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YOU ARE DUST (original title Polvo Eres*)
Juan Bonilla

The woman is probably about thirty. She's in a motel somewhere on the outskirts. She is looking at the ceiling, the vertiginous lights of the cars creeping over it like hunted animals. A night of thick fog. A hangnail moon drags itself across the sky. The woman goes back to another night with a sky punctured by hundreds of stars, like platinum bullets. Her intestines are choked with phlegm, and her brain is crowded with ghosts. She has injected morphine into one ankle and her eyelids have begun to feel like they were weighted down with stones. Little by little it all starts fading away, swallowed up by a nothing she herself is slipping into, pushed by an inertia that detaches her from where she is. In the abyss of her closed eyes the woman makes out the silhouette of a landscape, the landscape of her childhood. There the light is red, as if the sun were casting twilight rays onto her closed lids. The woman is oblivious to the smell that fouls the air like it was the decomposing soul of a devil. The woman doesn't hear how death with its rat's teeth has started to gnaw her bones. What the woman hears are the church bells of her village, not the siren of the approaching ambulance. She hears her father's voice calling her, not the voice of the unknown man at her side who tells her to wake up, who insists, who drags her to her feet and orders her to walk, shouting that she can't go to sleep, splashing water on her temples and pleading with her to hang on, help will be here soon and they'll take her to the hospital and she'll get better. Wailing noisily the ambulance arrives at the motel, they carry the woman's body out and head back into town, sinking back into the mist they have come from. Someone has spread out the mist from the tops of the trees, like a gigantic sheet that turns everything ghostly. In the mist the street lights are the pupils of unknown beings lying in wait. There are no cars moving on the wide avenues of the city. Just the ambulance speeding to its destination, ripping the thick curtain of smoke while the woman makes out in the distance, on the screen of her closed eyelids, the presence of that shy boy she's in love with and has never said a word to because a woman must not speak to a man unless he has spoken to her first. But this time it isn't going to be like that. The woman, who's now thirteen years old, decides to speak to the boy and she walks up to him and the ambulance keeps on through the mist, while the alarm clocks of the earliest workers are just starting to rescue them from their dreams to remind them that the torpor of another day of gangrenes and desires and guilts and hopes is beginning. The ambulance reaches the hospital just at the instant when the woman at last says hello to the boy and he gets the better of his shyness and says hello back and then she takes the opportunity to reproach him, why haven't you spoken to me in all these years? almost twenty years without speaking to me when all I needed was one word from you, and the boy doesn't know what she's talking about, this girl he likes so much but who gets him flustered and they take out the stretcher and they wheel it at top speed down the hospital corridors, lit with the light of bad dreams, until they get to a place where somebody pronounces "there's nothing to be done, we can't bring her round", and the voice is the voice of her father asking her with a blazing look what she's doing talking to that fool, and she tries to explain but the words get stuck in her throat, and the boy comes to her rescue and in a proud voice declares that he's in love with her, and everything is happening with great urgency, with the same urgency that death stops the pulse and starts to chill the woman who is now hurtling down a slide that leads to the cabin where the boy is sleeping, and she goes over to him and draws back the covers and reveals him naked and white as a lunar landscape, and she feels her hands trembling for the touch of his skin, and she risks a kiss that opens the boy's lips, and she puts her tongue in his mouth and the sky turns upside down and she hears a voice whisper "this is a dream", but the shaky voice she hears is not saying those words, that ancient voice that comes out of the mist and is the last the woman will hear, some hours after she's dead, the voice of the mortuary attendant who on discovering the rounded, lovely body of the deceased has decided to take his time, enjoying the breasts, stroking the hips, pinching the buttocks, until he can't hold back any more and he penetrates her, gasping there on top of her and pours out over the woman who hears the whisper of the boy telling her "I can't stop, I'm coming, I'm coming", although that ancient voice is really panting "you little whore, I'm coming, you bitch, it's all the same to you now".

ŠJuan Bonilla 1997

English translation by Graham Thomson 1997

*Translator's note: the Castilian title, "Polvo eres", plays on at least two meanings of the word polvo which are not easily reconciled in English -- dust, as in "dust to dust", and screw, as in fuck; an alternative title in English might be "You are a screw".