me, and Nara was waving her hand.
I must have been absorbed in my fingers for some time. With marijuana, one loses notions of temporality. In any case, whether twenty minutes or a second had passed, I still didn’t feel like talking, and worse, I didn’t want to be there anymore.
It was a sign that something was going to happen… Maybe I was already remembering it.
My father was awake. He wanted to know what I’d been doing, where I’d been. I told him at Nara’s house and that I was going to sleep. He grabbed my arm and though he didn’t say anything, I knew he’d seen the marijuana in my eyes. He let me realize that he knew. Then he let me go and told me to call him next time to say where I was.
I went to my room but couldn’t get to sleep right away. I thought about Denisse. I heard my father turn off the lights and, as always, open the door to the balcony before he went to bed. I thought of the knife he kept at his bedside to defend against thieves.
Then I imagined my father entering the room. He never did that without asking permission from the other side of the curtain.
It was a very strange thought.
Finally I went to sleep.
The next day my father woke up in a bad mood, and I don’t remember why we argued. We ended up unusually irritated with each other. Accustomed to talking as little as possible, we would almost always avoid fighting. On rare occasions we would lose control; that day was one of those occasions.
I shouted at him without looking him in the eye, raising my voice in a way I’d never dared to before. I knew he was too angry with me to hold back.
“Clean up the kitchen,” he said, yanking me up off the chair.
Maybe I should’ve stayed quiet. But that day I wasn’t in the mood to repress what I felt, maybe because of the aftereffects of the marijuana, or because at one point or another I’d have to go to school; what’s certain is I couldn’t hold back. I told my fears to go to hell and squared up to him.
“As soon as you get out of here,” I said.
I’d never used the informal address with him to his face. He stayed quiet a moment. Then he brought his face up close to mine and said quietly, but pronouncing the words slowly, hoarsely, with a harsh tone he knew how to use well:
“You get more like Denisse every day. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up like her.”
His disgusting face was right up to mine, and I couldn’t move. When he spoke again, his breath shot out on top of me:
“The same black eyes…”
The publication of this story is part of Sampsonia Way Magazine’s “CUBAN NEWRRATIVE: e-MERGING LITERATURE FROM GENERATION ZERO” project, in collaboration with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, and a collection of authors writing from Cuba. You can read this story in Spanish here, and other stories from the project, here.