Once again, the erection. The body’s first signal, heaving me back into reality every time I awake.
The Hebrew Kabbalists say that during the night God takes souls on a mystical journey; the privileged never return to their bodies. Just like Enoch, they remain in eternity. But the Kabbalah reveals nothing about the relation between this mystical voyage and my morning erections. I sometimes wonder where God must have brought me in my sleep for me to wake with a cock so stiff it seems as if it’ll split at the slightest touch.
The eviction notice is on the table. They want to demolish the place. It’s a big old house from the last century, or the second-to-last; actually, I think this place exists outside of time, I realize now that’s why I came to live here. One seems to have left behind kronos in order to enter kairos. Through the blood-colored bricks of the buttresses respires a kind of immortality.
The paper ends by saying that the residents’ lives are in danger, as the property is in the residual phase, at the edge of collapsing, and that as such we have a week to abandon the place and put ourselves at the mercy of circumstance. What I like best about these official notes is the suspense. No one knows what’ll happen afterward. But the week ends today. I’ll have to see what to do with my books. They’re the most important thing, more so even than me, the resident. To them I owe everything. The most positive part of me, because the negative is always a question of the body.
It’s a real annoyance, this business of corporeality. The body needs attention, hygiene, clothing, footwear, space. That above all, space: to occupy, to piss, to shit, to sleep, to share with other bodies. A total pain in the ass, really. I would love to be able to toss it aside somewhere and continue my journey without it, but I can’t. I like what the Kabbalists have in mind, but I don’t see a day coming when my soul gets chosen, goes off wandering up there and leaves my body down here with its erection and its idiotic spatial demands.
I leave the room. I listen to the shaken people, the sound of their desperation slinking up the walls. Some have left already, although I don’t know exactly how many of us remain. I walk a few meters down the hallway. Obstructing the path, semi-naked, there’s a man, tall and strong, with a cigar in one hand and a whetted machete in the other. His body faces the door of the building. I go to pass by him.
“Buenos días, excuse me, please,” I say.
His look seems to come from a thousand miles away, which worries me. Such alienation implicates one man against another. It’s part of the universal tragedy of the body. What’s more, I’m not very popular here, and I wouldn’t like anyone to confuse me with someone undesirable or for my presence to strike them as disquieting.
Luckily, the man recognizes me, makes a gesture of greeting with his head and announces, “They want to get me out of here, shorty, they’re going to have to drag me out by my dick.” With the hand holding his cigar, he grabs his testicles, squeezing them and stirring them up forcefully. Cigar and testicles meld into a symbol of dignity distant from my own take on such matters. He brings the cigar to his mouth and notices the bulge in my pants. In an effusive gesture, he throws the arm with the machete around my shoulders, the edge of the blade scant centimeters from my neck. He wrenches me about with fondness.
“You got yourself a horse cock, kid.” Then he calls to his woman.
A fat woman leans out the doorway, three children pressed to her body like leeches.
“Get me another blade for the kid, this one’s got a pair on him.”
I thank him for the spartan praise, unwind myself from his arm and the sharpened edge of the blade, and continue on my way, hearing the guy’s voice say:
“Don’t get lost, shorty, ‘cause it’s going to get good pretty soon, when the cops and them motherfuckers from Housing get here.”
As I walk toward the exit, I examine the structure carefully, stripped of all emotional partiality. They’re right, the old house is going to collapse. Another rain shower and when the sun comes back out, everything will start to come down. I feel the impulse to go back to the guy with the machete and alert him, but the sudden image of my head sliced in two convinces me to continue on. If he wants to attack the authorities, let him. I should think of finding a safe place for Bukowski, Moses, and Hegel. I wouldn’t like to see them interred in a grave of rubble.
Before heading out into the street I pause before Yemima’s door. I knock before entering then nudge open the half-open door.There she is, sitting in the old armchair, nursing the baby. I know that Yemima’s young, but same as the house, she gives the impression of being suspended in atemporality. She lifts her eyes and sees me. I make a gesture of greeting and she smiles. Her teeth are white, beautiful. Then she looks at the bulge in my crotch and bursts out laughing. She uncovers her other breast and holds up five fingers. I turn and head out to the street, pretending not to hear Yemima’s voice calling me. This damn body, sending everything to wrack and ruin.
The sky has started to cloud over. People race from one place to another, as if fleeing. Not a single face among them seems to bespeak conviction, at least not enough for me to ask their help in rescuing Homer and Cioran, Yemima and the baby, the guy with the machete and his family. An excess of altruism is suffocating, but it’s unavoidable.
“It’s going to collapse!” I find myself blurting out. “Everything’s going to come down!”
A policeman approaches, signals for me to halt. Once again the body, always making its presence felt.
I give it to him. He eyes me with disdain and says, “You study or work?”
That question has always disconcerted me. Before the law, my only validity comes in those two forms. But I’ve got no time to say which, I think only of the collapse that approaches.
“Everything’s coming down, you’ve got to help me.”
“Be careful of what you say.”
“The building, it’s going to collapse.”
“The building? Which building?”
“That one,” I say, pointing.
“Ah, I see, that’s what you meant.” He pauses. “But you still haven’t answered my question. Do you study or work?”
“Look . . .”
The officer notes the bulge in my crotch. He raises an eyebrow and asks, “What’ve you got there?”
“What do you mean, ‘nothing,’ with that bulge?”
“It’s just an erection. But it’s not important.”
“Ahhh, so it’s an erection. Keep still, I’m going to frisk it.”
I stay calm while the officer palpates my waist, traces my buttocks, and quickly returns to the bulge in my crotch. He does it calmly, without the least bit of delicacy. That’s another thing I’ve weaned from the body: all of its humiliations pass inevitably through me. Now the officer’s touching the erection. I say nothing. There’s little one can do when the law’s got its hand on you. He finishes and smiles, satisfied. Then he begins to fill a notebook with my information. He rips out a sheet and hands it to me along with my identification.
“A fine, to be paid within thirty days or it multiplies. You can be on your way, and pardon the trouble.”
I want to give a retort but I keep it moving. There are no reasonable responses before the law. I’m beginning to understand the man with the blade; maybe he’s right. I feel like going back to where he is, to stand there in my underwear with my pole erect and machete at the ready, like two Spartans at the pass of Thermopylae. But it’s irrational, none of that will do us any good when the roof’s beams start coming down. Not courage, not machetes, nor a stiff prick, either.
A drop of water falls on my neck. A little drop of water falls, I think. It’s the baby’s favorite lullaby. Yemima rocks her in her arms and sings, her voice dispelling any possibility of discomfort or tears. Another little drop of water and another. I’ve got no choice, I should head back before it begins to rain harder.
A hand grasps my shoulder. It’s Migue, an old classmate from when I studied theology.
“This is perfect, I’m so glad I ran into you, I’ve got a proposal for you,” he says, euphoric.
“I want to found a new church.”
“I want to start a new religious cult. Look, it’s ballsy, super original, it hasn’t occurred to anyone. It’s a sure thing.”
“ . . .?”
“Listen, it’s a mix of new-age style Christianity with the ancient Dionysiac cults, but without all that castration and blood stuff, we’re better off concentrating on the orgiastic ritual part, you know, fertility cult as metaphor for prosperity and pleasure. In moderation, of course, it’s a church, not actual debauchery. What do you think?”
“And what are you going to call it?” I ask out of curiosity.
“The Great Cult of Dickcunt. I’ve got the dogmas written down right here. Got any money?”
“Ah, money’s important, it’s one of the fundamental precepts, but…that bulge?”
“It’s an erection. Look, I’ve got to go.”
“I knew it was an exciting idea, it gets you hard just listening to it! It’s bound to succeed,” says Migue triumphantly.
“Actually, I’ve had it since this morning.”
“No kidding? And does this happen to you often?” His voice assumes an unusual scientific severity.
“Often enough to be a hassle.”
“In that case, you can be priest, because I’m high priest, of course. You just have to show it off to the cult and perform the liturgy in a transparent white toga. Think about it,” he tells me.
The rain starts to fall torrentially, Migue bids me farewell by mimicking a vagina with his hands, and from afar he yells that this is the greeting of the acolytes.
I run for the old house without hope. All possibility of help is null and void. I don’t want to be far from Yemima and the baby when it stops raining and the sun comes out.
I push hard through the door and enter. The guy’s still there with the blade in his hand. He stiffens when he sees me, that sensation of alienation again. Luckily I’m far from the reach of the blade. He recognizes me and relaxes.
“Ah, it’s you. These motherfuckers will get here soon as it clears up.”
“Right,” I answer and enter Yemima’s room. She’s in the same place, with the baby in her lap. It’s as if time hadn’t actually transpired. I shake Yemima’s shoulder, say that we’ve got to go, but she doesn’t seem to hear me. Water beats down on the roof, drips through the cracks. But Yemima concerns herself with nothing save nursing the baby. I listen to the man outside strike the blade against the floor, shouting provocations and threats. Yemima looks at the baby attached to her breast and begins to sing:
“A little drop of water falls, another and another.”
I feel the urge to drag her out by force, but that’d be useless. Nor does it make sense to warn the man with the blade; anyway, I don’t even have the strength to convince my own body to flee or save Shakespeare or Solomon and his songs. I kneel before Yemima, wanting to cry. She sees my erection, strokes it and smiles.
Ultimo día después de la lluvia © Johan Moya Ramis. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2011 by David Iaconangelo. All rights reserved.