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Euskal Idazleen Elkartea

Uxue Alberdi Estibaritz > Extracts

Narrative (short story and novel)

2007 With one hand |

“The day you break it with one hand, my child,” my mother, who has since passed away, used to tell me. “The day you learn to break eggs with one hand, you will be ready to get married.”

I remember that I was wearing an apron embroidered with little strawberries as I broke eggs one after the other with one hand. In those days the milkman used to deliver eggs to our house. He would come on Mondays and bring them in a plastic bag, sometimes eleven and sometimes thirteen, one piled on top of the other, not the way they are sold nowadays, always organised in the same way into dozens, with each one in its compartment.

“Well? When are you going to marry me?”

He would ring the doorbell and that is what he would say every morning, never “Good morning”, or “Hello”. I used to smile at him, blushing with embarrassment. The milkman was good looking, he had huge hands that were as white as milk. His hands were totally unlike those of the other men in the town, because they didn’t have grubby cuticles.

“I can’t yet, not till I learn to do it with one hand!” I told him as I took the eggs from his white hands.

Just like most of the men of his age the milkman, too, wore a gold ring on his longest finger, but I could not see it. What was the point? Mother would pay him for the eggs and say goodbye till the following week.

“How much?”

“A gin and tonic and twenty Camel, wasn’t it? That’ll be seven euros. Thanks.”

So, you’ll be going off with Eneida, too, won’t you? What did she tell you? That she finishes at three? Don’t worry, Eneida, everything’s fine. It’s an absolute pleasure with the mop and broom for company and, it goes without saying, at three o’clock in the morning. Two handles are two handles, aren’t they? As you say, tía, no te quejes, que un mango es un mango1. Don’t worry, beauty2, Carmentxu will lock up, because she was born with small tits for a reason. How am I supposed to compete on the same level? You with that attractive cleavage between your two and me with my dried up raisins! You’re welcome to him, I don’t like that guy very much anyway. Not at all, almost. Don’t worry, beauty, Carmentxu will throw the last drunks out, just like those drunks throw up the last glass of wine; and she will hear their sticky, hung over, recycled words; and she’ll feel their fat hands on her buttocks. Yes, my dear, you’re right, on this soft, bottom full of cellulite that’s a fair bit bigger than yours.

“Carmentxu! You won’t mind if I clock off, will you? Have you seen that sculpture waiting for me outside? Mamma mia! Cheers, love, thanks. Lots of kisses. See you tomorrow! I’ll tell you all about it!

Of course you’ll tell me all about it, don’t worry. How could you not tell me, you lovely thing? You’ll delight in doing so as well. ‘He said I had the nicest pair of tits he’d ever seen, and that by the second rum and coke he knew he would go nuts if he didn’t spend the night with me, and the zip on his jeans had been hurting him all evening, and...’. It’s the same old story, isn’t it?

“Carmentxu, you won’t believe it! Do you remember that guy yesterday? Remember? Well, I spent the whole night with him, and you’ll never believe it. Do you know what he told me?”

“Not unless you tell me...”

“You won’t believe it, Carmentxu!”

“Let’s see if I can guess: he said you were pretty, that you had great tits, and you were getting him very worked up...”

“And whether I wanted to marry him! M. A. R. R. Y.! Bloody hell!”

“What? Marry? And... what did you tell him?”

“I stuffed my pants in his mouth and legged it. That’s what I told him.”

“That’s grown-ups’ stuff, Carmencita. You can’t understand that.” You told me exactly the same thing when the teacher of the last class didn’t turn up and I got home an hour earlier than usual. “Grown-ups’ stuff, kid.”

And I sobbed like a child, which was exactly what I was for you. I cried holding on to the one-eyed doll I had as a child, and more than anything else in the world I cherished the wish to be just like that doll. I wanted to have only one eye, and for that single one to be of plastic, so that I could not see anything. Not to see anything at all, nothing whatsoever, but, more than anything, not to see the milkman’s white hand on your bottom, mother, not on your bottom, mother, with the gold ring on his longest finger and everything.

And you couldn’t think of anything better to say. You said I wouldn’t understand. Of course, I wouldn’t understand! How was I supposed to understand, mother? What the hell was going on? On your bottom? But the worst thing was not you, mother, even though I hated you with all my being, skin, eyes and hair. The worst thing was the doorbell on Monday morning.

“Well? When are you going to marry me?”

I stared at the eggs piled on top of each other in the plastic bag and before he noticed I had kicked and broken one, two, thirteen eggs. He didn’t change a single word in the sentence. Not a syllable, after he had stroked my mother’s buttocks with his milk-white hands.

“Never! Do you understand!? Never! Not even if I learn to break eggs without using any hands at all! Never in a million years!” and I slammed the door two centimetres from his face.

I haven’t touched eggs since. Or milk, for that matter.

“What time do you get off work?”

Without looking up I turned my head in search of Eneida’s tits. I swear my liver squeezed against my kidneys when I did not see her. Eneida is in the storeroom... Were you talking to me?

“Were you talking to me?”

“Umm... I’m not pissed enough to start talking to a bottle of beer yet...

“At three, we close at three,”

“It just so happens that my house opens at exactly that time. See you later, Carmen.”

Carmen. He called me Carmen. Has he been asking round to find out my name? Has he gone to all that trouble for me? Until a sixty-year-old drunk said Carmen, bonita, ponme otra3 I did not realise about the little card we have pinned on our chests right in front of our tits. It’s normal; Eneida’s name is better known that the President’s in this bar. But... what the heck? Whether he knew my name or not, he had invited me round to his place! The two handles will be for Eneida today, the broom handle and the mop handle, one will do me just fine...

“Eneida, you don’t mind if I leave now, do you? You see that guy with his arm on the door? That tanned one. I’m going to his place.

“What?”

“That’s right, dear. Y no te quejes, que un mango es un mango!”4

And I heard the sound of my heels approaching the door, even though the music in the bar was blaring. I also felt my buttocks firm and higher above my legs than I ever had, even more when the guy put his hand on them and said let’s go.

OK, let’s go. He lives in the old quarter, alone, apparently got fed up with his pathetic flatmates.

“What a lovely place... And it’s all for you?

“Make yourself at home.”

Masses of books on history, philosophy and politics... a computer... Are you a writer? A powerful hi-fi system... Chavela Vargas’ disc on the table... Don’t tell me you like her, too... Black tulips in a glass vase... A framed poster of Chaplin... Do you want to make me fall in love?

“Do you want anything to eat, Carmen?”

And you’ve remembered my name! I haven’t got a card on my bust now!

“Err, well, I’m not bothered.”

“If I choose the music, will you get us something to eat in the meantime?. Have whatever you want out of the fridge, if you do me a small omelette... That would be great!”

Of course, I will. That and anything you want, my dear.

...Slow down everyone, you’re moving too fast5...

Jack Johnson. Of course, love. You’ve put the eggs tidily in the fridge, each one in its compartment. Will two be enough, my dear? I reckon so. Oh, my dear, you’ll never believe me, I’ve broken it with one hand. Shall we get married? You and me? I’ve done it with one hand, dear. Shall we?

“How’s that omelette coming along?”

“Great, absolutely delicious. Besides, I’ve broken the eggs with one hand and do you know what my mother used to say about that?

“What did she use to say?”

And you are sliding your mischievous hand under my skirt to my buttocks, you caress them the way I like it, dear. Squeeze harder...

You’ve got a ring on your longest finger.

1In Spanish in the original “Hey, don’t grumble, a handle is a handle.”
2In English in the original.
3In Spanish in the original.
4In Spanish in the original.
5In English in the original.

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