I’m writing this in dark-blue ink, sitting by the wall where my shadow moves. It crawls like the hand on a numberless sundial, keeping track of time that only I can follow. My days are scheduled right down to the hour, to the very minute, and yet I’m not in a hurry. The shadow changes ever so slowly, gradually blurring and fading toward the fringes.
The treatments have just been completed, and Sara has left my room. That’s not her real name; she borrowed it from some porn star. All our nurses have such names by choice, taken from forgotten DVDs left behind in patients’ chambers. This is their favorite game; there’s also Esther, Laura, Veronica. None of them has had sex with me yet.
Sara is usually cheerful and giggly. Just today I told her a joke about a parrot, and she laughed so hard she almost cried. She has olive skin, full lips, and a pink tongue. And she has breast implants that she’s really proud of. They are large and hard – at least that’s how they seem. Her body probably promises more than it can give.
Nevertheless, I like Sara, though not as much as Veronica. Veronica was born in Rio; her narrow hips remind me of samba; her gaze pierces deep inside. She has knees that emanate immodesty. And she has long, thin, strong fingers… I imagine them to be very skillful. I like to fix my eyes on her with a squint, but her look is omniscient – it is impossible to confuse Veronica. I think she is overly cold toward me.
She doesn’t use perfume, and sometimes I can detect her natural scent. It is very faint, almost imperceptible, but it penetrates as deeply as her gaze. Then it seems all the objects in the room smell of her – and the sheets, and even my clothing. And I regret I’m no longer that young – I could spend hours in dreamy masturbation, scanning the air with my sensitive nostrils. But to do that now would be somewhat awkward.
Anyway, Esther arouses me even more than Veronica, perhaps because she is “bi,” as Sara once confided to me. Esther moves like a panther and looks like an expensive whore. Her nipples burn like hot coals, even through her starched white blouse. Her hair shimmers purple black, and her skin is tender like silk, though it looks more like velvet. The moment she comes close I seethe with the desire to touch her. I’ve done so a few times and even apparently got somewhere – she once slapped me in response. Surely it was a game, but I doubt we’ll go much further. Here’s why: now I like Laura from Santo Domingo best of all.
Yesterday, on her evening rounds, she was really hot. Yes, her legs are not so slender and her butt looks too large and heavy, but her whole body radiates passion, a natural lust too difficult to conceal. Cats scatter when they hear her walking, and gawkers turn their heads to stare. Even paralytics and defunct oldsters get horny when they feel her vibes – and I’m no paralytic or by any means too old. She leaned over me as if to arrange the sheet, flashed her huge brown eyes, licked her lips – and I knew I would have her now or very soon. I ran the palm of my hand up her thigh to the narrow moist strip of her thong. And I’m not even sure she was wearing a thong!
Then she teased me with her slim bare foot, gazing at my face with a come-hither look. Too bad she had to leave so quickly – but this is just the beginning, no doubt!
I whispered after her, “Where are you going?” when she reached the door.
“Wait,” I murmured. “Now I won’t be able to fall asleep.”
“Yes, you will,” Laura assured me. “I gave you a good sedative.” Then she added, “Think of me!” And these words held a lot of promise.
I did think about her, and then, in my dream I copulated wildly with a busty mulata. She smelled like Laura – the rainforest, the sea, the sweetest of sour smokes. Likely, from now on I’ll need this mix like a junkie.
It’s two days until Laura’s next shift. Two long days of eager anticipation. I now have another goal for myself.
Thinking about this, I face the window and view the distant mountains. The sun has moved down to the side. Turning my head, I see my shadow again; it’s the only thing marring the perfectly white wall. Soon the sun will shift farther to the south, and the wall will regain pure whiteness, announcing lunchtime.
Then the mountains will change as their colors fade, the contours sharpen and stand out against the sky. The peaks will loom jagged; indifferent and cold. A guard will bring me the newspapers, and I will leaf through them vacantly, scanning the pictures and trying not to get newsprint on my fingers.
Then I’ll do the usual set: some hatha poses, stretching my back and leg muscles; a tantra workout, keeping my balance with my eyes closed; and finally, bandha yama drills so my erection would be harder than a steel spring. I’ll think about Laura – already calling her “Lora” in the northern style. She’ll like that; it may bring us closer. Or, perhaps, we’ll even choose a new name for her.
The peaks will finally grow indistinct in the twilight. Everything will fall silent as dusk turns to night. I’ll draw the curtains, leaving only a crack so the fresh air from the mountains filters into the room. Then I’ll have dinner, drink a half bottle of wine, and begin to compose another letter to Semmant…
Listen! My confinement might last years and years, but I’ll give it to you straight: I am not afraid and have nothing to hide. Let them think I’ve lost my mind, but I know, if anyone has – it’s not me! I’ll tell them something else too: don’t count on it. I’ll say, “Semmant!” It will be like a shout, and yet the softest, the most quiet of words. Only the quietest words work for confessions – confessions of hatred, and even more so, of love.
The white walls surround me for a reason, but I will not crack up here, and he – he is my protector, my healer. Yes, at times I may lose control, and it would seem I’ve exhausted my strength, but I won’t succumb – as I can’t betray him, cannot leave him alone. Neither Esther nor Laura can help me in this – and not Sara, not Veronica. Their minds are somewhere else, I’m on my own, and I’m not that mighty. Take these notes – they reveal my weakness. But it’s still no excuse to abandon them.
I don’t look for excuses – even here, behind these walls, despite the treatments and the constant spying. Oh, I know, very attentive eyes are keeping watch over my writing. I feel them with my back, my skin, and even with my shadow on the wall. But I don’t care; I pay them no heed. I am not posturing or putting on an act. I could simply discard the paper – ball it up, chuck it aside. Even burn it – or I could keep quiet and just stare out at the mountains, which are impervious to any words. But I can’t do it; I have to write, even though it’s so unbearably difficult to get through. It’s so hard to be heard by others who are lost in broad daylight, who are blinded by their inability to see, who suffocate in their own waste. They are all arrogant and infinitely naïve. And me – I’m not so different. I, too, am blind and naïve, and arrogant in my own way. That’s why we speak the same language, saying almost the same thing.
So, day in and day out, watchful eyes see a familiar picture. The papers are scattered across my table; it’s night, darkness, dead silence. I write to him; then I get distracted and write to all of you. My fingers grow numb; at times I shiver with cold. Then the opposite: I’m drenched in sweat – and compose with delirious haste, or sometimes a mere word per hour.
It takes enormous effort, though the story is flawless, its plot coherent and logical. I drew it up myself, right up to the final scene; I started with nothing and ended up with more than I could possibly handle. It’s a great experience, no matter what; it would be foolish to keep it to myself. You may object and laugh behind my back, but I have an answer: I’ll say, “Semmant!” This may raise anger, provoke envy. But time will pass, and you’ll see that I’m right.
He will not become anybody’s hero – he’s not a hero at all. He is not a conqueror, though he knows no fear. You may be tempted to laugh at him as well – yes, his naivety surpasses mine, and yet oddly enough he is wise and discreet. No one’s mockery can change that.
It’s not easy to become his friend. And who would dream of competing with him, feeling overconfident for no reason? Who would dare to take his place? That would be reckless and dangerous. His armor shines with a genuine gleam and yet it cannot save him from any arrow. Yes, one should not expect too much from his shield. And then, I realize, it’s more important for everyone to know: what lies beneath that shield?
I could give a concise answer, but I’ll put it differently: shed your own layers one by one. Shed your clothing, your masks. Wash off the makeup. Take a long, hard look at what you see – can you make sense of it? Do this alone, since it’s embarrassing, indeed. The covers have been thrown on the floor, and the labels have even been cut out of them. All that remains is to look deeper inside, brushing away small details, with or without regret. The trick is to get down to what’s most vital, even if it’s concealed and hidden, locked away. One may grow tired and miserable along the way; and once there, may be left speechless. The unexpected may be found – some strange, unfamiliar things. Who will be able to name them properly? I guess no one, as is always the case. Everybody will be looking around: where is the hint, the subtlest of signs? And then again I’ll say, “Semmant.”
Listen – I admit my idea was different. I had a less ambitious plan. Everything was supposed to turn out simpler. Some may even blame me: I was following the footsteps of evil. And yes, I relied on the blindness of the crowd. I indulged others’ greed, but my intentions were pure; they were good. At least I was unselfish; perhaps that vindicates me somehow, though I seek no vindication whatsoever.
I don’t seek it because I feel no guilt; I’m even proud of myself, pleased. I might have done many things wrong, but now I know where I erred. I recognize the most horrible delusion, which could confound anybody.
Others can learn it too, if they have the patience to hear me out. Which is not likely. But I continue.
Because the only thing that matters is to keep moving forward.
Genre – Literary Fiction
Rating – NC17
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