Fiction
Fiction

For Guayama

Luis Negrón, translated by Suzanne Jill Levine


 

Sammy:

 

First of all excuse my handwriting since I didn’t bring my glasses. It’s just that, nene, I’m going nuts with Guayama being sick and all, I mean I’m really losing it. That’s why I’ve been looking for you, so you could pay me for the curtains because with this Guayama thing I’m low on cash. I know you depend on your customers to pay me, but Guayama is dying on me. The doctor told me I had to put her to sleep and, nene, I almost fainted. They even had to rouse me with ammonia on a cotton ball and everything because I got so dizzy. He knows about cases like this and was real nice. He made me tell him how I found her and I explained that taking a drive around the island I picked her up in the middle of the highway right after the Guayama toll booth, hence the name. Last night I left her in the doctor’s office so she could rest, but tomorrow they’re going to give her the injection. When I got home, it felt so empty and I felt so afraid of being alone that I said: no, I’m not going to lose her. I immediately got on the Internet and found a place out there where they can stuff her. They say they leave the hair as if she were alive. You know that beautiful coat Guayama has. That’s why I need the dough. Call me, nene, I need the money.

 

Your friend,

Naldi

 

***

 

Sammy:

 

It’s the second time I’ve come to your house to leave you a note and I can’t find you. And on top of that, here’s the note I left you yesterday. Nene, come on, call me or come by the house because I need that money urgently. Not for me but for Guayama, the doctor is pressuring me because she’s suffering too much. The people who do the embalming are ready to take her but I need the money to send her little body over. It’s really expensive. I’m so desperate I called Héctor, who as you know I haven’t spoken to for over a year ever since he called me a pimp right in front of my sister, to ask him to lend me the money to tide me over until you paid me. A lot of good it did me to humiliate myself: that queen told me I was crazy, that it’s the sort of thing only sick people do, which is why he stopped talking to me in the first place, and twenty thousand other things I won’t even mention. That’s why I need the money urgently. Call me, please.

 

Your Friend,

Naldi

 

***

 

Sammy:

 

They put Guayama to sleep this morning. I felt, nene, like I can’t even say. Total despair. You can’t let too much time pass after death to send her, but the doctor insisted and we did it. I was there to make sure, like the people who dry them out recommend—they have a name for that but I don’t remember—that they not add any chemicals with color so as not to damage the fur, since it looks nicer that way. I felt sad but since I know I’ll have her with the money from you for the curtains, well I wasn’t so affected by it. I wondered so much about where you were I didn’t have to be sad. This work costs money. I’ve got her all wrapped up in the freezer at the bodega next door, since for the lady it’s no problem as long as she gets her cuartos, as she says. No questions asked. But, imagine, today they sent me a DVD from the company and you should see people with their little dogs, playing with them like they’re alive. I’m telling you I’m desperate but here are the other two notes I left you before. Nene, where are you? The neighbor said you’re in Santo Domingo. Knowing you, I’m not surprised.

 

Naldi

 

***

 

Sammy:

 

I see now that you really are in Santo Domingo. Your landlord just confirmed it for me. In fact, he told me exactly where you are. You’ll see. I need that cash and if you read this note I’m in Santo Domingo, since you know I get free trips because my sister works for American.

 

Naldi

 

***

 

Sammy:

 

As you can see from the stationary this note is on, I’m in your hotel but you’re not in your chamber, as they say here. I need you to communicate with me ASAP. It’s urgent. I’m also telling you I had to charge my room to your account. You can take it off the bill for the curtains. I’m desperate. Listen: when I mentioned your name here in the hotel, everyone understood what the situation was right away and they’ve showered me with propositions, but I can’t put those on your bill. Besides, I’m in no mood for that with Guayama in that freezer in Santurce.

 

I’m waiting for you.

 

Naldi

 

***

 

Sammy:

 

I’m going to a town called Azua. After I told the girl at the counter what happened to me, she told me she had an uncle who stuffs animals. I’m going to see how they look because he has a showroom. If you come back, don’t leave. Tell the people at the counter to connect you to Yasrelis’s cell phone because we’re here together. I’ll come right back to the hotel today. Don’t leave.

 

Naldi

 

***

 

Sammy:

 

I’m back at the hotel and not even a note from you. They haven’t heard from you. I’m leaving for Puerto Rico but I’m coming back in two days. I went to Azua and I liked the work the man does there. They can change the eyeballs to any color you want. They gave me a massage and I put it on your bill. I’ll tell you about it later. This place is paradise. When I get to Puerto Rico a cousin of the guy who stuffs the animals is going to pick me up and he’s going to come with me to the bodega to pick up Guayama and get her ready for the trip back. I think they cover her in some salts or something like that. Since I can’t count on you for the money I’m going to pawn some jewelry mami had been saving in case I ever gave her a granddaughter. But what better granddaughter than Guayama? I’ll be back here with the dog in two days. I’m so excited I can’t wait to get there!

 

Naldi

 

***

 

My dear “friend” Sammy:

 

I’m writing this letter from jail. Yeah, imprisoned like a criminal for having friends like you. If only you could see me. I’m all shaved and dressed up like a woman. I’ve got a husband they made me choose as soon as they figured out what the situation was. He couldn’t be more common. It’s humiliating. I need your help urgently. I gotta have the money for the curtains to pay my lawyer. The Azua thing was one big lie. As soon as I got to Puerto Rico the supposed cousin took Guayama to “get her ready.” What he did was fill her with social security cards, birth certificates, and even passports. They caught me at the airport. It’s a federal offense and I’m locked away for identity theft, smuggling documents, illegal appropriation, and God knows what else. Please, send the money to the lawyer because my sister won’t even answer my calls. Guayama is in the freezer in the federal building. Now she’s evidence. When the lawyer clears everything up and I’m free to go, they have to return her to me. I found out from a friend of my prison husband about a guy in Santurce who stuffs animals. I’m telling you, nene, practically next door. If only I’d known. Give me the money for the curtains, please, if not for me, at least do it for Guayama, please.

 

Naldi

 

 


 

"For Guayama" is from Luis Negrón's first book to be published in English, the short story collection Mundo Cruel, published by Seven Stories Press.

 

 



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Photo credit: Eny Roland Hernández

 

"For Guayama" is from Luis Negrón's first book to be published in English, the short story collection Mundo Cruel, out from Seven Stories Press in March 2013. Luis Negrón was born in the city of Guayama, Puerto Rico, in 1970. He is coeditor of Los otros cuerpos, an anthology of queer writing from Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican diaspora. The original Spanish language edition of Mundo Cruel, first published in Puerto Rico in 2010 by Editorial La Secta de Los Perros, then by Libros AC in subsequent editions, is now in its fifth printing, and was recently put out as an ebook. It has never before appeared in English. Negrón lives in Santurce, Puerto Rico.

 

Read an interview with Luis Negrón here.

 

Suzanne Jill Levine’s many translations include the works of Guillermo Cabrera Infante and Manuel Puig. She is the editor of the Penguin Classics Jorge Luis Borges series and author of The Subversive Scribe: Translating Latin American Fiction. She is winner of the 2012 PEN Center USA Literary Award for her translation of José Donoso’s The Lizard’s Tale.

 

This story was published in Issue 12 of The Literarian