The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2019

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APR 2019 Issue

A Dream of Sand

Iris Garcia Cuevas' work captures the atmosphere of violence that marks one of Mexico's historical contexts. The author creates borderline characters (prostitutes, drug-dealers, serial killers) typical of noir fiction, but draws them through a radically new and transparent perspective. These stories are part of Ojos Que No Ven, Corazon Desierto, published by Editorial Tierra Adentro.


It is not me. The woman lying with wide open legs, dressed in the ridiculous robe that ties with two strings around my back, it is not me. I have always been scared of needles. Only imagining the thin metal trespassing the flesh I get goosebumps, my jaw quivers. She is going to get one right on the vein and she doesn't scream, she doesn't cry, she doesn't run away. No. It is not me. It can't be me. It must be someone else. Someone dumb, real dumb, these things can only happen to someone who is dumb.

The dumb one is full of shame because the doctor will stick his hand in her groin. The dumb one's legs tremble when she feels the piece of cotton soaked in alcohol on her wrist, the needle pricking her vein, the plastic tube sticking inside her so the intravenous serum can pass through, the adhesive tape pulling the hairs on her arm. The stupid one hears the nurse's voice asking the doctor if he knows anything about the anesthetic, the doctor who answers:

"Give her fife hundred milliliters. No, eight hundred. Yes, eight hundred will do."

The imbecile looks at the serum: it yellows gradually. On account of pure morbidity, she follows the plastic tripe that hides its cusp under the adhesive tape on her wrist. She gets the shivers, she wants to escape. If she could only escape! If she had a choice she would run away on her trembling legs. But no. The poor thing stays still, with legs wide open, staring like an idiot at the round lamp hanging above her head.

The wretched one tries to convince herself: this is not happening. There is no doctor and no nurse. There is no smell of cough syrup. There is no needle, no yellowing serum, no fear. No, there is no fear. There is only a fixed dot before her eyes through which she can vanish, like when her father looked for her at nights. There is a roof. There is a lamp hanging from the roof, round, metallic, gray. A lamp. There is sleepiness, a lot of sleepiness.

"I need you so much," he said looking straight into her eyes, holding her hand as if it were the last piece of driftwood from a shipwreck.

He looked defenseless. Life had been unjust: his father abandoned him when he was a little boy; his mother became an alcoholic and devoted her life to crying in his absence. He had to work to support his younger sister. He fell in love with an evil woman who always made him feel miserable. She cheated on him, left him for another man. He had bad luck!

I need you so much. For her it was unbelievable that she was important to someone. She thought of her own mother, always with an eye on her grades, ready to whip her daughter's back with the blender's power cable every time a B appeared on her report card. She thought of her father, always so loving: fondling his daughter's breasts while they watched TV. She doubted, only for an instant, that the man siting before her really loved her, but the contact of his fingers snaking through her skin and sliding to her nape and then coiling in her hair was enough to drive the fear away.

I need you so much. The memory of his panting voice served her as an amulet to not be caught as she left, to have no fear, not even when she silently opened her parent's armoire door while they slept and took the box where they kept their savings. She ran out of the house with a small suitcase, only one change of clothes and her toothbrush; they would buy anything they needed once they crossed the border.

It is not me. This woman that lies naked on the bathroom floor, vomiting yellow matter, it is not me. It can't be me. It must be someone else who listens to the nurse banging on the door so she gets out of there quick. She tells her:

"You can't take much longer, we must leave the premises quick, this place is borrowed. Put your clothes on, fast; they're on the sink."

The poor idiot feels how everything, absolutely everything, spins. Her entrails hurt. The nurse laughs when she comes out. What could be so funny? The nurse comes close to fix her hair, button her blouse, tell her with faux tenderness:

"It is normal to feel this way, everything went well. You should rest, and don't carry anything, or lift heavy things. It's late, you must go. Don't forget the pills to avoid infection, they will take the pain away. The man is waiting for you downstairs."

The scared girl walks down the stairs, trying to persuade herself: her knees are not trembling, they are not folding under her, they are not making her tumble down the stairs and scream, scream so loud that even the woman comes to lend her aid because the man doesn't make the slightest effort to come to her. He only stares at her with reproachful eyes that make her understand that everything she does, she does it wrong.

She gets up by herself. She tells the nurse:

"I'm ok, I can walk. It wasn't weakness, only my stupidity. It's ok, really, I'm fine."

She walks backwards towards the man. She can't stop looking behind the nurse's pearled glasses, at the nurse's fake grin of kindness. Without a doubt, kinder than what she'll face once she turns around.

He takes her by the arm. She lowers her sight, allows herself to be led.

"Why does everything have to be so difficult with you, it's not that big a deal," the man tells her before shoving her into the car. "Take your pills, at least three of them," he orders.

She obeys. She assumes her position on the seat. The car is purring. She wants to close her eyes and sleep, but she can't, she is dizzy. No, she is not dizzy. The car isn't turning sharply making her innards shake. The palpitation cutting across her gut isn't pain. No, there is no pain. There is only desert. Dancing sands meeting in a magical point in the horizon, dry shrubbery lining the road. Highway. Yes, there is a highway, and sleepiness, a lot of sleepiness.

"I need you so much," said the man lying on her lap, with tears in his eyes following his confession: he had gambled all their money. Yes, even what she stole form her parent's house, and yes, he had lost it all. There was no way to cross the border now; there was no money to pay the polleros. No, there was no money left to pay for food or rent, but he would find a way to make everything work, he only needed to know she loved him.

I need you so much. The words stayed with her while another man gripped her small breasts with hands full of calluses. She remembered the words to avoid tears, while this other man bit her shoulders, squeezed her rear, whispered obscene words to her ears, many, many words she would then repeat to the man she ran away with as he asked for details. She would also describe the way the other man had laid her on her back and penetrated her until she bled.

"No, you're not a whore, he made you say you liked it. You won't do it again," he would say later on, while he caressed her sweaty neck and wiped away her tears; being thankful to her for putting up with everything in order to reach their shared dream.

"I need you so much," he dared say after many more men that helped pay the rent and the food, because he never managed to get a job or get enough money to cross the border.

"Let's go back home," she proposed, tired of being used to calm the anxiety of men who wanted to possess women before venturing out in the desert or in the river's murky waters to get to the other side.

"You miss your daddy's arms?" he asked until he made her cry.

She wanted to leave, wanted to leave many times, but he needed her so much.

It is not me. This piece of flesh carried by two men and stuck into the back of a truck, it is not me. This is someone else, an idiot, these things can only happen to an idiot.

"We crossed the border," he whispers into her ear.

She searches for the eyes of the man that loved her, but only finds the reflection of her own fear in his sunglasses. The laughter of others makes her dizzy. What could be so funny?

The miserable one suffers when she feels her trousers sliding across her thighs. She thinks he sold her, again, he sold her. She thinks she will be raped even though she is convalescing, but instead of a penis, it is a sharp blade that enters her. She looks at her gut, open and red like a blooming flower. The men extract small plastic bags. He did say what was going to be put inside her: powder, not too much, just enough to pay debts. He didn't say how they would extract them. She thinks of the scars. The pills really are good. There is no pain. Even the apprehension she felt at first is about to flutter away. They finish up; she feels how the men lift her again. She feels the thump against the ground. She listens to her own screams, the engines of the cars drifting away.

This is not happening. She is not lying in the middle of the desert. No, it is not blood that pumps from her. There are no vultures flying about waiting for her to die. There is no pain. There is no fear. No, there is no fear. There is a dot of light before her eyes. There is sky. Clear. Blue. There is sleepiness, a lot of sleepiness.


Iris Garcia Cuevas

Iris Garcia Cuevas was born in Acapulco in 1977. She is a novelist, playwright and journalist. In 2008 she won the National Novel Prize Ignacio Manuel Altamirano and the Short Story Prize Maria Luisa Ocampo.

Diego Gerard

Diego Gerard is a writer, editor and translator based in Mexico City. He is the co-founding editor of diSONARE.


The Brooklyn Rail

APR 2019

All Issues