Idyll- by Mario Benedetti

Idyll

(This morning, 1949)

1.

However, I was thinking about the blond woman of the film like every Saturday when after the cinema we walked across the vacant lot behind the factory, yes with the moon one always gets a little romantic, but I was not going to get romantic with Marta, of course, after ten slow years of marriage everything changes and when she called me Juan Maria the name hit me on the nape like a draft and just then I saw her uniformed by the moon in a silhouette that was beginning to vanish, it had never occurred to me that I could reproach myself for those ten years with her single presence, because to face Marta in the light of day also means to face her voice, her look, her gestures, but there she was alone in her single body and her horribly flaccid breasts, the curve of the back completely yielded, the hips unpleasantly open, it is not possible to enjoy now with the mere guess of the body under such slippery clothes so I know that my desire depends on mechanical starts that point to her because it is more comfortable to insist there than to violate the custom and run the risk with this or that crazy woman, although the blonde of the movie ruined the night because she put things in my head, yes she was thin, had an oval face, big eyes, she got me to think about that shit of starting all over again, after all what I mean by starting all over again is not that I care about her breasts sagging, her back curved, her hips open, but that she is indifferent, always looking at me with eyes of a slain cow, and she seems to be only interested in the kid who is too cuddly, but the headaches will come later when he will want to assert himself, but if she, ah, right, but if I want to start again because one can truly make a mistake, and although it is true, as my mother says, that the first woman and nothing more, but I thought that she was going to be a real companion and that I could feel her by my side at night and not only at night, but as part of myself, even though I couldn’t touch her, although it would also be good to touch her almost asleep and reach out to her hand and find her, but the whole days she is mumbling those grumbles, looking at me, making me feel a thief, a killer and I don’t know what else, as if she was confined to home because of me, I know she does not go out just so she can reproach me that I never take her out to the countryside or to the movies, we go to the movies on Saturdays, but I would like to see her in the countryside after typing for eight hours, the fingers like sticks, and the pain in the back that comes on Sundays, if she would like to play the hiker and load fifteen packages of food, how disgusting the paper stained by the fritters, and the tart tasting like fish, all mixed up and the guys at the back of the bus always singing an annoying elephant song, too much people, and those who dance around in the corridor of the bus, offering their butts, first his then hers, and the other funny guy with his stories like a funeral, how not to prefer a nap, what do I care to miss the outdoors, if after that I arrive tired like a mule and with the obligation to look happy like her, because she does like it and I don’t want us to like the same, what a boredom to agree in everything! But I can’t stand those eyes of anger and then I also get rude, she says angry, sometimes, I have never raised a hand to her, because God is great and the boy was looking, it´s better for him to respect his mother and I won’t teach him otherwise, never, ever, I didn’t even smoke in front of my mom, but that time she appeared by surprise with the neighbor and I did as always the little trick of slipping the cigarette into my mouth and they didn’t go away and I kept quiet and my mother was silent too and the other old plague of a woman chatting her up and she also asked me I don’t know what nonsense and then I had no other choice but to swallow the cigarette to be able to talk and then I had surgery, God, it was horrible! And my mom cries a little every time I tell the story, but Marta laughs instead, she laughs full-heartedly and I may have fallen in love with her because I liked to see her laughing, gesturing with her hands as if she wanted to hold her laughter, but she never could, it escaped from her in little gulps, but now she has grown grumpy and if I say that she has reached the critical age she gets worse and doesn’t understand the joke or remember when she was thirty-three, I don’t really know, Im disoriented because the issue is not: she loves me, she loves me not, why do they invent such idiocies! My darling, the kiss in the mouth, while they make a cuckold of you, but the first thing is naturally to know the drill, to know where the dresser, the newspaper and the spittoon are, and have a life without bumps, they’re unnecessary, the same when it comes to love, to know where the bed, the kiss and the navel are, everything is about knowing the drill, but also one wants something more, of course, it must be so, that she looks at me like before without hate, when I came on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and she waited for me in her organdy blouse, I hardly dared to touch her because she was too much like the girl one gets to imagine at fourteen and then learns by heart, only that she had green eyes, and Marta has blue ones, but what does it matter? Of course, I know Marta from school and maybe she was, why not, the girl that I imagined, the one that looked like her, naturally with different eyes, because perhaps I didn’t remember how they looked like and I just gave any color to them, when one is a boy, one is not going to fixate on the eyes and then, she was very nice and she looked at me, but one never knows what happens inside people and maybe she smiles at me, but she’s actually spitting at me, I do not know, I think she was never in love with me but maybe with Alberto, yes Alberto, he didn’t pay much attention to her, but because he looks like Tom Cruise, with that big nose of his, if Tom Cruise didn’t exist, he would be a woman repellent, but not now, no, what a man! Oh, what a man! It would be better that she watched less movies and learned to make better tasting soups, it’s the same as sipping hot water, way to make one stay at home! I’d better go play pool and in the meantime it’s nice to hear all the tables around, that black guy with the redhead, feisty like all blacks, and he starts to scream after more than twenty cups and the other big guy who punches the wall and at the end they drag him out asleep, poor wife, has five children, and they bring her a good gift every night, I never take more than two glasses, though she always says I smell to alcohol but it’s not true because I didn’t drink anything on purpose twice and she said the same thing, but who convinces her, she has already templates of what she has to reproach me about: this and that, always grumbles, what a shame because she’s still quite pretty, that’s not true, she’s really pretty and were it not for those five fools who are coming, they must be workers from the night shift, if it were not for them, I would really want to touch her.

I said look at those guys, but of course it was me who said it and he had to make fun of me as always, don’t be stupid, he told me, they must be workers from the night shift, to me they seemed too well dressed to come from the factory, Juan María, I told him again, look, they’re come right towards us and he answered me: stop being silly, and I kept quiet, they were already about thirty meters away, there were five, one bigger than all the others, and I started to be sure they were a gang like the ones that appear in the newspaper, a couple was mugged last night by a gang after a short fight, both victims suffered injuries, the woman was hospitalized in serious state, and suddenly they were already in front of us and the fat one said: What’s up with the lovebirds! It’s too dark to be out with a sweatheart! He told them: let her pass, this is my wife, I believe that they noticed in his voice that he was little convinced that they would let us pass, ah so it’s your wife, then even worse, said the fat one, there’s no obligation to walk with your lady in the dark to entice friends, then he gave him a blow to the face and I saw that he was also beginning to strike, and I was grabbed by two of them, but I gave them good kicks, I hit one in the crotch and he fell to the ground, writhing, they say it hurts a lot there, like it hurts women in the breasts, I occasionally looked where they had him, he was half immobilized because the big guy grabbed his hair and didn’t let him move, I think they rather wanted to grab me because the fat guy shouted to the one who had me grabbed: Hey, Black, just knock her down with a kick and we are going to show her how we treat little sweethearts! After a short fight both victims suffered injuries, I wanted to give a kick to the black guy too, just like I had done with the first one, but he held my leg in the air and I went backwards to the ground, I bumped my head nicely, the guy fell on me and another one came, not the fat one but one with a beret and he grabbed me by the legs, what an animal! He made my calf ache, I think I managed to scratch someone all over his face because I still have blood in my nails, but suddenly I heard a cry and I saw that he had freed himself and was giving a hard beating to the big guy, after that I didn’t see anything for a while because the black man put his hand on my face, she’s a doll! with the other arm he had hooked my head, what a smell, my god! the three of us were sweating like in January, at the end one of them grabbed my handbag, anyway I was going to buy another, if he can give me some money at the end of the month, he seems to think that I spend too much, I would like to see how he would manage to feed the three of us with the miserable couple of bucks that he gives me per day, he no doubt thinks that I can still save some money to buy a handbag, or better still, not buy any, after all, what does it matters now how I dress? But of course, he fixates on the nylon stockings of any cheap slut that passes by pampering him with her butt, I also used to really turn him on, but now after scrubbing floors or struggling with the dirt that he manages to get into his socks and underwear, and all the crap from the scarves he wears, there’s no much strength left to go around parading myself and it doesn’t look well for a married woman, there’s always a meddlesome old lady to tell him, I saw your wife, she looked very dainty walking on such street, she looks better with the years, only for him to answer: you look very well yourself, I can imagine him already, the hypocrite, everyone but I say how cute of a husband he is, yeah, right! In front of other women he picks his words and speaks finely and then with me he lets loose the “fucks,” as did the black man when I bit his disgusting hand until I began to feel the taste of sweat in my mouth and I started retching violently, I looked like my mother-in-law when she has a liver attack, the guy was scared and told the other brute: she must be pregnant, shit! said the other, that is not a good deal, I’ve already noticed her big belly, the blind fool! And then they looked over to where he was, exchanging punches with the others, and when the black guy shouted something to the big man, he wasn’t having a good time and said: then we’ll just leave them alone, I don’t want trouble, just after a while I realized that they had run away, he asked me if they had hurt me and I said no, but they tore my handbag, don’t worry, it was old, he said, what a miracle! Now he’s all mellow and attentive, he must have gotten scared when he saw me upside down among those beasts, he wasn’t lucky either, his left eye looks terrible, I dried the blood from his lip with his handkerchief, he looks even older now, well done! For calling me stupid when I said: look at those guys, he always calls me stupid when I read crime news, I hope he’s learned his lesson, I realized immediately that they were a gang, fortunately they weren’t so many, and he is convinced that he scared them away with his punches, when I know that they actually left because of my retches, and also because of my belly, but I don’t tell him anything, he doesn’t have to realize that now I don’t have the same tight waist I had when he came on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturday, he always looked at me like something immaterial, it annoyed me so I talked to him about Alberto, I didn’t fancy that stuck-up guy, but he believed it, I still sometimes tease him to see if he hits me and loses that softness of his, but today it was even better, I saw him beat up those disgusting pigs, I like him like that, I could send him a hired gang from time to time, to see if he wakes up, otherwise he’s going to get all stiff, always typing or playing pool, as long as there are no problems he’s happy, I can’t stand it, for the sake of entertainment, sometimes I put on an angry face, because otherwise I get sick of his soft character, well, he’s always been like that, always pampering Martin, he’s nine years old and every time he talks, his mouth is full of saliva, because of the damn habit he has of pretending he’s still a baby, instead of growing up, he’s becoming ever more childish, one day he’ll start crawling again, sometimes I beat him and of course, I’m a monster, it’s easy for him to comfortably play the role of the magi, because he doesn’t have to stand him the whole day, now his eye is also bleeding, they did a good job on him, it looks like a mask, but if I laugh he gets angry, he always thinks I make fun of him, however I like him like this, with his bruised face, so sad and seriously worried about what could have happened, at least something eventful in our lives, and he will have this story to tell, who knows if the tells it, he’s always afraid of boasting about something, naturally he and I are a bit weird, any another couple would have hugged at once: My God, you’re safe! My darling! My love! But we keep walking a meter away from each other, as if nothing had happened, as if the gang had been a prank and we had wallowed in the ground with those murderers for fun’s sake, I’m sure they would have killed us if the black man hadn’t thought I was pregnant, Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, I mean, there were five of them, and someone could have seen in tomorrow’s newspaper: the woman was hospitalized in a serious state, now and in the hour of our death, Amen, luckily here’s the factory lamp, they aren’t going to dare to do anything in the light, however, I would like to tell him something, not only Juan María, or darling, something else for him to know that I am here and that I love him, and I like the fact that he fought with those guys and maybe its enough if I come closer to him and I don’t say a word, and sigh a little and touch him, touch him.

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