In a torrent of stream-of-consciousness fragments, the unnamed narrator of Blood Red recounts the aftermath of her failed marriage in explicit, sensual detail. As she falls in and out of new relationships, her internal monologue is punctuated by bouts of trypophobia, an obsessive cataloging of holes that empty, fill, widen, and threaten to swallow her entirely. Blood courses through her every encounter from periods, fights, accidents, wounds, sex, streaming to and from her holey fixation. Blood is a vibrant reminder of her physicality, a manifestation of her interiority, a link to memories and sensations—until its abrupt absence changes everything.
Blood Red is now available via Restless Books.
It’s late and I’ve gathered most of his things. The nostalgia is extraordinary. It’s the well, the puddle, the quagmire in which I get wet, console myself, crawl. I grab his albums, the photos, the books, and I pack them up, drowning in snot and sweat. My tangled hair covers me, wrapping me up with something before the terror I feel coming on. How will his now faraway days transpire, given that every morning I’d caressed the face that admired me for a transparent beauty, always about to break down, a beauty I felt only I could protect, what will I do with my eyes? For every part of his body, one of mine cries. So many years. I don’t know how to go on with all this. Luckily María arrives with a bottle. I’m still hungover, but I must do this today. I ask her to help, and she asks why did you break up? The question elicits a nervous laugh. I think about an easy answer: the fucking waiting, I answer. It was killing me. Waiting was always, for me, a renewed possibility of the end. My sphincters, all the sphincters of my body—which I now know total more than fifty—would close, spheres squeezing their little muscles, and I’d start chewing my fingers (my cuticles are especially tasty, but mostly it’s the precision of ripping them off that fascinates me; by removing the cuticles the nail is left unprotected, it touches the finger. If the cuticle is carefully removed, a task that can take hours, it doesn’t bleed. Those on the thumb are a little more prone to bleeding. When they do, they do so in fat drops. A night of waiting could be ten bloodless cuticles. In addition to the cuticles, there are other parts of the fingers that are more difficult to rip off. Those are, due to the time they take, the ones that interest me more; they’re on the edges of the nails). My fingers sufficiently chewed, I could stand at the window and glue my nose to its coldness and stay there for a long time, replaying some painful scene. The cold coming in through my holes and installing itself in my feet. It would be difficult to pull my nose from the glass, and sometimes I’d tell myself when the next car goes down the street, I’ll leave. But I didn’t leave. Some nights of waiting I’d look for a pill and take it, feeling my sphincters relax a little. I’m not going to give an exhaustive description of everything that would go through my head, but there is something I need to say: the suspension allowed me to imagine the most absurd stories of loss, and the shock went well with the action of ripping off a cuticle or hangnail or the entire edge of a nail. At some point I started giving speeches that put me in complete control of the situation. I’d tell myself this doesn’t make sense, I’d tell myself I can do it alone, I’d tell myself this is happening again, I’d tell myself it can’t happen again. In addition to picking at my fingers, I’d also pick at my gums; that I did softly, with my nail scraping the flesh that protrudes along the upper part of my teeth, the same nail with which I’d later scratch the spongiest part of my vagina. I’d imagine that if he wasn’t dead, he was screwing a new lover, and it turned me on a little. But the desertion was imminent. Toward the end of the night, with cuticle-less fingers and inflamed gums, I’d go buy cigarettes and sit to watch the sunrise, now with lighter ideas, thinking another pill, surely, would make me sleep. I’d hesitate, but I’d take the pill and feel myself dissolve without fully releasing my sphincters, and that could go on for several nights. Or months. One night, it was the last time I waited. Why it was the last time I waited isn’t relevant, it has something to do with a pistol and a series of other things; those things, in turn, have everything to do with the fact that the threat of his abandonment was no longer fatal for me. I’m not clear how it happened, any threat of abandonment has always been fatal for me. I think it really had to do with some idea of mine about a future happiness that imposed itself, the recurrent idea of a possible new love. Could it also have to do with the fact that the whole question of waiting was out of my hands? What started happening was that, sometimes, with my nose pressed to the glass, my sphincters clenched, my breath tense, I’d sense him sitting or standing or lying there and turn around. What started happening was that I’d be waiting for him when he was there, his silent figure watching me or sleeping and me waiting for him like a madwoman. The realization that in the center of that love was a disturbance. María looks at me and asks were you going crazy? Something like that, I answer. But nothing’s that simple, no explanation is sufficient, and I don’t really understand why it ended. I was, I suppose, desiring the end for a long time as a verification of some original suspicion, some inevitable destiny that I imagine was mapped out for me. What’s true, I tell her, gathering a little strength, is that during that last wait I decided to make a list of what we had as a way of settling things. Then I take out the little folded piece of paper and read:
We had a house (that wasn’t really ours). We had creatures (fetuses and animals, now all dead). We had two cats (animals, now all dead). We had two beds. We had breakfasts (three thousand at least). We had walks. We had secrets. We had deaths that we cried over together. We had plane tickets (we went and returned). We had obsessions (demons to feed). We had altars or at least sacred objects. We had an accident. We had robberies. We had a routine or many or all of them. We had white noise. We had an operation. We had a wedding party in which we danced to en el bosque de la china and nineties choreography (you can have it all). We had a joint bank account. We had presents (a dog, now dead). We had an episode of physical violence or two. We had a collection. We had a prize for each of us (mine was in skating). We had a bicycle (it was stolen). We had illnesses and recuperated from the illnesses. We had a dinner with my stepmother and my dad (the only one I’ve had with both present in their thirty years of marriage). We had lovers, he had one and I, two (he had one first, I had a man and a woman). We had lines of cocaine, ecstasy pills, and an ayahuasca ceremony (we made a child and we made a trio and we said all the words of love to each other one dawn). We had a debt (my mom paid it). We had friends. We had a balcony (this makes me think of a drawing I did, he and I in the kitchen, he and I in the dining room, he and I on the balcony, drowning in a fight about something I no longer remember, but poor him, wild animal, trapped in my madness, the snow the only horizon: we had a landscape all our own). We had a marriage counselor. We had a reading group and one night we held a performance, my breasts were painted red. We also attended a Leonard Cohen concert. We had simultaneous orgasms (almost all of them). We had weeks of not talking to each other. We had a shared martial arts practice. We had thirteen boxes of books lost in some mysterious hole in the ocean. We had a tree in front of our window (now tattooed on his chest).
I closed the list and said that was it.
Then she asks what I miss most. And I answer, again, with the first thing that comes into my head: what each of us was next to the other. Or how he was able to put together all that scatter that I am—all the pieces came together around him. And I continue, already a little drunk and carried away: the strange sisterhood in which I sensed incest like a remote, exuberant force, capable of anything, like finding a lost affect, the primordial, like a permeability or an internal magnetization that was only possible with his gaze (poor sentimental education of mine, full of telenovelas). In the center of that love, beyond disturbance, was an error. And what makes his absence unbearable is the imprint of that mistake, I say. The vestige of what he put together and that’s now lost again. When you open a drawer and find your pencil. Or when you grab your backpack and, in one of the pockets, you find a piece of paper and boom, your handwriting. Or you grab a book and there’s a note. A note marking an important line. And you read the line that says when the truly beautiful are together and wonder why you underlined it and put two check marks next to it, a signal it was doubly meaningful. Then you go back to being pieces of a broken world. That now broken world endures in me like remains that move slowly, awkwardly. The parts try to go back to the place they occupied before us, but now they fly, lost; they’ve strayed from the door of some house, of some place, of all the places we were and that I now dream about. The dreams about him are the worst, I tell María, returning to the task of packing up his things. Dreams are mirrors, they’re animals, again they’re holes, and they’re the two of us telling each other it’s always a relief to be together, the loss has been unbearable. Getting up after those dreams is impossible. I keep inhabiting them and find myself saying now I understand how people tolerate death or discomfort or fetidness or mistakes because it’s all better than dreaming we’ll be together again only to wake up and suddenly feel the pain of reality. They’re spaces, I say, and start another list. María watches me, fascinated.
they’re forests and earth,
they’re four planes,
and it’s also water,
it’s another country,
they’re hotel rooms,
they’re fields, and
they’re restaurants, and
it’s a solitary tree in front of our window that drops its leaves while we, naked, recite the sadnesses of our orphanhood to each other it’s an open horizon that can be a park or a garden or the surrounding areas of a lake or a cemetery, we both walk and see a deer, we’re paralyzed before the beauty and before the cruelty of that animal that eats another animal and we watch its bewilderment and we grab each other’s frozen hands, I tell him I buried my brother here, and he cries with me, even though we know we’re crossing a foreign land, far from everything we know and that holding hands is the only possibility for survival (holding hands is humankind’s best invention, fucking hell).
We’ve been together in places. The places exist, I feel the pores of my skin become Styrofoam pellets and say we no longer exist, how the hell did that happen, María, and the trypophobia triggers a morbid curiosity about the image. And I quicken the pace of my packing. His things go in boxes, and María, now somewhat drunk, packs what I hatefully throw on the floor, wanting it to be swallowed up by the emptiness around which this rage exists.
Translated by Sarah Booker