ISSN 2359-4101

Brazilian Literature in Translation / Literatura Brasileña en Traducción

Issue / Numero

year/año: 2012
issue/numero: # 01


Author | Autor: Luisa Geisler

Translated by Alex Forman

Eleven years old, the girl has forgotten the last time. She isn’t able to remember the last time she saw them calm like this. In the back seat, laughing, she removes her seat belt. The four of them chatting, just chatting. Arthur – without a seat belt, but with a tattoo on his arm and an O-ring in his ear – asks is she sleepy. As Clarissa stretches out against him to sleep, Arthur rests his head on the window. Eyes close. The car hums, parents talk, noise of the road, the smell of Arthur’s cigarettes and chamomile from the air freshener, the soft seat. Arthur’s bones protrude. The car hums, noise of the road, Arthur, bones protruding, a tattoo on his arm and a taper earring.
  The O-ring, eight-millimeter in circumference encircling space, empty circle in the earlobe. Clarissa was with Arthur when he tapered. Clarissa saw an enormous tattoo and piercing parlor, where everything shined, including bizarre people. Even the normal people were bizarre. Zebra fabric covered the seats in the waiting room. Rock – Clarissa would later learn: Light Green, progressive rock – played on the speakers. Tattoo drawings covered magazines and there were posters of cute boys with graphic lines on their thighs, flowers on their forearms, dragons at the nape of the neck, piercings in their ears, nipples, and everywhere else.
  The attendant had garlic breath, and her tattoo descended from her shoulder to her ring finger. While Arthur paid for the O-ring, she asked him if Clarissa was his daughter, tagging along. Arthur laughed. 
  — Don’t we look alike?
  The attendant looked at his face and then at hers.
  — The eyes are the same, especially the eyebrows. – She pointed to Clarissa’s face. — There too.
  Clarissa leaned back in the chair and admired Arthur.
  People went into the tattoo studio, and the attendant noted more physical
similarities, hair color, sloped shoulders, even some freckles were the same. She concluded: Daughter looks just like father. Arthur and Clarissa let it pass. They didn’t let her know that Arthur was only seven when Clarissa was born: the attendant really should check ID before accepting clients, right? As far as they knew, they were cousins. They had fun convincing her that they were indeed father and 
daughter. Before going in for his tattoo, Arthur looked at Clarissa.
  — Don’t you want one, too?
  Clarissa took her time: What? But, Arthur laughed.
  — I can authorize it, as your father. Want a taper piercing too?
  Clarissa shook her head before giving it another thought. If she asked herself did she want a tattoo or a piercing, her head denied it. Arthur smiled, kissed her on the forehead. The tattoo artist was calling them into the room.   Barely had he finished sterilizing the area, when Clarissa heard him ask if she was Arthur’s daughter. Clarissa and Arthur looked at each other: yes. The tattooist pulled his mask over his face.
  — She’s not getting one today?
  A warm breeze blew in the open window with street noise. The tattooist conveyed confidence. Even though the room was filled with heavy metal posters and junk, trash films, porn, animated adult drawings, and pop culture up the wazoo, Clarissa thought it looked like a doctor’s office with a lot of personality. There was a bed, like in any doctor’s office. There was a reclining chair, like at the dentist. The tattooist had a side table on wheels, where all his tools were laid out. Utensils that he wiped with alcohol. Over the tools, was a piece of paper that the doctor-artist would later throw away. White tiles covered the floor, just like at the dentist....
  Clarissa observed from where she sat.
  The tattooist used a pen to mark the place he would pierce the ear. He passed a little straw through the lobe with one of the dentist’s tools (a little needle, like a metal tooth pick, she concluded). He changed needles. The needles thickened each time. She closed her eyes, listening to the tattooist and tattooed talking, listening to the tools move, smell of alcohol. She could feel and hear the side table go back and forth. She was relieved to see the last of the needles was the size of a pencil, and, no, nothing, nothing bled.
  At the market, on the way back to the apartment, Clarissa saw only the vacuum in the middle of the earlobe. Arthur, a basket hanging from his arm, looked at the shelf. He chose some cotton, antiseptic soap, liquid soap, and assured Clarissa that it didn’t hurt. Clarissa dropped a package of biscuits in the basket: not even a little bit? Arthur made a face. — Not even a little.
  Clarissa had her doubts, as they waited in the cashier’s line she kept asking if it didn’t hurt even a tiny, tiny bit.   Clarissa was in doubt all the way to the apartment, she kept asking, cracking herself up. They spoke of other things, but she didn’t believe him. She saw the sun set while they waited at the bus stop.
  They dined on biscuits just after Clarissa fed the cat.
  Arthur talked about school, about one or another activity or teacher. Clarissa played with the cat while listening to his stories. She knew that Arthur cut class. He used school just to get out of the house. If Augusto and Lorena also knew this, Clarissa saw them accept Arthur with the same look of regret and silence.
  She heard Arthur telling a story about a quiz in chemistry with questions for the college entrance exam. She heard him saying that the professor spoke highly of him, and Clarissa concluded that the praise was the reason for the conversation. Yes, he wants to impress her; yes, he knows that Clarissa went through his school things and saw his report cards.
  Comments about chemistry still floated in the air when Arthur began watching the soccer game and Clarissa played with Zazzles. Two years earlier, after seeing a documentary on strays, abandoned cats and dogs, and kennels, Clarissa spent weeks insisting on a cat. Years and pounds-gained later, she stilled cuddled and mewed like a tiny and fragile kitten. Zazzles, the white stray kitty with large splotches of orange on her back, wore a red velvet collar.
  Clarissa rolled from one side to another and filled the room with hair and meows and the smell of cat, ignoring the sounds of the game when she heard the door open. The parents crossed the living room talking to each other; heading to their bedroom to deposit coats and bags.
  — Haven’t I already told you... — the mother began upon returning. The father turned to Arthur to talk about the game. Clarissa, seated on the floor with Zazzles on her lap, said:
  — But what time is it?
  — Past midnight – the mother said — Clarissa.
  In the parallel conversation, the father leaned into Arthur’s face.
  — I like it. I really like it, kid. I think it’s cool – the father said. – But didn’t it hurt? Clarissa and the mother stopped.   Lorena, Clarissa’s mother, turned to Arthur. He was still speaking:
  — ...Clarissa also wanted to know; no, it wasn’t anything...
  Lorena frowned and, as if making a calculation, came in close to his face. —What didn’t hurt, Arthur? — Lorena asked.
  —The O-ring — and, Arthur pointed to the O-ring in his ear, the hole in his ear with a silver frame.
  Lorena inhaled and exhaled, inhaled and exhaled. Augusto – husband to Lorena, father to Clarissa – walked up to her and held her in his arms. Lorena finished to exhale.
  — And with whom did you leave Clarissa while you were doing that?
  Clarissa played with Zazzles soft fur.
  — I went with him, Mom. — Lorena sat down on the other sofa, next to the
one on which Arthur sat, crossed her arms. Zazzles hair floated around the room.
  — I don’t think it was cool – Augusto said – to take Clarissa with you, Arthur, without telling us.
  Arthur focused his eyes on the 52-inch Widescreen 3D Ready Full HD Internet LED TV, and Clarissa was certain that he would soon say: "Hey, guys! Shhh! I’m watching here." Clarissa let Zazzles go, and the cat fled to purr against Lorena’s shins.
  — Arthur, you know that your mother doesn’t pay for you to live here – Lorena shooed the cat away with her leg don’t you know? Arthur adjusted himself on the sofa and took his eyes off the 52-inch Widescreen 3D Ready   Full HD Internet LED TV, facing Augusto, now facing Lorena: Yes, he knew.
  — If you know it — Lorena said — then I would like you tell me, in a word... Who do you think you are to take our daughter to... — I think ... — Arthur said.
  — Arthur.... — Lorena stopped. She continued, softening her voice, to say to Clarissa: — Baby, why don’t you go to your room? Clarissa wanted to listen, wanted to stay; it was about her. Lorena said it was late. Clarissa insisted. She got up, picked Zazzles up off the floor, and before she could sit down again, Lorena confronted her: it was late. How about, Clarissa, at least put on pajamas and come back to the room? 
   Clarissa, mute, ran to put on pajamas, without thinking which one to wear or in what combination. From the street floated conversations and the barks of a dog. Clarissa took off her dirty clothes in her room, and Lorena looked at Arthur.
  — Everything was fine before you came.
  Arthur laughed. Clarissa heard only the noise of her pants coming off, she heard the street, she heard her room.
  — Everything? — Arthur asked.
  — I thought that... — Lorena looked at the ground, almost sighing. With her head still down, she said
   — You’re not a good influence, you know?
   — Your daughter spent the whole day locked in her room, before I came, a ten year old without friends — Arthur looked into Lorena’s eyes. – This was my influence?
  — She was eleven – Lorena said.
  What? — Arthur frowned. Clarissa emerged from the room in pajamas that smelled of softener. From the corridor, she saw Arthur look at the ground and say: 
   — Eleven years old — Clarissa was quiet. Seeing but not hearing. Breathing so silently that she suffocated herself for a few seconds.
  Augusto went to the kitchen. Lorena got up, Arthur got up. Lorena still looked at him, to say in a low voice, — You still didn’t tell me who you think you are to come and go out of someone else’s house, putting this... — Clarissa only heard whispers coming from her mother, a low static shhshshsahblaeesasahsh – this crap in you and think you can preach to other people’s children. Arthur, you are just a new toy to her. You’re nobody here. Not anymore.
  From the kitchen, slowly began to emerge noises from cupboard drawers and a refrigerator door opening and closing, an oven lighting. While Lorena walked to the kitchen, Clarissa was seen by her mother, who told her to go to sleep.
  Arthur followed Clarissa through the corridor and passed his hand through her light brown sweaty hair. The smell of grilled steaks flowed from the kitchen.
  It was true that Arthur took Clarissa to his friends’ homes, who swore, who played video-games, who taught Clarissa to play violent video-games, who ate junk food all day, who drank liquor, who smoked, who would go outside to shoot at cans and animals, who played soccer, who fought among themselves, who descended the toughest hills on skateboards or bicycles, who had gone to the emergency room in the middle of the month. But Clarissa didn’t drink and didn’t shoot; she had fun.
  It was true that, because of Arthur, Clarissa only played with Zazzles at night, but she still played with her. It was true that, because of Arthur, Clarissa left the house for reasons other than school, swimming, and piano lessons.   Arthur would insist, fight for Clarissa to go out. It was true that at times she didn’t understand. Sometimes Arthur would leave her alone with people she didn’t know, taking a girl by the hand, saying that he would come right back, to only return at the end of the afternoon. Sometimes, strangers said things to Clarissa, offering, inviting. It was true that some of these strangers interested her more than others, sometimes. Clarissa didn’t like it, but always liked it. It was true that she didn’t always go, didn’t want to go, asked Arthur to leave her alone. She didn’t want to go out, but, when she was there, she loved being there. On the street. She laughed at Arthur kissing girls in front her, how gross. Laughed at the jokes, at some older friend, at the drinking games, at soccer, at skates, at poker, and she’d ask herself what she would have done at home if she had not gone.
  Arthur’s persistence irritated her, but she liked for him to be right.
  Arthur persisted with her and perhaps this is what Clarissa liked.
  At the door to Arthur’s room, Clarissa became interested in the piercing. It wasn’t a piercing, Arthur corrected: an O-ring. They spoke about the O-ring, how to keep it clean, the acquired Q-tips. Clarissa asked if she could spend some time in Arthur’s room before going to bed. He shook his head. Clarissa understood: not that night. 
   In the car, however, on that Christmas day that took them to the city of the grandparents, the aunts, the cousins, Clarissa can spend as much time as she wants with and about Arthur. The car hums, parents talk, noise of the road, the smell of Arthur’s cigarettes and chamomile from the air freshener, the soft seat, Arthur of protruding bones. 

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