Leave me alone
About the book:
A new edition of an intense and brutal novel about love, passion and the marvelous pain of being in love. A tragic story, full of suspense, that will shock anyone who has ever suffered from love. The novel was translated into Slovene as Pusti me pri miru (2011), and this version gave rise to Alejandra, a documentary that premiered in Europe in September 2018. The screening tour prompted the author to write the collection of chronicles Diario de Eslovenia (Diary of Slovenia) (2019).
Mariana looked into her own eyes in the bathroom mirror and popped a quarter of a pill into her mouth. She raised the glass to her lips, still staring at herself, and tried to taste the water that helped her swallow the small piece of Diazepam, to feel the pill coming down her throat.
“It’s over,” she said. She was staring at her own smile now, a kind of stupid grin in her opinion.
She left the glass in the bathroom cabinet, crumpled up the blister pack with the remaining pills and stepped on the pedal of the trash can. She threw away the blister pack and the box.
Am I cured?, she had asked her psychiatrist three weeks before, after he had prescribed a decreasing number of pills that she was supposed to take up to the last quarter. You are ready for a bright new beginning, Andrade had said. The kind of life a smart and beautiful girl like you deserves.
Mariana turned off the bathroom light and walked out. She heard her mother’s voice coming from the living room; she was still arguing over the phone with the dressmaker:
“That is not what we agreed. I don’t want to be one of those mothers who looks better than the bride herself. My dear, you saw the dress Mariana chose; it looks like she is going to a dentist appointment rather than her own wedding.”
Her mother lowered her voice to say something else, probably another negative remark about her. Mariana walked in the opposite direction and reached the glass gallery overlooking the garden. Engulfed in the hissing sound of the heaters, she stared at the boxes stacked in one corner and then looked out into the garden: two plum trees under the rain, the privet hedge with no soul, the grayish lawn. The determination with which she had come out of the bathroom was now leaving her. She saw boxes with the invitations on the table. One hundred and seventy invitations. Printed on heavyweight textured paper. Alejandro could stop worrying about the guys at the printing house. Preparations were starting to flow. That was a good sign.
She approached the table trying to focus on her feelings, just like Dr. Andrade had taught her to do. Relief. Excitement. Just normal for any other girl who is about to start a happy life. She went through the list her mother had drawn up with the names of all the relatives who had to be invited no matter what. Some names had been crossed out by Alejandro. “I hate this guy,” he had written next to his uncle’s name, the one from Haedo; other names were decorated with funny little symbols. Mariana smiled, lit a cigarette, and got comfortable in the chair, ready to write the names on the envelopes. Her mother had also left a fountain pen for her —as if she were an idiot who couldn’t get one— and a newspaper with a white sheet on top, for her to place the envelopes with the invitations on a bed of pages, so that she could make the letters perfectly round. Her mother’s patronizing assistance infuriated her. But she would leave that house soon, she would become Mrs. Alejandro Abruzzelli. It would be like killing two birds with one stone, she thought: putting an end to her mother’s fears and to her own ghosts.
“It’s over,” she repeated, with less conviction this time. She took a deep drag on her cigarette and closed her eyes. In times like this, Dr. Andrade would recommend her to analyze her “inner discourses,” as he used to call them. What is the first feeling that comes to your mind? he would ask. She tried to answer, Fear? Anxiety? Maybe joy?
No. Not joy. Joy was a feeling that she couldn’t figure out, but she was certain that it wasn’t fear what she was feeling today. For a few seconds, a blurred image came to her mind, similar to that subliminal advertisement that everyone talked about lately—diabolical voices hidden in children’s song lyrics, the Coca Cola logo between film frames, an image that fades away and leaves a trace. The headlights of a pickup truck casting a bright glow over her in the middle of the night. Footsteps in mud. Black basketball sneakers without laces. She knew that image didn’t have good intentions. That image brought something dark and she had to stop before it was too late. Dr. Andrade would object, Don’t overthink, Mariana, stay in the present. You have your whole life ahead of you.
She opened her eyes and picked up one of the envelopes from the bundle of packages; she placed it on the white sheet on top of the newspaper. She uncapped the pen and tried to hum a song from the radio, one of those songs her mother used to sing whenever she baked a cake. Wasn’t that joy? Singing while preparing a meal, a plum jam, a charcuterie board with many different types of cheese for a hardworking husband; singing while writing wedding invitations. She looked at the rain dropping on puddles in the garden. She wanted to cry.
Responsibility, that’s all, Mariana. It’s fine. Planning a wedding is not all watering dahlias as your grandmother used to do. It is a big step towards the future. Try to capture every detail, every moment of happiness, so that it is etched in your memory, so that it may heal the pain and suffering that broke your heart. Dr. Andrade liked to play the poet sometimes. His cliches made her laugh. Mariana put down the pen and checked the date in the newspaper: Argentina, July 29, 1991.
“The day I wrote our wedding invitations was cold and rainy,” she declared.
The memory had to include that information. She read the headlines. The IMF confirms stand-by agreement. Historic boundary treaty between Argentina and Chile. She browsed the news. She flipped through the pages. Extreme cold wave hits country. Sales. 100 grams of prosciutto, 20,900 australes. Tomato puree, 4,650 australes. She put the newspaper away and looked out into the garden. The incessant rain tapped a lullaby. Something started to reveal itself, a sound from the past. She closed her eyes and saw another image: a sewing kit on her legs. She snapped her eyes open in a state of alarm. What would Dr. Andrade’s say to her if she were to tell him about all this stuff coming from nowhere? Would he treat her like that other time, when he used the example of alcoholics? I don’t drink alcohol, she had reminded him, but Dr. Andrade had told her she shouldn’t disregard popular wisdom. Beware of deceitful memories, Mariana. You are like an alcoholic.
It is raining as you write the invitations, and it is cold. Go on please, Dr. Andrade would say, we are good. It is not the rain, it’s the shower, she would correct. The sound of water, the empty house. No parents, no order. Mariana, don’t bring this on yourself, you are the only one who can control your life. He is taking a shower. Mariana, try to come back to the present. It’s like a glass of wine or whisky for an alcoholic, you must refrain. Luis is taking a shower and I am sewing something for him in the gallery; I look at the rain and I know he is going to come out of the shower and over here. Focus on your present, on today, let go of the past. The symbols that Alejandro drew next to the surnames are hilarious. But who gives a damn about the drawings, who gives a damn about the guest list. The only thing she wants is to deal with what is growing inside her. Dr. Andrade, let me try and explain to you what I am getting at.
I had left my boyfriend that morning, the guy that was my boyfriend at that time. Have I ever told you about Dan? He was one of Luis’s only two friends. I had left him. And Luis came to see why. He was like that. On the one hand, all unprejudiced and open to all sort of experiences like many preppy guys. It makes her laugh to think that her mother used to call him like that when she first met him, a preppy guy. But when it came to his friends, his morals were similar to a guy from a different generation, like my old man. He was willing to go the extra mile for his friends, if you know what I mean. You are getting into dangerous waters, Mariana. Please, let me recall just one thing, Dr. Andrade, I had thrown a party at my house while my parents were away. I was 17 years old. He was 25. Do you know what it is like to be alone at that age with a 25-year-old boy? You feels like you can take on the world.
Translated by Natasha Besoky / Laura Estefanía