It’s 11:13am. He’s typing something on his office computer when the phone rings. It rings three times and he stops typing to pick up.
- Hey man. Why don’t you answer your cell?
- Uh… -- he checks the inner pocket of his blazer and finds his cell, which is on silent mode. – It was on silent.
- Oh, I tried to reach you on your cell.
- Yes, I see… This morning I had a double feature and I forgot.. I forgot to… Put it back on normal.
- Ok… So—
- Sorry. What’s up?
- Nothing much. What did you watch this time?
- Oh, man… It was Adam Sandler’s latest movie, what a piece of shit, man...
- Hahaha, sorry to hear that… What’s it called again?
- “You Don’t Mess With The Zohan”… No, no… This guy just cannot get it right, it’s so bad it’s unbelievable…
- Hahaha, it does look terrible, doesn’t it?
- Yeah, tell me about it! I’ve got my review ready, it will be published in our next issue.
- When will it be out?
- Is Tuesday the tenth already?
- Ah, cool, so on Tuesday I’ll leaf through it and see what’s up, hahaha…
- All right man, thanks. So--
- What other reviews will there be?
- Well, there’s--
- Wait, what were you going to say?
- No, nothing… I just wanted to know what’s up… You know… I’m working…
- Man, well, just to remind you of Chubs’s birthday. You’re going, right?
- Yes, of course… It’s tomorrow, isn’t it?
- No, man, it’s today!
- But of course! At Pyro’s, right? 12:30?
- Yeah, yeah. No! I mean, it is at 12:30, but not at Pyro’s anymore. We’ll go to The Vegetarian.
Javier is surprised by this change of venue, since The Vegetarian is obviously a vegetarian restaurant and he fails to comprehend why would Chubs want to eat there. However, Torres used a confident tone while informing these news, which leads Javier to think that this is not a joke, and on account of how busy he is at the moment he decides not to inquire about it, or at least not yet. He simply decides to continue the conversation as follows:
- Ok, See you there.
- All right.
- Far out.
- Talk to you later.
- Thanks for letting me know.
- Sure. All right. Bye.
He hangs up the phone and turns his look back at the computer, where an incomplete review lies by. During the previous conversation he didn’t tell Torres that after watching Adam Sandler’s latest movie he watched Steven Spielberg’s latest, “Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull”, a movie which is, in his opinion and among other things, “a sequel which ruins the previously perfect saga,” and “a waste of the talent of brilliant people like John Hurt and Cate Blanchett, while disproportionately exhibiting the poor acting talents of the always reprehensible Shia LaBeouf.”
Just as he’s ready to resume his typing, the director of the culture department of the modest magazine which he works for enters the office without knocking the door, which is already open.
- Javi, you got a second?
- Sure, tell me.
The guy makes a gesture of gratitude with his hand and hurriedly sits on the chair in front of Javier’s desk. The latter stops typing and sets out to listen to his immediate boss at the magazine. The director opens his mouth for four seconds without saying anything, then closes it for a couple more seconds, opens it again and finally says:
- We must talk about your recent articles… Your reviews, specifically.
- Javi… I believe you’re a great writer. It’s a fact. You’ve got outstanding writing skills… You’ve got witty prose. Impeccable.
Javier can see from miles away a big “buuuuuut..” coming his way. Meanwhile he nods with expectation of the upcoming criticism. His boss flashes a strange smile.
- Thanks – responds Javier -…
- But… But… Don’t you like any movies at all?
He looks at his boss in silence, uncertain on whether this is a rhetorical question.
- All your reviews are of two or less… Half a star, zero stars! By God, zero stars… You don’t like shit, do you?
- Well… What do you want me to say? All these movies I’ve seen lately are deplorable… It’s not that I don’t like anything, there’s ma--
- I don’t know… Be more positive. Not everything that comes out can be that bad, right?
Javier simultaneously gestures, lifts his eyebrows and bows his lips. While he thinks about what to say, he actually says:
The guy stands up and rushes to the door without looking at Javier.
- Think about it… And we’ll talk. I’m going to a meeting. How many reviews are you pending to send?
- Three. I’ve got two ready… Well, one is already completed, and I’m finishing this one – he says while pointing at his computer screen --, and I’m pending the one about the movie I’m going to watch this afternoon. My plan is to watch it, write the review and send all three finished reviews to the editor. Or do you want me to send them all to you first?
- No, it’s ok, send them directly to the editor. I trust your judgement. We’ll talk later, with more time. Think about it. No. You know what? Don’t think about anything, make believe I didn’t say anything. See you later, I’m running late!
The guy walks out of Javier’s office while the latter nods in silence. He doesn’t know what to think about what has just been said to him. Is he now supposed to write favorable reviews? If he was hired, Javier thinks, it was in order to write movie reviews and articles about cinema for the magazine, using freely his own criterion, of course. That’s what his contract says, or at least that’s what he thinks he remembers, anyway. Where is that contract, by the way? Most probably in the important documents folder, along with the documents of the house and the military card. Most likely. It would be a good idea to search for that folder and check whether the contract is really there, maybe tonight. In the meantime he must complete his unfinished review on the Indiana Jones movie and get ready for the afternoon feature.
Time passes. It is now the time Javier agreed with Torres, and the former arrives at the vegetarian restaurant chosen to celebrate Chubs’s birthday. Torres is already waiting at a table and waves at Javier. Javier approaches Torres.
- Hey, what’s up?
- Hey Javi, how are ya?
- I’m ok… Fine. How long have you been here?
- I just got here. Chubs says he’ll be here in ten minutes, he called.
- All right… All right.
Javier sits beside Torres in a table for four. The two examine the venue in silence. They see lots of people sitting down eating and many others walking in and out of the place; it’s a successful business. Javier asks Torres:
- Have you been here before?
- So what… Does this mean that Chubs suggested the place?
- Yes, it’s just that he wants to lose weight. He’s too fat!
- I had a couple of empanadas[i] beforehand.
- Hahaha, really?
- No, but I should have, just take a look at the menu!
Torres hands the menu to Javier, who firstly gazes at it with carefulness, and then with repulsion.
- Fuck, Torres! Are we really gonna eat here!?
- What is there to do if it is Chubs who wants to eat here – answers a resigned Torres--? It’s his birthday.
Javier resumes gazing at the menu with disgust. Torres says, intending a comforting tone:
- Look, I don’t think he will hold up a vegetarian lifestyle for too long… He won’t hold up more than a handful of weeks. Not more than a month, in any case.
- When did he start?
- He starts today, hahaha…
- Hahaha, really?
- Yes, because his birthday marks the beginning of a cycle, and since he’s turning 27, every seven years a new super cycle or whatchamacallit starts... It’s some weird astrology business or something he’s into nowadays, he tried to explain it to me the other day but I just didn’t get it really well.
- What seven years? If you’re talking about multiples of seven, shouldn’t this so called new cycle start on his 28th birthday, then?
- On the 28th?
- Of course. Twenty eight is a multiple of seven. Seven times four is twenty eight. He’d be one year short to complete the cycle…
During the previous explanation, Javier shakes his hands and gestures to Torres so he catches the error in which Chubs has apparently incurred.
- Whoa, yeah… Hahaha, would you have the heart to tell him to start his diet in a year, then?
- I wouldn’t mind if it saves us the trouble of eating here, I’ll tell him! I’ll commit to the cause.
- And where will we go for lunch, then?
- There’s plenty of better places. Let’s wait for him, we’ll explain the situation and then go anywhere else.
A few minutes go by, and in the midst of another conversation derived from the previous one Chubs arrives. He’s conversing joyously with a slender and very attractive woman, slightly younger than him, about his same height. Judging by the way she smiles at Chubs it seems they share intimacy under the covers.
Torres, while laughing moderately at one of Javier’s remarks, interrupts the conversation to make himself visible for Chubs and his couple. Javier follows them with his sight and recognizes the woman that escorts his fat friend. He identifies her, but he doesn’t know her name.
Their only previous interaction came about maybe a year and a half ago, one night in which Javier went out to a club for drinks and meet someone with whom he could drown his sorrows momentarily, or better yet, discharge his sexual energy, which had been repressed since he broke up with his girlfriend one month before. Three jars of beer and two shots of tequila later he saw her for the first time at a distance, and without overthinking he approached her and determined himself to talk to her with all the confidence that alcohol can provide. She saw him coming when he was already too close and did nothing about it, apart from looking at him. He stopped in front of her, and two seconds later he spoke to her. Meanwhile, she listened indifferently.
Javier greeted her with his eyes fixed on hers.
She responded in a very indifferent fashion.
- What’s up?
That’s how a third character, a taller, better dressed guy intervened. He was right beside her. Right beside her, really close, and Javier hadn’t seen him at all. The guy, who seems to be the jealous type, gives Javier a serious stare and his body language indicates he will protect his territory, in animal terms. Javier responds his greeting very politely.
- Hey! How’s it going?
- Yeah, so what is it – the guy responds--?
While realizing that his chances to score with the chosen damsel have completely vanished, Javier then becomes a clown.
- Yeah, well, the thing is that I’m selling these watches…
Javier pretends to be searching for watches in his pockets. She laughs at this pathetic display. The guy doesn’t think this is funny at all and raises his voice.
- Yeah, right, why don’t you go back from where you came from, huh pal?
- From where I came from? Why not from a different part? Why from where I came from and not from a different part, huh?
- Look, buddy, don’t search for trouble. Scram!
Just as he said this, the guy looked to his left and made some gestures to someone.
- Oh, trouble, trouble! Your mother’s the one who was in trouble when the shitty condom that your dad wore to prevent your birth ripped off!
- Oh, sonny –the guy laughs--, stop talking shit, just eat it, instead, why don’t you?
In that moment one of the club’s bouncers arrived at the scene, an orangutan man, strong looking and with a military buzz cut, with a face reminiscent of the sergeant on “La Gente de La Universal.” He approached Javier from the back and placed his left hand on his right shoulder, saying:
- Come with me, buddy, over here.
- Hey, watch it! Let go, I walk alone.
- You’re an instigator. Come with me.
Javier shook his shoulder to get the orangutan man off himself, but it wasn’t enough. The bouncer held the intoxicated Javier again, this time by the arms, and with an irresistible force he started pulling him away from the couple, before the expectant eyes of all present. The guy was making ridiculous mocking gestures and waving goodbye, while the damsel unsuccessfully tried to cover her laughter with her hand, since this kind of shows weren’t at all common for her.
- Of course, you had to call your orangutan guard to do the dirty job for you, didn’t you? You scoundrel!
In spite of all his efforts and struggles against the tenacious orangutan man, Javier could not overcome him. When there were still a few feet before reaching the club’s main gate he just stopped struggling and let himself be carried out. A few seconds later the bouncer set him free outside the club.
- Take off, man. Keep yourself out of trouble, you hear me?
- Oh, trouble… Trouble.
The orangutan man responded with a menacing look. “Watch out,” seems to read Javier in his pupils, and proceeded to flee the scene.
He hadn’t thought about these events in the last few months, but everything came back to him just as soon as he saw her beside none other than Chubs. The latter, still at a distance, sees his friends, waves at them and asks them to wait for him. He tells her something, they kiss shortly but lovingly and she leaves, not before making fast visual eye contact with Torres and Javier, who in spite of having looked at her for a long time while she was in his sight at the same time pretended to avoid eye contact, so when she finally looked at him he lowered his look, thus getting busted in the process. Torres, who ignored all of this, asks:
- What? Chubs’s got a girlfriend? Who is she?
- I have no idea, I don’t know…
- She’s fucking hot, hahaha!
The memories of that distant night revived the same pathetic feeling of defeat. He doesn’t know whether she recognized him or in what way does she remember him, if she remembers him at all. He knows, however, that she’s in some sort of serious relationship with Chubs. “With Chubs” resonates in his head. Chubs approaches the table. Torres stands up and enthusiastically greets his friend. Javier follows suit.
- Hey Chubs, happy birthday!
- Hey Torres, thanks a lot!
- Happy birthday, man.
- Javier, my brother, gimme some love!
Chubs effusively embraces Javier and taps him on the back a few times.
- Listen, thanks a lot for coming, I hadn’t seen you guys in a long fucking time!
- All right, now, who’s the girl? When did you guys hook up? Did you already tell her that you love her? Why don’t you introduce her to us? Hahaha, talk already!
- Calm down, Torres, let me sit and I’ll tell you all about it…
All three sat down and Chubs starts telling his story. According to Chubs, her name is Catalina Pinzón, they met at a novena last year held at one of her cousin’s, Juliana Pinzón, who’s been a great friend of Chubs since school, and the immediately started dating. They’ve been going steady since January.
At this point Javier is no longer hungry and has completely forgotten about his ambition to change the restaurant. The conversation gets temporarily suspended while they choose what to have for lunch, and Javier quickly decides to have vegetarian kibes, and to drink… He doesn’t know. He checks the list of beers and does not find any of the traditional brands. Instead, he finds “organic wheat beer.” He orders one. And another, before the food arrives. And another, when they’re halfway through their meals. And another to join Torres and Chubs while they’re having their cinammon aromatic infusions.
Javier and Torres pay the bill and resume their conversation for a bit longer at the table while they finish their beverages. Chubs asks Javier:
- Hey Javi, aren’t you kinda tipsy with all that beer?
- What? No, not at all. They taste fine but I’m feeling good, I’m not even remotely tipsy, I wonder if they have any alcohol at all, they are some kind of vegetarian beer, no idea.
- The place wasn’t half bad after all –says Torres-, I will come back. And this here guy – pointing at Javier -- wanted us to go to a different place! What do you say, Javi? Will you come back or not?
- Yes, it’s true –Javier replies, even though the kibes were not exactly satisfactory, taking into account the scarce but costly serving-- … It wasn’t half bad…
- Yeah, look, I’m really gonna get fit, I’m tired of being called Chubs. Now I want people to call me by my name. I have to seize this chance, since according to my astral chart I am now starting a new cycle, and I want to establish some serious changes in my life.
- Hey – says Torres--, I don’t know… That whole deal with the astral chart, I don’t know! That’s stuff that I’ve always found weird, but if they make you feel good, well go right ahead with them.
- That’s it, Torres! That’s the spirit! Now, what about you, Javi? You’ve been unusually quiet! What’s going on?
- Nothing, everything’s cool. It was a heavy morning and a heavy afternoon awaits me.
- Hahaha, right – says Torres --, super heavy to watch movies for free all day long and talk shit about them for money, super heavy!
- All right, Javi, calm down! I’m only kidding, you know.
Chubs laughs about all this and continues:
- Right, men –he stands up and his friends follow suit--, it is now time to resume work, what else can we do, right? Thanks a lot, what a gesture!
- Stop it, Chubs – Torres responds-, it’s our pleasure.
- You’re very welcome, brother. We gotta s—
- Oh! Sorry, I had forgotten. I’ll stop calling you Chubs.
- Hahaha, it’s all right, man, it’s all right.
- We gotta see each other more often – resumes Javier-.
- Yeah yeah yeah yeah! And I’ll introduce Cata properly to you guys. She couldn’t stay just now because she had a hearing downtown, so she was in a rush. Some other day I’ll introduce her properly. We’ll do something in my flat or something, I don’t know, we’ll see.
- Ok, sure. I’m glad you’re happy. She’s fucking hot!
- Hahaha, thanks Torres! I think it will be best if I only introduce her to Javi, then, hahaha.
Torres and Chubs laugh out loud at this, and Javier successfully emulates one of those big laughs he’s used to let out when his boss and certain colleagues tell jokes at meetings and work gatherings. It’s a quarter to two and Javier must attend the 2:30pm screening, so he bids his friends farewell and goes to the theatre. The movie he has to review for the next issue of the magazine is “The Happening,” written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
He walks into the theatre a little after the trailers start and he sits in the back and far away from other few film critics which are also there to write their corresponding reviews. He carefully observes the movie with as much objectivity as possible, given the circumstances.
The movie’s over, the credits role until the very end and the screen is turned off. A few minutes later, a notoriously disturbed Javier stands up and leaves the projection room directly to his office to write the review, which he’s already got ready in his head. He writes it down with the occasional help of a few notes he took during the screening and sends it to the editor along with the other two pending reviews. After completing a report he also had to send, very late at night he goes home to eat something and sleep.
A random day in the afternoon, a week later, Javier is writing something while in his office. His boss is going out to a cocktail reception, but before heading for the exit he drops by Javier’s office.
- Listen Javi, great reviews!
- Thanks, boss.
- I’ll have to watch “The Happening” then, right?
- What’s that?
- Yes. If you liked that movie it must be a master opus, a miracle of art!
- I’ll watch it and we’ll talk. Bye!
Javier, intrigued by his boss’ enthusiasm, is surprised as he realizes that he watched the movie but cannot remember anything about it. He tries to think about “The Happening”’s review and cannot remember how he wrote it, either. He takes one of the printed issues of the magazine which came out on Tuesday and checks his own reviews. He sees that he gave “Don’t Mess With The Zohan” half a star and that he gave “Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull” two; and against all odds and expectations, he gave the highest possible grade to “The Happening”: Four stars.
It is an unprecedented event in the year and three months he’s been working for the magazine. Not even the universally acclaimed “No Country For Old Men” deserved four stars, because, among other minor details, “(…) its characters preserve a strange essence, a veil of artificiality which prevents me to fully enjoy the movie”.
Sitting down in silence, Javier cannot remember writing down any excerpt of the review nor any particular or general scene from the movie.
Right there, in cold sweat, he wonders whether it is possible that somebody else wrote and sent the review. He quickly checks the other two published reviews and they seem exactly as he remembered them. He logs into his email account and checks the attachments in his outgoing mail to the editor: The texts coincide, but Javier doesn’t regard this as sufficient. The last word on the subject will be given by his notepad, which he always carries in his jacket to write down ideas or notes during screenings. He opens it in the last pages and finds notes which coincide with the published article. There’s no doubt: He wrote it.
This had never happened before. His memory is frequently reliable and he usually doesn’t forget movies in less than many years after having watched them for the last time, and even in such a worst case scenario he will still remember at least a general idea and the cast. In this case not the former nor the latter.
Walking in circles inside his office, Javier reconstructs in his head the events of the day in which he must have watched the movie: He clearly remembers having lunch with his friends. He remembers leaving the office late at night. And he remembers waking up the next morning in his house. As he realizes that he’s got two blackouts which combined last more than twelve hours, he freaks out.
He tries to dig deeper into his memory and remembers having four beers at the vegetariarn restaurant. However, he also remembers not feeling tipsy. And he also remembers waking up the next morning free of hangover.
Maybe the special mix of this biological wheat beer and the revived spleen on Chubs’s birthday kickstarted a chemical reaction at a neuralgic level, unleashing the blackout, as a defense mechanism executed unconsciously by his organism. Javier has no clue whatsoever of what happened, but for now he feels even more restless realizing that his review for “The Happening” was written while under psychoactive effects which were out of his control. At this moment he picks up the newspaper, checks the movie listings for the next screening of “The Happening” and leaves the office immediately to go and watch it again, with the hopes he can stand by his printed review in the near future.
At the theatre with an almost full house the movie begins and Javier comforts himself while noticing its somber tone, which is adequate according to the plot, which revolves around a mysterious force which makes people kill themselves immediately with whatever means they have within reach. Likewise, he notices some interesting camerawork and general cinematography.
Soon, however, as minutes go by and the characters start unfolding onscreen and developing the plot, Javier can’t help but to moan in silence. The spectators start to roar in laughter in the middle of the supposedly dramatic moments. When new elements of the plot are introduced rants of deception are heard and half an hour into the movie people start angrily walking out of the screening, while Javier stays stupefied in his chair, with his mouth wide open at such a display. Not stupefied like when he watches master works by David Lynch or Lars von Trier, stupefied like when he listens to the unfortunate comments of a Miss Cartagena or a Miss Antioquia at the National Beauty Pageant.
An infinity of questions, judgements and opinions on the movie flash through Javier’s mind. Where does a sentence like “(y)ou know, hot dogs get a bad rep. They gotta cool shape, they got protein… You like hot dogs, right?” come from? And what about “(a)in't no time two people staring at each other, or standing still, loving both with their eyes are equal.”? And what about “Can you believe how crappy people are?”?
It’s the screenplay with the most ridiculous and stupid sentences to have ever seen the public light. The ridiculousness of the sentences does not fit the melodramatic music which escorts the movie’s solemn tone. It’s not a comedy in spite of hilarious scenes like the one in which Mark Wahlberg’s character talks with a plastic plant; nor is it an action film in spite of the graphic violence of some scenes. Nor is it a suspense thriller, in spite of some failed attempts at scaring the audience with scenes of a meadow where the wind gently blows.
Never before had he witnessed such a pretentious disaster, a failure so uproarious, so pathetic. Over the course of an hour and a half, minute after minute, the movie managed to surprise him with a string of unrivaled idiocies, some less evident than others, which reveal new levels of idiocy never before imagined. It is very short in length, but very much less in intelligence and wit. It’s a testament of the rotund failure of M. Night Shyamalan as a filmmaker. It’s even worse than “Signs”, another movie by the same director, which until this point Javier regarded as the worst he had seen in his life.
Angered, livid and sweaty, Javier leaves the room and heads to the theatre restroom. While there, he listens to the comments of several disgruntled members of the audience:
- Oh, no… What a stinker, man! What a piece of shit!
- I had read somewhere that it was supposedly good, but no… It’s so fucking bad!
- I had never seen something like this… Unbelievable!
- For fuck’s sakes– screams someone else, while banging on a restroom wall with the palm of his hand— I’m so angry at this cocksucking movie! So angry! I want my money back right fucking now!
- Hahahaha, calm down, it’s only a movie. Granted, it is terribly bad, but you can calm down, you guys.
- Why, yes, let me pee in peace, for Christ’s sakes!
Javier was shaking in fear. He had hated the movie too, he hates it with all his might. However, the magazine for which he works for printed an infinitely generous and laudatory review about it. A review absolutely full of praise. A review of his authorship, albeit written under the obscure influence of spleen and four bottles of biological wheat beer, albeit no one cares about this detail.
Certainly, Javier, among other things, pointed out in his review that “(a)fter almost ten years on hold, M. Night Shyamalan has finally managed to assert himself as a filmmaker by overcoming the wit and originality for which ‘The Sixth Sense’ is known for, with the masterful subtlety of ‘The Happening’.”
Somewhere else he writes: “When ‘The Sixth Sense’ premiered, some people regarded its author as Steven Spielberg’s successor. Now that we have both the new (and hopefully last) episode of the Indiana Jones franchise and ‘The Happening’ together in theatres, it is clear that the pupil has surpassed the master.”
Regarding the acting, he highlights John Leguizamo “in the middle of a talented ensemble full of calm and humble performances, in wide contrast to the scandalous overacting bombings to which Hollywood movies have accostumed us.”
These and other sentences ring in Javier’s head, along with the angry remarks of the audience at the end of the movie and the sight of Catalina Pinzón kissing with her former boyfriend at the club, and then with Chubs. He can’t take the situation any longer and proceeds to rush to his boss’ office.
- Hi Lucy. Is—
- Hi Javi –joyfully interrupts his boss’ secretary--. No, he’s not in. He went out for a moment. You can wait for him if you want, five minutes.
- Thank you.
Javier sits down and waits for a couple of minutes while Lucy silently resumes her work. So he proceeds to ask himself what he’s going to tell his boss. The truth? Does it make any sense to reveal the truth to his boss? Would he believe him? Minutes ago, at the theatre’s restroom exit, he felt the urgency to talk with his boss, but he hadn’t really thought about what good would this do. If he’s not going to tell the truth, what’s he going to make up and to what purpose?
- Javier. –his boss surprises him while walking in to his office--. Javier raises his head, surprised.
- Come in, tell me –he enters his office and invites him with his hand to come along--.
They enter the office and sit on their respective chairs. The boss stares at his eyes.
- Yes, tell me…
After a dramatic pause, Javier looks down. His boss says:
- I watched the movie –Javier raises his eyes and looks at his boss, who’s crestfallen --. The one about the happening. I read your review and went to see it. Then I went to read the reviews in other magazines, the newspapers… We all agree on how awful it is. Everyone but you, of course. The magazine, that is. Your review represents the magazine, you’re aware of this, aren’t you?
Javier nods with his head. His boss carries on:
- You… Have probably altered in an incorrigible fashion the brand’s good will, are you aware of this? We will become the Colombian Ain’t It Cool News. Super cool, ain’t it?
- Tomorrow we will hold an editorial committee, and I think your head will roll. It’s a shame because you’re a good writer, but just as I said, disregarding your overall performance and your intentions, this “happening” will tarnish the magazine’s reputation irreparably. The brand’s reputation is at stake… I don’t know what we’re going to do or what will happen, but I don’t think you will keep on working with us. I’m telling you now so you can prepare yourself. My head’s also at stake.
- I understand…
- Go home and rest. Tomorrow we’ll let you know what decision was made.
Javier stands up and waves goodbye.
- Thank you, goodbye.
- Oh, wait, weren’t you going to tell me something?
- Well… Not really. Not anymore.
- Ok. Ok.
Javier finishes his lecture at the university and heads home. There shouldn’t be anyone at home, taking into account that his wife, Juliana, works every day until late and it’s him who arrives early. However, today’s an exception.
- Hi honey! Happy birthday!
- Juli, baby –exclaims Javier--! You almost shock me to death!
- I got out early to give you a little surprise…
- Sweetheart, you’re beautifuuuuuul!
They hug and kiss each other effusively.
- Since it is your birthday I took charge of dinner…
- Cutie. I did notice the aroma, what is it, beans?
- Of course not! Pasta a la carbonara! Where do you get beans, huh!?
- Juliii, I’m kidding! It’s a terrific pasta smell, hahaha, super delicious.
- You’re such a meanie!
- Juliiiiiiiiii – Javier attacks her with tickles—
- All right, hold still! We’re gonna eat and then we’ll watch a movie.
- A movie? Did you say?
- Yeeeah, we haven’t watched movies in ages! Before coming home I went past “8mm” and I rented a movie… Wait, let me look for it, I left it around here somewhere…
Juliana checks at a table in the living room and finds it within a stack of papers. She takes it and holds it behind her back.
- Juli, what did you rent?
- It’s a movie you like a whole lot.
- Is it?
- Which one could it be… Which one… A Kubrick film?
- Hey… I don’t know, lemme check…
She turns her back at Javier in order to check the box, because she can recognize a few actors, but does not know anything about movie directors. Javier takes the chance to hold her from behind and try to take the box to find out what movie it is. After a joyful struggle Javier manages to take away the box and is thunderstruck when he realizes it is “The Happening”.
- Your review is in the box! Lookit!
It is true. Not only is his review in the box, but it’s also the only one in it. Along with the four stars, his name and the magazine’s, the following excerpt from the review is included: “’The Happening’s’ message, so widely abstract and yet simultaneously so narrowly precise, is bound to unite not only a nation and a planet, but the whole galaxy in a singular orgy of peace and beatitude.”
- Yes, it’s my review…
- Honey, what’s wrong? You’re pale, what’s going on?
Javier, expressionless, notices the living room window and the curtains by his side, which are wide open. He feels a mild and fresh breeze blowing inside the room. Emotionless, he utters:
- The curtains are open.
He walks calmly to the window, whose lower edge is as tall as his waist. He shouts to Juliana:
- Is it that…Don’t you care what happens to the bees? Why don’t you take an interest in science, huh?
He goes on walking, and in spite of being right in front of the window he doesn’t stop. Instead, he keeps going forward, as if he hasn’t seen or felt the wall in front of him, so he collides against it and his body arches forward, going completely out the window.
Juliana, completely shocked by such autistic behavior, screams and rushes to the door. Just as she stands outside the house she looks to her right and observes Javier, who’s lying in front of the garden at the entrance, on his back, with his legs up and supported by the wall, just below the window.
- Javi my dear! What’s going on? Have you gone mental? Why have you thrown yourself out the window?
Juliana approaches him in order to help him, to see whether he’s hurt. He doesn’t seem to be bleeding nor does he seem to be visibly hurt in any way. After a short, dramatic pause, he looks at her with an unintelligible grin, and replies:
- It’s an act of nature, and we’ll never fully understand it.
Original short story 2014 - This translation 2014
[i] A stuffed bread fried wrapped around stuffing, which usually consists of a variety of meat and vegetables, among other ingredients.