It wasn’t snowing.
It really was snowing but it was pretend snow. Astrud Gilberto was singing in front of a Christmas tree and that’s why there was pretend snow. And then the song finished.
Ever since the newspapers started saying that the world is going to end, songs have seemed shorter and the days longer. I called in at your house but they told me that you weren’t there, they told me that you were somewhere else, in Tokyo.
She left years ago. That’s what they told me. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true.
I watched The Girl from Ipanema on the classic movie channel. Astrud Gilberto was singing almost without moving, the artificial snow, the daiquiris, the band, the young ladies lined up next to the small stage.
Last week, at the fair, they sold two old cars. We were in Phoenix, Arizona and your mother wrote something on the window, on the windowpane and then rubbed it out before we could read it.
What do you think they’re all doing now that you’re not there? They share out your things amongst them, they mimic your gestures, they strip your bed.
In the hotel room there were plastic flowers, two hundred TV channels, green carpet covered with fish and all sorts of crazy designs. I was tired and my eyes were closing, and so I slept for three or four hours and then I woke up, opened the curtains and watched the planes until dawn.
I bumped into your mother in Phoenix and she said we should take you flowers and I said no, we shouldn’t. Then I went up to my hotel room. I had a bath. I slept for a while and afterwards I stayed there watching the planes.
Your mother only gambles on roulette and she swears that she wins, she swears that she wins more than she bets and she looks good for a woman who has tried her luck in five different continents and who now only gambles in Phoenix, Arizona, and writes things on windows with her finger and then rubs them out with her fist. A fine woman, your mother, and good-looking, nice tits as well, a real laugh, lively. She places her bets and wins, great, isn’t it?
Let’s get back to sleep darling and look at the planes.
No need for flowers.
I went downstairs for the newspaper at ten in the morning but then I stayed in the bar drinking a non-alcoholic beer, a man asked after you and I told him that you were dead, that you had died, it’s not true of course, but you’ve got to say something. Died in an accident. A car accident? No, not a car accident.
There were two identical girls in the swimming pool wearing identical yellow swimming costumes. When one of them dived into the water the other one would get out, so that there was always the same girl in and out of the water at the same time.
At twelve o’clock I lay down on my bed again but I didn’t go to sleep. The room was freezing cold.
In Puerto Rico I spent three days in an even worse room, I had to open the windows to let the heat in. This room was not as cold. I also saw your mother in the casino in Puerto Rico and in one of those floating casinos in New Orleans. She didn’t see me. That’s right, it was in Puerto Rico, New Orleans. The Mississippi is brown. I don’t know why but I thought that it would be different. What happened is that the lawyer called me up and told me that if I knew how to find you I should find you and tell you that some documents urgently need your signature. I told him that I didn’t know how to find you and that, anyway, you had probably died in an accident and this last bit alarmed the lawyer and he asked, “A car accident?” And I simply said to him, “No, not a car accident”.
The Mississippi is brown because it drags all that earth along with it, because it’s a vigorous and nervous and long and brown river. A good river, all the same. After talking to the lawyer I went down to the bar again and when I passed by the swimming pool there was absolutely no sign of the girls, so I had a daiquiri or a mojito or both and everything began to get better so quickly that I was all for going up for my swimming trunks and celebrating but then, I don’t know why, I didn’t do it and carried on drinking until three or four, until someone suggested that we should go to visit the Indian reservations, well, it seemed a good idea to me because I can’t drive, which in a certain respect is almost a sin in this country, but I know that there’s a lot to see in Arizona. So in next to no time the four of us were on the road, a chubby little Apache and his girlfriend, a chubby little Apache girl and me.
Welcome to Kayenta. Thanks a lot. Are you a foreigner? Yes, I’m one hundred per cent foreign. At least when I’m here. Are you single? Widowed.
Time for lunch. There we are, having lunch and this big dark-haired man with sideburns and braces shows up and tells me that he’s Spanish and I tell him that’s great and he tells me that he’s descended from the family of the Cid, wow, I’m amazed, I’m really amazed and the man almost goes wild and I tell him that I’m genuinely surprised but that I don’t doubt him and he tells me that there’s no reason why I should doubt him and then his girlfriend, who’s an Indian, gets out some corn tortillas and enchiladas, with chicken, marinated meat and guacamole. And my Apache friends, who don’t know who the Cid is, wolf it all down in a second and then ask for more, and beer and then tequila and then more beer and so on until the big guy brings us the bill and I pay it all.
We go back to the car and take a drive around the town, which is a tiny town with prefabricated houses and a mall and one of those American canteens just like the ones we saw in the east before the fall of communism and which are probably called Macdonalds here.
Poverty is multi-coloured in America, like the International Pancake Shop.
We carry on bound for Fort Apache and we cross some breathtaking mountains and a breathtaking forest and even a breathtaking lake, we smoke grass and they ask me about this and that and I do the same, I mean that I ask them things as well and we reach the city, we drive past the casino, I remember your mother and I think that it would be great to meet her here, in the only Apache casino on earth and then, I don’t know why, I’m convinced that she’s in there and I decide that we’re not going to stop. People are looking at us. The fact is that some people look at us and others don’t, but I said that to cut it short and to make it clear that some of them do look at us.
The house is a bit better than the houses in Kayenta but a dump nevertheless and the boy explains to me that the dump’s a present from Social Security and I tell him that that makes it a marvellous dump and I mean it.
My Apache friends have got the biggest TV set in the world and a poster of Geronimo pinned up to the right above it and a picture of Johnny Hallyday to the left. We smoke more grass and drink beer. When the beer runs out she goes to the car and brings another case of it that must have been in the boot of the car and that’s warm, but it doesn’t matter, and we drink all of that as well. When there’s no grass left the boy goes out and I hear him starting up the car and leaving and he comes back a bit later and while he’s been out my Apache friend and I have hardly spoken.
She asked me about my wife and I told her that my wife’s dead.
She became very sad so I told her that it isn’t really true, that it’s a joke.
She got angry and told me that it was a disgusting joke and I could only agree with her.
What can have become of that girl in Hong Kong who lived in a shop surrounded by plastic buckets and trays and baskets and washing-up bowls of every imaginable colour?
My friend the Apache doesn’t know what I’m talking to him about. We’re sitting smoking next to the lake. Two shots ring out. Duck hunters, my friend says. Then another Indian goes by in a boat. He smiles. We smile back.
Night falls and then it’s day again. The girl has disappeared and now there’s a very large dog and two kids sitting in front of the TV set. My friend says they’re his brothers and that he’s got another older brother who’s in gaol. What’s he there for? For going into a liquor store with a shotgun. He’s also got a sister who’s married to a Navajo. He pulls a face at the word Navajo. Apparently, Apaches and Navajos don’t get on too well together. Navajos are lazy, Apaches aren’t. It’s just as well to know that.
When we get into Phoenix it’s five or six in the afternoon.
The girl in Hong Kong, the one in the shop selling plastic trash, used to sit at the window and instead of looking at the colours inside she would look at the ones outside.
Behind the till there was a photo of a girl, even prettier, wearing a green kimono, leaning on a white balustrade on which there was a china vase with red and yellow flowers on it. Clearly, the girl in the photo and the one in the shop, sitting at the window, were the same girl.
This morning I woke up on hearing a shout, on going out into the corridor I saw a little man wearing an alpaca suit, I closed the door and went back to bed. I don’t know if the man had anything to do with the shout. Above the TV there’s a photo of a naked black woman, exactly the same photo that the chef from The Shining had in his room, the guy who crossed the country in a hellish snowstorm just so Jack Nicholson could stick an axe into his heart the moment he went in through the door.
The fact is this room and the one belonging to that man are almost identical, with walls covered with thin wooden panels and red carpet on the floor.
The TV is switched on, and there appears on it a man just like the one I’ve just seen in the corridor.
It’s all coincidences this morning.
Incidentally, it’s not true that women find me boring because yesterday I brought a woman up to my room and she couldn’t stop laughing. She was about forty and wasn’t pretty but she had a good body, at least with her clothes on, I didn’t get to see her without them because we had drunk a lot, especially me. When she left my room she was still laughing and I heard her laughing until she got into the lift.
As a matter of fact I went to sleep with the sound of her laughter and woke up with the shout.
There were loads of people in the swimming pool and I was surprised to see just one of the identical girls.
I didn’t have breakfast. I had a non-alcoholic beer and then another one with alcohol.
Yesterday they said on TV that this has been the warmest and at the same time the coldest January of the century.
Sadness has no end, happiness does.
This morning I received a message from the Company, they want me to go back to Brazil. They say that it’s necessary.
Necessary has always seemed an overstated word to me.
They say that our man in Rio has disappeared. They say that they need someone there for Carnaval. People always do everything that they shouldn’t during Carnaval and afterwards they need the help of chemistry in order to forget it all.
I swore never to go back to Carnaval.
I don’t remember exactly how Marcel Camus’ film Orpheus ended, the girl electrocuted herself and everything went red. Then Orpheus, dressed more or less like a Roman, went to the hospital and ran up the stairs and the hospital was full of victims of Carnaval. Wasn’t it in Sao Paulo Airport that they seized my suitcase and all my merchandise all because of a mistake made by the Company? Yes, that’s where it happened. They set the dogs on me with absolutely no proof, the chemical keeps an eye on things and thinks that it knows everything, but the chemical also makes mistakes and now they want me to go back, no way, to Rio. I couldn’t give a toss about Carnaval.
So our man in Rio has headed off into what’s left of the jungle with his suitcase under his arm. He’s taken them for a ride, he’s got enough chemical there to keep him going for a year. Then he’ll turn up leading a tribe of vindictive natives like that poor wretch who stirred up half of Algeria to revolt just to end up roasted by fundamentalists on the Moroccan border. Now I remember, Orpheus found Eurydice in the morgue and carried her out in his arms singing songs to her. They then let fly with a hail of stones to his head and he fell over a cliff.
Let that be a lesson to you.
At the end the children got the sun to come out by playing their guitars.
Tucson is celebrating the diamond fair, which can’t be bad. A traveller in diamonds offered to swap his case for mine and we both laughed a lot about this.
Today is Monday. I’ll work the fair until Friday.
The worst thing about fairs are the whores. Whores in the lifts, whores in the corridors, whores everywhere, as well as guys going in and out of motel rooms like gusts of wind. A precious stones saleswoman invited me to have dinner with her, she was French and had a couple living in her room, a big, blond farmer and a fairly attractive Mexican woman, she had them waiting there just like I always leave the TV on. We had dinner, we drank, she bought a huge dose of memory eroder from me, we went up to her room and I ended up with the farmer, it wasn’t bad, my hotel is near so at least I showered in my room. When I went past the swimming pool I thought I saw something at the bottom and I suddenly remembered a guy who drowned in the lake on a golf course trying to recover lost balls so as to be able to sell them at a third of their original price.
Of course there was nothing in the pool.
Tucson is full of palm trees and palm trees always put me in a good mood.
I don’t know how many diamond dealers there are in the world but they’re all here. I closed five more deals. Mostly STM, short term memory eroder. Then I went for a walk and went to bed. Oh yes, I also downed a bottle of champagne.
I couldn’t prevent myself from going down to the swimming pool just to make sure that there was nobody at the bottom of it.
An urgent message from the Company. Apparently my sister has killed herself with a shotgun. The strange thing is that I can’t recollect having a sister. At home they’re wondering if I’ll attend the funeral. I’m wondering the same.
On Friday before leaving Tucson I took the test. Negative. Despite this, as usual, I got nervous. I suppose that I’m the kind of person who on seeing the photofit of a murderer on TV always finds an absurd resemblance with himself. The hotel was certainly the height of luxury. The bathroom was pale blue and the bedroom carpet, yellow. Yes indeed, very pretty. I think that I had already been there but there’s no way of establishing this. They tell me at the Company that my decision to say no to the place at Rio on the eve of Carnaval didn’t go down at all well. That can’t be helped. By the way, what do you make of a Polish police car parked outside a cemetery? I dreamt it last night and I don’t know why but it seems to me that I had already dreamt it before.
That wouldn’t be unusual, the same hotel, the same dream.
February in Arizona, not too cold as long as you keep a long way from the mountains during the day and far from the desert at night. Very pleasant temperatures in Phoenix and quite a lot of fuss because of the end of the American football season. People from all over the world and the strangest looking hats. Nothing to forget for the time being and so I spend the night at Sedona on the way to Flagstaff and when I get off the bus with a group of English tourists the first thing that I do is to have a really cold beer in one of those tin diners which are still left over from the fifties. Pastries and ice-creams of every imaginable colour and hicks with their gazes lost half-way between suspicion and the most complete ignorance. Short-sighted murderers like the ones we saw in the swamps of Louisiana, clinging on to the end of their rifles with the same faith as a man clinging on to a branch on the edge of a precipice. Another cold beer while the sun sets over beautiful Sedona, surrounded by red stone, deep in the red canyon, covered by a vast red cloud. In short, the pearl of the desert. A small town at the foot of a dead river filled with empty motels, because tourism doesn’t pick up until the spring, when the route towards the Grand Canyon becomes the main destination in the area. There are just two cinemas in Sedona, so it doesn’t take me long to choose a film. I sit down in the cinema ready to be entertained, but before a strange monster from hell destroys San Diego, I’m sleeping peacefully. Then there occur a whole lot of strange and immensely boring things like all the things that only happen in dreams, whether it’s dragons on the roof or volcanoes under your bed.
When I wake up the film hasn’t yet finished but, of course, I’ve lost track of the plot, so I leave the cinema through the emergency exit and go out into the street, which is the main street in Sedona and almost the only one because Sedona is one of those little towns bisected by a main road going somewhere else. A town one passes through cut down the middle like an orange. It’s already night and there’s hardly any moonlight, the rocks around the town are no longer red but black like a pile of hooded men. I cross the road over to the diner, which is the only bar that’s still open. I have a beer and the waiter asks me whether the film was any good, and I tell him that it was fine, just to say something, and he says that he’s fed up with monsters and that he still remembers when real people appeared in films and he also tells me that once, his wife, may she rest in peace, went on foot the whole way between Sedona and Lake Moctezuma to see him and that he was working on the building of the airport next to the lake and that many Indians and whites flogged themselves to death working on the wretched airport all for a politician in Phoenix to decide to scrap the project just a year after it was started.
Naturally I ask him how his wife died and he tells me, without getting particularly sad, that his wife died giving birth to their second daughter and that their second daughter is called Helen and that the first one is called Andrea and that without a moment’s hesitation he would give his life for his daughters. On the way to Sedona along Highway 17 you can see the remains of the abandoned airport. It’s at least twenty kilometres from Sedona to the disused runways.
Then, before I leave, the barman who’s on the other side of the bar tells the latest customer:
We’ve had two dreadful years.
The other man, who’s wearing a fishing cap, with hooks stuck around it on a tape, and who’s old enough to be my father, doesn’t reply. He just looks down as if confirming that indeed they’ve been terrible days.
The English tourists have checked into the Gran Sedona Hotel on the way out of the town, which is where groups always stay because it’s cheaper and because at dawn the view of the red hills is magnificent. I’m staying in the bungalows in the valley, where the golfers stay, or those who already know the view. The bungalows are a lot better, not just the food and service, also the pay-per-view channels on the TV and of course the fake fireplaces. Flames that go up and down behind the glass by just pressing a button on the remote control. All the little houses give the impression of being adobe huts but once inside you have to be careful not to fall into the huge jacuzzi. One miniature of whisky and off to bed. On TV I saw a man crying at the trial of his daughter’s murderer. The man was saying something about the girl, had mentioned her name, Molly, six or seven times but when he reached a particular word he couldn’t go on. The District Attorney asked him if anything was missing from the girl’s room. The man replied that at first they didn’t notice anything but that afterwards, checking through the girl’s toys and clothes, they hadn’t been able to find her . . . that’s when he couldn’t go on and he began to cry and he cried so much that the judge had to suspend the hearing for a time.
Of course I fall asleep thinking about what it could be that the poor man wasn’t able to say and why they didn’t find it.
When I wake up I’m still thinking about the same thing.
How are things in Flagstaff?
The question couldn’t be more innocent but despite everything I don’t reply because I don’t like to talk to strangers unless there’s money at stake. So the good lady who, apart from anything else, is a delightful old Indian, looks away while I get off the bus and starts to brush the hair of a little girl who’s undoubtedly her granddaughter and who’s sitting peacefully playing with one of those little handheld computer games. And here I am in Hollbrook looking at the River Colorado from the bridge, next to the bus station, despite the fact that I ought to be in Winslow, thirty miles to the east, probably because I’ve gone to sleep on the bus or because these towns in the desert are all the same. Incidentally, things aren’t great in Flagstaff. A quick deal with a couple of Coconino Indians and a surprise meeting with one of the Company’s operations controllers who reminded me that the good folk in administration are worried by what they term ‘dead zones’ in my diary and by the inconsistency of the explanations that I’ve given. Arizona is a very big state. That’s what I said to him and he replied that of course they understand but that they don’t have more people available at present and that what’s more the two things are totally unconnected. That might certainly be true. Despite their suspicions, I tested negative and all the records of chemical and sales were fine, so that in the end the situation calmed down a bit. Be positive and persevere. These were his final words, as he got into a Japanese car with darkened windows at the door to my hotel. Afterwards I took the bus towards Winslow Airport but I carried straight on and ended up in Holbrook, once more in Apache territory, near the petrified wood, far from home. The Company is concerned by unwarranted absences, the temporary disappearance of agents on duty who reappear within a short time and continue to carryon their assignments as if nothing had happened. The Company ought to know, by this stage, that with chemicals like this in one’s possession everything tends to be more or less unjustified, and that oblivion is, however fiercely they resist the idea, an inevitable part of this job, just like wrist injuries in the career of a professional tennis player or the smell of smoke in the life of a fireman. Back to Winslow anyway since I’ve still got six hours before I take my flight, naturally there isn’t another bus until that night so I spend the afternoon fucking an Indian girl in the Sahara Inn. In fact she’s half Apache and half Mexican and we don’t fuck all afternoon. We do it for less than twenty minutes and I spend the rest of the time looking at the swimming pool.
On the plane a woman tried to make a purchase but I reminded her that it’s forbidden to deal in things other than those belonging to the airline. She took exception to this. She says that in planes everything is adulterated, not just chemical, but also films, alcohol and sandwiches. She’s probably right. By the way, am I the only person who realises that planes are flying lower and lower? I almost manage to read the number plate on a red convertible that was crossing the Mexican border.
Naturally on reaching Tijuana I saw your mother on the back of a pick-up truck surrounded by Mexican labourers, all of them drunk, all singing, all happy. If she saw me she pretended not to have noticed. It seems that the good woman is still making a living.
Tijuana stretches out into the desert like a stain of oil on an ice rink.
A huge commercial success. There are a group of Germans here who are making a fortune building hotels. All very solid and serious, very Bauhaus. So, gentlemen, you have to forget. Each needs to forget his own problems, as usual. Franz wanted to forget a love affair and Otto wanted to forget a promise made without thinking. Germans are extremely bad at keeping secrets, they tell everything, whatever it is, after three beers. Poor Otto, staring at his shoes. What’s more, ridiculous shoes. Red and white, like golf shoes, but without spikes. Otto should first of all forget all about those shoes. They’re worried and want to know if it’s reliable stuff and I tell them that it’s the only reliable stuff. They ask this because apparently a friend of a friend in Old Europe forgot the name of his dog while he was trying to forget a tune that had got stuck in his head and which he couldn’t stop humming for a single moment. I agree that’s very funny but don’t worry about it, it’s is as sure as killing a canary with a baseball bat. So a few more beers and the ten Germans disappear into the Tijuana night ready to carry on dancing and forgetting and tomorrow, needless to say, more hotels.
Congratulations from the Company for an amazing deal, amazingly quick and amazingly clean. A bonus and your name, my name, is already being mentioned for something greater, as co-ordinator, supplies controller, the sky’s the limit. However, you can’t forget my dossier. According to my dossier the doors to the most beautiful offices are closed to me, because the Company never, and that means never, forgets. This is something that is particularly curious, when one considers that erasing memories is precisely the business we’re in. Be that as it may and for the time being, congratulations, bonuses and good night.
I dream I’m playing poker. I’ve never played poker, so of course I lose. Your mother manages to get a basketball into the roulette and at the same time she gets all the right numbers.
I wake up thinking about a jacket, not dreaming about it but thinking about it, a blue woollen jacket, hanging from a gold hook in a wooden hut and on the adjacent hook a tie with a pattern of red, yellow and green diamond shapes, very small diamond shapes and some of those rubber straps with hooks that are used to tie down things on car roof-racks. I don’t think that either the jacket or the tie belong to me. It’s probably just a photograph. I’ve never had a tie. At least I can’t picture myself with one.
It’s four in the morning.
Poor Otto. Some shoes!
The sun rises and so I’m out for a walk to buy something and I buy myself a metallic blue shirt. Don’t wrap it up, I’ll wear it, I put my old t-shirt in a paper bag and only when I’m taking it off do I realise that it’s got something written on it and what is written is: THINK ABOUT ME, and underneath it there’s a photograph of a beach although there’s no-one on the beach. It’s so senseless that for an instant I think it must be true that it’s the devil who throws the dice and then of course no sooner than I get out of the shop I put the bag with the t-shirt in a dustbin and swear never to put anything on without reading it first.
I eat some ranchero-style eggs and I regret it at once and I order a coffee but I don’t drink it and I ask for a beer and naturally the waiter brings me a Mexican beer. I leave it next to the coffee and this time I ask for a German beer. Everything’s fine. I drink it slowly and outside there’s a terrific wind blowing from god knows where and a man passes in front of the window holding his hat on with both hands and a woman clinging onto a child who really looks as though he’s going to fly off. On the other side of the road there’s a girl watching how all and sundry are taking off, with a serious expression, as if the wind was nothing to do with her. I also drink down the Mexican beer, that’s already warm.
I’ve been there less than half an hour and I’m already dancing with a mulatta woman in one of those dark dives where women dance very close to you and rub themselves up against you and you pay again each time a new song starts up.
A very nice short and chubby mulatta woman called Maria tells me to go with her to the private room and I refuse because I’ve got the feeling that I’ve been there before, not in that exact same place but in a very similar place or perhaps it was there after all. Maria is insistent but I prefer to carry on dancing despite my feeling and immediately verifying that I’m an atrocious dancer. In order to persuade me, Maria promises not to break my heart and faced with that offer I have no alternative but to go upstairs with her and while I’m going up I wave goodbye to those who are down below and I realise that I’m drunk and I also realise that I’m wearing a marvellous blue shirt that I don’t remember having bought.
“What are we talking about then?”
When I wake up I see poor Otto with his hideous shoes sitting on a chair at the end of the bed and of course Maria is no longer there and I have the impression that Otto has been talking to himself for some considerable time.
“We’re talking about strange people who have never wanted us to be here anyway and we’re talking about men who are far, very far from home and on this point you can only be in agreement with me since you’re also a son of Old Europe.”
I can only agree with him as to that point even if his Europe and mine are probably different Europes. Let me sit up, friend Otto, and then please let me get dressed, since our brief commercial transaction has not prepared either of us for such intimacy. Having said that I put my trousers on and my wonderful shirt and my boots and one second after doing it I feel that I’m a wretch for having had doubts about poor Maria.
“And if you help me I’ll be able to return home and be the same man as I was before being what I am now.”
Good old Otto is now standing next to the door and as I watch him I can’t say what he is now but I fear that we’re dealing with something even worse than what he was before, so that I begin to put two and two together and while I follow him along the corridor to another of the little private rooms I have the suspicion that, what’s more, the certainty that what I’m going to find on the other side of the door is a poor Mexican girl dead.
I’m sure that it was something like this that got me out of Rio. How sadly the wind blows in the distant land of the foreigner. Poor Otto. A sober German architect and a crazy Sunday killer. That’s the way things are. Don’t cry, my friend. Be brave. Let’s not lose our nerve. There springs into my mind, without it having the slightest possible connection with this case, the image of a very handsome, well-built Cuban boy, making a V for victory sign with his fingers. But to return to Otto. Somehow or other, things will return to normal. Courage. Some small and forgotten scenes, like the one involving the Cuban boy, now appear to me.
Or something written on the wall next to the lavatory door: DEAD CHICKENs’ HEADS.
Other scenes on the other hand never return to me.
Getting back to the matter in hand, it must be made clear that in desperate situations benefits, as is natural, multiply. A fine man like Otto cannot go back to Munich with something like that in his head and we’re no longer talking about partying with his colleagues or about a special lady friend who is left behind in Tijuana waiting for letters that never arrive, we’re talkng about blood on the carpet and not allowing the children to see the shadow of the monster in daddy Otto’s far away look. The price of forgetting the horror is a very high price, sufficiently high to cheer up both the Company and the agent, and here enter into play what the Company calls invisible bonuses. That’s why Otto follows me to the hotel and waits very calmly while I go up to my room and then come down. After a more than satisfactory deal Otto takes away with him enough chemical to forget the last three weeks. Naturally, when he comes out of the bathroom he doesn’t even know me and naturally he doesn’t even greet me.
Off goes Otto, ever so happy.
Goodbye to you.
I go out into the garden and sit down next to the swimming pool and it’s so late that there’s nobody left there.
A quick dip in the early hours. The pool’s still empty and the water’s freezing. An old acquaintance, whom I’ve forgotten all about of course, insists on joining me for breakfast. I can’t see why he should but I don’t manage to put him off. He speaks to me about things that seem vaguely familiar to me, things in fact that would seem vaguely familiar to anyone. Isn’t it disgusting the way in which people jump out of the past and sit down at your table and have breakfast at your side, as if the fact of having exchanged a few words with you in a bar two thousand years ago gave them some right? Isn’t that trust that people show towards the past ridiculous, as if the past were any more certain than the present or the future? While I’m drinking an orange juice, he comes and goes, pouncing upon the hotel buffet, filling plates with absurd things like beetroot salads and crab savouries. He says that he’s pleased to see me, but it’s obvious that he doesn’t mean what he says. People speak without thinking, especially when they’re eating. He tells me that he’s here on business. He’s not so stupid as not to realise that I’ve no idea who he is, but he’s not prepared to humiliate himself by repeating his name. Some people believe that you should protect your name and face as if they were treasures. The man takes his leave but, before going he grabs the end of a croissant from amongst the debris of his breakfast and asks me for news of you. Naturally I tell him that you’re dead and he doesn’t dare ask anything else. He leaves the piece of croissant on the table, as a sign of respect I suppose, and goes off with that look on his face that people assume who think that death, or the mere mention of death, at once make us a bit more important. In any case, this encounter has a depressing effect upon me so that when I get back to my room, I take a bottle of champagne out of the minibar and take a couple of white lights, happy amphetamine derivatives, as smooth as a stroll through the park once you get over a slight initial tension. There’s an e-mail from the Company, with a new list of sales. There’s at least one difficulty concerning LTM, long-term memory eroder, something for which I’m not prepared. The orders I place can spend a week knocking around the processing centre so that I send a message back by return straight to the heart of the monster, distribution and supplies. It seems that they’ve been changing personnel and that not everyone yet knows what their job’s about. They apologise for this, of course, and promise to deliver the merchandise to me as soon as possible, which won’t be before tomorrow at the soonest.
The sheets are blue, horizontal blue stripes on white, while in contrast the pillow is orange. Outside there is just a small palm tree against a yellow wall on which AIR, WATER is written. There must have been something else there but the rest of the letters have fallen off. Naturally there’s a woman in my bed and I can’t remember her name. She’s wearing a t-shirt like the ones that students put on to sleep but she’s not a student, she’s at least fifty. The body of a fifty-year-old woman takes its own decisions, behind each movement there’s a print, a line on the skin or a mark. Her body has its own memory. Fortunately this particular woman’s body takes all the right decisions. On her t-shirt there’s printed the photo of a dead Mexican female singer. Under the photo is her date of birth and also the date of her death. A Mexican singer dead by the time she was twenty-eight. May god have mercy on her soul.
On the TV there’s a man crying next to a collapsed building. When I come out of the shower the woman has already gone.
On the TV there’s a preacher talking in an empty church. One of those one-man sects which are so fashionable on the West Coast. For some reason that escapes me, people living near the beach need to renew their faith more often than people living inland. Next to the bed there is a closed bible and an open bottle of wine. The owner of the one-man sect says: Nothing of what I may say can help you.
I check through the bill for the room on the TV screen and I come across an alarming number of phone-calls abroad. I don’t recognise the numbers. Some people fuck others so that they can make free phone-calls. Fortunately, the Company pays for calls without asking any questions. I dialled one of the numbers and there was no reply. Then I dialled another one and a child who was half-asleep answered. I don’t know what time it is in Buenos Aires. I told the boy to go back to sleep but it seems the boy’s no longer sleepy. He tells me that his dad is going to take him to the football today, to watch Boca Juniors play in the Bombonera, no less, and that it’s his first visit to the stadium and that he’s so nervous that he’s hardly slept all night and that there’s nobody in the house at present and that his dog is ill and that he’d speak a lot longer with me if he had time, but that he’s still got lots of things to do like watering the lawn and writing an e-mail to a friend who’s on holiday in Rosario. Before hanging up I asked him his mother’s name and he told me that she’s called Vinn Lee.
It seems strange that people who hardly matter to you should mean such a lot for other people, like the name of a winning horse in the hands of another punter, at the end of a race.
There’s a small quantity of cocaine on the table and a couple of phials of GPP. I snorted the coke and put the phials away in my suitcase. I got a beer out of the minibar. Then I checked through the messages from the Company. A heap of orders, almost all from Tucson, and a circular about the latest advances of our brilliant chemists. The efficiency of the new downers has been tested successfully amongst blind groups of volunteers. By the end of the year they promise to have overcome the resistance of even the most wayward neurotransmitter. Nothing that you want to remember will be erased. The same old promise. In the meantime we’ll carry on burning the haystack to find the needle. They don’t tell us that, of course, but it’s something that any burnt-out agent knows. With the same certainty with which a dentist knows that everything that isn’t going to hurt ends up hurting.
While I have little cookies for breakfast, an immigration patrol helicopter lands in the car park of a 7-11 and three agents in cheap suits start loading the Mexicans on board. I show my ID to one of the agents and then order an orange juice. As I noticed that the man was staring at my cookies I offered him one and he took it while looking around him as if he was accepting a bribe. Then he told me: We’ve painted a real thick line over there but these people just don’t seem to see it. I’ve deported some of these ones twice in the same day.
When my orange juice arrived the helicopter was already airborne. The Mexicans are pressed against the windows like a crowd of kids with their noses pressed against the window of an empty toy shop.
At three-thirty I closed a deal with the owner of a Japanese car dealership. He’s got a leg made of graphite and wants to forget that before he had a healthy one there instead. It’s much better if you don’t know what you’ve lost. That’s what he told me. He showed me a photo of his wife although of course I hadn’t asked to see it. People have got this annoying habit of showing you their things with the same stupid glee with which conjurors pull from their hats rabbits that no-one wants to see. My friend also told me that he lost his leg in a car crash, not in one of his cars of course, you can’t even mislay a telephone number in one of these cars. They’re perfect machines. I felt obliged to tell him that I can’t drive, so that the man would stop making such an effort. A salesman is always a salesman and a salesman without a leg is still a whole salesman. Forgive me but it’s in the blood. He said this without much conviction because we both know that whatever it is that’s in blood there can’t be any of that in it. Then he told me that he buried his leg after suffering rejection following an attempt to graft it back on. He can’t understand how you can reject a leg that belongs to you. Well, anyway, he buried his leg and he also wants to forget where it’s buried. You can’t imagine how stupid you feel burying a leg.
I don’t know anything about it naturally, but I can just imagine.