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Aira 2: Feet

Here’s what happened: the ceiling fan that was spinning above us broke from its mounting and fell on the bed, and since it was going at full speed, its heavy metal blades (it was an old one – the new ones have plastic blades) cut off our feet. I’m not saying it “cut” our feet, but rather that it chopped them off at the ankles. Four feet, her two and my two, fell on the floor like four pink rats. It was a terrible disaster. The first thing I thought was that I really deserved it. To save a few pesos, which I would end up spending frivolously anyway, I had chosen this zero-star hotel instead of going to one like a normal person would, one with air conditioning. I don’t think it was just greed, though, rather just limitations in my thinking, because for me the unusual luck of going to bed with Florencia was all the luxury I could conceive of at the moment.

The shock after the mutilation didn’t stop me from taking action. I’m somebody who is paralyzed by a lot less, but inside of us there must be latent forces that go into action when something serious enough happens. I quickly sat up and looked. From our interrupted ankles, from our veins and arteries, the blood was gushing out. Something had to be done! It’s funny how the blood didn’t bother me much. I knew that in cases of mutilation the important thing is to act right away, before the living tissues reject each other. Poor me! I tried to stand up. Of course I fell down – I didn’t have any feet. But as I fell I was grabbing at the feet; they were right there, within reach. It sounds strange: I could pick my own feet up off the floor, and my lover’s feet too. I doubt many people have had this experience. You could almost say they were made to be picked up, swung like a club … How strange it would have been to “kick” somebody with a foot brandished like this. I noticed that they were still warm, just as warm as my hand holding them.

Not that all this went through my mind at that very moment; time had not stopped. Those were some frantic milliseconds. The fact is that there was no need to be in such a rush, and later I had reason to regret bitterly doing it. I had heard that if you put it back right away, a mutilated limb will reattach, through a sort of magnetization of the cells, which when they join stick with an incredible eagerness. So I took the feet to the bloody stumps … the human mind is unfathomable. At least it never ceases to amaze me. Then, in spite of my hurry, my desperation, I thought to myself, “I hope I get the left foot on the left, and the right on the right, or else I’ll end up bow-legged. I’ll be a monster for the rest of my life!” I had time to think about that, but not enough to make sure I was putting them on properly. It's easy enough: all you have to do is make sure the big toes are on the inside. Luckily, I got it right. I don’t even want to think about what it would have been like had I mixed them up.

I didn’t stop to see if they were connecting, because my mind was on something else: Florencia. How selfish! What kind of gentleman was I? It wasn’t right to worry only about myself. But really, it wasn’t so bad, because Florencia was really in shock. By the time I got my feet put back on, she had hardly started to scream.

“Don’t worry!” I cried, which was pretty absurd, given the circumstances. But I didn't have time to choose my words carefully. “We can fix this. Hold still, Indonesia, in just a second I’ll put them back on.”

“Ayyy!!!”

“Don’t shout! They’re going to think that I’m doing something bad to you… There we are… There.”

And yes, they had stuck. This time I made sure the left foot was on the left leg and the right foot on the right. It seemed to me that it turned out pretty well. “They’re back on.” Making up for my initial lack of courtesy, I paid attention only to her and forgot about myself. That turned out to be good, because without even noticing it, I had stood up, and the weight of my body finished the job. When I noticed it, I had her stand up too and I helped her take a few steps.

“You see? It was nothing.”

“Ayyy.”

“Does it hurt?”

“No, no.” She had her eyes half-closed, those marvelous eyes that had lived with me without me even realizing it. “Not really, no. But they do feel weird.”

“It won’t last.”

I had gotten over the shock. Finally, I could look at the room. It was a holocaust, with the broken fan on the bed, the blood-soaked sheets and rug, and blood was splattered on the walls, and even the ceiling. And the two of us standing, naked and pale (I saw us in the mirror). I felt a little strange, but didn’t say anything. We both felt strange. It was something indefinable. For some reason I felt guilty, even though a few minutes earlier I thought that I would feel like a hero. To hide that fact, I showed righteous indignation with the hotel.

“How irresponsible! That fan was a dangerous weapon. It could have killed us! We should sue!”

Of course we didn’t. We left without saying a word, arm in arm, taking small steps, as if walking on eggshells. And we never went back to that hotel. After that, we went to a different one.


(translation of a part of chapter XI of César Aira's Un sueño realizado. Later in the novel we find out that he had put one of Florencia's feet on himself, and one of his feet on her.)

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