The following is from Carmen Boullosa's The Book of Eve. Boullosa is one of Mexico's leading novelists, poets, and playwrights. She has published over a dozen novels, three of which have been published by Deep Vellum in English translation. Boullosa has received numerous prizes and honors, including a Guggenheim fellowship. Also a poet, playwright, essayist, and cultural critic, Boullosa is a Distinguished Lecturer at City College of New York.
I moved my hands toward the apple. I touched it. Its skin was a different temperature—unlike stone, unlike my body, unlike air; its texture felt completely foreign, a warning of the unknown—it wasn’t smooth like lambskin or sharp like my teeth, it was neither water nor rock. Neither light nor darkness. Nor chaos.
The apple’s skin awakened my own skin and when I felt that, I had the courage to tell my hand, “Take it!”
In one, swift motion I yanked the apple from the branch. I touched its skin to my lips. Once again it promised the unknown. I opened my mouth. My tongue touched it. I bit down. I chewed, it was sweet, and the tinkling bell sound the apple’s flesh made when my jaws crushed it echoed in my ears. I chewed with gusto, my jaws wanting to bite the apple again to hear that pealing, that sweet thunder, that crushing sound.
Immediately, or simultaneously, I felt an enormous wave of pleasure, or perhaps it was a lightning bolt that started inside me and moved outward, lightning that didn’t burn but was gentle—though that’s not quite right, because I didn’t tremble and it didn’t hurt, although it was intense, caustic, a lashing of sheer pleasure, piercing, expanding through me.
The apple’s flavor awakened my taste, my hearing, my smell, my sight: my consciousness. Everything changed with that bite. And I mean it when I say “everything” because when I’ve said that before it has been taken as an indication of my lack of restraint, not the accuracy of my language.
I continued chewing the pulp that was in my mouth. Each bite was another sound, another flavor, another burst of pleasure.
Without thinking I offered it to the one next to me, the one I was just becoming aware of because my skin was awakening. I offered it to him and for the first time I looked at him with desire.
Before he even touched the apple, Adam looked me in the eyes (for the first time) and understood that something had changed: it was a schism; suddenly we were burdened with a life we didn’t comprehend. That first look I gave him was a cascade. The way he looked at me… was denser, more stable, not fluid.
Adam took the apple, he felt it and he bit it, experiencing the same things I had—the pealing of its crunching flesh, its sweet flavor, the lashing, the lightning, the wound…. I interlaced the fingers of his free hand in mine. I felt his skin with my skin for the first time. I saw Adam and, seeing him, I saw myself, too. I realized we were naked.
(The crunching sound of the apple’s flesh in my mouth, its crunchy pealing… it was something I had never heard before—because I had never heard anything. The delicate, crunchy fruit awakened my hearing… I heard everything inside my body, because the mouthful was inside me, awakening me… and awakening the music of the stars, the sounds of the universe…)
It was just the two of us alone in the wide world, without anyone to take care of us, protect us, watch over us, but we had a fire by our sides. Lying there, defenseless, the fire protected us from the beasts. The long, leafy branches of the fig tree still glowed; it had grown its sturdy, thick, timeless foliage in Eden.
I got up and squatted before the fire. I blew on the embers, adding another fistful of dry grass; the flames jumped. I stood up and took two steps, the fire at my back. The darkness was immense, as was the sky. I went over to Adam. I removed the rough coat the Creator had made for me; with swiftness and agility I got inside the one that enveloped Adam, like a bag. I carefully closed it around us. We were naked and protected from the cold, wrapped in the same animal hide.
I felt Adam, his skin soft like that of a child who never ages. I moved my tongue across his skin. It didn’t taste the same as the apple, but there was something about it. I playfully bit his shoulder, waking him. In that one act I was calling him “man” and “companion.”
It was the middle of the night. We were both awake. The birds began to chirp, as if they knew. They were welcoming us to the World with their persistent, repetitive song. Their sound—another kind of music—was a new lesson in language. They seemed to be speaking of something that was intimately connected to the tableau Adam and I presented, naked and bewildered inside one coat of stinking hide.
Adam gripped me in both arms in a way that was both frightening and fearless. It wasn’t at all pleasant for me. I looked up and copied, as best I could, one of the birds’ songs. Between the huge leaves of the brush the sky appeared purple, like a wound. I tried imitating another bird’s coo-coo-ooo. I saw a point of light streak across the sky, which was turning blue—perhaps a shooting star. Adam let me go, slipping out of the hide we had been sharing and wrapped himself in mine, which was lying nearby. Thus covered, he squatted in front of the fire, stirring the coals and stoking it. I held my tongue. I closed my eyes. I fell back asleep, without dreams, though I think only briefly.
Excerpted from The Book of Eve. Copyright 2020 by Carmen Boullosa. Translation copyright 2023 by Samantha Schnee. Excerpted with permission by Deep Vellum.