Interview to Guillermo Fadanelli by Tony WoodTANK magazine
Monday, February 16, 2015
Vladimiro the Arab
by Guillermo FAdanelli
Words Without Borders
Sunday, February 15, 2015
by Guillermo Fadanelli
The vacation had begun and my family was so excited. The truth is that we'd always gotten by with so little. My sister went to buy a second-hand bathing suit, 20 pesos and the menstrual stains could be seen from both sides of the material. My brother put a bottle of coconut oil in his bag. On the way from the city to the beach the oil spilled onto his t-shirts which became as stiff as cardboard. My father has a big belly. I've seen the disparaging way some people look at him when he's walking along the beach wearing only a bathing suit. Before we left for the beach, he was repairing his old car. He'd bought tires and changed some old motor parts. Two months ago, he'd used his bureaucratic savings to buy the car from a used car lot. He'd never had a car before. On the highway, the car broke down twice, but my father never lost faith. He smiled as if nothing had happened. Actually, he wanted to hide from us, his children, that he was just a poor devil hoping to forget his activity behind a desk. He turned up the volume of the radio and stammered along with the lyrics. All of the songs spoke of love, disloyalties, sorrows. It was music for failed people. My mother had no will of her own. She sat in the seat like an old mannequin. She had put an image of a saint of her devotion on the rear view mirror. My mother had never been happy. Her blouse had tiny Clarisol stains and her hands, smelling of cheap cream, caressed us from time to time.
We rented a room for 40 pesos a day. It had a big bed that took up most of the room and a cot that folded into the wall. A cockroach came out of a hole near some electric light cables and, while crossing the ceiling, stopped on a water stain before continuing on its journey. To save as much money as possible, my mother had gone to the port market to buy groceries, so we ate inside the hotel. For the rest of the day, the room smelled of avocado and tortilla.
The ocean was dirty. The waves brought in cardboard plates, beer bottles, and other trash. In the sand, my father invented some stupid game which only my sister would play with him. It wasn't because she thought it was fun but because it let her show her butt to the bathers. "I'm poor, but I'm good." This is the philosophy of all the teenagers who live in Moctezuma or Portales. When my father became excited watching one of the teenage girls, he would invent some excuse and he'd take my mother by the arm and head off to the hotel. When we three children would return, the room no longer smelled just of avocado and tortilla but also of other disagreeable odors. The damp sheet lying on the bed let us see the dotted mattress with tiny oxide stains.
We only stayed three days because the money ran out. We had just enough left to fill a tank of gas. Back at home, everything returned to normal. On Monday, classes started. My brother will be like my father, and my sister will live a life like my mother's. As soon as I can, I'll run away from here.
Text by Guillermo Fadanelli
Translation by Yolanda M. Guadarrama, 1999.
Mexico City is a metastasis, says author Guillermo Fadanelli
Saturday, February 14, 2015
I got home at the same time as usual. The furniture in the same place, the smell from the kitchen, the light from the lamp: how many times had I opened the door on this same scene? A thousand? A hundred thousand times? How many times had I dropped myself onto the sofa, hugging my briefcase to my chest, and slept until her voice woke me, and the smell of boiled asparagus from the kitchen became more intense?
We would eat dinner in silence because she didn’t like to speak with her mouth full. She had learned that from her mother: don’t speak if you have food in your mouth.
“Don't worry, I won't tell anybody you speak with your mouth full,” I told her, even though irony wasn’t really my style.
“I couldn’t go to school, remember that. The only education I have is the one my mother gave me.”
“You're always so quiet,” I reproached her. That wasn't the only advice she had inherited from her mother. There were also notions about chewing slowly. If you were going to send a piece of meat down your throat, it had better be very well masticated.
“God didn’t give us teeth and molars for nothing,” said my wife.
“The stomach can digest anything, no matter how tough it is,” I added, satisfied at having a topic for conversation and the possibility of talking during dinner. A man needs to talk with his woman, it doesn't matter what about.
Before going to bed I looked through my mail. How many people had my name and address? I was wondering, because over the last few months, a great deal of advertising circulars addressed to me had been showing up in the mail.
“All this junk with your name on it has been pouring in,” my wife said, as if she were reading my mind. Her slim body seemed to melt as she slipped under the covers. She looked so harmless.
“I don't agree. If they send me their ads, it's because they know I’m someone with buying power. They wouldn’t send these things to just anyone.”
“Who are they?” she asked me. My body felt hard and heavy, like a rock. I wanted to rest, get under the covers and feel the warmth of my woman.
“I don't know who they are, but they know very well who I am,” I answered.
“No, they don't. All you are to them is a name and an address,” she said. I guessed her mother had also taught her to say these kind of things. For a moment I hated her mother.
“Yes, but behind that name and that address, there is only one person: me.”
“Well, then there are lots of people like you, hundreds, thousands.”
My new shoes already looked old. Why did these kinds of things happen to me? Everything became so old as soon as I touched it.
We didn’t speak for several minutes. I was sitting on the edge of the bed with my back to her.
“Do you really believe that, what you said?” I asked her.
“What? Do I believe what?”
“That there are thousands of people like me.”
“No, of course not,” she said. I got under the covers without getting undressed. I didn't feel sad, but I found it impossible not to cry. Without noticing my tears, she moved closer to me, she held me, she gave me her woman's warmth.
Text by Guillermo Fadanelli
Translation by Yolanda Martínez and Matt Madden, 2000.
I walk more than six blocks before arriving at a door with a rusty number 9 that is about to fall to the ground. I ring the bell and wait. I feel my stomach opening and leaking a bitter liquid over my guts. I’m going to hand 2 grams of cocaine to a man that I've never seen in my life. The only thing I know is that his name is Arturo and that he’s supposed to give me 400 pesos. Fifteen percent of that money will be for me. While I'm waiting I notice that some swallows have built a nest very near the number nine. A baby swallow is stretching out its neck and opening its beak, an immense cavity. I'm thinking about sticking my pinky inside it and touching its throat when the door opens and a barefoot man appears from behind it. I could swear that his hair is dyed. He invites me inside where another man is waiting, sitting on an antique chair. He smiles at me and makes a signal inviting me to sit in another chair, this one not an antique. I don't know which one’s Arturo, but my guess is that he’s the one in bare feet. I confirm this when he tells me that before paying me, they’re going to try the coke. It’s not that they don't trust me, but this way it will be better for everybody. I don't have any objection. Nobody gave me instructions to say yes or no. I’m just supposed to charge 400 pesos, and from that amount I get to keep 15 percent.
The one who is not Arturo takes a picture from the wall and forms two white lines on the glass. The head of a dead deer sticks out of another wall. I move over to the head and caress its hide. Its eyes look like Elizabeth Taylor's. Beside the deer there’s a plate that says. “Hunted in Canada by Dr. Arturo Jiménez”. I imagine the deer running along a hillside covered with snow. I listen to them. They are panting and kissing each other. The one who is not Arturo is sitting on the lap of the one who is Arturo. They’re fags. I ask them if they can pay me, but the one who is not Arturo gets down on his knees and starts to suck the other one off, right in front of me. I turn and stand face to face with the deer again, only now I find it impossible to imagine the deer running in the snow. After a few minutes, Arturo touches my back. He is about my height and has wrinkles on his forehead. “400 pesos for the coke and 50 for you, for putting up with us”, he says. If I’m calculating correctly, fifty pesos plus the fifteen percent should be a bit more than 100. If I save enough, one day I'll be able to go to Canada and hunt deer. That's what I'll do when I turn 18: I'll go to Canada, buy a rifle, and hunt deer.
Text by Guillermo Fadanelli
Translation by Yolanda M. Guadarrama and Matt Madden, 2000.
She was standing next to a poster which said Conserve water, it’s for everyone’s good. She was wearing a beet-red dress and impeccable patent leather high-heeled shoes. Her hair was black, almost plastic, cut by well-sharpened scissors. She was as pale as a whore from the Caucasus or, if you like, as white as oatmeal or bull’s semen. “A white woman for this black and stupid night,” I thought. The street baptized with the name of a saint, the narrow sidewalk, and, from the depths of the sewers, the smell of urine and rat’s blood, excrement and Wizard air freshener. She stood with her chin raised, her head back against the wall, gazing distractedly at a poster with enormous letters in helvetica: “There are no obstacles, only bad decisions.” I stopped, my balls were on fire, maybe because it had been months since I had brought a stranger home to cover with my dirty sheets, full of mustard and orange soda stains, spattered with drops of blood and squirts of fountain pen ink. I approached her, mysteriously, as if I were clutching a knife in my hand, only to pull out not a gleaming, sharp blade, but rather some raspberry candies which also shone a brilliant red. I offered them to her.
I put the key in the keyhole, blindly, since my eyes were elsewhere, and my lips were plastered to her nipple, as hard as a dried hazelnut. “Wait ‘til we get inside, papito,” she said, and her little daddy obeyed, pushing open the pine door which smelled of age and varnish, flicking on the 50-watt bulb, and inviting her into the apartment with no carpeting, no sink in the bathroom, no closet with broken doors, no aquarium full of bulge-eyed fish, no Hershey’s wrappers strewn on the bathroom carpet. And she came in, as ugly as she was in reality, exposed by the vile, yellowish fatality of the light bulb, with her bad haircut and her worn-out shoes, and her nails painted a miserable orange and her skin toasted to the color of a corn tortilla, and her vagina, clean and pink like her dress with the cigarette burn on the décolletage. “How much do you charge to make dinner?” “Nothing,” she answered and set about preparing two fried eggs, oozing oil, and warmed up some Bimbo bread on the griddle and squeezed the ketchup bottle as if she were gripping a huge cock, trying to work out the last drop of sauce.
We brushed our teeth with the same frayed brush and gargled Listerine and showed each other our tongues the way two people who are about to beat the shit out of each other show off fists adorned with rings and scarred bones and bruised knuckles. But the truth is we were completely exhausted, myself because of work, my hand sore from constantly stamping the bottom left corner of hundreds of invoices, and because of taking the subway all the way to Atzcapotzalco to collect a debt and coming back and waiting around for some asshole manager to get the notion to tell me, “go home now so you can come in early tomorrow.” And she was on the verge of falling asleep, bothered by the purple blossom on the side of her ass. “A fucking dog bit me,” she lied, because in fact she had already been screwed three times, three bad decisions she had made trying to overcome the obstacle, the great obstacle. “I’m your good decision, my little whore,” I told her, but she couldn’t hear me, she was asleep, filling my throat with the smell of Listerine, nestling a knee in my testicles, which had been throbbing a few hours earlier but which were now cold like two bruised meatballs recently taken out of the refrigerator.
She stayed and lived with me while I looked after her dogbite and she made me spaghetti, sometimes with cream and sometimes with tomato sauce and never with mustard, which is how I really liked it. What she did do well was to suck me off while I closed my eyes and imagined the Caucasian whore with the blue-black hair and impeccable shoes who I had picked up on the corner of a street named after a saint. And to go on stamping and signing invoices became a little less boring, because I knew that when I got back to my apartment I would open the pine door and she would be there offering me a plate of spaghetti with tomato sauce, and her lips, swollen and red like a bubble gum bubble on the verge of popping, and her now-scarred ass, and my somewhat neater house, with no Corn Flakes sprinkled on the floor, no Rimbro jockey-shorts hanging from the window lever, no urine stains on the toilet bowl, no boxes of Cream of Wheat stacked in the oven, no porn mags stiff with semen littering the bathroom floor. “In the end the whore became your servant,” she told me a few months after we had gotten married in a civil ceremony since we didn’t have enough money to jerk off Christ, nor enough for the clothes, and as for the rice, we preferred to eat it with fried plantains, very green peas, and well-cooked corn.
Now once again I walk the street where I picked up my wife and mother of my two children, and I sigh when I see a young thing with milky skin and big eyes who calls out to me and says: “why don’t we get together, papito.” And, making a fool of myself, I put my Samsonite briefcase on the ground so I can fumble through my pockets while I look at those 16-year-old legs and those nipples licking at the décolletage of her dress, and those little Chihuahua ears, and I find a 200 peso bill which I show her, passing it between her legs and giving her a weak bite on the shoulder. “It’s all I have,” I tell her, but she responds tenderly, “It’s all I’m worth,” and we go to a hotel called Fabiola where they never have hot water and there’s no music in stereo, no rugs, no neatly-arranged clothes, no boxes of Cream of Wheat stacked in the cupboard, no idiotic children yelling, no whores with scarred asses screaming at you for money to buy diapers, to pay the electricity, the water, and the rent.
Text by Guillermo Fadanelli
Translated by Matt Madden, 1999.
Friday, February 13, 2015
I Was a Child Back Then
by Guillermo Fadanelli
A journal of letters and life
Thursday, February 12, 2015
The first time I sang the national anthem I was very young and stuck in an elementary school in Colonia Portales called Pedro María Anaya in the mornings and Carlos A. Pereyra in the afternoons (the custodian would simply flip over the metal sign that hung over the front entrance). My teacher didn’t like the way I sang, she said I was an apathetic child with bad posture and that she would have a talk with my parents: “ You need to fill your lungs, stand up straight, throw yourself into it and scream “mexicanos al grito de guerra...” as if you were really on the battlefield, as if there were a gringo in front of you who wanted to take your house and your candy and...” the teacher harangued me uselessly, since her most apathetic student just stood there with a bovine stare lost in the distance. The years passed and when I reached the sixth grade I was chosen to be part of the color guard; even hunched over I was among the tallest in that neighborhood of midgets and fat kids, as ugly as I was I was still among the most presentable in that neighborhood plagued with the offspring of mestizo assholes. The flagbearer was named Carmela and she had been chosen because she was the prettiest and brightest girl in the school. More than one teacher used to masturbate to the image of that girl with her flowing skirt and whore’s lips carrying the venerable standard of our nation. Every morning, the color guard would circle the courtyard while dozens of undernourished larvae sang the national anthem. How can I ever forget those days? How can I forget Carmela clutching that bronze pole in her little hands? How can I forget that afternoon after class when we snuck into a bathroom and she pulled down her panties to show me how the hair was growing on her pubis? Carmela, wherever you are, I’ll never forget you. Later on, when I reached high school, the cretins once again chose me to be part of the color guard, a distinction I turned down since I had started getting sick of patriotic fanfare and because I found out that, on top of everything, the color guard would be made up only of boys, moronic, gangling kids, children—like me—of that neighborhood full of losers.
Today, so many years later, when I listen to the anthem of our beautiful nation, I imagine Carmela dressed like a schoolgirl, in her little checked skirt and her white panties, kissing me, sucking me off, whispering angelic things to me while, in formation around the courtyard, hundreds of patriotic children—a tamal in their stomachs—sing a call-to-arms against the invaders.
Text by Guillermo Fadanelli
Translated by Matt Madden, 1999.