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Paths | Page 12

By hollisterclothingoutlet 08/05/2022 779 Views

THE STORY BY ITS AUTHOR

A few years ago I was invited to participate with a story in the first issue of a literary magazine created by Spanish speakers and 100% made in China, the beautiful Chopsuey. The proposal was to write a story that would dialogue with another by Wang Any, a well-known Shanghainese writer from those eastern payments. I had written "Paths" some time before but it had stayed there, a bit abandoned in the search for a definitive form. Or rather, of a sense that would give a reason for being to that definitive form. I picked it up then and finished it for this project. It was finally published in 2019, in Spanish and also translated into Mandarin.

The question that is triggered in the story was asked to me once, too many years ago, when I was cooking. It was a very small and specific question that, in just a second, opened me up to a huge and abstract world: that of insecurity.

Today Caminos is published here, in Summer/12, and I am happy.

ROADS

She is lying on her back enjoying the relief that rest means for her feet. She focuses on the two stars that she can see through the skylight in the ceiling. The sky is so black and the stars so bright that she feels they have relief. There's only room for the ottoman and the four-drawer dresser she sits next to. It is a room that is too small and without windows, but in the face of the effort that being far from Buenos Aires means, the disorder caused by walking again in a strange city, and always with that concern of not having a direction, a room like this, that contains and that at the same time she can control, is the closest thing she knows to balance.

She turns on the nightstand and opens her notebook, the one she takes everywhere and where she writes down the recipes that she thinks are important to keep. She looks for the ones with chocolate. Volcano, brownie, Black Forest, marquisse, Sacher cake. She repeats each one, several times, in a low voice. She until she realizes that she doesn't make any sense: when she wakes up she won't remember any of it. She never had a good memory. At what point in the conversation that morning did she say that yes, she knew how to work chocolate? Evidently it was a moment of which she had no record because now she, that she is trying to identify him, she has no idea. It was around eleven o'clock when she used the public that is on the other block from the pension, in front of the square; La Caña kept her company, wagging her tail, and she stayed lying by the cabin. She does remember that. She also felt a chill on the back of her neck, caused a little by the morning breeze and another by her still damp hair, from the shower she had taken for a while before leaving. She had taken a bath with her flip flops on: since the bathroom is shared, she didn't want to touch the floor where there might be fungus, hair, or traces of pee. She also remembers that in the playground area of ​​the square a boy would throw himself over and over again down the slide; The mother, time and time again, waited for him downstairs with open arms and with the same enthusiasm. Most of the trees were budding and a few couples were resting on the mattress of overgrown grass. She was alone.

They answered the phone and she asked for the person she had written down on the piece of paper.

"Wait on the line, I'll put you through to the kitchen," the hotel receptionist had told her.

The bus trip she had just made from Puerto Octay had lasted thirteen hours. At some point in the long journey she had read a guide with details of the city. She said that this neighborhood where her pension was located was a central neighborhood of Santiago de Chile but not so noisy, a neighborhood of large buildings and residential mansions. So after arriving at the station at dawn and after a taxi took her to the pension, after arranging her few things in that tiny room and taking a shower in the shared bathroom, before making the call to the hotel walked around. But she did not see anything of all that she had read in the guide: the architectural glories were quite deteriorated, and where there had once been splendor now only traces remained. During the walk she passed several cafes, some with tables outside. Those who served were people her age: boys and girls who, perhaps because they rode a lot on bicycles or because they sat waiting in the flowerbed for customers to arrive, looked tanned and carefree. Loose clothes, beards of a few days, light and colorful cotton skirts.

Halfway down one of those blocks, she found a truck tire propped up against a tree. In the shadow of the tire, La Caña. The name was asked to the mechanic who, stuck in the pit of the workshop, was fixing a taxi. A while later, and with the dog accompanying her on the walk, she went to a copier and took out a copy of her resume. In case they came to ask. She turned, walked a few more steps and came to a pharmacy. Dr. Chu's Pharmacy, the sign said. She opened the door, dangling knockers moved, and the place filled with a friendly and welcoming tinkle. La Caña remained attentive on the other side, on the street, waiting. Dr. Chu's pharmacy was quiet and smelled of herbs. Beyond the counter, the shelves were packed to the ceiling. Little boxes of different sizes, neatly arranged as if it were a giant Tetris; the entire wall was littered with Chinese letters: thousands of characters crammed together, each line harmoniously enveloping the next. The one who must be Dr. Chu appeared. A slight, older man in a short-sleeved traditional white apron, buttoned in the center. He spoke Spanish well. She asked him for gauze, duct tape, and Band-Aids. And she remembered that once he had bought some pain patches, which came in metallic envelopes, with the image of a moving tiger. The image of healing and strength. She took advantage and also asked Dr. Chu for several of those patches. If he got the job he was going to have to use all of that, she knew from experience. Because although the clogs were made of flexible leather and, apparently, it was the best footwear that could happen to her feet, although the sole was made of a material that should cushion her weight, so much so that she should feel that she was taking flight, It was true that after seven, eight, eleven hours stopped, in addition to having tired feet that were sure to be red, in addition to feeling the heartbeat and that kind of fire that was born in the soles and radiated to the spine, in addition to everything it had become commonplace for her that the constant rubbing of the clog against her instep hurt her. Without some gauze or overlapping Band-Aids, in a matter of minutes his tops would go from just a little scraped to raw.

Caminos | Página12

La Caña guided her like a baqueano on that neighborhood walk back and forth through the same blocks. She, in return, stroked his greasy head several times; she pampered him with her fingers and said cute bitch, mate, surely your owner bathes you in motor oil. Each of those times when she spoke to him and caressed his brow, pressing him lightly, La Caña relaxed so much that her neck gave way until, as part of that same laziness, her eyes gave way. Linda beast, good companion and stingy.

"Good morning, who am I talking to?" “A man answered the phone.

She introduced herself and explained that in one of the kitchens where she had done one of her many internships, she had been advised that it was a good restaurant to work at. She was also about to tell him that this advice had been given to her about two years ago, or more, and that although she could have called back then, the truth is that she didn't, that she was lost in life, wandering for as long as she could remember, that right now it could be there but also anywhere else, that it could have come from Puerto Octay ―from the German restaurant where it ended up staying for a long time― as well as from the Atacama desert, or from the province of San Juan or Corrientes ; that she cooked but that she could also herd cows, if the possibility existed. That in truth, anything was the same to him. That she had to do something and, as they say, develop the craft and gain experience.

Luckily she caught herself in time and didn't mention any of that.

"Do you know how to work chocolate?" ―Yes, remember that she listened to her, surprised by that expression that she didn't even know what it meant. She thought about cocoa plantations, that perhaps the beans arrived raw and she had to roast them, if the cocoa beans should be roasted and how. She thought that maybe the chocolate was extracted from inside those cocoa beans, once they were roasted. She thought if working with chocolate would not mean knowing by heart all the recipes in the world that had chocolate... and there, she didn't even know the recipe for the brownies, that every time she made them she had to look at the quantities in the notebook her. Working with chocolate sounded like it was for specialists, for those who dedicate their entire lives to pastry making.

"Then I'll expect you tomorrow at nine in the morning." be well

“Bye… thank you her,” she's sure she said. They had already cut.

She now she turns and is upside down; she throws the pillow on the floor. A mosquito buzzes in her ear. He had spent the night before on the bus: he had gotten into the tiny Puerto Octay station at seven in the evening, when it had already gotten dark and then the immense lake was perceived as a monstrous black hole that was just there, so just crossing a few streets. She was raining. The bus drove slowly until it left the town. Thanks to the slow pace and the lights of some luminous signs and stores, through the window she had been able to distinguish the shine of the old and damp larch tiles with which the original houses were built, the few that were left. She had also seen some scarves, inflated jackets, rain boots. Later, each new town they passed through was much like the ones they left behind: wet, cold, dark, smoky. Places where even naked she demands long fleece stockings and cotton t-shirts.

A baby cried during the first hours of the trip. Perhaps it was because, even with the heating, the cold that seeped through the weather stripping made it numb. She calmed down from time to time, but as soon as she calmed down, she started crying again. She put on the headphones:

Today I return to the border, I have to cross again, it is the wind that sends me, that pushes me to the border. And that erases the path that disappears behind.

The mosquito finally moves away from her ear. But as soon as the mosquito leaves her alone and she barely manages to fall asleep, she is immediately surprised by a whirlwind of worries. A series of thoughts that nest behind her consciousness, serene but sharp, that never finish outlining themselves, that seem to be lurking and that always, in moments of her apparent calm, appear to her suddenly. She then moves a little and breathes noisily, making an effort to get air into her lungs. She now directs all her concentration to a score of swans that dance symmetrically on the shore of the lake, and thus, slowly, she calms down and again she falls asleep. They dance lined up in two perfect rows facing each other; hypnotic swans. Four of them come out of the rows and intertwine their wings: light, they move and drag each other, with identical steps, to the right and to the left. They cast a spell on her… the brownies are going to be resolved somehow, the cocoa beans are going to receive the correct treatment, someone is going to help her, someone is going to rescue her from that abyss of not knowing the recipe for the sacher cake. As if the lake were a giant mattress of water, the twenty fluffy swans rise and disappear and rise again. She is asleep.

In the morning she showers again with her flip-flops on, changes quickly, and leaves. She arrives at the hotel a few minutes before nine and decides to get into the cafeteria that is on the diagonal. It is a large place that occupies the entire corner but, as soon as she enters, she feels it is dark. Bordering the walls are wooden boxes, with a brown leatherette back and seat; in the center, some tables; all along the counter, a series of plastic stools. Except for her and a busy table in the back, the rest of the place is empty. She sits by the window, in one of the boxes. Opposite, the five stars of the hotel shine in the golden relief of it, above the majestic bronze door. The waitress approaches and asks if she already knows her order; she is a woman of an austere treatment. She has light brown dyed hair, an apron to her waist, pink; long, red nails. She returns a few minutes later, leaving him a cup of boiling water and a packet of Nestlé instant coffee. Thank you, she tells him and sees the woman move away from her and settle next to the cash register to continue refilling the plastic jars of mayonnaise, ketchup and hot pepper.

She drinks her coffee, looks out the window and is distracted by the blackboards in the shops, by the comings and goings of the work day, by the messy and dense traffic, by the crowded buses that honk their horns and suddenly stop everywhere. The hustle and bustle outside, the noises, the smog, the frenetic movement, have nothing to do with that empty and dim cafeteria, where time seems to have stopped on a deserted highway in the United States of the forties.

She finishes her coffee, goes to the counter and pays: it's time. She does not remember any of the recipes that she repeated during the night nor does she know anything about cocoa beans. She knows she is going to fail. If it weren't for the fact that his feet already feel exhausted, like roots in a parched and cracked earth, he would leave that path right now and run again in search of another frontier.

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