CHAPTER 16 – Out of the Cave, by Ana Saragoça

©Xana, Etnatum

Translated by Zoë Perry

Edited by Amanda Hopkinson

“Holding out her finger, with her eyes closed, she walked toward the hologram. She looked. Her finger was pointed at Santiago, in what used to be Chile.”

And it was always to the cave that she returned, to those confrontational and chaotic meetings, in which her only salvation lay in taking refuge in the memory of Valéria. Now, as she listened to Professor Cacilda, she thought about Valéria’s kiss, as if she had felt it on her lips, on her body, only the previous evening. She felt an absurd desire to cry, and walked away from the door.

Many years had passed. It wouldn’t be many more before she reached her former superior’s decrepit state. Her body resented her for the time deprived of sunlight, and the night air, hours and hours adding up to years spent in laboratories, libraries, the cave, enclosed spaces that, she now remembered, she had hated since childhood. But instead of running outside, she retreated to an empty consultation room, closing the door and blinds. Unable, or even wanting, to restrain herself, she selected the first number from her contacts. 

When the office lit up with Valeria’s holographic image, she quivered from head to toe. Suddenly she realized that Valeria could also see her and, with a pathetically flirtatious gesture, she smoothed her lank, drab hair.

“Teresa.” Valeria smiled at her with an apparently friendly expression lacking in warmth. “Is something wrong?”

“No. Yes. Hi.” It was now or never. “I miss you. Let me come see you. My job’s done, there’s nothing more I can discover, I’ve given my all, I just want to be with you, close to you, be able to see you, touch you even if it’s just in passing, Valéria, my love, my life…”

“Teresa, Teresa, stop!” Valéria cut her off, with an urgency in her voice and gestures. “Stop and listen to me. You don’t miss me. Christ, why do you think I never went back to Portugal? I can’t stand that cult of longing and nostalgia, that obsession with looking to the past and always thinking it was better than the present. What do you miss? Screwing around in secret, two grown women stealing kisses behind closed doors? That damn letter that you always carry around, the grandad you worship but who you never met – do you think he would’ve accepted us as a couple, that he would’ve welcomed us into his home?”

“But we were happy…” Teresa objected.

“No! That’s the trap of longing for the past, it erases everything bad and transforms any less bad moment into a miracle.” Her voice softened. “Teresa… you’ve spent your whole life doing what you thought other people wanted from you: Ricardo, that shrew Cacilda, even me. We all belong to your past. And that little leech you met on Tinder and who climbed to the top at your expense, just because you can’t conceive how far superior to her you are, she should also be history. Think about it: what does Teresa want?”

The hologram went dark. In its place appeared an image from her childhood, in which she hopped from country to country on imagined adventures in the garden of her parents’ house. She sighed. Where did that go… Without realizing it, she turned on the 3D globe application. The blue planet appeared in front of her, illuminated by dreams. She pressed spin, watched it go round until she felt dizzy and shouted: ‘Stop!’ Holding out her finger, with her eyes closed, she walked toward the hologram. She looked. Her finger was pointed at Santiago, in what used to be Chile.

Overcome with childlike joy, Teresa left the building and walked home along the sun-drenched avenues. She would go that same day. She wasn’t going to let Maria, or anyone else, get in her way.

The front door was open, and she burst in like a hurricane.

“Maria, where are you? We need to talk!”

She stopped short at the doorway to the kitchen. Lying between the worktop and the table in a pool of dark blood, bent at an impossible angle, was her lover’s dead body, the handle of a knife sticking out of her chest.

Read the original chapter in Portuguese

Ana Saragoça was born in Viana do Alentejo, 1966. She’s an actress, author, translator and all-round good gal. She has published three books, numerous plays, contributed to magazines, as well as providing frequent ephemeral pearls of wisdom on Facebook. She dearly wishes to be a writer.

©Filipa Miranda

Zoë Perry‘s translations of contemporary Portuguese-language fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Words Without Borders, and the Washington Square Review. In 2015 she was translator-in-residence at the FLIP international literary festival in Paraty, Brazil, and she was awarded a PEN/Heim grant for her translation of Veronica Stigger’s novel Opisanie świata. Her translation of Emilio Fraia’s Sevastopol is forthcoming from New Directions. Zoë is a founding member of the London-based translators collective, The Starling Bureau.

Listen to this chapter on Facebook read by Ben Slack

(video production by Gabriela Ruivo)

Listen to this chapter read by Ben Slack

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