Excerpt

Fury

Clyo Mendoza (trans. Christina Macsweeney)

April 2, 2024 
The following is from Clyo Mendoza's Fury. Mendoza is the author of the poetry collections Anamnesis (2016) and Silencio (2018), and the novel Furia (2021), which was awarded the Premio Javier Morote by the Confederación Española de Gremios y Asociaciones de Libreros and the Amazon Premio Primera Novela. She has contributed to numerous poetry anthologies and is the recipient of scholarships from the Mexican Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes and the Fundación Antonio Gala, in Córdoba, Spain.

Before going into the supermarket to make the necessary purchases, María said goodbye as if she were never coming back; then she kissed his forehead and got out of the car. You’re crazy, he said, although she was by then out of earshot; she passed the guard and the glass door opened as she approached.

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In the heat the strip of concrete was emitting diaphanous flames, the ground was buckling and Salvador fell asleep watching it.

It was five in the afternoon when he woke. The heat had died down a little but María hadn’t returned. Maybe she’d gotten bored watching him sleep or had felt hungry.

Salvador got out of the car and walked to a yellow stall gleaming in the distance. She wasn’t there. And she wasn’t at the flower stall either; there was no trace of her in the whole complex of awnings and guy ropes. A strong smell of rotting fruit hung in the air. Salvador went on searching, walking through all the places María might possibly be, and when he didn’t find her, he decided to enter the supermarket.

Anxiety was beginning to churn his guts. He experienced something like nausea every time the thought that she’d decided to leave him entered his head. Why hadn’t she told him? After so many years together, how could she have chosen to end it all in this way? Before passing through the glass door, as if knowing that once inside all his fears would become realities, he made up his mind to keep cool and talk to the guard.

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It was the same man as three hours before, standing stoically impassive. Salvador said: I’m looking for a woman. Good afternoon, answered the guard. I’m looking for a woman, Salvador repeated. What does the woman look like? responded the guard’s expressionless face. A woman, Salvador repeated once again. And then he realized that the descent into a panic loop was affecting his speech: he was using the same letters to form the same two words. He felt as though he’d forgotten his own language and “a woman” was the only thing he truly understood. He clung to those two words and continued to utter them without pause before everything he knew could disappear. What does the woman look like, what does the woman look like, what does the woman look like? the guard responded, holding his gun a little tighter each time.

He couldn’t remember María’s body. He couldn’t even remember if María was a man or a woman, because he couldn’t even remember the name of the person he was missing so much.

I think it was a woman, Salvador eventually said, recovering a little confidence. The guard loosened his grip. If you don’t tell me what this woman looks like, I can’t help you.

Salvador couldn’t remember María. He didn’t remember her body, her face, or her hair. He did remember something about long, flowing tresses, but the image was mixed with the waves of heat rising from the sidewalk in the midday sun.

Sir, listen to me. You have to tell me the name of the person you’re looking for and what she looks like, otherwise I can’t help you.

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The guard took his role very seriously. His eyes expressed nothing besides the automatic habit of obedience. Salvador was struggling with the bodies and faces walled up in his memory. Who were all those people presenting themselves in line before the one he was looking for? He looked down, clasping his hands, his face red with rage. Finally, he recalled a pair of eyes, or better, the sensation of looking into them. How could he explain that to the guard? He stammered something and while the man in the uniform went on asking him questions that seemed to have no answer, tears of frustration started to roll down his cheeks.

Sir, if you don’t tell me what the woman looks like, I can’t help you, shouted the man as Salvador slowly doubled over.

I can’t remember, sir. I can’t remember.

*

MARÍA

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Perhaps the greatest test of human will is making up your mind. It wasn’t dragging your body to work each day or forcing yourself to give up certain types of food. The greatest test of the will is deciding, despite all, to continue existing. That’s more difficult than deciding to end someone else’s life, because when you die, anything that could produce a change in the world in which one’s own will functions dies too.

Salvador has never understood why his mother was killed. There’s no motive, he said, but if I hadn’t been so afraid of being alone after my father died, I wouldn’t have met you. He asserted this with conviction, but I can’t really remember how we found each other. He always said it was while he was running away from his hometown because he thought he was being stalked by the same man who killed his mother. That’s all he says on the subject. The only thing I’m certain of is that it was scorching hot that summer and I spent a lot of time cooling my feet in the river. The water smelled swampy and green scum would lap between my toes, but that was the best I could do: a creek hidden among a complex of tall glass buildings and miserable shacks covered in the dust the strong desert winds blow in. I remember I found him sleeping there. I watched him until he opened his eyes, and then we talked the whole afternoon, not holding anything back, like children, or old people who have spent their whole lives together.

Another of the tests of human will is deciding to love the same person forever. It’s almost like the decision to continue to exist, so that life will be the same for as long as our bodies survive. It’s deciding to share that body with one person, and although others might enter, the decision implies not allowing them to open the doors leading to places from which you can never eject them. That’s why I didn’t understand when I saw another shadow inside Salvador. After seeing him with that woman, my whole day was plagued by a sense of foreboding. For instance, I dreamed the world was tumbling down and as it fell, we found it was made of some light material, incapable of harming us. I was upset because when I saw everything collapsing, I felt a sort of relief, thinking that by the end of the dream I too would be destroyed. Yet when I opened my eyes, I was still alive in a crumbling world.

Why do you do these things to me, Salvador? I asked when I woke. He stared at me. I think I love her, he said.

There was a time when everything was fine. Or that’s what I thought.

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Like that day; while we were hiking, a pair of birds passed us, and then the birds fell to the ground.

Did you see that? I asked, but Salvador didn’t stop to look, he went on walking, listening to his own voice—always weak when he sang—issue from his mouth.

It’s dangerous to hike where nobody else does, he suddenly pronounced, almost in a shout.

He was annoyed, truly annoyed with me, because on that trip we’d decided to hike off the beaten track. When I suggested that we’d be okay, we were together and had a knife, he snapped: How can you be sure that I really am here?

Maybe he was already tired of me, because, after a while without saying another word, he ran off into the llano, so far that I lost sight of him in the blue hues of the distant hills.

We were hungry but hadn’t wanted to kill rabbits. Salvador always became grouchy when he hadn’t eaten. I knew he’d be back, so I sat down and waited there for him.

I passed the time thinking of the day my mother abandoned me outside the supermarket. That memory—which rarely came into my mind, and on this occasion was sparked by something as simple as Salvador running off—took up residence and discreetly grew into a sensation, a virus.

My mother abandoned me, although, to be honest, she did later come back. She was crying when she returned. Her eyes were red and brimming with tears, we boarded a bus and never again mentioned the subject, or at least not until I was an adult and asked her what had happened. She told me I’d imagined the whole thing: You just imagined it all, María, how silly of you to think that; you must have wandered off in the supermarket or I went to put something in the trolley. Wow, the way children exaggerate things!

I was only four, but I can’t have gotten it wrong: she’d put some bills in my pocket and a piece of paper with writing on it that I kept until it vanished from the notebook where I’d stashed it. She took it from me before I could learn to read.

I remember I made a huge effort to try to read and write my name because of that note, as though that simple achievement would immediately endow me with what I considered adult superpowers.

I used to crawl under the table with a marker pen and, hidden there, write in red letters: A I R A M.

__________________________________

From Fury by Clyo Mendoza (trans. Christina Macsweeney). Used with permission of the publisher, Seven Stories Press. Copyright © 2021 Clyo Mendoza. Translation Copyright © 2024 by Christina Macsweeney.




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