What’s There to Come Back To?

Mónica Lavín

Spring 2017

When a woman leaves, you shouldn’t let her come back home. But how was I supposed to ignore her if she stayed out there all night? She knocked, and I said, Who’s there? When she didn’t answer, I told her, Go away. I heard her woolen coat rub against the wooden door as she slid down to a sitting position on the step. I imagined her hugging the bag she’d left with, that big weekend bag, the one we used when it occurred to us to leave the city. I threw the eggs into the frying pan; the sizzling of the oil drowned out the sound of her blowing her nose. It was November, and at this altitude it’s always cold at night. She got all stuffed up with it. I took the eggs out of the pan and put them on a plate with a slice of ham — the last slice. Since she left, I buy very little. I’d never done the shopping before, and at first I’d order a half kilo, but after a week, when I had to throw out most of the cold cuts because they’d gone all slimy and green, I realized that one hundred grams was enough. I started to enjoy going to the supermarket. It was clean, well-lit. At home, I only turned on the lights in the TV room and the bedroom. Never again did I turn on the little lantern at the front door where Marta was now huddled in the shadows.

I attacked the yolks with a piece of bread, and then gazed deeply into the yellow magma as it slid into the coagulated whites. It annoyed me to hear her breathing out there. We never should have bought this house, with its cheap materials. You can hear everything. When we moved here, we could even hear the neighbors flush the toilet, and with our last unmarried kid, Julian, still in the house, we would try to guess who it had been. Marta would laugh. Back then, with Julian at home, she used to laugh a lot. He spoiled her, and she did the same to him. Girls. It would have been easier if we’d had a girl to spoil me. I always suspected that the son-of-a-bitch she left with was just like Julian: cheerful, affectionate. But flattery and the lingering hug are not my cup of tea. For me, a penetrating look is enough, like when I said goodbye to Marta as she was putting on her brown coat.

“You’re not going to stop me?” she had asked, hurt. “You want to leave. There’s nothing to do about it.” “Maybe you think that it’s paradise living here with you?” “It’s just here, with me.”

Why are you there behind the door? Three months apart weren’t enough to stitch up my soul. The pain bubbled up like the yolks that I kept wolfing down, as if I were trying to eradicate her inevitable return with my jaws.

If she’s a bitch, let her sleep like a bitch, I thought, finishing off the beer that I drank every night to put myself to sleep. It’s hard not to indulge in melodrama and to accept how difficult it is to sleep without Marta’s body next to me every night, without her smell of creams and dried-up woman. I felt the shameless desire to say goodnight to her as I shuffled upstairs in my slippered feet.

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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