• The Caretaker

    Mónica Lavín

    Spring 2017

    That very morning she’d thought to herself, I should write down my name and address on a piece of paper and put it in my purse, I should carry some identification. She always said that as soon as she broke out her new date book she’d fill out the page marked Personal Information, but it was March already and she’d totally forgotten to do it. Now, dangling from the bus’s handrail, she looked without seeing at the laps of the passengers in front of her, unable to keep from occasionally brushing against their knees. She was so accustomed to the morning commute after two years of working the same office job that she instinctively knew how to ride out sudden stops, where to place her arm and where to plant her feet. She would’ve preferred to travel sitting down, so that she could give her lips a final touch-up and pat her puffy, hair-sprayed perm back into place. With the morning rush, it never stayed put like it did on the weekends.

    She’d been traveling in a stupor that day, afflicted with a strange exhaustion that felt to her like a hangover from a sleepless night. That was odd, since on Sunday she and Germán had done what they always did: watched tv with her aunt, ate the quesadillas that Meche sold on the corner for supper, and then, after their music program was over at ten o’clock, Germán had said goodnight as usual, because he had to get to the garage by seven the next morning. The weakness was overcoming her with increasing intensity and, feeling alarmed, she leaned forward so that the air from the open window would blow directly onto her face. She switched her purse to the other arm and changed the position of her feet, and again became lost in contemplation of the other passengers’ laps, her head resting in the crook of her elbow. A cold sweat suffused her body, and she couldn’t utter a peep to ask for help.

    No doubt she’d collapsed right there on top of those very same thighs that were all wrapped in different kinds of cloth, had taken a shameless nosedive right onto the laps of the startled passengers in her red dress and pointy high-heeled shoes, with her purse still dangling from her shoulder. Now, gazing at an unfamiliar ceiling, Marisela began to speculate. She had no shoes on. Her feet, still crammed into Lycra stockings, brushed against a synthetic bedspread. Its texture made her shudder. She was groggy and afraid of finding out where she’d ended up. It wasn’t a hospital. She knew because of the bare light bulb hanging from the pistachio-green ceiling, the smell of cooked beans, and the quilted bedspread beneath her. Slowly, she turned her head. To her left, in the corner, was a small sink; next to this was a cloth curtaining off what she guessed was a bathroom. She let her gaze travel around the room. To the right, her black purse hung from the back of the nearest chair, which was pulled up to a small table. What assailant would’ve laid her down on a bed, taken off her shoes, and put her purse within reach? Beyond the room she was in, through a doorway, she saw a stove.

    Mónica Lavín is the author of numerous works of fiction, including the short story collection Ruby Tuesday no ha muerto and the novel Café cortado. Though widely read in her native Mexico, these stories represent the first significant translation of her work into English. Dorothy Potter Snyder is a writer and literary translator interested in short fiction by Hispanic women. She is the author of the blogs Breaking Up With New York and Looking for Words: A Translator's Journey, and is an MFA candidate at the Sewanee School of Letters.

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