Inicio | Colaboradores | Quiénes somos | Acerca de | Números anteriores  

Accomplices | Cómplices

Luis Rico Chávez | Translated by Aída Raquel Marín


A foreigner always has a hidden wound.
I’m not repeating hearsay:
I’ve been a foreigner, too.


The darkness stirs slightly at the soft sound of steps. Rogelia, sensitive to the slightest change in the things around her, asks “Can I help you?” arranging cans without stopping. The unusual answer, a short silence, startles her. She looks up and sees a somber, unknown figure. The image is foreshortened like the memories of a dream, and highlighted by the timid morning light coming in weakly through the door.

She was about to repeat the question when the man’s voice interrupts her: “Give me a Pacífico, please”. Something in his respectful request makes her go quickly to the fridge, take out a bottle of beer, open it and hand it to him politely, even though there’s a sign saying: “No drinking inside the store”. Something in the rapid exchange, in the completed act, makes Rogelia think that the man is overwhelmed by a situation too intimate for her to know; so, feeling guilty, she goes back to her interrupted job.

The man goes to the door and gazes at the sunny, empty street. He drinks from the bottle and the loneliness he feels is stronger. One year away, without her. Without them. Where could they be? He could have expected anything, except not finding them.

Her mother’s hostility and evasive behavior did not surprise him. Even when she refused to let him enter their house, he thought that behavior was normal. Because that was the way they’d treated each other in the past, during the months they shared a house because he was unemployed. But, her rejection was so complete, and the memory of his interminable quarrels with that impossible woman –whom even her daughter didn’t like-was so clear, that he realized his pleas were useless.

Then he was sure that was the end of it. Where could they be? He hardly noticed when the woman, who was acting oddly, scribbled something on a piece of paper and gave it to him, in a rush, before slamming the door. He stood for a long time, and when he finally reacted, he looked at the piece of paper.

A phone number, how ridiculous!

He remembered the warning: “That’s the only thing of hers I have. I don’t know if I’m going to find her, I’ve never called her, and she’s never looked for me”. So, the phone number was for him. He imagined her desperate, putting up with a difficult situation until it became unbearable. So, she finally left her mother and looked for a refuge somewhere. Did she go to a friend’s house? A relative’s? Or…? He shook his head. She couldn’t live with another man; if that was the case, then why had she left him a phone number?

No, no, that was ridiculous.

He looked attentively at the piece of paper. He didn’t recognize it. Whose phone number was it? He remembered when he tried to call her the first time: “The number you have dialed is out of service…” Why does a door open if the only place it leads to is an abyss? The feeling that he’d come to the end of the road shook his nerves. He suddenly felt his eyes burn. He’d been wandering for a long time, for several weeks now. He’d been dialing the same phone number that invariably gave the same insensitive and neutral reply. How many weeks had he been wandering like an abandoned dog? He had been wandering around the same area; the one he thought corresponded to the phone number, he walked with almost no hope of finding them.

He drinks the last sip of his beer right down to the foam. Then, he goes back to the shadowy store. Outside, the street is still empty. He puts his hands slowly on the counter. He waits for a long time, and, as if he’d just come back from a long walk, asks again: “Give me another, please”.

Now, Rogelia realizes he’s no longer in a hurry. Before he starts drinking from the second beer, he looks around for a while, without focusing on any particular place, completely focussed on his distant memories.

“Excuse me, I have a question” (Rogelia is surprised at the sudden and unexpected question), “but, I figure you know all the neighbors around here, so you can probably help me”.

The man looks at her with a slight gleam of hope in his eyes.

“Last year I had to go to the United States…I’m sorry for telling you this, but I’m desperate, I need someone who can help me… I left for the U. S. and I left my wife and my daughter –she was only six months old- with my mother-in-law…Why did I leave them…?

He remains silent, staring at the bottle, as if he were concentrating the desperation of last week there. Then, he continues:

“Now that I’m back, her mother won’t even let me enter the house. She told me they’re not living there anymore. She didn’t tell me where to find them. I just have their phone number. But, when I dial this number nobody answers… do you know by any chance if a woman with an eighteen-month old child has moved around here recently? That would be my daughter’s age by now.”

To Rogelia, it seems like her own life’s story. She’s about to cry. Pretending she’s lining up cans again, she turns around and tensing her whole body, she tastes the bitterness of her memories.

In a second, Rogelia goes back to that particular morning when she pretended to be asleep so as not to hurt him as he was leaving. She imagined his shadow moving through those dark hours, doing last-minute things before getting closer to their bed and putting his hand softly on her naked shoulder. A sudden blaze that lighted briefly and intensely the time they shared in those few difficult but happy years.

She remembered the first uncertain weeks after he left; the slow, corrosive agony.

She thought of the unknown wife of this hopeless man. A secret and distant complicity tied her to that woman. She imagined her homeless at first. She thought of the futile search for a lost body. The painful encounter with the shared spaces, now empty. The vigil wounded by a distant warmth. Waking up knowing that she was alive, but alone.

But, her husband is standing in front of her; Rogelia was not that lucky.

After several months, she got the first hopeful letters. Two years later –so much hardship, so much pent-up emotion-, she was finally packing to go and meet him when a relative sent the bad news: he had died at work. What she lived after that has no meaning: she’s burying herself in this store because her sister allowed her to lay her bitterness to rest; to wait for an approaching death that is her only hope.

She manages to excuse herself for not knowing anything. She explains that she spends all day inside and hardly notices the customers who stop by, especially the gloomy and preoccupied ones. She stops, thinking she’s offended the man’s desperation.

The man takes his bottle and goes back to the entrance of the store. The sun beats down even harder than before. Between the noontime glare and the silence of the facades, a door is opened in the distance.

Rogelia perceives the tension in the man’s profile. Both of them focus on the point that stands out against the scene’s ordinariness.

The man, still looking, goes back to the counter. This time, he asks: “Do you see that woman? Do you know her? Rogelia says no. So, he asks: “Can I use your phone?”

Despite her urgency, he dials carefully, waiting for the mechanical voice he’s heard before. After a short wait, the phone on the other end starts ringing. It rings once, twice, three times. The woman softly closes the door and goes quickly to answer the phone.

Salvador Enríquez | España Eva María Medina Moreno | España Rolando Revagliatti | Argentina Fernando Sorrentino | Argentina Ana Romano | Argentina Cecilia Magaña | México Armando Ortiz Valencia | México Rubén Hernández | México Luis Rico Chávez | México Adelfa Martín | México Alejandro Olivo | México Andrés Guzmán Díaz | México Plástica Obra de Laura Preciado
Especial Kiosko | Ramón Valle Muñoz Lugares con genio Recuerdos de la FIL