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Author Bio | Spanish Original

MINI by Agustín Cerezales

Mini takes her time over her breakfast. It's Saturday, and her parents are expecting her for lunch. But Mini gets up every Saturday, without fail, at one o'clock. She makes fresh orange juice. A good strong coffee. A slice of toast. And a grated apple with yoghurt. She prepares her breakfast in that order, and in that order she eats it. Then she goes into the shower and she doesn't turn off the water till the clocks strike two. At two the clock on the oven, the only one in the house that works, starts to ring, and Mini steps out of the shower naked, looking at herself in the mirror and swaying her hips gracefully. Then all at once she freezes, to catch herself as if in a photo, and slowly yawns a smile:
      She uses different tones of voice, one after another, to name herself mentally. And sometimes the name, which she didn't like when she was a little girl but has now come to accept (even though it still sounds like a cat, and she prefers dogs) ends up turning into a meaningless phonic pattern and drifts away through the air leaving her doubly naked, naked of body and naked of identity, fragile to the utmost degree, deliciously fragile, as she confesses maliciously when she comes back down to earth and runs through to the wardrobe, from which, with an astonishing absence of vanity, she grabs the first dress that catches her eye.
      Enough time has now passed for her to arrive late for lunch. After waiting the regulation quarter of an hour, they will have started without her, resigned to her habitual lateness. She always gets there in time to pick at the second course and eat all the dessert with relish, and as soon as she's had her coffee she's off; they all know she hates after-dinner conversation.
      And yet she likes going through her Saturday ritual; she gets a great deal of private satisfaction out of the practice of this doubtful act of filial devotion.
      She goes down to the street to look for her car. The car always has to be looked for, because she always forgets where she parked it. In fact, it isn't hard to find. It's an old lemon yellow mini ("Come on, mini", she mutters through her teeth as she starts the engine, positively exulting in the coincidence of names), a tiny car that always manages to hide itself between the big cars, but whose eye-catching yellow can always be seen peeking out somewhere.
      Always, always: things always happen like that, and that's how she likes it. It's strange, paradoxical, but that's how it is. Before, the repetition of things used to exasperate her. But ever since she started working as a secretary, and bought her car, and started renting her flat, and dyed her hair blonde, she has been so evidently happy that the mere idea of changing a single thing horrifies her. 'A mummy,' she sometimes says to herself, 'when I'm an old woman I'll be a delicate mummy, blonde and well-preserved, and my mini will be, too.'
      And that is why she'll never get married. She doesn't even imagine having a lover. She feels erotic, appetising, light, perfumed, and she likes to cross the street like that, like always, very mini, very much herself, making the streetlights pale in a breeze of evocations. But she looks for nothing more.
      So it shocked her, it left her feeling disconcerted. The rear window, of course, of her car.
      'What's the matter, Mini, don't you feel like eating today?' her mother asks when she refuses the dish of fish balls in batter she offers her.
      But Mini is miles away: 'How am I going to tell you, mum, about the enigma I've got today?' 'An enigma?' 'Yes, woman, yes, an enigma.' 'Where?' 'Well, on the car window, of course.'
      No, it is definitely better to say nothing, because mum always likes to get to the bottom of things, even when they don't have a bottom.
      The bottomless enigma is this: 'Mini, I love you. Phone me.'. And the signature is a telephone number: 545 6756. The whole thing is written in a firm, clear script, traced by a finger in the thick coat of dust on the back window of her car.
      Who loves her? Who could love her? It would be easy to find out, by calling 545 6756. She rubbed it off with a tissue, but it has stayed imprinted on her mind. And nothing can get rid of it all afternoon, not her long chat on with Lu on the phone, not the film on TV, nothing. 'Mini, I love you.' 'You've really done it, boy. You must be crazy.'
      And that night, when the same as every Saturday night she goes to Roger's to drink a gin and tonic and listen to the same old friends saying the same old words, she finds herself scrutinising all the guys in the bar - Paco, Juan, Lobos, Rodrigato and Paz-Paz, who once made a pass at her. And for the first time she has to face the disagreeable fact that nobody loves her. Well, they do love her ('There's only one Mini', they would all say), but in the way she loves them: if they were all to disappear at the same time she would feel quite lonely, but as they are, individually, she couldn't really say they were indispensable. And that night she goes home a little earlier than usual. 'I've got a bit of a headache', she explains, when somebody expresses a polite regret at her leaving. And they make her promise that tomorrow, the same as always, she'll meet them at the basketball game. The team needs cheering on.
      Because Mini is one of those highly improbable but nonetheless real and numerous women with a passion for basketball. She had never understood what that kind of enthusiasm was all about until they took her one day. And ever since, partly out of laziness (what the hell are Sunday afternoons for?), she has been a fan, and shouts as loud as anyone.
      Why is it that today, although she just said yes, she is far from sure that she'll go to the game tomorrow, and imagines the prawns they'll have afterwards to celebrate the victory as indigestible? Because of that 'Mini, I love you', without a doubt.
      'I can't stand practical jokers', she says out loud as she pulls her dressing gown up over her shoulder and tucks her feet under the bed, settles her arse and lifts the receiver. 'I hate stupid jokes', she adds defiantly. And she dials five, four, five, six, seven, five, six.
      At the other end of the line there's nobody. She lets it ring until she gets cut off. But at the other end of the line there is somebody. And she can imagine him perfectly, asleep, shooing away the ringing the way you shoo away a fly, with a motion of the hand that covers his face which, when he raises his fingers, reveals his rather gaunt features beneath the shadow of a three days beard.
      Mini gets into bed. That man, what does he smell like? Men don't smell good until you get past the first obstacle, that kind of sharp, penetrating, dense odour of seminal effort, and you enter inside a sort of cave of softer and more undulating cadences, as if the smell of your own body somehow redeemed the man's and discovered a new landscape, wild at times like the perfumes on TV, sometimes warm, always different… The smell of this particular man is a bitter well opening itself from the clayey void of its depths to the wounding, trembling desert sun. Is he really like that? She breathes deeply. And she feels in her turn like a sprig of camomile leaking the transparency of its golden pigment into the water, diluting itself in a tense glistening pleasure.
      She wakes up suddenly, excited. 'Could I have fallen in love?' No, she hasn't fallen in love. She smiles. Her hand is between her legs, playing with the curls of her pubic hair. 'How silly I am.' She gets up, gives the telephone a reproachful look, and goes to get a glass of water.
      From the kitchen she can see the city spread out beneath her, lit up with innumerable lights. It's like living in New York. She adores it. What makes her frown is the thought that each one of these undifferentiated lights has a name, corresponds to a telephone number. The telephone of a practical joker, of a sad man.
      She drinks the water slowly, and as the water slides down her throat dream images and sensations come back to her, disturbing her. 'It seems, Mini, that spring is on the way.' And she goes off to bed with decided steps, angry, ready to shut her eyes and go straight sleep. She picks up the phone and dials.
      The person at the other end lifts the receiver immediately, before Mini even hears it ring. She's caught off guard.
      'I… I'm sorry. It's Mini.'
      'Mini? No, there's no Mini here.' The fact is I don't really understand.
      'I'm Mini!'
      There is so much indignation in her voice that I feel obliged to be as nice as possible.
      'Sorry, Mini, but who do you want?'
      And Mini hangs up. She hangs up in such a rage that the receiver bounces off the hook and lands on its side. I seem to hear noises, and I try to make myself heard.
      'I'm sorry, Mini! I forgot. I was asleep.'
      Yes, I suddenly remember it all. It was Friday night, almost getting on for dawn. When I stopped at some traffic lights, I noticed that somebody was looking at my car. Not at me, at the car. It was a very precise sensation. As for me, I didn't look, but I caught the fleeting silhouette of a woman.
      Then things started to get complicated. It seems that we were taking the same route, so that it was if we were following one another through the lonely streets, something that happens sometimes, that unsettles me, and which, from an almost paranoiac need, I always try to deny. And so we marked out a fantastic winding journey to which the curves of the road, the destination and the traffic lights provided a special accompaniment. Our two cars understood one another perfectly, behaving with such reciprocal elegance and harmony ('after you', 'beg your pardon', etc.) that it was clearly a gallant adventure.
      The sensation was not overturned when the mini stopped outside a doorway and I kept on without turning my head, in the same affectedly natural manner in which we had travelled the whole route. The impulse lasted long enough for me to turn around at the next corner without a trace of premeditation, stop beside the now parked car and, with a hand steadier than the level of alcohol in my blood might have promised, write that stupid declaration of love.
      'Mini, it's true, I love you, I'm the guy in the white beetle!'
      But Mini isn't listening. She has got up, got dressed again and gone back to Roger's. There's nobody there now, only the barman, hurriedly collecting in the glasses.
      I would have liked to know her. The one time I do something crazy, I should have experienced the consequences.
      But tomorrow, when she wakes up from her long night and sees the phone off the hook, she will briefly smile as she replaces it, she will make sure that she has forgotten the fateful number, perhaps merely imaginary, and go to the kitchen to get herself a fried egg and a glass of cold milk, which is what she usually has for Sunday breakfast, but not always. Her bare feet will feel the pleasant coolness of the shiny tiles on the kitchen floor, and the wheel of the clock on the oven will make its characteristic mechanical creak; once more, everything will be in order.

© Agustín Cerezales

Author Bio | Spanish Original

English translation by Graham Thomson

"Mini" was first published in the short story collection, Escaleras en el limbo (Stairways in Limbo) published in Spain by Lumen, 1991.

This electronic version of "Mini" is published by The Barcelona Review by arrangement with the author.

This excerpt may not be archived or distributed further without the author's express permission. Please see our conditions of use.

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