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from the October 2007 issue

Afternoon at the Cinema

Sunday, 2 June

Ramon and I went to the Rialto this afternoon. We had quarreled earlier and I was almost in tears when he was buying the tickets. It was over something stupid, I know. It started like this. I went to bed last night at one o'clock. I stayed up past twelve on account of the electric blue thread I misplaced, and without the thread I couldn't finish the smocking. And Mamà was in a bad mood. "You never pay attention to where you put things, just like your father." Which only made me more nervous. Papà gave her an irritated look and kept on removing the blackheads from his nose as he sat at the table with the hand mirror propped against the wine bottle. I finally found the thread and could finish the smocking. But I still had to iron the skirt and blouse. I was exhausted when I got in bed and I thought about Ramon for a while till I fell asleep. When he called today after lunch I was already dressed; I even had three roses in my hair. He stormed in like he was crazy and didn't even glance at my skirt and blouse—and all that work to iron them. He went straight to Papà, who was sitting in the rocking chair half asleep, and said, "Figueres says it's better for us not to give our names. Just as I thought: they tricked you." Papà opened one eye, immediately closed it again, and started rocking. But he kept on talking as if he didn't see he was annoying Papà, saying the refugees should do this or that, and all that time he never even looked at me. Finally he said, "Let's go, Caterina" and took me by the arm and we left. I said to him, "You always say things to upset him. You're so annoying." But that's nothing. We were halfway there and weren't talking and suddenly he let go of my arm. Oh, but I immediately saw what was happening: on our side of the street here was Roser coming toward us. He always says he and Roser just fooled around a little. Sure, just fooled around. But he let go of my arm. She walked by all tense, not even looking at us. I said to him, "It looks like she's your fiancée instead of me." (I just noticed I wrote this part without any breaks and the mestressa always used to tell me to stop every now and then and start a new paragraph. But since I'm only writing this for me, it doesn't matter.)

Well, I felt like crying while he was buying the tickets, and the bell to start the movie made me even sadder. I felt like crying because I love Ramon and I like it when he has that smell of aftershave the days he goes to the barber to get his hair cut, but I like it even more when his hair is long and he looks like Tarzan from the side. I know I'll get married, because I'm pretty, but I want to marry him. Mamà always says he'll end up in Guyana with all that black market stuff. But he won't be doing it forever and he says this way we can get married sooner. Maybe he's right.

We sat down without saying anything; the room smelled like disinfectant. First they showed a newsreel: a girl skated, then there were lots of bicycles and then four or five men seated around a table. At that point he started to whistle and stomp his feet like he was crazy. The man in front of us turned around and they argued till it was over. After that there was a movie with puppets I didn't like at all: there were all these talking cows. At intermission we went to the bar and drank a Pampre d'Or and he ran into a friend who asked him if he had any nylons and packs of Camels and he answered he'd have some next week because he was going to Le Havre. I worry a lot when he's away because even if I don't say it I'm always afraid they'll catch him and handcuff him.

On account of the black market we missed the first part and when we were about to sit down everyone complained because the wooden soles on my shoes make a lot of noise even if I walk slowly. The couple in the movie was really in love. I can see we're not in love like that. There was a woman spy and a soldier and at the end they were both shot. Movies are lovely because if the ones in love are miserable then you suffer a bit but you think everything will turn out for the best, but when I'm miserable I never know if things will end well. And if sometimes things end badly, like today, everybody's sad, thinking what a pity. The days I'm really desperate it's worse, because no one knows. And if they knew, they'd laugh. When the saddest part came, he put his arm around my shoulder and then we weren't upset any more. I told him, "Don't go to Le Havre this week," and the lady behind us said, "Shhhh."

Now that I've read what I just wrote, I can see this isn't exactly what I wanted to say. This always happens to me: I explain things that at the time seem important and later I see they aren't at all. For example, all that about the blue thread I couldn't find last night. And then, if anyone were to read this diary they'd say I think Ramon doesn't love me and I do think he loves me even though it seems like he only thinks about buying and selling a lot of junk. But this still isn't exactly what I wanted to say. What I'd like to be able to explain is, even though I'm almost always sad, down deep I'm happy. If anyone reads this, they'll really laugh. I know I'm a bit naive and Papà always tells me Ramon's a fool, and finally that's what makes me saddest because I think the two of us will be miserable. But, really . . .

Copyright Mercè Rodoreda. By arrangement with the estate of the author. Translation copyright 2007 by Martha Tennent. All rights reserved.

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