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« Carta a una señorita en París (part 2) | Main | The Insanity of Jones »

Carta a una señorita en París (part 1)

Part one of a short story ("Letter to a young lady in Paris") by this Argentine.  You can read the original here.

Andrée, truly, I did not want to come live in your apartment on Suipacha street.  Not so much for the bunnies, but rather because it pains me to intrude upon a closed order, built up through the finest mosquito nets, those which in your house preserve the music of the lavender, the fluttering of a powder puff, the playing of the violin and the viola in Rará's little room.  I resent entering a place that someone who lives beautifully has furnished as the visible reiteration of her soul: books here (on one side Spanish, in French and English on the other); green cushions there; on that precise part of the coffee table, a crystal ashtray that seems to be a section of a soap bubble; and always some perfume, some sound, some rising plants, a photograph of a dead friend, the ritual tea trays and sugar cube tongs. 

Oh, dearest Andrée, how difficult it is to be opposed and in so doing, resign oneself to the complete submission of one's own being to the meticulous order that a woman installs in her frivolous residence.  How guilty one would feel if one took a little metal cup and placed it on the other end of the coffee table simply because of the English dictionaries one had brought over to this end, where they needed to be, within easy reach.  Moving this cup counts as a horrible, unexpected red amidst Ozenfant's modulation, as if all the double basses' strings suddenly snapped in unison like a terrifying whip at the most silent moment of a Mozart symphony.  Moving this cup alters the relations of the entire house, of every object with every other, of every moment of its soul with the soul of the entire house and its distant inhabitant.  Scarcely can my fingers approach a book, absorb the cone of light from a lamp, or take the top off a music box, without a feeling of outrage and defiance passing before my eyes like a flock of sparrows.

You know full well why I came to your house, to this quiet, popular noonday salon.  Everything seems so natural, as is always the case when the truth is not known.  You left for Paris; I was left with this apartment on Suipacha street.  So let us work out a satisfactory plan of mutual convenience until September brings you back to Buenos Aires and forces me to another house where, perhaps ... but this is not why I am writing you.  It seems fair to tell you that I am sending you this letter because of the bunnies, because I like writing letters, and perhaps because it is raining.

I moved last Thursday, at five o'clock in the afternoon, between fog and tedium.  I have closed so many suitcases in my life and made so many trips that have ended up nowhere, that Thursday was a day filled with shadows and straps.  Because whenever I see the straps of a suitcase it is as if I were seeing shadows, elements of a whip that lash me indirectly, in the most subtle and horrible way.  But I packed my bags, informed the maid who had just moved me in, and went up in the elevator.  Somewhere between the first and second floor I felt that I was going to vomit up the first bunny.  This had never been explained before, do not think for disloyalty; but, of course, one does not simply tell people that from time to time one vomits up bunnies.  As always, I managed to do all this alone, keeping it to myself just as so many proofs of what happens (or what one makes happen) in complete privacy are kept.  Do not reproach me, Andrée, I beg you, do not reproach me.  From time to time I happen to vomit up a bunny.  This is no reason not to live in a particular house; nor for someone to have to be embarrassed, live in isolation, and walk the streets in silence.

When I feel like I'm going to vomit a bunny, I put my fingers in my mouth like an open forceps and wait to feel that warm fuzziness rise in my throat like an effervescence of liver salt.  Everything is rapid and hygienic; everything takes place in the briefest of moments.  I remove my fingers from my mouth and they come out holding a white bunny by the ears.  The bunny seems happy: it's a normal, perfect bunny, only very small, like a chocolate bunny, the only difference is that it is white and entirely a bunny.  I place the bunny in the palm of my hand and raise his fur by caressing him with my fingers.  With the look of a bunny perfectly content with having been born, he responds by pressing and rubbing his snout against my skin, moving it in that silent, ticklish grinding particular to a bunny snout in the skin of one's hand.  He searches for something to eat, so I (I speak of that time when this took place in my house on the outskirts) take him with me out on the balcony and place him in the big flowerpot next to a clover which I just so happened to have planted.  The bunny raises his ears high and envelops the tender clover with a rapid spin of his snout, and I know that I could leave him and go, continuing for a while a life indistinct from the lives of those who buy their bunnies on a farm.

Between the first and second floors, Andrée, as if announcing what my life would be in your house, I knew that I was going to vomit up a bunny.  Consequently I was afraid (Was it fear or surprise?  No, fear of this surprise, perhaps.) because before leaving my house but two days before, I had vomited up a bunny, and so I was safe for a month, five weeks, maybe for six weeks with a bit of luck.  Now you should understand that I have the bunny problem completely resolved.  I planted a clover on the balcony of my other house, vomited up a bunny, placed the bunny by the clover, and at the end of the month when I suspected that at any moment ... and so I would then give the bunny as a present to Mrs. de Molina, who believed it to be a 'hobby' and said nothing.  When, in the other flowerpot, a tender, propitious clover began to grow, I waited insouciantly for that morning when the tickle of rising fur would dam my throat.  And from that moment on the new bunny would repeat the life and habits of its predecessor.  Habits, Andrée, are the concrete forms of rhythm, the quota of rhythm that helps us live.  Vomiting up bunnies was not so terrible if one had already entered the invariable cycle, the method. 

You might like to know the reason for all this work, the reason for all these clovers and for Mrs. de Molina.  It would have been preferable to kill the bunny immediately and ...ah, but you really need to vomit up just one of them yourself, take it with your fingers, and place it upon your open palm as it clings to you for this very act, for the ineffable aura of your hardly broken proximity.  One month is distance enough; in one month it will have grown, its hair will be long, it will have savage eyes and leap all about the place.  A complete and absolute difference, Andrée: one month makes a rabbit, it really makes a rabbit.  But that first minute, when a warm, bubbling ball conceals an inalienable presence ... Like a poem in those first minutes, a fruit from a night in Edom: more like you than you yourself ... Yet at the same time, so not like you, so isolated and distant in his plain white world the size of a letter.

I decided nevertheless to kill the newborn bunny.  At this point I might have been living in your house for four months already: four perhaps, with some luck, three spoonfuls of alcohol in the snout.  (Did you know that mercy allows one to murder a bunny instantaneously by giving it a spoonful of alcohol to drink?   His flesh will evince the flavor later, they say, although I ... three or four spoonfuls of alcohol then the bathroom or one more bag joining the rest of the trash.)

As we crossed the third floor, the bunny was moving in my open palm.  Sara was waiting upstairs so as to help get the suitcases in ...  How can one explain this to her as a whim, as a pet store?  I wrapped the bunny in my handkerchief and placed it in the pocket of my overcoat, leaving the overcoat unbuttoned so as not to stifle the animal.  It was hardly moving.  Its tiny consciousness ought to have been revealing important facts: that life is a movement upwards with a final click; and that life is also a low sky, white, enveloping, and smelling of lavender, at the bottom of a warm well.

Sara saw nothing: she was too fascinated by the arduous problem of adjusting her sense of order to my garment bag, my papers, and my offhand manner in the face of her elaborate explanations which teemed with the expression, 'for example.'  I was scarcely able to lock myself in the bathroom; now I would kill it.  A fine zone of heat surrounded the handkerchief; the bunny was utterly white and, I believe, more beautiful than the others.  He was not looking at me, but simply remained fidgety and happy, which is the most horrible way to look at me.  I locked it in the medicine chest and went back to unpacking my bags, disoriented but not unhappy, not guilty, not washing my hands to strip them of a final convulsion.

I understood that I could not kill it.  But that same evening I vomited up a black bunny.  And two days later a white one.  And on the fourth night, a gray bunny.

Reader Comments (3)

Wonderful Translation! wow!

November 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlicia

Thanks very much for your feedback, Alicia!

November 5, 2014 | Registered Commenterdeeblog

Who is Sarah? Is the naarator intending to eat the bunny when he says "the alcohol will enhance the flavor?"

November 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

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