The She-Devil in the Mirror: Chapter 2

by Horacio Castellanos Moya    /  March 12, 2010  / No comments

The Burial

How horribly hot it was in that church, my dear. I can’t figure out why they decided to hold the funeral so early in the day. They really should have air conditioning in churches. This isn’t the first time I’ve thought of that: if those priests installed air conditioning, I swear we’d come to church more often. I told my mother that the last time I went, and she made a face like you wouldn’t believe, like I was committing blasphemy. Good thing we’re in the car now and that I parked it in the shade. For a moment there I was sweating so much I thought my makeup would run. What a talkative priest, my dear. But let’s just wait here until the air conditioning kicks in—I’ve been sweating so much I feel like dashing home and taking a shower instead of following in the funeral procession. I’m going to join in behind Sergio and Cuca. Sergio’s car is such a pretty color, I love that lilac; I wanted one that color but BMW doesn’t make it, only Toyota, so I chose white, because it goes with everything and I wasn’t about to buy a different make just because there wasn’t lilac. Some people don’t care; Alberto, my ex-husband, is like that. I’ve had only BMWs for about twelve years now, ever since papa gave me my first car when I turned eighteen and entered the university. I remember celebrating with Olga María. A day that started out beautiful and ended up ugly. The day after the graduation party, there it was, the car, parked in front of our house. It was a total surprise, and I was ecstatic. I called all my friends from school and told them to come over and see it: BMW, latest model, crimson red. I drove around in it the whole day with Olga María and some other friends. Papa warned me not to drive too fast, but once we decided to drive to the port and we were out on the highway, I floored it. Poor Olga María, we were so happy that day, and now, look at her, ahead of us in that hearse. I still can’t believe it. That same night I was showing off my BMW, we also had a brush with death; that’s why I’m remembering it now, you can’t imagine what a horrible experience it was. We went to the Zona Rosa to have a few beers and hang out with some friends. You won’t believe it, but we’d just left Chili’s, and we were walking to the corner where I’d left my car and suddenly, there was a shoot-out. All hell broke loose. A bunch of terrorists suddenly appeared out of nowhere and started shooting some gringos sitting on the terrace of the Mediterraneo Restaurant. You can’t believe the panic. Everybody threw themselves on the ground and started shouting their heads off, because the shooting seemed to last forever. I tore my brand-new blue jeans, right on the knee, and Olga María almost broke her wrist. It was dreadful. When the shooting stopped, there was this deathly silence, and we all slowly crept over to where the gringos were all shot up. They killed them all; there were about ten of them sprawled out on the floor, bleeding like pigs. Dreadful, my dear, really gruesome. We’d just walked by there no more than a minute earlier. Isn’t that incredible, that nothing happened to us then and now Olga María ended up dying like this? I swear, we almost had a fit of hysteria. I don’t know how we managed to find our way to the car and get out of there. Two of the gringos were really handsome. I remember perfectly how they stared at Olga María and me when we walked past their table. That’s what we were talking about—hard as it is to believe, even if it seems like I’m making this up—about how hot two of those gringos were, when suddenly the shooting started. I hate driving in funeral processions. Other people hate you; it causes huge traffic jams; and it makes me feel like I’m on display in a shop window. If Olga María hadn’t been such a good friend, I’d have driven straight to the cemetery and not followed the hearse—that’s what I usually do when it isn’t someone this close. Hand me that Miguel Bosé cassette. He’s so hot. I love him. Finally, the air conditioning is starting to work. I don’t know why that hearse is going so slowly. It’s practically standing still. What’s going on? Maybe it’s because there are too many of us. This must be one of the longest processions there’s been in a long time—Olga María and Marito’s families are so well-known; well, to tell the truth, Olga María’s is more. By the way, did you notice how gorgeous Diana looked? She looks so much like Olga María, a Xerox copy. Miami’s climate suits her. I’d love to have a tan like that. But the sun here is too harsh: it just burns you, turns you into a boiled shrimp, and then the tan doesn’t last at all. Things are going really well for Diana in Miami. We had a long talk this morning. I told her exactly what happened. She suspects there’s more than meets the eye. She said she has no intention of standing around twiddling her thumbs, she’s even considering hiring a gringo private detective to come here and investigate; she doesn’t trust the police here at all. I don’t either, especially that Deputy Chief Handal, what an oaf. Did I tell you he started interrogating me this afternoon? Stupid idiot. He wants me to tell him all of Olga María’s most intimate secrets just so he can confirm his own filthy suspicions. He even threatened me, if I didn’t cooperate, he’d get a subpoena. Please, do me a favor! Ask me whatever you want, I told him, once and for all, but I warned him, I’m only going to answer the questions I feel like answering. And you know what he asked? If I knew of any life insurance policies Marito had taken out on Olga María. I told him these aren’t things decent people go around talking about, every respectable family of course has life insurance policies. Please, do me a favor. That Deputy Chief Handal is a boor—instead of looking for the murderer, he spends his time digging into Olga María’s family life. I told him: Don’t be so vile! What, I said to him, are you trying to insinuate that Mario hired somebody to kill Olga María so he could get her life insurance? What a vile insinuation—and I, for one, wasn’t going to put up with it. He said I shouldn’t misunderstand, he was only trying to verify information he’d gotten elsewhere and he wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination suggesting that Mr. Trabanino had hired somebody to kill his wife. That’s what that cretin said: “Mr. Trabanino.” Then he really threw me for a loop. You know what he asked me? If I knew what kind of relationship there’d been between Olga María and Gastón Berrenechea, the lawyer. Now, why would he ask me that? We were in the reception room at the funeral home, it was almost empty, but everyone must have heard me shouting at him to stop being so impertinent, show some respect for the dead, get out of here immediately unless he wanted me to get Olga María’s relatives to throw him out. Can you imagine such an outrage? I bet he was a terrorist, or something like it, during the war. Well, with this new police force they put together after they signed that peace treaty with the communists, you never know. I am absolutely positive that Handal is working with Yuca’s enemies. You’ve got to be very careful with people of that ilk. Can you imagine the scandal if the press got wind of Yuca’s affaire with Olga María! I get chills just thinking about it: it would be the end of his entire political career. What a weird route the driver of that hearse is taking. I would have turned left here: it makes more sense— why does he want to go all the way through Colonia San Francisco?

From THE SHE- DEVIL IN THE MIRROR, By Horacio Castellanos Moya, translated by Katherine Silver, copyright ©2000 by Horacio Castellanos Moya, translation copyright ©2009 by Katherine Silver. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing.

About the Author

Horacio Castellanos Moya is the senior contributor to Sampsonia Way. A novelist and emeritus writer-in-residence at the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh. Born in Honduras in 1957, he grew up in El Salvador. He has lived in Guatemala, Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico (where he spent twelve years as a journalist, editor, and political analyst), Spain, and Germany. In 1988 he won the National Novel Prize from Central American University for his first novel. His work has been translated into five languages. He has published eight novels. The English translation of his novel Senselessness was published in June 2008 by New Directions. He was the second exiled writer-in-residence at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh and has resided there since 2006.

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