Friday, August 7, 2009

"The Sane" by Lourdes González Herrero

Lourdes González Herrero is a poet, critic and novelist from the city of Holguín. She has published numerous volumes of poetry (including "Tenaces como el fuego", "La semejante costumbre que nos une", "Una libertad real" and "La desmemoria") and novels ("Las edades transparentes"), for which she won numerous awards. Her work has been translated into French and included in many Cuban and foreign publications. She is the managing editor of the art and literary magazine Diéresis, a member of the Cuban writer's union UNEAC, and in the year 1997 was included in the Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature.


He’s stopped in the middle of the street. Without shoes or a shirt. With a pipe poised above the young man that says to him: “Put it away, walk away and keep it, but don’t do it.”
This scene is the center of attention. The surrounding area is full of people with longing faces and hands like visors so they can see better, to know how this will all end.

A woman of about fifty, eager, pushes her daughter because: “I can’t see well, run over there.”
The girl touches the synthetic poppy that she wears in her hair and makes a face at her mother, who is already approaching the circle where He stammers: “This one here knows people like you, this one knows.”

The young man pushes him by the arm that raises the pipe, corners him against a garbage can, while a medium-sized man, with illegitimate blond hair, brown buck teeth, warns him not to mess around anymore with anybody, because: “It’s gonna cost you, it’s gonna cost you.”
Right then a bicycle driven by two adolescents comes down the street, the one in back pedaling and the one in front at the helm. As they pass by the group, they whistle, with their fingers jammed in their mouths. The sound is intolerable, and knowing it, they laugh and throw an empty beer can that lands square on His head, falls away from the garbage can, rolling to the feet of a young woman dressed in phosphorescent blue spandex, who upon seeing him runs to pick it up, orders him: “Get off my sidewalk, you bastard! Get a job, something you don’t have!”

The number of people increases and each time the distance between each of them is less. He’s visibly frightened, doesn’t put up much resistance when the young man takes him forcefully and sits him on the edge of the sidewalk. His bare feet cake with mud from the gutter, forming an image that disgusts the old lady that passes, and she crosses herself and coughs, horrified, that: “This man has no morals, look how he lays there in the street, calling attention.”

Two children struggle with a third over the ripe mango he carries carefully. They run, push, wrestle, bend down, talk into his ear, and finally throw the coveted mango that explodes on His naked back, like a stone. Immediately, several voices are heard shouting at them, not for having hit Him, but for playing around at a time when things have to be put in order. The mango-thrower’s mother signals to him, threateningly, with her index finger a shade of scarlet, and says to her son: “Look at what you’ll become if you keep throwing things.”

Likewise, the mother of the mango’s owner catches her own by the ear and announces to him: “That’s the boogeyman that came to take you away, now back home! Quick!”

e passes his hands over his back and puts his fingers in his mouth, covered in mango juice. Something intolerable to the girl with the synthetic poppy, who bends and, without straightening, yells: “A bum, you’re a filthy bum!”

The young man returns to try to lay down the law: “I’ll gonna call the police so they can toss you in jail, I’m gonna do it, you can’t be passing through here like this.”

e starts to cry, contrite before the ever-better-nourished group that observes him with disdain.
“I’m gonna take myself in to the police, stop!”

The young man stops. He takes a newspaper from his bag, rolls it up, and gives him a couple whaps: “Walk, walk, you already made me lose two hours.”

They start walking down the sunny sidewalk. A man, advanced in years, intercepts them with a warning: “I don’t know why you, who seems to be a decent boy, burdens himself with taking someone like this anywhere; look at him, look at him, he doesn’t disgust you? If I were you, I’d leave him lying there with his feet in the mud, that’s what he deserves; listen, you can’t wear yourself out your whole life trying to control some nut, believe me, I’m telling you for your own good.”
“He’s right! He’s right!” say several of those present. “Let him go! You’ll get covered with filth taking him to the station!”

The driver of a car that has had to stop because the group doesn’t let him pass, lays his finger on the horn and sounds it without interruption. It’s a noise even more intolerable than the bicyclists’ whistle, and they order him to knock it off with the horn: “Keep that shit quiet, what do you think? That we’re deaf? You can’t get through here right now, period, or do we have to spell it out for you?”

The driver loses his temper, gets out and opens the trunk, pulling out a massive gun with which he threatens them all: “Alright, who says I can’t pass? C’mon, c’mon, show yourself and say it again to my face.”

The fat man riding with the driver gets out of the car and tries to placate him, but he realizes that he’s in the right when he hears the Samaritan old man and the mother of the boy that leans forward, shouting: “This guy’s got it mixed up! All you gotta do is look at him to know he’s a pretty boy! Some kind of freeloader!”

The driver and the woman draw closer and start to wave their hands in each other’s faces until she shoves him. The girl, getting the hint, commences pushing the driver until she realizes that she has lost her plastic flower and bends down to look for it.

The blonde man with the buck teeth thinks he’s seen enough and tries to calm them down by sucking up to them, making clear that they’re all there because of Him.

Their attention centralizes again on who, standing on the sidewalk with his guide, could only manage to stick his fingers in his nose and smile. The young man leading him, disapproving of his sticking his finger in his nose, takes his arm forcefully and twists it back. His face shows pain and his mouth curves into an expression that exposes the stubs of his molars.

Now, a seven-year-old girl approaches and smiles happily, ready to touch his hand. A simultaneous cry travels through the area where numerous people are standing about in groups, expectantly—Noooo, honey, don’t touch that! Don’t even THINK about touching it! My God, she’s going to toooouch it!

But the young man explains to the girl, in a gentle tone: “No, honey, you don’t touch that, you can catch bacteria and then it’ll give you a high fever and your hands will get really red and puffy; go and find a decent person to shake hands with, go on, honey, go on. And you, walk, the police station’s a number of blocks away.”
The girl looks at the young man with frightened eyes and goes running, at the verge of tears.

The two figures continue on down the sidewalk. Him with a certain clumsiness and sorrow; the young man with a determined march and impassive expression.

As they walk, some of the spectators let out jubilant cries: “Take him in! Let them lock him up! Better yet, put him in the dungeon! Three electroshocks is what they ought to give him! And a nice bath in hydrochloric acid!”

Others still argue over the best place to watch them walk, to see them up close, so that no such comment would be lost—that lunatic makes life impossible for us. That horrible man that came to drive us mad, that human disaster, they’ll stick him with a nice little jail sentence.

e bows his head. He seems embarrassed, but still he has the spirit to look at them and dedicate a drooling smile to them all.

- Translated by David Iaconangelo

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