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I love my husband.

I LOVE MY HUSBAND. From morning to night. Scarcely awake, I offer him coffee. He sighs, exhausted by his usual poor night's sleep, and begins to shave. I knock on his door three times, lest his coffee get cold. He grunts in anger and I clamor in distress. I don't want my effort confused with a cold liquid that he will consume just as he consumes me twice a week, especially on Saturdays.

Afterwards, I fix the know of his tie and he protests because I have fixed merely the smallest part of his life. I laugh so he can go off more calmly, ready to face life outside and bring an always warm and bountiful loaf of bread back to our living room.

He says that I'm demanding, that I stay home to wash dishes, go shopping, and on top of that, complain about life. Meanwhile, he builds his world with little bricks, and though some of these walls topple to the ground, his friends compliment him on his effort at creating brickyards, all solid and visible, from clay.

They salute me, too, for nourishing a man who dreams of mansions, shanties, and huts, and so makes the nation progress. And that is why I am the shadow of the man whom everyone says I love. I let the sun enter the house, to brighten up the objects bought with our joint effort. Even so, he never compliments me on the luminescent objects. To the contrary, through his certainty about my love, he proclaims that I do nothing but consume the money that gathers together in the summer. Then I ask him to understand my nostalgia for the terrain formerly worked by women: he furrows his brow as though I were proposing a theory that disgraces the family and the definitive deed to our apartment.

What more do you want, woman? Isn't it enough for you that we married with community property? And while he was saying that I was part of his future, one that only he, however, had the right to build, I noticed that the man's generosity qualified me to be only the mistress of a past whose rules were dictated in shared intimacy.

I began to think longingly about how wonderful it would be to live only in the past, before this preterit time was dictated for us by the man we say we love. He applauded my scheme. Within the house, in the oven that was the hearth, it would be easy to nourish the past with herbs and oatmeal so that he could calmly manage the future. He definitely couldn't preoccupy himself with the uterus of my womb, which must belong to him in such a way that he wouldn't need to smell my sex to discover who else, besides him, had been there, had knocked at the door, had scratched inscriptions and dates onto its walls.

My son must be only mine, he confessed to his friends on the Saturday of the month that we entertained. And a woman must be only mine and not even her own. The idea that I couldn't belong to myself, touch my sex to purge it of excesses, provoked the first shock to the fantasy about the past in which I had been immersed until then. So the man, as well as having shipwrecked me in the past while he felt free to live the life to which only he had access, also needed to bind my hands, so my hands wouldn't fell the softness of my own skin. Would this softness perhaps tell me in a low voice that there was other skin equally sweet and private, covered with velvety fuzz, and that one could lick its salt with the tongue's help?

I looked at my fingers, revolted by the long, magenta-painted nails. Nails of a tiger that strengthened my identity and grunted about the truth of my sexuality, I caressed my body. I thought, Am I a woman only through my long claws, and by clothing them with gold, silver, the sudden rush of blood of an animal slaughtered in the woods? Or because the man adorns me in such a way that when I remove this warpaint from my face he is surprised by a visage he doesn't recognize, which he covered with mystery so he wouldn't have me whole?

Suddenly, the mirror seemed to me the symbol of a defeat, which the man brought home and which made me become pretty. Isn't it true that I love you, husband? I asked him while he was reading the newspapers to keep himself informed, and I was sweeping up the letters of print spit out on the floor as soon as he assimilated the news. He said, Let me go on, woman. How can you expect me to talk about love when they're discussing the economic alternatives for a country in which the men need to work twice as hard as slaves to support the women?

The I said to him, If you don't want to discuss love, which, after all, could perfectly well be far from here, or behind the furniture where I sometimes hide the dust after I sweep the house, what if after so many years I were to mention the future as though it were a kind of desert?

He put the newspaper aside and insisted that I repeat what I had said. I spoke of the word |future' cautiously, not wanting to wound him, but I no longer refrained from an African adventure recently-initiated at that very moment. Followed by a retinue oiled with sweat and anxiety, I was slaughtering the wild boars, immersing my canines in their warm jugulars, while Clark Gable, attracted by my scent and that of the animal in convulsions, was begging for my love on bended knee. Made voracious by the effort, I gulped river water, perhaps in search of the fever in my innards which I didn't know how to arouse. My burning skin, the delirium, and the words that sullied my lips for the first time, as I blushed with pleasure and modesty, while the witch doctor saved my life with his ritual and the abundant hair on his chest. Health in my fingers, the breath of life seemed to exhale from my mouth, and then I left Clark Gable tied in a tree, slowly eaten by ants. Imitating Nayoka, I went down the river, which had almost attacked me by force; avoiding the waterfalls, I proclaimed liberty, the most ancient and myriad of inheritances, with shouts.

My husband, with the word |future' floating before his eyes and the newspaper fallen to the floor, demanded to know: What does this repudiation of a love nest, security, tranquility, in short, our marvelous conjugal peace, mean? And do you think, husband, that conjugal peace allows itself to be bound by threads woven through guile, simply because I mentioned that word which saddens you so much that you start cry discreetly, for your pride doesn't permit you the convulsive weeping that is set aside for me as women? Oh, husband, if such a word has the impact to blind you, I'll sacrifice myself once more so I won't see you suffer. Could it be that there is still time save you, by blotting out the future now?

His glistening craters quickly absorbed the tears, he inhaled the cigarette smoke voluptuously, and he resumed reading. It would be hard to find a man like him in our building with its eighteen floors and three entrances. At the condominium meetings at which I was present, he was the only one to overcome the obstacles and forgive those who had offended him. I blamed my egoism for having thus disturbed the night of someone who deserved to recuperate for the following day's efforts.

To hide my shame, I brought him fresh coffee and chocolate cake. He allowed me to redeem myself. He spoke to me about the monthly expenses. With the company's balance sheet slightly in the red, he had to be careful about expenditures. If he could count on my cooperation, he would dismiss his partner in less than a year. I felt happy to participate in an event that would see us make progress in twelve months. Without my backing, he would never have dreamed so high. I took upon myself, from a distance, his capacity to dream. Each of my husband's dreams was maintained by me. And for that right I reimbursed life with a check that couldn't be entered in the books.

He didn't need to thank me. He had attained perfection of tender feelings in such a way that it was enough for him to remain in my company to indicate that he loved me, I was the most exquisite fruit of the earth, a tree in the center of our living room terrain, he climbed the tree, he reached the fruits, he stroked their rind, pruning the tree's excesses.

For a week I knocked on the bathroom door with just an early-morning touch. Ready to make him new coffee if the first became cold, if forgetfully, he stood looking at himself in the mirror with the same vanity that was instilled in me from birth as soon as it was confirmed that they were dealing with yet another woman. To be a woman is to lose oneself in time, that was my mother's rule. She meant, who overcomes time better than the feminine condition? Father applauded her, concluding: Time is not the women's aging, but rather her mystery never revealed to the world.

Just think, daughter, what is more beautiful than a life never revealed, which no one has gathered except your husband, the father of your children? Paternal teachings were always serious, he gave the luster of silver to the word |aging.' I became convinced that in return for not fulfilling the story of woman, that biography of her own not permitted to her, she was assure youth.

Only one who lives, ages, my father said on my wedding day. And because you will live your husband's life, we guarantee you that through this act you will always be young. I didn't know how to get around the jubilation that enveloped me with the weight of a shield, and to go to his heart, surprise his sincerity. Or to thank him for a state I had not desired before, perhaps just because I was absent-minded. And that whole trophy on the very night I would be transformed into a woman. For until then they whispered to me that I was a beautiful anticipation. Different from my brother, for already at the baptismal font they had affixed to him the glorious stigmata of man, before he had slept with a woman.

They always told me that a woman's soul emerged only in bed, her sex anointed by the man. Before him, my mother hinted, our sex most resembled an oyster nourished is salt water, and therefore vague and slippery, far from the captive reality of earth. Mother liked poetry, her images were always fresh and warm.

My heart blazed on my wedding night. I yearned for the new body they had promised me, to abandon the shell that had covered me in appropriate everyday life. My husband's hands would mold me until my final days, and how could I thank him for such generosity? For this reason, perhaps, we are as happy as two creatures can be when only one of them brings to the hearth food, hope, the faith, a family's history.

He is the only one to bring me life, even though sometimes I live it a week late. Which makes no difference. I even have an advantage, because he always brings it translated. I don't have to interpret the facts, fall into error, appear to those disquieting words that end up silencing liberty. Man's words are those I must need my whole life. I don't have to assimilate a vocabulary incompatible with my destiny, capable of ruining my marriage.

Thus I proceeded to learn that my conscience, which is at the service of my happiness, is simultaneously at the service of my husband. Its duty is to cut back my excesses, nature endowed me with the desire to be shipwrecked at times, to go to the bottom of the sea in search of sponges. And for what purpose would they serve me, if not to absorb my dreams, multiply them in the bubbling silence of their labyrinths full of seawater? I want a dream that can be grasped with a strong glove and at times be transformed into a chocolate torte for him to eat with shining eyes, and we will smile together.

Ah, when I feel like a warror, ready to take up arms and acquire a face that isn't mine, I immerse myself in golden elation, I walk on roads with no addresses, as though from me and through my effort I should conquer another country, a new language, a body that sucks up life without fear or modesty. And everything within me trembles, I look, with an appetite for which I won't be ashamed later, at those who pass. Fortunately, it's a fleeting sensation, soon I seek the help of familiar sidewalks, my life is stamped on them. The shop windows, the objects, the friendly people, my pride, finally, in everything about my house.

These bird-like actions of mine are quite unworthy, they would wound my husband's honor. Contrite, in my thoughts I ask him forgiveness, I promise him I'll avoid such temptations. He seems to pardon me from a distance, he applauds my submission to happy everyday life, which obliges us to prosper each year. I confess that this anxiety embarrasses me. I don't know how to quell it. I don't mention it except to myself. Not even conjugal vows keep me in rare moments from shipwrecking in dream. Those vows that make my body blush but have not marked my life in such a way that I can point out the wrinkles that have come to me through their impetus.

I've never mentioned these short, dangerous gallops to my husband. He couldn't support the weight of that confession. Or if I told him that on those afternoons I think about working outside the home, to pay for odds and ends with my own money. Obviously this madness seizes me precisely because of my free time. I am princess of the house, he sometimes tells me, and with reason. Therefore, nothing should distance me from the happiness in which I am forever submerged.

I can't complain. Every day my husband contradicts the version in the mirror. I look at myself in it and he insists that I perceive myself wrongly. I am not, in truth, the shadows, the wrinkles with which I see myself. Like my father, he too is responsible for my eternal youth. He is kind in his feelings. He has never celebrated my birthday boisterously, so I have been able to forget to keep track of the years. He thinks I don't notice. But the truth is that at the end of the day I no longer know how old I am.

And he also avoids talking about my body, which has widened with the years. I don't wear the same styles as befoer. I have the dresses stored in the wardrobe, to be appreciated discreetly. Daily at seven o'clock in the evening he opens the door, knowing that I'm waiting for him on the other side. And when the television shows some bodies in full bloom, he buries his face in the newspaper, only we exist in the world.

I am grateful for the effort he makes in loving me. I struggle to thank him, though at times without wanting to, otherwise some strange face which isn't his, but that of an unknown man whose image I never want to see again, upsets me. Then I feel my mouth dry, dry from an everyday life that confirms the taste of the bread eaten the night before, which will nourish me tomorrow as well. A bread that he and I have eaten for so many years without complaint, annointed by love, bound by the wedding ceremony that declared us husband and wife. Ah, yes, I love my husband.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Organization of American States
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:short story
Author:Pinon, Nalida; Van der Heuvel, Claudia
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:Sep 1, 1991
Previous Article:I'm your horse in the night.
Next Article:The message.

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