While the Women are Sleeping

While the Women are Sleeping by Javier Marías

Book: While the Women are Sleeping by Javier Marías Read Free Book Online
Authors: Javier Marías
time ago, of having fulfilled a wish (someone else’s wish), while, in the background, I could hear distant sounds of Marta taking a shower. After a while, my wife, Marta, emerged from the bathroom wearing her pink robe and with her hair still wet. She was lit from behind by the light from the still steamy bathroom. She sat down on the floor at my feet and rested her damp head on my lap. After a few seconds, I said:
    ‘Shouldn’t you dry yourself off? You’re making my coat and trousers wet.’
    ‘I’m going to make all of you wet,’ she said and revealed that she was naked beneath her bathrobe. We were both now lit by the distant light from the bathroom.
    That night, I was happy because my wife, Marta, was both lascivious and imaginative, whispering sweet nothings to me, and she didn’t yawn once, in short, I was satisfied with her alone. I’ll never forget that. It hasn’t happened since. It was a night of love. No, it hasn’t happened again.
    A few days later, I received the long-awaited fourth letter. I still haven’t dared to open it, and sometimes I feel tempted simply to tear it up and never read it. This is partly because I think I know and fear what the letter will say; unlike the previous three addressed to me, it smells slightly of cologne, a cologne I have not forgotten and that I know well. I haven’t experienced another night of love, which is why, precisely because it hasn’t happened again, I sometimes have the odd sense that, on that one night, I betrayed my father or that my wife, Marta, betrayed me with him (perhaps because we gave each other fictitious names and created lives that were not our own), although the truth is that on that night, in our apartment, in the dark, lying on her bathrobe, only Marta and I were there. Just Marta and me.
    I haven’t experienced another night of love nor have I ever again felt that she alone could satisfy me, and so I still go to prostitutes, who are increasingly expensive and increasingly nervous. Perhaps I should try transvestites. Not that I really care, it doesn’t worry me and won’t last, although it might for a while. Sometimes I find myself thinking that, when the time comes, it would be easiest and most convenient if Marta were to die first, because that way I could bury her in the place in the vault that was left vacant. That way, I wouldn’t have to explain why I’ve changed my mind, because now I would prefer to be cremated; in fact, under no circumstances do I want to be buried. On the other hand—I surprise myself thinking—I don’t know that I would gain much from that because my father will have taken his place, my place, next to Mercedes, for all eternity. When I’m cremated—I surprise myself thinking—I’ll have to bump off my father, although I don’t know how you can bump off someone who’s already dead. Sometimes I wonder if the letter I haven’t yet opened says something quite different from what I imagine and fear, whether it offers me a solution, whether she perhaps expresses a preference for me. Then I think: ‘How absurd. We’ve never even met.’ I look at the letter, sniff it, turning it over in my hands, and always end up hiding it away again, still unopened.
    (1989)

lord rendall’s song
    For Julia Altares who has not yet discovered me
    James Ryan Denham (1911—1943), born in London and educated at Cambridge, was one of the ill-starred talents of the Second World War, The son of a well-to-do family he embarked on a diplomatic career that took him to Burma and India (1934—1937). His known literary work is scant and hard to come by consisting of five now unobtainable books, all published in private editions, since it would seem he never considered this activity to be anything more than a hobby. He was a friend of both Malcolm Lowry whom he had met at university and of the famous art collector Edward James, and he himself came to own a fine collection of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century French

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