The Incident (El Incidente) by Ana García Julio

I translated this short story about the human effects of urban violence by Ana García Julio as part of Palabras Errantes’ Voices of the Venezuelan City project. Ana has kindly let me reproduce her original story and the translation here.

VERSIÓN EN CASTELLANO ABAJO.

The Incident

A man goes out into the street. He walks. Nobody knows what he is thinking about, which pleasures or sorrows, which illusions of grandeur or modest plans flicker inside him. Perhaps he isn’t thinking of anything out of the ordinary. Perhaps he is only feeling the simple happiness of existence, with its highs and lows. Perhaps he is heading somewhere thinking he knows where he is going and that fills him with enthusiasm.

The shot comes out of nowhere. It hits him in the temple. Deep.

The man lasts for one or two steps more and collapses. He is bleeding profusely. Without drama, however. It is a silent, slow cascade. Images, sensations, and will escape through the open wound.

Words and their threads.

Time seems to stand still at ground level, at the level of fallen humanity.

The man isn’t dead. He isn’t dying. Somehow he realises. But realising brings no relief. His reactions are disrupted. He gets up. He tries to start again. Staggering at first. He touches his temple and sees his fingers are stained with a dark silk. The vermilion replaces the pain. It could be everywhere too, lurking.

He smiles. The pain spreads through the nerves of his face, progressively but quickly, like a private sunrise.

His attempts to keep smiling end in a grimace.

By the time he reaches the corner, the warmth of the blood is mixed with that of tears.

He cleans his fingers on his trousers, as if they were only damp with sweat, and goes on. He struggles to keep his throbbing head up. His eyes struggle to focus. And as if he didn’t know how to do anything else, he smiles.

A man who does not sew enemies has reaped a shot, he says to himself, pushing the sorry smile to the corners of his mouth.

He tries his best to recall his last thought, his last heartbeat, things that nobody knew and that his whole body seemed to shout to him a few minutes before.

Some kind of joy, of treasure.

But instead, the shot keeps coming back to him, again and again. The sickness of a soul interrupted mid-swallow.

The man is stunned, so stunned that he doesn’t even realise he is.

His daze isn’t caused by resentment or sorrow.

His daze is pierced by concern about his aggressor. By terror at the gulf between two people revealed in the path of a bullet. By anxiety to know the who, how, where, and why of this shot.

Surprise. The precision of the shot. The sudden despair of finding himself lost in the middle of the city. Thrown off balance.

The man walks as well as he can. Although he stumbles a few times, he manages to fake a certain stability. He pretends that nothing has happened to him. And he fakes it well, as nobody asks him what happened to him, nobody offers him help. Nobody stops when they see him in that state, nobody looks at him. As if a bleeding man were the most normal thing in the world.

At one point his strength fails him and he gives up trying to hang on to his own name; so that, if someone called him, he wouldn’t turn around. Syllables and meanings mixed with his history leave him through the bullet hole, zigzagging in the ether with everything else. He needs the energy that he would usually use to cling to them to stop his legs from giving way.

He begins to sing, very softly, to see what is left inside him. And he discovers that he does not recognise, does not even understand, the music that comes out of his throat.

The sun bathes his face again. He is scared, but he can’t even realise that he is. His helplessness doesn’t seem to come from within him. He feels like the walls are breathing on him, out in the open.

And what if it had been unprovoked? And what if it had been deliberate?

There is no better or worse. It’s not something he chose, but something which chose him. A stone that keeps travelling though the air. Breaking an imaginary boundary between a person and that which surrounds him.

The man shudders: pushed to within a hair’s breadth of his animal state, as though he had no thought left, but still feeling. He only felt, cut off from his powers of reason. An incessant train of thought had always been his shield against hostility or his bridge towards affection. Disarmed, his flesh feels at the mercy of any random thing.

Now and then he lifts his hand and wipes the back of it against his cheek, trying to maintain composure. Judging by appearances, anyone who saw him would say that his arm ended in a razor blade and not five shaky fingers.

But nobody notices. Nobody comments.

A man walks bleeding down the street, in the middle of the day, his light gushing out of a hole in his head, caused by an unknown person for an unknown reason. Nobody looks. Nobody has seen anything. Light is camouflaged in light, the man fades away.

****************************

El Incidente

Un hombre sale a la calle. Camina. Nadie sabe en qué va pensando, qué contenturas o congojas, qué ilusiones de grandeza o modestos proyectos chispean en su interior. Quizás no piensa en nada del otro mundo. Quizás solo experimenta la dicha sencilla de existir, con sus bemoles. Quizás va a alguna parte creyendo saber adónde va y eso lo llena de entusiasmo.

La pedrada no se sabe de dónde viene. Le da en la sien. De lleno.

El hombre dura uno o dos pasos más y se desploma. Sangra en abundancia. Sin teatralidad, no obstante. Es una cascada silente, espaciosa. Por la herida abierta se le fugan las imágenes, las sensaciones, la voluntad.

Las palabras y sus hilos.

El tiempo no parece transcurrir a ras del suelo, a ras de la humanidad derribada.

El hombre no está muerto. No muere. De algún modo se da cuenta. Pero darse cuenta no lo alivia. Sus reacciones están trastocadas. Se incorpora. Intenta reanudarse. Primero, tambaleante. Se toca la sien y observa los dedos teñidos de una seda oscura. El rojo buriel sustituye el dolor. También podría estar en todas partes, agazapado.

Sonríe. El dolor se le riega por los nervios de la cara, progresiva pero rápidamente, como un amanecer privado.

Sus intentos por mantener la sonrisa desembocan en una mueca.

Al llegar a la esquina, la tibieza de la sangre se le confunde con la de las lágrimas. Se limpia los dedos en el pantalón, como si apenas estuvieran húmedos de sudor, y avanza. Le cuesta mantener la cabeza en alto, palpitante. Le cuesta enfocar la mirada. Y como si no supiera que otra cosa hacer, sonríe.

Un hombre que no siembra enemigos ha cosechado una pedrada, se dice, empujando la sonrisa lastimera hasta donde las comisuras se lo permiten.

Se afana en traer de vuelta su último pensamiento, su último latido, eso que nadie sabía y que a él le parecía gritar con todo el cuerpo, minutos atrás.

Alguna clase de gozo, de tesoro.

Pero en lugar de eso, le viene la pedrada, una y otra vez. Náusea del alma interrumpida en plena deglución.

Ese hombre está aturdido, tan aturdido que no alcanza a saberlo.

Y su aturdimiento no está hecho de rencor, ni de pena.

Su aturdimiento está cribado de inquietud por su agresor. De pavor por el abismo que una pedrada, en su trayectoria, puede revelar entre dos seres humanos. De angustia por no saber quién, cómo, de dónde, por qué esa pedrada.

La sorpresa. La exactitud del golpe. La repentina desesperación de sentirse extraviado en plena ciudad. Expatriado de su equilibrio.

El hombre marcha como puede. Aunque trastabilla algunas veces, logra fingir cierta estabilidad. Finge que no le ha pasado nada. Y lo finge muy bien, porque nadie le pregunta qué le sucedió, nadie le ofrece ayuda. Nadie se detiene al verlo pasar en ese estado, nadie lo mira. Como si un hombre sangrante fuera la cosa más normal del mundo.

En algún momento le fallan las fuerzas y deja de luchar por mantener asido su propio nombre; de modo que, si lo llamaran, no se volvería. Sílabas y sentido amasados con su historia se le van por la tronera, zigzagueando en el éter junto a lo demás. Necesita la energía con que suele aferrarse a ellas para que las piernas no le flaqueen.

Empieza a cantar, muy bajito, para ver qué le queda adentro. Y descubre que no reconoce, que ni siquiera comprende la música que sale de su garganta.

La aurora vuelve a bañarle por el rostro. Tiene miedo, pero tampoco alcanza a saberlo. La indefensión no emana de su interior. Se le antoja un aliento que exhalan los muros, el cielo abierto.

¿Y si hubiera sido gratuito? ¿Y si hubiera sido deliberado?

No hay mejor ni peor. Algo que no escogió, algo que lo escogió a él. Una piedra que sigue atravesando el aire. Quebrantando una frontera ilusoria entre el ser y lo que lo rodea.

El hombre se estremece: empujado en un tris a su reducto animal, diríase que ya no idea, sino que siente. Que solo siente, inhabilitados los resortes de su racionalidad. Un incesante tren de pensamiento solía ser su escudo contra la hostilidad o su puente hacia la simpatía. Desarmada, su carne se intuye a merced de cualquier sinsentido.

De vez en cuando alza la mano y rema sobre la mejilla con el dorso, tratando de mantener la compostura. A juzgar por los resultados, quien lo viera diría que su brazo termina en una hojilla y no en cinco dedos vacilantes.

Pero nadie se fija, nadie comenta.

Un hombre va sangrando por la calle, a pleno día, su luz escapando a borbotones por un agujero en su cabeza, que no se sabe por qué ni quién le hizo. Nadie mira. Nadie ha visto nada. La luz se camufla en la luz, desdibujándolo.

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