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For once.

Fortnightly Fiction.

By SUSANA MARTÍN GIJÓN.

Translated by Melissa Stewart.

I NEVER SHOULD have gotten caught up in finishing off that shirt. I never should have stopped to talk with Jennifer.  I never should have missed the number thirty-seven that leaves when the last shift comes out of the factory. When I got on the bus a little more than an hour later, the night had already taken on a dense darkness, just like the bus driver’s eyes, which fixated on me more time than necessary, looking me up and down with feigned disinterest, as if he had a piece of cold meat in front of him. I couldn’t keep a shudder from running down my spine.

But I didn’t recognize it, as did the woman who was the last one to get off the bus.  She stammered as she asked me to accompany her home, arguing that she couldn’t make it with her arthritis.  I excused myself, saying that I couldn’t get home any later.  My brother was waiting for me to prepare his food to take to the construction site. She tried to convince me, almost begging me.  When she realized that I wouldn’t change my mind, she gave me a strange look, somewhere between pity and incomprehension, descended the stairs of the bus with difficulty and faded away forever in the immense gloom that seemed to have closed down the world.

When the potholes in the road made me bounce, I started to imagine it.  When the vehicle stopped unexpectedly, I felt it coming.  When he got up from his seat with deliberately slow movements, I knew it with certainty. We were in the middle of nowhere, he and I.  He didn’t seem to be in a hurry; there was nothing that I could do, nobody to hear my screams for help. He came closer with a malicious smile curving his lips and taking pleasure in realizing the terror that was growing in me.  I was curling up on my seat like a baby that wants to return to her mother’s womb, where there is no danger lying in wait.   When he was a little over a meter away he stopped a few seconds in order to then throw himself forward in a charge like a savage animal capturing its prey. He grabbed me by the wrists and then I looked back at him: what I saw overwhelmed me with such disdain that I finally reacted. We struggled.  He probably weighed ninety kilos and me, no more than fifty. He blocked me with his left forearm, holding it against my windpipe and preventing me from breathing. I kicked frantically as I tried with little hope to free my arms from that mass that had me crushed into the cold floor.

They say that the Ciudad Juárez police never get there on time.  For once, they did. That woman had given them the bus information and insisted that they follow it.  I didn’t have time to get away.  In my clothing they found the sharpened sewing scissors, still covered in blood, that I had stuck in his neck with all my strength.  No, I wasn’t willing to disappear like my mother.


Susana Martín Gijón is President of the Extremadura Writers Association and the author of Progenie, a novel. Melissa Stewart is professor of Spanish at Western Kentucky University.

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