By the time Eduardo stumbled through the doors of his bedroom, daylight had already begun to cough its way through the streets of Bogota. She was asleep in a foetal position, her hands squeezed tightly between her meaty thighs. The air in the bedroom was hot and stale from the ghost of a self-inflicted orgasm. Eduardo stood in the doorframe sizing her up. The wake of a night’s worth of aguardiente and cigarettes that had followed him from Rodrigo’s flat did not hesitate to make itself right at home in the little room. He contemplated slipping under the sheet and inside her, but something caught the edge of his eye and lured his thoughts away from the flesh on his bed. His desk was filthy, the typewriter was full of cobwebs spun by abandoned masterpieces; the ashtray was overflowing. That same something that had caught his eye began to stimulate his motor nerves, moving his body towards the desk. He sat down and put his fingers on the typewriter keys. His mind focused on the half-finished page in the machine. The mist cleared from his eyes for a few seconds, allowing Eduardo to get the gist of the rubbish he had typed before giving up and heading down to Rodrigo’s. Some existentialist bullshit, as always; Gabo would probably projectile vomit if he read it.
He ripped out the page and loaded a new one. Metaphors clogged his synopses. Similes oozed like pus from the corners of his mind’s eye. The more he typed the more furious he got with his own worthlessness. Having filled half a page he tore it out of the machine with a ‘ping!’ and scrunched it up into a ball.
“Finally, the page became something remotely creative” he thought and lit a cigarette.
He took a few puffs and sat thinking of nothing, while his cigarette slowly turned into a limp tube of grey ash. When the ambers got close to his fingers he threw it onto the heap in the ashtray and watched it smoulder to death.
“Hmmm…colilla,” he thought, then turned around and looked at her.
“Hmmm…puta,” he thought and began to unbutton his shirt. She moaned sweetly in her sleep and curled up into a tighter foetus.
Done with his shirt and moving onto his trousers, Eduardo was suddenly distracted by a powerful poetic urge. He looked at the stub, then at the girl, then at the stub again, and followed a plume of smoke as it rose up from the ashtray. He took out a blank page and drew a little sketch of the dying stub. Just below the sketch he wrote, ‘a last thread of smoke escapes like the final queef of a spent whore’.
“¡Quéasco!” he thought, lowered his head over the page and began to write the following verse:
“Just look at her!
There she lies, sharing her deathbed with long gone sisters,
As once they stood side-by-side, fresh fragrant and proud.
Now look at her,
Wrinkled and bent, her butt smothered in lipstick,
Nestled in the musk of her own decay.
Where are her promises now?
The strength of a cowboy; the luck of the strike,
Replaced by an allusion to a more sinister fate.
Then at last, a thin filament of smoke,
Like the penitent queef of a dying whore,
To everyone’s relief, including her own,
Snakes up and marks her demise.”
She woke up several hours later. The sun was lost somewhere in the grey soup above the city. Her body felt strangely intact, almost neglected. She looked over and found Eduardo asleep at his desk, his face plastered across a page covered in scribbles. She stood above him and looked closely at the page. She had never learned to read, so she ignored the words and examined the sketch of a cigarette butt scrunched up into a foetal position in the middle of an ashtray. Something about the sketch felt uncomfortably familiar. She quietly slipped her hand into his trouser pocket and pulled out a wad of pesos, took out enough for a taxi fare, a coffee and a packet of cigarettes and stuck the rest back into his trousers. She quietly slipped into her dress and shoes and walked out of the room. Eduardo smiled in his sleep.
Phnom Penh, 12 June 2011