Translated by Toshiya Kamei

The White Wall

           Every morning, the nightmare of not recognizing Ezequiel's face torments me. I worry
I'll wake up one day and find him gone. I don't dream anymore. Or rather I no longer remember
the images that gallop through fitful sleep. An empty feeling draws out my night. I sweat with
agony between the sheets. I find no peace.

           Some nights sick with fear, I wake him up. He's aware of my nightly anxiety, even
though he doesn't understand it. Sometimes he caresses my back, his fingers drawing lines along
my spine, scribbling unfamiliar words on my flanks. Other times he hugs me and whispers,
"Everything's fine." He really thinks so. I don't know what causes my anxiety. "Everything's
fine." Maybe he's right. Those shuddering movements that tear me apart inside are normal. I have
to grasp onto the echo of his voice to get to sleep. Once in a while I need to suck his cock, to feel
him throbbing against the roof of my mouth again and again. Before he ejaculates, I beg him to
come in my face. The taste of him still lingers in my throat. I don't know why, but his cum works
as a sleeping pill, as if this fluid could quench my anguish. But it's never enough.

           I fearfully open my eyes. The first thing I see is a white wall that dilates my pupils. I
wish this bright light in the bedroom could help me clear my head. Sometimes the light lingers in
the room and blinds me. This temporary blindness soothes me a little. The whiteness creeps into
my corneas and goes to my brain. For a moment I feel safe from Ezequiel. I think I won't be
afraid of not seeing him. My vision gets cloudy, forcing me to blink. Then, slowly, the picture of
the whales, the Chinese lamp, the blue quilt, the closet door, my nightdress, and his flat feet
come back into view. Before fixing my gaze on his butt (I love the scar on the right cheek), I
keep my gaze on my knees (I've never liked them). I stare at my stretch marks (I think of the
mental ones and the emotional ones), tracing the fast-growing swelling.

           Ezequiel says I have been precocious. Well, it's his excuse to explain away our age
difference and torment me with his jealousy. "You've had a lot of lovers," he protests. I don't
consider myself precocious, not even a good lover. Though he does say I move deliciously. He
likes to stick it into me. I don't know whether my cunt fits his cock or the other way around. I'm
very naive. Maybe I've been precocious in practice, but not at heart. This is the problem. No, my
problem is that I still believe in love, devotion to each other, or fidelity. I still believe in stupid
things like fairness and tolerance that every time it becomes more difficult to keep on believing.
My horror increases every day.

           I don't know which terrifies me more: night, the white wall, or him.

           I don't know how long--years, days, or minutes--I have been thinking how I could stop
being afraid. I have lost track of time and my time seems to belong to Ezequiel. I'm scared of
finding him gone, I worry about being abandoned.

           Sometimes he wakes up before me. He licks my breasts, bites my nipples, and puts his
cock into my hands. Almost instinctively, I stroke him until he comes. I lick his semen off my
fingers so that he could later suck them. "Yeah, baby, yeah," he begs. "I'm going to fuck you..."
And he fucks me.

           When he penetrates me, I feel our present times come together. My body burns and I
plead him not to stop until my hours are new again. Until I can reconstruct myself minute by
minute. Until I can mark the seconds on my body.

           I've told R (he's my best friend) that Ezequiel steals my days. Every time he makes love
to me, I grow old. It torments me to imagine I won't wake up next to him. I need Ezequiel, how
much I want him sexually. R gets horny and stares at me. I know he wants to bite my breasts and
play with my pubes. He wants to fill my mouth with his cock, but he keeps quiet. I can feel his
desire even in silence.

           R says Ezequiel is evil, he only wants my submission. That's not true. Ezequiel is good,
he loves me. He overlooks my insomnia and problems. I try to behave myself so that he won't get
angry with me, I couldn't stand for him to leave me. I shudder at the thought. Every morning I'm
afraid of finding only traces of his body on the mattress. The thought of hearing him, touching
his back only in my memory, startles me. I can't hold back my despair anymore. I wish the
whiteness of the wall would blind me and soothe me a little. Sometimes I wish I weren't with
him, even though it means giving up my years, vagina, and pleasures to him. But the terror and
enormity of this wall hold me back.

           "He's killing you," says R. He's right.

           "I love him." I defend myself.

           "You say that because he possesses your time."

           "I love him because he pushes me to the limits."

           "What do you mean?"

           "I've just told you."

           "You're crazy."

           I have thought so too. Ezequiel drives me crazy literally. I need to see him, even though
I can't stand looking at him. If one day I wake up and he's gone, I'll search everywhere until I
find him. I could recognize his smell, the rhythm of his footsteps, his shadow. I'll nag him, cry,
demand him... I'll make him pay.

           I hate him. Who is he thinking of? Surely, he plots how he will leave me. I won't let him.
One day I'm too weak to wake up--after facing the white wall, coming to terms with my stretch
marks, recognizing the smell of his armpits--too weak to break up with him once and for all. I
want him to go away. I want to hold these sheets close to my skin. I wish I were brave enough to
kill him!

           Kill him. What for? What's the use of wishing him dead when I won't get my days back?
What good will it do to resist him his "I really love you," "I'll be good, I promise"? Or when he
says vulgarly, "You taste delicious," "I want to stick it into you"? I can't resist his panting or
begging, much less his dirty talk. He'll talk me out of it (I know him), touching me on my butt,
kissing the inside of my thighs. He'll try to reach for my pubes with his tongue. He knows how
much I love seeing his cock harden quickly and feeling it swelling inside me. He knows it very
well. They all did. I was afraid of them as well. They also wanted to seize my years. I was lucky
to figure them out before they got their way.

           First, Mateo with his demands and eccentric tastes. He used to tie me naked to a chair,
or the bed, pinning me down to play all kinds of tricks on me. Sometimes he brought someone to
play with me, other women to have fun with him. I loved him, so I slept with his friends. But
later he wanted to walk out, leaving me there and taking my time with him. I cried a lot, the rest
was easy. I just asked R to help me loosen the lug nuts from two tires of Mateo's car ("I need to
take them to the mechanic, don't worry") and it was done.

           Antonio kept me on the margin of his life. He turned me into his sex Barbie doll and he
taught me new tricks. We enjoyed each other. He never understood why the white color of his
bedroom made me nervous (to this day, neither do I), even though he agreed to paint the walls
blue after he made me promise to jerk him off when he woke up. One morning, I didn't do it,
then he started complaining, protesting...hitting me. My hours became years, my twenties caught
me in his body. I was in love, even though I knew he wasn't. I eased his neurosis. His priority
was his writing, his "work," as if it were art! Then my insomnia started. I lay awake at night,
wondering what I could do to please him. The noise of his pencil rustling on the paper or his
fingers beating on the keys got on my nerves. To Antonio reading and writing were more
important than my desire. Even when I slipped under his desk and lowered his zipper to suck his
cock, I couldn't make him make love to me. Now I know that he was a pervert. He was excited to
hear me pleading, crying, begging him to at least stick his fingers into my vagina. Tired of being
slighted, I mixed powder into his coffee. R told me he had read in a science magazine an article
about a substance that destroyed the intestines when taken regularly in small doses. I learned of
Antonio's death in an obituary in the newspaper. I'm sure he would have been pleased to know
that at his wake a lot of important people eulogized his "work." In the papers, lots of articles
about him and his books appeared.

           Gerardo was fascinated with my knees. "Your knees are the waiting room to heaven," he
used to say. I didn't do more than open my legs, feel his tongue on my navel (I get excited when
they kiss me there) and wait for him to penetrate me. We were very happy, we rambled from one
place to another. He indulged my whims (mostly my sexual ones). He even agreed to paint his
room peach (he didn't like white either). After we made love, we planned long trips across the
country. We wanted to travel a lot and we did: Veracruz, Colima, Morelia, Sinaloa, Tabasco,
Puebla, Campeche, Chihuahua... He went alone to Tijuana, I stayed in the city to finish a few
illustrations R had asked me to do. Gerardo was strong, good-looking, and kind. He became
violent only when I made him angry, but he always apologized. He adored me. I don't know what
happened, even though I grow every day more convinced that it was for the best. God looks after
me. My Gerardo died for a reason. It had been a week since he left town, it was Friday. That day
I bought myself a beautiful dress--red, my favorite color. I wanted to look pretty for him. I
came home and put it on. I decided to wait for him in this new dress. I got ready to finish the
illustrations when the phone interrupted me. It was R.

           "I'm still working on the details."

           "Yeah, that's fine. Let's see. You still don't know?"


           "Gerardo is dead."

           Since then my fear has grown as much as this anxiety about waking up and not
recognizing the man that sleeps next to me.

           I fix my gaze on this wall. Rage pours into my head, I feel it spread and gallop in my
body. I'm afraid of turning to Ezequiel and not finding him there. I'm a tolerant woman. I've
made efforts to overlook his flirting. I grapple to keep my jealousy at bay, get used to his
instability, his lack of commitment. There are always photography, meetings, friends, work before
me. I feel like biting his cock, rubbing it until it gets hard.

           Right now, while I caress my thighs, I struggle in vain to keep calm. My eyes recover
from the absence of color. I wish I were strong enough to get up in silence, get dressed without
looking at him, and leave. I'll never, ever again wake up worried that he isn't there, or think of
this wall.

           I take a deep breath. I try to calm myself, but this sensation and this whiteness drive me
mad. I turn toward Ezequiel. He's there, sleeping peacefully. Who is he thinking of? I suck my
fingertips and pinch my nipples. I try to guess the color of R's room. I wonder what it'll be like to
wake up afraid of not finding him next to me.

           The light bounces off the wall and bleaches my mind, telling me it's still early. I just
have to leave the gas on and forget about this wall. It's going to be a long day. I want lipstick that
matches the dress I bought for Gerardo. I want to make myself look pretty, very pretty. Tonight
I'm going to see R.

Miriam Mabel Martínez was born in Mexico City in 1971. She is the author of the story collection
Aquí y otros relatos (Daga Editores, 2002). She has written a novel called The Mapmaker. In the
US, Toshiya Kamei has placed a translation of her story in Monday Night.

Toshiya Kamei is an MFA student in translation at the University of Arkansas. Kamei's translations of
Mexican poetry and fiction have appeared in various literary journals, including SmokeLong Quarterly,
Literal, and The Pedestal Magazine.

© 2006 Underground Voices