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.
Virginia took the young man's hand. A small hand, very small, the hand of a malnourished boy.
"Come, I will bathe you," she said, and led him into the room.
"I don't like bathing."
She clicked her tongue, and took off his shirt anyway. Dirty and broken like his soul and mine, she thought as she uncovered his tight-on-the-ribs, ulcerated skin. Like everyone's soul, she corrected only an instant later. She thought of the mother who surely abandoned the young man as a boy; of the man who took her to the whorehouse.
"I can manage myself," he said and untied the piece of rope that fastened his pants to his waist.
"You have lice all the way to your butt crack," Virginia laughed as he saw him naked.
His face blushed, he lowered his gaze and grabbed his clothes to cover himself.
"Don't worry, that's not a bad thing. A bath will do. I'll even get in with you to show you I don't care."
She removed her blouse and shorts without reserve. He opened his eyes as wide as he could, as if it were enough to devour the naked, abundant body of the woman he was going to sleep with.
Virginia felt like a mirror: she reflected the young man's embarrassment. I look like such a beginner, she scolded herself. But it had been such a long time since her flesh surprised anybody, that a warmth—if not unknown, then at least forgotten—had skid along her entrails at the moment she felt the surprised gaze over her flaccid breasts and saw between the young man's legs an incipient erection.
She held his trembling hand again and led him into the bathroom.
"Is this the first time?"
He lowered his head, like an ostrich that lacking a hole in the earth hides its beak in its own wings.
"That's not a bad thing."
"I've done it with older men," he whispered, "but I don't like it."
Virginia lifted his face, removed strands of tangled hair.
"How old are you, honey?"
"I have no clue."
"Fucking assholes," she blurted, recalling the time she was raped at six years of age, the fear at night, her stepfather's hands, her mother's blows.
"They fed me, even gave me clothes," the young man made his case. "They let me sleep inside a house."
"But you didn't like it."
His made his shoulders rise.
"You do it with older me too. Do you like it?"
"You were right kid, there are things that are one way even though we wish they were different."
"My name is Alejandro. Don't call me kid."
"It's a pretty name."
"I gave it to myself not too long ago. After a famous singer. We saw him on TV," his face lit up with pride.
He really is a kid, Virginia smiled inwardly and felt a distinct palpitation. Although she didn't know at the time, it was called tenderness.
"Are you ready?" she asked and ran the shower.
The young man shook his hands and stood on his toes, as if he wanted to escape the cold gush of water by flying away. Featherless bird. She hugged him tight.
"It's easier to heat up this way."
They hugged each other for some time.
"You see, it's not too bad."
"May I touch your boob?"
Virginia let out a chuckle. Alejandro blushed again.
"I'm all yours for what's left of the hour, darling. Don't ask, touch whatever you want."
She awaited contact, but he didn't dare: she fixed his sight on the green tiles behind him. She clicked her tongue, this time for herself: Shame on you, Virginia, you unsettled the kid.
"Would you help me wash?" she asked in a casual tone, to restore trust.
She felt his shy hands running along her skin and a tremble in her pelvis. Damn it, Virginia, don't get aroused; he could well be your grandson.
"Now it's my turn," she said and nabbed the soap and sponge from his hands.
She scrubbed him meticulously until the accumulated grime vanished and uncovered his fresh dark skin. The young man is quite handsome.
"Do you know how it's done between man and woman?"
He peered at her face, then lowered his sight to her pubis and then turned towards the green tiles.
"Mr. Faustino charges us fifteen pesos to let us watch."
Fucking asshole, she said between her teeth.
"And where do you watch from?"
"Behind the curtain. It's never fully shut."
"Do you come here often?" she asked, as she delicately scrubbed the young man's crotch.
"Me and all the others. Although not so much anymore. I stopped coming. I wanted to save money to come in."
"You wanted to come in with me?"
He nodded. Virginia asked why. Silence followed.
"Go on, tell me. Aren't we friends?"
"I like how your ass looks from behind," he answered with a stringy voice.
Virginia felt her blood rush to her face. She smiled. She ran her hand across the young man's wet hair, then across his blushing cheek.
"Come sit here," she said, shutting the lid of the toilet.
She found a towel to dry herself, then dried him, making sure the rough fabric felt more like a caress.
"You look pretty all cleaned up, I could just eat you."
"We're not going outside?"
"No, we stay here. Or would you rather be seen?"
He shook his head. Virginia took his hand and placed it on her left breast. He looked her in the eye, then lowered his sight towards her dark nipple. Virginia felt the tremble of the small hand touching with caution. She felt, too, her palpitating gut and her internal wetness. I like this fucking kid.
He let go all of a sudden. He looked at his penis with surprise. He saw it lift as if it were an exotic animal. There was fright and disdain in his look. Virginia smiled at him and sat on him astride, only for a second, before the rigidity was expulsed with a scream.
Fucking kid, she thought and sat down on the floor, breathing harshly. I want you.
"The hour is up!" Faustino's voice resounded in the booth, "You have another client!"
"Do I have to go now?" the young man asked in a tone Virginia interpreted as I don't want to. She felt tenderness again.
"No, you can stay here with your mouth shut, so they don't hear you.
"What if he needs to use the toilet?"
"I'll tell him it's out of order."
"Can I watch?"
Virginia smiled. She went out naked and wet into the booth. The man that awaited her took off his clothes unhurriedly. He went over to her and budged her towards the bed. Without a word he climbed on top of her body, and became lost in a monotonous and furious sway accompanied by arrhythmic and barely perceptible gasps. He kept on pushing until bundling over and passing out next to her.
Virginia lifted herself with her elbows: she felt nauseous. She breathed in deep to avoid vomiting. She dropped on her pillow and shut her eyes. So many years in here and still the death drive creeps up. She looked at the naked man, hunchbacked and stinky, lying beside her. These were her clients: the only ones who paid for an old whore. No, she told herself and thought of the young man's fresh, wet and trembling body. She guessed his spying eyes from the bathroom, behind the curtain, perhaps a bit perplexed at seeing the animal that hung between her legs waking up again.
A wave of heat, gentle, pleasant, came slowly over Virginia's pained and tired body. She smiled as though she were still seventeen and life held still a promise: We both need a little love.