It was the time of anxious mothers, of silent fathers, of strong big brothers, but also of coats and blankets and sheets. Perhaps it was no wonder then that Carla and Gonzalo spent two or three hours of their time each afternoon on the sofa, under the red chelotti of extravagant wool, which was a necessity in the freezing winter of 1991.
Despite the obstacles, the poncho plan allowed Carla and Gonzalo to do almost everything except the famous, holy, dreaded and coveted intercourse. Carla’s mother’s plan was mainly based on the simulation of the existence of any plan, as she would ask them from time to time with imperceptible sarcasm, with the aim of undermining their confidence, if they felt warm, and soon answered them in perfect harmony, and in the tone of poor actors, that they still felt a little cold.
Carla’s mother usually disappeared down the hall and went to her room to watch the television series she was watching without sound. The sound from the living room, where Carla and Gonzalo are watching the same show, is more than enough. In fact, the series did not interest them very much, but the rules of the game required them to pay attention to it if they were to respond spontaneously and naturally to the mother’s comments, which she often visited them. . Sometimes to adjust the vase on the table, and sometimes to do anything you deem necessary and urgent. She peered at the couch, not to see them, but so they could feel she could see them. At that time, her comments about the series rained down on them; For example, if you say, “She’s the one who researched this problem! This person is crazy.” And soon they answered her in one voice, always naked, in great fear: “Exactly. She clearly loves him.”
He had no resources to learn and knew his performance was disastrous
Generally, Carla’s terrifying big brother—who didn’t play rugby, but given his size and attitude could easily have been a national rugby player—would come home after midnight. Few times he came back early. He locks himself in his room and plays Double Dragon. Sometimes it can happen that Carla and Gonzalo feel in danger, especially if her brother goes down to get a piece of bread with mortadella, or to drink a Coca-Cola. But fortunately they felt it because of the miracle of the staircase, and especially on the second or penultimate step of it when they heard the obscene chirping; It takes exactly six seconds for her brother to reach the living room from the moment they hear the chirping, which is enough time for them to adjust themselves under the coat, making them look like two strange and innocent cacti struggling with solidarity against the bitter cold.
The badge of the newscast would say every evening, when the visit was over: then the two lovers would say goodbye on the front lawn. Often this emotional farewell will coincide with the arrival of Carla’s father, who turns on his lights and roars the Toyota engine, greeting or menacing.
“This matter has gone on too long!” He always told them this, raising his eyebrows, in a good mood.
Gonzalo’s way from La Rena Street to Piazza Maibe took just over an hour. He used this time to read. Although the dim light of the lights prevented him, he was sometimes content to look at a poem when he stood at one of the bright corners. Every night they challenged him to come home early, and he swore, without the slightest intention of keeping his oath, that henceforth he would return early. He usually fell asleep thinking of Carla, and when he couldn’t sleep, as was often the case, he masturbated thinking of her.
Masturbating while thinking about the one he loves is a true test of his faithfulness and fidelity, especially if the sexual stimulation is based, as they say in movie ads, on purely real events. Gonzalo was far from lost in improbable fantasies, but he always imagined himself on the same sofa, under the soft wool coat, but with only one difference, the only imaginary element, was that they were alone. He makes love to Carla, and she hugs him, closing her eyes in pleasure.
Carla and Gonzalo were unable to hack the family surveillance system. But they were completely confident that the opportunity would inevitably come. Indeed, it was towards the end of spring, when the idiotic temperatures began to threaten and spoil everything. A thundering brake, with a chorus of roaring screams, broke the silence of eight o’clock in the night. Someone had been driven around the corner, so Carla’s mother came out to chat and see what had happened. It was then that Gonzalo and Carla felt that the opportunity had come. If we consider the thirty seconds of penetration, the three and a half minutes for the slight blood cleaning and the soulless experience, the entire act of intercourse took only four minutes. Then Carla and Gonzalo joined the crowd of onlookers who surrounded the blond guy lying on the sidewalk next to his broken bike.
He wrote forty-two poems influenced by Neruda’s hope
If the blond guy died, and Carla got pregnant, we could have talked about a slight imbalance in the world in favor of the brown, because Carla’s son would be dark, since his mother and father were very dark. But none of this happened. The accident did not kill the blond young man, but left him paralyzed. As for Carla, who was in pain and in the depths of herself, for two weeks she made ridiculous excuses not to see Gonzalo. But finally, when she decided to see him, it was to end her relationship with him face to face.
It must be said, in Gonzalo’s defense, that sexual information, in those miserable years, was not available. There was no parental council or from teachers or educational counselors. Also, government campaigns were completely absent. The country was so eager to preserve modern and quivering democracy that it did not consider grandiose things, such as considering a comprehensive sex education policy, as is happening in first world countries.
Suddenly, freed from the dictatorship of childhood, Chilean teenagers entered the transitional phase of adulthood by smoking marijuana and listening to Silvio Rodriguez, the Chilean rock group Trace and the American rock group Nirvana. Meanwhile, they decoded fear, frustration, trauma and confusion of all kinds and forms. It was almost always based on trial and error.
Back then, there weren’t the millions of videos on the internet promoting the idea of a sex marathon. Note that Gonzalo was aware of some of the sexual publications. He’s also, let’s say, read some of them, like Playboy, but he’s never seen a porn movie. He had no audio-visual sources of support to learn and to know that his performance, however we look at it, was disastrous. All his idea of what should happen in bed rested on his coat exercises, and on the heroic and fairy tales of some of his classmates.
Saddened and confused, Gonzalo did everything he could to get back to Carla. All he could do was insist on calling her every half hour. Not to mention wasting his time with two of her friends who claimed they were going to stand up for him but didn’t even think about helping him. They thought him very clever, charming and funny, but compared to countless others who fell in love with Carla, he was too little for her, unworthy of her, and they considered him a strange, eccentric man from Maipu.
Gonzalo is left with no choice but to bet on poetry, in everything. He locked himself in his room and wrote forty-two poems in five days, moved by the hope found in the poems of Pablo Neruda, convinced that he would write something special to persuade Carla to return to him to stop
Sometimes he forgot his grief, especially when he was lost in his thoughts of correcting or trimming a lame line. Or to add an appropriate poetic rhythm to the poem. However, according to him, the joy of the image he achieved was soon erased by the bitterness of the present. Alas, there was no real poetry in those written poems. For example, let’s take this poem that cannot be memorized, which is considered one of the five best poems in his collection of poems:
“like the sun
The phone is green and yellow.
I look for you day and night,
I don’t get you.
I walk like a zombie in the mall.
I’m an alcoholic without alcohol,
I am a distorted cigarette in the pocket of the pilgrim.
I am a lamp without light.
The phone rings all day
But he must not laugh.
I feel pain in my heart and ears.
In my molars and eyebrows.
It is summer, winter or spring
And maybe I’ll die of course.”
The only virtue of the poem may be its rhythmic sequence, and this may be considered meritorious for a boy of sixteen. However, the last stanza of the poem, which is the worst, is Gonzalo’s most original, because he really wanted to die half-hearted and withdrawn. It is not funny to make fun of his feelings, so let’s make the poem, its modest rhyme, its obvious sentimentality, its involuntary comedy, but we must not underestimate his pain, because it is very real.
* A chapter from the novel “A Poet from Chile”, which will be published next year by “Dar Nineveh”, with translation Jaafar Alouni
Alejandro Andrés Zambra A Chilean poet and novelist, born in Santiago in 1975, is considered one of the most prominent new literary voices in his country. He studied Spanish literature at the University of Chile and graduated in 1997. His novels include: The Private Life of Trees (2007), Ways Back Home (2011), Eternal Rhythm (2015), and A Poet. From Chili” (2020). And in poetry: “My files” (2013) and “Skyscrapers” (2022).