The novel is three stories in one: the story of an orphan destined to live a Quixotic life in search of adventure; the life of a man who will forever be in love with the fantasy of a woman; and the almost true story of the once prosperous town of Tula, whose mountain location make it inaccessible to both trains and modernity in spite of the hopeful construction of Tula Station. Intelligent and subtle, Tula Station is a striking mix of old and new.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.47(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.76(d)|
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Juan Capistrán asked to be bathed early in the morning and perfumed with some lotion, perhaps to conceal the rancid odor of his flesh. They did not offer him much to choose from, and he made do with a bottle of toilet water. As he awkwardly poured it on his chest, Sister Guadalupe asked:
"Do you want me to comb your hair?"
"I can do it myself."
She opened the window, and the gentle hum of the street became a roar of cars and trucks, steps of people hurrying by, voices selling newspapers and fried pork rind. Along with the noise came a burning wind that, little by little, broke up the humidity in the room and that asphixiating sensation of being next to a chamber pot.
"Are you going to make the call for me?"
"Yes, Señor Capistrán. Right away."
The woman pushed the wheelchair over to the mirror. He picked up the comb and, with a steadiness that the other old folks envied, parted his hair on the left side, and he moved the comb through his hair over and over, as if he wanted to break open his head. In the reflection of the mirror he saw El Tuerto coming toward him, with his short, dragging steps.
"What happened, Juan? Did they already call your relative?"
"Not yet. This woman is making me beg."
She looked at the two men reproachfully and left the room.
"Just tell him who I am, and that I need to see him today, that it's amatter of life or death."
But Sister Guadalupe did not stop to listen to the same instructions he had repeated so often since the night before.
With a wave of his hand he asked El Tuerto to leave him alone.
"You'll let me know?"
The viejo Capistrán nodded and wheeled himself over to the window. He looked out at the faces of all the women who were walking by without noticing him; he watched them from the moment they turned the corner of Madero and Reforma streets until the wall and the bars on his window reminded him of the limits of his surroundings. With each one that passed, he lost the hope of finding Carmen.
Sister Guadalupe returned and scarcely dared to enter the room. Juan Capistrán turned his head and waited a minute in silence, as he worked up the courage to ask:
"Did you talk to him?"
"And what did he say?"
She stood behind him. Placing her hands on his shoulders, she began to rub them gently, affectionately. She stopped after a while when she felt something similar to desire in her fingers, something that came to her not through her senses but through her memory.
"He said he didn't know any Juan Capistrán."
* * *
Fernanda slowly closed the poetry book. Her uncle had been breathing heavily for a while now and was surely asleep. She finished reciting the final lines, her voice tapering off so as to avoid an abrupt silence, changing the words if her memory failed her. She stopped the waving to scare off the flies that were hovering around her uncle's purulent leg, and she covered it with a blanket.
"What happened, Fernanda?" He opened his eyes.
"Nothing, tío. I was just leaving."
"What do you mean early, it's already growing dark."
"Then stay here tonight."
"No, they must be waiting for me at home by now."
"Okay, but don't leave without preparing a cafecito for me."
Reluctantly, Fernanda went to the kitchen. When she left the room, her uncle raised his head to look at her calves.
She returned after a while with the steaming cup in one hand and a small container of milk in the other. She placed them on the table next to the bed and said good-bye.
"Don't get used to these visits. They are just until your leg gets better."
Outside, the trees were filled with motionless birds, and the buzz of cicadas floated in the air. Fernanda picked up her pace, worried not about the possible dangers of the night, but rather about the scolding she would surely receive from her mother. Waking up, eating, and sleeping were governed by the clock in the entrance hall or the calls of the horero, the hour man; for returning home, the sun was the rule. That's why she hated the short winter days that locked her inside before five o'clock in the afternoon. In the distance she could make out the dim glow of Tula, and she thought she could even see her bedroom window.
At the intersection with the road to the Hacienda del Chapulín, she heard someone approaching. She immediately remembered her mother's warnings about the risks of walking alone. She did not want to turn around; she clenched the book in her hand in a defensive instinct. The rest happened so fast that, in later dreams, it would seem like merely a stumble.
A hand grabbed her hair, stopping her. The strong smell of mescal combined with the sensation of cold sweat running down her face. "Nothing is happening," she told herself, but a voice that spoke to her in English pulled her back to reality.
"What do you want?" she asked.
He smiled, his mouth coming closer and closer. He took the top off a bottle and emptied it onto the girl's face, back, and chest. On the verge of crying, she closed her eyes and the book fell to the ground.
When she finally arrived home, she saw the condition of her dress under the lamp in the doorway. She went inside without greeting anyone and ran upstairs.
"This is no time to be getting home."
"Maricela came looking for you three times. She said you had made plans to teach her some kind of weaving stitch."
"How rude. Not even a hello!"
"How is your uncle doing?"
"Don't think I didn't realize you were trying on one of my dresses."
Fernanda collapsed onto the bed. She needed an excuse to cry, because she would not give that man in the road even the hint of swollen eyes. She remembered the poetry book and cried uncontrollably when she realized it was lost forever in that world to which she no longer belonged, the world of beautiful verses, of her parents at the table, of her sister with longer and longer braids, of Maricela who came looking for you, of two rights and a wrong.
"Mija, come down right now. Your dinner is getting cold."
* * *
I am getting used to waking up at nine or ten, without rushing, looking out happily at the avenue and seeing people distressed by the minute hand on their watch, by a traffic light, by a newspaper headline.
The same thing used to happen to me when I had to wake up at six and run to the office and prepare all the answers to my bosses' questions. "Why did polyester scrap rise by three percent?" "How many tons of nylon can we get from these machines?" "Why are maintenance costs so high?" "How many workers can we lay off if we make said process more efficient?" With a little experience I found out that in business the truth is not what people want but rather answers that do not inconvenience anyone. Back then I not only wrote fiction for the literary page of the newspaper, but also for the advisory boards, memorandums, and production reports.
Patricia now looks at me sadly, as if she were looking at an unemployed man in the middle of grieving for that lost paycheck, for that world full of safety in which every day a hundred or a thousand coworkers exchange good mornings, where Japan is the anointed nation ("We have to be more like them or we're screwed"), where they talk about Juran as if they were talking about Kafka. "Have you read Managerial Breakthrough?" "Yes, it's a great book."
"What do you want for breakfast?" Patricia asked me.
The morning shower became a ritual. It no longer represented an act of cleansing but rather of stretching: a time to free the mind and capture the ideas that can be taken from dreams before the nature of real life blurs them.
"I don't care," I responded. The water dripped onto the floor as I looked for a towel.
"They're in the top drawer."
Ever since I'd arrived with the envelope containing my severance pay in hand, Patricia has become more affectionate and takes care of all the household chores. She says it's because she loves me; I know she is preparing herself for the end. When the money runs out, she will be able to say that she never neglected her responsibilities, she will be able to blame me for everything, and I won't have anything to blame her for.
"By the way," she shouted from the kitchen, "they called again from the old folks home."
"And what did you tell them?"
"The same thing."
And she will be able to force me to stop writing little stories and look for a real job, one with a paycheck every two weeks, a Christmas bonus, and a savings plan. "Like before," and she will say that before with the taste of a paradise lost.
That is why I only told her half of the story.