martes, enero 08, 2013

"Seis ojos"

 Este relato publicado originalmente en Revolver de ojos amarillos (Almadía 2009), obtuvo una importante distinción como obra traducida al inglés. He aquí el link de la revista que lo publicó en la traducción de Joel Streicker

(translated by Joel Streicker)

I was working at Sorrento Shoes. Three female employees waited on the customers. I was in charge of the storeroom and making sure that no one, mainly the employees, stole. I never told on them because there was no upside in it for me.
            To get to the storeroom you had to go down a spiral staircase in the back of the store. The passageways between the shelves were jammed with piles of boxes and shoes because the women left the shelves a mess so as to save time. Often, they would throw boxes down from upstairs, shoes and all. It was assumed that someone—me—would clean everything up each time it was needed.
            Brown Bostonians, size eight! Lady Godiva, size two and a half! The women liked to snap their fingers to hurry me up, although they had been warned that I didn’t like their manners. Customers used to leave, annoyed at the long and useless wait. More than once, too late, I found models I thought we had run out of.
            The owner hired me with the intention of saving himself the cost of a security guard: surely the same thing had happened with others before me, and many others after me would continue the chain. They stamped us out by the millions, like the shoes that we wore: cheap and, of course, not sold at Sorrento Shoes. Son, let me help you out a little, please choose some shoes that we sell here, my treat, but don’t use those clodhoppers, it makes a bad impression. He loved to play at being generous in front of his son and the employees. I gave him fits by refusing to use the ugly canvas loafers that he so proudly offered to the customers.
            Slick old don Bernal rarely went down to the storeroom. He owned other businesses and when he went to the store he would plant himself next to the cashier to feel her up, go over the books and intimidate the other two employees with scolding and accusations. Yola never fended him off, out of a fear as big as her pride at having a butt the Spaniard hankered after.
            At the back of the damp storeroom there was a water tank and when the pump wasn’t working I would lug buckets of water to the bathroom on the first floor, next to the stairs, to clean and unstop the perennially disgusting toilet.
            I spent a great part of the day stretched out under the light above the tank, smoking, reading novels and fashion and TV gossip magazines that the women loaned me. Sometimes I would whack off looking at the photos.
            I pretended to do my job, dropping boxes and shoes on the floor and after a while shouting from the water tank, “We don’t have any!”
            Other times, I would take my time searching for the order.
            Martha was different from Yola and Gaby. She looked like a retard, which made her an easy target to make fun of. She was a bit older than me. I found that out because once, going through her purse in search of cigarettes, I found her Social Security card. She wore thick horn-rimmed glasses and walked as if her shoes were too big for her. Fortunately for her, her work smock hid her dresses, which were the kind of colors used for detergent commercials. She was in charge of keeping the store clean and running errands. We almost never talked, except at the beginning and end of the work day when we would raise and lower the roll-up metal security door.
            On one occasion, while Yola cashed out for the day, I lowered the door and waited with Martha for the last customer (an old man with a veiny nose who filled the store with the stink of his pipe tobacco) to leave. Just then a rain shower fell. To pass the time, Gaby joined us to complain about don Bernal and the miserable wages he paid but, like her co-workers, she was scared of getting fired. Martha never participated in the gossiping.
            Yola ordered us to leave. It seemed like gravel, rather than water, was falling on the store’s zinc awning. Every once in a while one of us would click a tongue, angry. We took turns like that for a long time until Yola and Gaby, thin and with the bags under her eyes poorly made up, ran to the bus stop. I stayed behind with Four Eyes. It was like being in front of the store window observing a mended shoe. I felt pressure to say something, anything.
            “Where do you live?”
            “Near the Viaduct.”
            “Where do you catch the bus?”
            “At the corner.”
            I said good-bye without regrets but a few meters later something compelled me to turn around. Martha was gazing in my direction, adjusting her glasses, looking like she was going to wait there her whole life if necessary. I went back.
            “It’s better if I stay, I don’t want to get soaked,” and then I fell silent, not having the heart to confront her gaze. Four Eyes had seen me leave nonchalantly.
            Indifferent, with her knee she began to jog the supermarket bag in which she carried her smock and lunchbox. The rain let up. Martha turned toward one side of the street and the other then and suggested:
            “Don’t you go that way? It’s going to get late.”
            With a gesture I yielded to her. At the unsheltered bus stop my hair wound up soaked. Four Eyes covered herself with her bag. The bus finally arrived. Strangely, it wasn’t jam-packed. When we got on I went first and paid for both of us although that whole time we had behaved like strangers.
            We rode standing up, surrounded by the usual people: most of them with faces like muggers, street vendors or sick people on the verge of a diabetic coma. The rest hunched in their seats, yielding to a heavy sleep.
            More than once I discovered Martha looking at me out of the corner of her eye. I took advantage of one of those times to brush a withered leaf from her shoulder. It occurred to me to tickle her pink, earringless ear but I suspected she was aggressive with guys who were forward. I distracted myself thinking about what she did in her free time—I couldn’t remember having seen her even once getting out of the bathroom—and if she liked beauty magazines why didn’t she follow their advice?
            I rang the bell a little before we arrived at the intersection where I would catch my one-peso bus. I said good-bye but she interrupted me.
            “I’m getting off here, too,” and, giving me a gentle push, she hurried me out while she adjusted her glasses....

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