Nursery (Luis Ignacio Helguera) (1998)


Original Text  (“Viveros”) by Luis Ignacio Helguera from the book   “El Cara de Niño y Otros Cuentos”

Trans. Pablo Helguera and Mónica de la Torre, 2004

Paths lined with poplars, paths and more paths lined with poplars, a single path with never-ending line of poplars, in order to arrive to the house of my old friend. The light of midday lingers, the solar image of the poplar-lined paths appears fixed as in a photograph.

The sun is so radiant that it is hard to see through the light, as if it were mist or a veil. Paths lined with poplars, meadows with poplars, puddles of light, water mirages on the paths. But the paths also appear to be mirages: I see them, I walk on them, and I don’t feel them, it’s as if they walked by themselves. And all of a sudden, finally the music of fountains heard but not seen, troughs, stables, the villa. More than a villa it seems to be a big workshop, a factory where strange things are made. There, inside a sort of greenhouse, is my friend, whistling quietly. He greets me from afar, waving his hand, without stopping to whistle. He looks so old. I want to read you a passage from a book, let me go to the library, I’ll be right back, he says. I tell him to do it later, not to bother now.  He replies: it’s the only exercise I do, and leaves. His wife arrives, kisses me and tells me that its time for lunch. She opens a few tin cans, like those from the ice-cream shop; she tastes the pork loin with potatoes from one of them.  It’s delicious, you’re going to love it, help yourself. She leaves. I realize there is a lot of food in those containers: apple purée, salads, chicken with mole… I can’t find the book, my friend says, while he is going somewhere else. I eat a radish. But I am thirsty, not hungry. My friend comes back whistling quietly, with a book in his hands, he looks for the passage, then puts down the book; it’s not here, he says, and then leaves again, whistling quietly. It seems he’s going to look for another one; it’s the only exercise I ever do, he says. He takes forever. I see a great variety of plants, some of them enormous, and next to them, a row of unbranded liquor bottles. Most of them are almost empty. What’s in them looks like brandy, homemade.  There are no glasses; no plates and cutlery either. I sip from one of the bottles. It is brandy, and it’s exquisite.

I drink the remainders of another bottle. And then another.

It occurs to me that perhaps my friend uses the bottles to play the marimba and thus lines them up, nearly empty, in a row. I drink another’s remainders bottom. And then another. There are stables everywhere. But no horses. In a small area there are a few rooms made of wood, their dimensions are very small. They are interconnected, open to the greenhouse and the gardens, and empty. One and then another and then another and another… all of them empty, without any furniture or pictures or people. They look more like they belong to a dollhouse or a playground. When I go out I see my friend in the greenhouse, whistling quietly and going through the pages of a book. I am thirsty, I say. Drink brandy, he replies without looking at me. Oh! Here it is! And he starts reading out loud. Every once in a while, in the middle of the reading, he stares at me from the top rim of his glasses. I drink the remainder of a brandy of bottle and then another and another and another and one more. I don’t understand anything that he is reading to me, in the same tone and rhythm that is lulling me to sleep. I hear his voice as if it were coming from a monotonous and exasperating snore or from under the water. He goes on reading without a pause, staring at me while continuing to read, now without looking at the book, as if he were reading my face, I can’t stand his voice anymore, it’s my naptime, I tell him.

The light is still radiant.

I need to go to the bathroom. My friend is not there anymore. I can’t find the bathroom. I walk into a stable and as I start urinating, I see my friend and his wife approaching from afar. It’s something that I already knew, she says to him, but I liked how he explained it to me. He’s very serious and doesn’t seem to be paying attention to her. I quickly come out of the stable. She kisses me and says that it’s lunchtime. He leaves, don’t tell me that you are looking for a book, she says, and he: it’s the only exercise I do. It’s delicious, she tells me as she opens a steamy container, you’re going to love it, help yourself. She leaves. Aren’t you going to eat too? I scream at her. I already ate, she responds, you’re going to love it, help yourself. Yes, thank you I really loved everything! I scream. She smiles, from afar, and then leaves. She is young and beautiful. I snatch a pear from a tree and devour it. I am so thirsty. Another pear. It’s not ripe, I toss it out. A long time passes. No one, I walk into a stable, piss, and come out. I decide to go to the troughs.  I hear the fountains, but cannot see them. Paths lined with poplars, many paths lined with many poplars from which I don’t know how to return. I am very thirsty. There is no night. I slowly drink from the trough.  I suddenly feel the earth shaking under my feet, hear furious galloping in the distance. I step aside and see the some wild horses cross the poplar-lined path, riderless but moving in a straight line, setting off a great cloud of dust. I feel the earth shaking under my feet, for a long while. And then again, the deafening sound of light. The radiant light that makes the dust dissipate. There is no night. I slowly drink from the trough; the water tastes like the furious gallop of the horses.