EXERPT 5 FROM MY NOVEL “ARK”
After Ramirez left Carlos sent everyone home.
Marie Carmen protested, saying that she wanted to clean the bathroom but Carlos told her that he would do it himself. She then complained that he had never so much as cleaned a cup so how on earth would he manage to clean a bathtub.
‘I don’t expect you to understand my love’ he said to her holding her gently by her broad muscular and fleshy shoulders, ‘but this is something I have to do myself. I owe it to Miguel.’
She did not answer but simply looked back at him with her typical doleful open mouthed expression.
‘Now you be a good girl Marie Carmen and go home and get some rest. I’ll follow just as soon as I’ve finished here. I’ll clean the bath and then I’ll phone Jorge and Moisés and then I’ll walk home. Then we can start arranging the funeral and the wake.’
Carlos saw her to the door and watched her large form silhouetted against the early evening autumn sky waddle away heavily down Loli’s immaculate narrow path.
He watched her with that same mixture of affection and pity that had characterised his attitude to her for most of their forty years together.
Still, he thought it was better what he felt for her now than when their two families had forced them together in matrimony all those years ago, even though she had at least been slim and pretty then.
But it had never been her looks that had bothered him nor her considerable dowry. It was the fact that she was so intellectually backward and dull; an ‘idiot’ in fact, as he had complained bitterly to his father when the wedding was announced.
‘So, you’ll educate her!’ his father would respond laughing.
‘But she’s not educable Father, she’s verging on being retarded…’
‘What the hell do you care if she’s retarded? She’s about to make you rich!’
‘But I can’t discuss anything with her. She doesn’t understand anything I say…’
‘So what? Wives aren’t meant for discourse! They’re for child rearing and for cooking your meals and keeping your home. If you need to chat, do it with your colleagues and your friends. You can even find educated whores who will listen to what you have to say, just so long as you pay them.’
‘I don’t love her father, I don’t even like her.’
‘Please Carlos—be sensible about this. Be content that you’re getting an attractive and wealthy young wife. For goodness sake boy, at least she isn’t ugly! If she was ugly I might have some sympathy with you, but this? This is a dream marriage—one of Malaga’s most eligible girls wedding Malaga’s—and perhaps Spain’s—most promising young scientist’
‘And anyway Carlos, you’ll learn to like her, I guarantee it. You might even come to love her in time.’
With time Carlos’ feelings for Marie Carmen did indeed change but not quite in the way his father had predicted. He never grew to love her, or even like her but familiarity and regular and comfortable sex made him feel a tenderness towards her that evolved over the years. So much so, that even as childbirth took its toll on her body and she gradually grew into the broad shape typical of most Malagueña matrons his tenderness merely faded into a kind of protective compassion.
The only blip in his ‘virtual matrimonial idyll’ (as he described it wryly to himself) occurred several years later when his youngest brother Miguel, with barely a raised eyebrow from their father married the girl of his choice; Gloria Hernandez.
‘But you’re our first born Carlos’ their father would say whenever the subject was broached.
‘Little Miguel is not my heir—you are. And in any case, his Loli is from a good Madrid family—no money worries there. He has done well for himself. But with you, we had to be certain. You were a loose cannon and we couldn’t take a chance.’ And then he would pause for a moment before adding with sublime insensitivity; ‘It’s funny how things work out isn’t it Carlos? You, the brainy one of the family wedded to a dimwit and Miguel, the dimwit of the family married to one of the brightest and most talented girls in Madrid. Ha!’ Then he would walk off, chortling at his own sense of irony.
But it was not so much the relative injustice of the two unions that irked Carlos as it was the painful fact that he fell in love with Loli the instant Miguel first introduced her to the family in Malaga.
The moment she walked into the large sitting room of the Garcia house, slightly ahead of Miguel, full of purpose and self-assurance he knew that she was everything that Marie Carmen was not.
Loli was petite, with the bearing, poise and physique of a classical dancer, with pert breasts, a narrow waist, toned bottom and lean athletic legs. Her short jet black hair cut immaculately, framing a small but elegantly sculpted face oozing intelligence with every glance of her large green eyes.
The fact that later in the evening she entertained the family at the piano with the skill of a young Rubenstein and that she was charming and attentive towards Marie Carmen throughout and that she was his little brother’s girl all conspired to make Carlos thoroughly enchanted and miserable in equal measure. And while the passage of time helped him come to terms with his marriage to Marie Carmen it did nothing to temper his feelings of love and desire towards his sister in law.
Not that there was anything he ever would have done to assuage these feelings, even if Loli had been ‘available’ which she most definitely was not. The idea of betraying Miguel and jeopardising their good relationship was abhorrent to him.
Ultimately Carlos learned to channel his feelings for Loli into his fantasies, both when alone and when having sex with Marie Carmen. Then later, when he got tenure at the University of Madrid and they began to see Miguel and Loli practically every weekend and holiday he found an even more effective way of sublimating his desire. He embarked upon a long series of affairs; at first, mostly with secretaries, but later in the 50’s and 60’s, as more girls joined the faculty, with students, and occasionally the odd colleague.
Somehow, through all of this Marie Carmen remained none the wiser. Either because she was not sufficiently mentally alert to understand and interpret all the many oversights and faux-pars that Carlos made; such as the scent of perfume on his clothes, lipstick on his collars, dried semen stains around his flies, on his underwear and most typically, him calling her by the name of his current fling; or that he somehow managed to part with all of his girlfriends on amicable terms so that none of them ever “made trouble” for him. So it was, that evening, alone at last in his brother’s house when he entered the bathroom Carlos had the feeling he was about to embark upon an act of penance.
He stood for a moment looking down at the bath now drained of water. Almost the entire tub, except for two oval patches where Loli’s buttocks had been pressed against the enamel was stained with a dark maroon film. The blood spatter on the wall tiles around the soap tray where Loli had placed the razor had turned a deep umber.
Carlos looked around for a cloth of some kind and spotted an orange moppet on a low shelf behind the sink. He rolled up his shirt sleeves, took the flat sponge and turned on the telephone shaped hand-shower above the bath taps.
As he started wiping and rinsing around the wall, diluted blood and water seeped from the sponge and ran through his fingers and down his wrist and forearm.
Instinctively, almost unconsciously Carlos put the back of his hand to his mouth and then touched the moisture with his tongue.
Tears began to well in the geneticist’s eyes and he continued with his curiously intimate chore.
‘It’s amazing’ he thought, ‘how easily blood washes away—just like life itself.’
Then he imagined Loli’s DNA diluting into the Madrid drains.