Saturday, August 7, 2021

the last book I ever read (The Dangers of Smoking in Bed: Stories, excerpt five)

from The Dangers of Smoking in Bed: Stories by Mariana Enriquez (Translated by Megan McDowell):

Outside, she saw a couple talking, each on a lounge chair, holding hands. She hated them. The kids were in the pool even though it wasn’t hot, and a man some fifty years old was reading a book with a yellow cover in the shade. Only a few guests, or at least that was the feeling the hotel gave, silent as it was. This was not a good idea, thought Elina, and she waited an hour, two hours, but no one rang from reception to let her know she had a call. Thirty-one years of so much not knowing what to do. What to do. Twenty more years teaching classes at the university. Twenty more years as an adjunct. Twenty years of not enough money and then dying alone; twenty years of faculty meetings and complaints. She had no other plan. And moreover, if she had to be frank, it was possible she couldn’t even be an adjunct anymore. In her last class, she’d started to cry while explaining Durkheim—what a moron. She’d run out of the room. She couldn’t forget the way the kids giggled, more out of nervousness than cruelty, but how she would have like to murder them. She’d locked herself in the teachers’ lounge and someone found her there, trembling. Someone else call an ambulance, and she didn’t remember much more until she woke up in a clinic—expensive, with charming and unbearable professionals, paid for by her mother. And then the group therapy sessions, and the horrible feeling that she didn’t care about what the others said, and thinking about how to die while she participated in arts-and-crafts activities (“Could I stab myself in the jugular with this paintbrush?”), and the individual therapy sessions when she kept quiet because she couldn’t explain anything, and then her dubious discharge. Her parents had rented an apartment for her so she could be independent, so she could recover more quickly, so she could integrate—all those commonplaces. And Pablo, who hadn’t even asked about her, wherever he was. And going back to the university for a month at the psychiarist’s insistence, though she had managed only two weeks, and then sick leave, and now the beach.

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