The Same Eyes by Lizabel Mónica
Translated by David Iaconangelo
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.
- Lizabel Mónica
- Fiction writer, poet, art critics and editor.
- She holds a BS in History. She is the coordinator of the international multi-faceted project of art, writing and thinking, DESLIZ, as well as the DESLIZ digital magazine. She is probably one of the Cubans that has edited the largest number of blogs, such as CUBA FAKE NEWS, PALADEO IN DELEITE, REVISTA DESLIZ, BROKEN SPANGLISH, LIZABEL MÓNICA, and LA TAZA DE CAFÉ.
- Read more…
“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…”
We stayed like that for a few seconds I thought would never end, until he moved away slowly, without taking his eyes off me.
I spun away and went outside. He tried to stop me but couldn’t. I slammed the door and bolted away, afraid he might come after me. I kept running until I was out of sight of the house.
I wasn’t going to go to school.
I went to see Sandro. I wanted him.
“Want to be by yourself?”
I don’t know, I thought, how should I know? Sandro was waiting for a response.
“Can I ask you what happened?”
I didn’t look at him. I didn’t feel like answering.
“I think it was when I put you face down, maybe you didn’t like it when I flipped you over or I was too rough, maybe I should’ve asked you.”
“Do you always have to know everything?”
“I’d like to keep on seeing you.”
“We see each other every day at Nara’s house.”
“I’d like to be closer to you.”
- The Writer Speaks
- Interview by Claudia Cadelo
- “ One thing we do understand is that our country needs that individuals regain authority over their own lives, not under an ideology or a certain respectable professional career, but simply on behalf of their own interests, whatever they may be.
“It’s too hot.”
“Having someone too close to me suffocates me.”
“Is this okay?”
“A little more that way… Actually, I’ll sit here and you stay on the bed.”
I started to get dressed. I felt awkward and didn’t feel like talking.
“Wait, don’t you want to go for a walk? Mairet!”
I heard him yell something as I was closing the door. I think it was “See you at Nara’s house?”
When I got home, my father wasn’t there, like every Monday. Lilian would get there in an hour.
Mondays were the best days, my special days with Lilian, but that Monday I felt anxious.
I’d stolen Sandro’s cigarettes. I lit one and sat down on the bed. I thought I should go into my father’s room before Lilian got there to see if it was neat and to put up the mirrors, but I didn’t feel like going in there just then.
I put down the cigarette. I was too anxious to smoke. I didn’t want to have anything in my hands.
I thought of Denisse, then suddenly thought of Denisse again. A few minutes later I was opening the old suitcase.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it or not, but there I was doing it, and I was too agitated to reflect on what I was doing. There were the photos, swaddled up in old clothes.
The first pages of the album were for the “uncles.” Each one bearing the curious names she’d given them: Uncle Carlos, Uncle Pablo, Uncle Justino, Uncle González, Uncle Alberto, Uncle Federico… a long succession of men who only had a smiling face and Denisse’s neatly handwritten caption in common. They occupied most of what anyone would stupidly call family memories.
And after the final uncle, my father, with his face closed and fierce.
I looked in the pack; there weren’t any cigarettes left and I badly wanted a cigarette.
I returned to the album. There was the last photo: Denisse.
After I picked the album off the floor, I went to open the door.
It was Lilian. I saw her inexpressive mouth through the grille. A mouth that always reminded me of another mouth.
When I opened the grille door, I knew I was going to find Lilian’s inert mouth and right then see another mouth, one with crooked lips… It was the mouth, her mouth, Denisse’s mouth, and the legs coming in behind the smell of glue as the door closed behind them both. Those legs were like Denisse’s when she would put on a skirt because she was about to go out. “Today’s a good day for work, honey.” She didn’t say anything else, but I knew it was one of those unpleasant afternoons when she gave me her back.
Lilian smiled. I looked her in her grey eyes and saw my eyes, my black eyes in them.
Lilian walked toward my father’s room, and I hurried after her to watch how she got undressed. Lilian would always move quick and leave me alone there in the living room. I don’t want to be alone today, Denisse, don’t go…
By the time I entered the room Lilian was already naked. Her clothes were tossed on the nightstand, covering my father’s portrait, only his blue eyes visible beneath Lilian’s skirt.
Now I had to get undressed too. I wasn’t alone long. Denisse came back afterward, making a rough-day face: “The men are being such a pain today.”
Lilian looked at me and I understood she was waiting for me to take off my clothes. As always, I went toward the mirror, Denisse undressed, I saw her breasts, her ass, her long hair, the strange way she was observing me. Someone knocked hard on the door. Denisse looked at me: “Don’t worry, honey, I’m sure nothing’s going to happen to us.” She put on a skirt and the blouse, her areolas prominent and unhidden by a bra.
She went to the door. A man entered and plunked down a bottle. Lilian came over and stroked me for a few seconds. She knelt to lick between my legs. Feeling her wet nose in my vagina for a moment made me forget that afternoon I’d just been remembering, but she got up and looked at me again, with her grey eyes, and as always, even if I couldn’t pin it down before, with Denisse’s black eyes.
Denisse looked angry: “Get out of here! No men are allowed in my house.” He hadn’t seen me. I was in the corner of the room, the corner Denisse had assigned me to before opening the door. “Señora,” he murmured, and threw himself at Denisse, seeking her lips with his own. Irritated, Denisse looked at me, went speechless, and tried to push the man out of the apartment.
- David Iaconangelo
- David Iaconangelo is a writer, translator and journalist based in New York City. His fictions, translations and reviews have been published in Baltimore City Paper, Words Without Borders, and the Caribbean Review of Books, among others. He covers immigration at the Latin Times. He is the former editor of ZafraLit.
Lilian blinked, disconcerted, knowing she couldn’t ask what was happening to me; I’d asked her never to speak when we arranged to see other like this. I struck her, and she took that as a sign that everything had gone back to normal, that what we usually did was about to begin.
She returned the blow and shoved me back against one of the mirrors. The man pushed Denisse inside and shut the door. He threw her down on the bed. Denisse looked at me from the mirror. He’d laid down on top of her.
“Wait,” she said. “The girl.” He moved to the side, Denisse sat up and took me by the hand, led me to the bathtub, said, “Stay here; if you stay quiet he’ll leave soon,” and closed the bathroom door, which smelled of glue.
I turned around, grabbed Lilian, and kissed her violently. I squeezed the flesh of her shoulders. Lilian separated herself from me. She pinned me against the wall and ran her tongue along my mouth, over my face, as if she wanted to swallow my eyes. I clung to the wall until one of my nails ripped off. I forgot myself, in order to withstand the pain.
I opened the bathroom door. I’d always listened to her, but not that day; I don’t know if it was out of curiosity or fear of being by myself. The smacks I gave Lilian made her back up. She couldn’t do much but howl, and I got really turned on.
I left the bathroom and walked slowly, so they wouldn’t hear me. I reached the room and saw them. Him on top of her, moving. Denisse’s face turned back to face the door. Lilian had grabbed me by the hair and the two of us fell to the floor, our bodies rolling over one another.
Lilian, out of breath and with bloodshot eyes, got up and went to look for the knife my father kept at his bedside. I squeezed my nipples as I waited. He had picked up Denisse to put her on all fours on the bed, her ass facing him. For the first time I was seeing that which I’d only seen in the magazines Denisse hid under her mattress. I watched them, but her face was still turned towards the door. I wanted to see her eyes and her mouth. Lilian was on top of me, offering me the knife.
I went toward Denisse until I could see her face. I stopped in front of her. Her gaze fell beyond me. Her eyes were blank. She saw me, shouted at me, but I couldn’t move. I didn’t know what to do and froze there, watching her. Lilian offered me her arm, her mouth open and full of saliva. Her eyes restless.
There were Denisse’s eyes, as she shouted and tried to sit up. She struck at the man, who tried to catch her hands as she fought to be able to get up. He grabbed her legs and pulled them toward him; the pull made Denisse lose control of her hands, and her head fell hard against the floor.
I sank the knife into where there weren’t any marks and cut the veins. Lilian moved her arm so that the blood streamed over her body, turning her vagina red; I penetrated her with my red hands. Denisse didn’t move. I drank the blood from Lilian’s arm. Only Denisse’s ass was moving. He jiggled it, holding her by the hips. When he saw, he let her fall on the bed and looked at me. I ran to the bathroom and closed the door. He tried to open it. I screamed at him, wept, fell asleep.
When they got me out Denisse wasn’t on the bed anymore. They made me put my things in a suitcase and took me to my father, that man I’d only seen in the photo.
When we finished, like always, I got up and looked for the bandages Lilian would need. I carried her over into my father’s bed. While she recuperated I cleaned the blood from her body. I contemplated her.
The truth is that seeing her limp and motionless body excited me so much, I wanted to touch her again. Softly, as soon as she woke up and opened her grey eyes, Denisee’s black eyes were on me.
That Monday night, when Lilian left and I was alone once more, I took the album and put it inside the old suitcase, then took a shower.
I closed the door. Even if there wasn’t anyone there, I closed the bathroom door. Getting out of the shower, I felt tired. I knew I wouldn’t go to Nara’s house that night.
I sat down on the tile floor and went to sleep.
Edited in English by Joshua Barnes
All facts and characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Los hechos y/o personajes de esta historia son ficticios, cualquier semejanza con la realidad es pura coincidencia.