Translation #1: ‘kʰoɹɾɹ̩ pʰæst wən

Quarter Past One, by Quim Monzó

The man takes a drag and picks up the phone.
“Hi.” It’s a woman’s voice. “It’s me.”
The man sits up straight. He crushes the cigarette against the ashtray next to the telephone. He speaks softly:
“I’ve told you a thousand times, never call me at home.”
“It’s that…”
“I’ve told you, always call me at work.”
“Can you talk?”
“Of course not. Just think about it.”
“Where is… she?”
“In the bedroom.”
“Can she hear us… you?”
“No. But she could come in at any second.”
“Forgive me. I’m sorry. But it’s that I had to call you now. I couldn’t wait until tomorrow, at work.”
There’s a silence. The man breaks it.
“Why not?”
“Because this situation is killing me.”
“What situation?”
“Ours. What else would I be talking about?”
“But… Let’s try to be clear about this…”
“No! No. Don’t say a word. There’s no point.” She tries to be sarcastic but fails. “She could hear you.”
“She can’t hear me right now. Listen…”
“I think the time has come to make a decision.”
“What decision?”
“Don’t you know what I’m talking about?”
“I’m not in the mood for riddles, Maria.”
“I have to choose. Between you and him.”
“And, since you can’t give me what I want… Let’s not lie to ourselves: to you, I’ll never be more than…” She breathes deeply. He hears an ambulance pass, far away. “You don’t want to leave her, do you? I don’t even know why I’m asking you. I already know the answer.”
“What’s all the noise?”
“I’m calling you from a phone booth.”
“We’ve talked about it a thousand times. I’ve always been honest with you. I’ve never tried to hide the way things are. You and I get along, don’t we? So…”
“I’m attached to you. And I already know you’re not attached to me at all.”
“I’ve always told you that I don’t want to hurt you. I’ve never promised you anything. Have I ever promised you anything?”
“You’re the one who has to decide what to do.”
“Have I not always told you that you’re the one who has to decide what to do?”
“Yes. That’s why I called you. Because I’ve already made a decision.”
“I’ve always played fair with you.” He halts. “What did you decide?”
“I’ve decided… to stop seeing you.”
The woman says it and bursts into tears. She cries for a good while. Little by little, the sobs subside. The man takes advantage of it to speak.
“I’m sorry, but if that’s really…”
The woman interrupts him:
“Don’t you get it!? I don’t WANT to stop seeing you!”
When the man hears her crying die down, he speaks:
“No.” She blows her nose. “I would rather you didn’t say anything.”
Suddenly, the man raises his tone of voice:
“Listen, I would go with a car that gives you a higher performance.”
“Especially since you’ll be driving so much.” He stops for a moment. “Yes.” He pauses again. “Yes, I understand. Of course, I don’t know else to tell you. But it seems to me that what would work best for you is a car with more… more…” He pretends to search for the right word. “OK, yeah. But it burns too much gas.”
“You can’t talk?”
“No, of course not.”
“Is she nearby?”
“Right in front of you?”
“Yeah. But that model isn’t that much cheaper than a Japanese one. And Japanese cars…”
“Your wife is in front of you, and I’m here, not knowing what to do.” More and more indignant. “Without the nerve to make up my mind once and for all and be through with all this torture.”
“The best would be four doors. For you, four doors.”
“Do you see how there’s nothing left to be done? We can’t go on like this. We can’t even have a civilized conversation.”
“But that one burns six and a half liters.”
“You, talking about cars and liters of gas and four doors, and I can’t even bring myself to hang up on you.”
“One sec.” The man has covered the phone with his hand. The woman hears a muffled conversation. “She says that…” He covers the phone with his hand again. He takes his hand back off it. “Tell Lluïsa, on Anna’s behalf, that she will just love the cake.”
“Who are you supposed to be talking to now?”
“Well, I’ll see you around.”
“Should I hang up? But before hanging up, tell me if we’ll see each other tomorrow.”
“I can’t believe it. I call you to tell you that we’re through and I end up asking you if tomorrow… The usual spot?”
“At the usual time?”
“And,” Now she speaks in honeyed tones. “We’ll do the same as always? I can picture you on your knees, in front of me, lifting my skirt… Will you lick me? Will you bite me? Will you hurt me?”
“Yeees.” Suddenly he starts talking softly again. “Shit, Maria! She’s on the verge of realizing what’s going on. Right now she’s in the kitchen, but she could come back in at any second. What if she had asked to talk to you?”
“Why would she have wanted to talk to me?”
“I don’t mean to you: I mean to who she thinks I’m talking to.”
“No one understands you. And no one understands me. I don’t even understand myself. I’m hopeless; I decide to end it, and just hearing your voice makes me go back on all my decisions. I want to be with you right now. Come. You can’t? Of course not. It doesn’t matter. When I can’t hear your voice it’s torture. Do you love me?”
“Of course I do.”
“I’d better hang up. Goodbye.”
“Where are you?”
“I already told you, I’m in a bar.”
“No. You told me you were in a phone booth.”
“If you knew I was in a phone booth, why did you ask me again?”
“Because you’re not in a phone booth, you’re in a bar. At least that’s what you’re saying now.”
“Bar, phone booth, same thing.”
“Oh, ‘same thing,’ ‘same thing.’”
“Listen: enough!”
“What are you going to do, now?”
“Now? Are you talking about us?’
“No. I mean right now. Are you thinking of going to the movies? Have you eaten? Do you have acting classes?”
“Listen, I’m hanging up.”
“Wait a sec.”
“It’s that…”
“Sometimes, Maria, I think that, if we just wanted to, if we just earnestly tried, we could take things in another direction, without so much tension.”
“Alright, so yeah.”
“Yeah what?”
“What’s happening? You can’t talk? Is there someone there so you can’t talk?”
“Mhm… Yep.”
“You decided to meet him in a bar and now he’s showed up. Or he was already with you and he got closer to the phone. Yes or no? Or what?”
“I’ll get the book back to you.”
“Now you’re referring to me in the feminine.”
“OK, bye. Call me. And remind me to bring the book.”
“Ah, no. Don’t hang up now! You made me listen to you, unable to answer your bullshit…”
“I don’t know about that one. What did you say the book was called?”
“Perfect. You’re doing well. Now you’ll say the name of the book. Or not?”
“That ‘yeah’ is good. It lends credibility, it makes the dialog with the girl you’re supposed to be talking to realistic.”
“You said it’s called Love in the Afternoon?”
“Is that title an invitation?”
“But an even better book than Love in the Afternoon is The Hundred Crosses. At least I thought so.”
“See, that’s one I haven’t read. Is it also a novel?”
“The Hundred Crosses, boring?”
Suddenly, the man starts speaking in a serious tone:
“Come on, I already told you. It burns a lot less gas than the other one.”
“But the protagonist of Love in the Afternoon is more realistic.”
“How can it be that a firm like Peugeot hasn’t foreseen this?”
“But that was Now We’re Both the Same. Am I wrong?”
There is a brief pause.
“You see how there’s nothing to be done? Now I can talk again.” There’s another pause. “You’re not gonna say anything? Have you finished your chat or are you gonna drop the topic of cars and move onto something else?”
“I’m also alone again.”
“So goodbye.”
“You’re right. It’s better if we say goodbye.”
“I have to tell you one thing first.”
“Tell me.”
“I’m pregnant.” He doesn’t answer. “Can you hear me? I’m pregnant. By you.”
“What do you mean by me? How do you know it’s mine?”
“Because since my last period I’ve only been with you, idiot.”
“And that boyfriend who can give you everything I can’t? Do you not…? Sorry. What are you gonna do?”
“What do you mean what am I gonna do? You don’t have anything to say about it?”
“Me? No.”
“Now. Now I see who you really are. Now I realize that if I were ever in that situation, you’ld shirk everything.”
“What does “if I were ever” mean?”
“It means that I’m not pregnant, obviously. Do you take me for a dumbass? It suddenly occurred to me, to test how you would react in that situation. Maybe you think that if I had truly been pregnant I would have asked for your opinion about what and what not to do?”
His voice is angry:
“Listen, Maria…!”
The woman challenges him:
“What? Listen to what?”
“You know I don’t let people to talk to me like that, in that tone, and I don’t let people goad me!”
“Oh, you don’t?”
“I’ll break your face!”
“Oh yeah?”
“I’ll punch your muzzle into a pulp.”
“Until you scream.”
“I’ll tie you to the bedposts.”
“Yes, yes…”
“I’ll spit in your mouth.”
“And I’ll slap your face until it bleeds.”
“Yes, yes!”
“And I’ll make you…”
“Do what? Do what?”
“I’ll make you…”
“Do what?”
“I’ll fill your mouth with it. And I’ll make you swallow it all: you won’t even spill a drop.”
“Not one.”
The woman is breathing heavily. The man is horny.
“I said not one! Lick that one thats dripping down your lip.”
“‘Pig,’ call me ‘pig’…”
“Pig. Get on your knees and open your mouth.”
The woman snorts.
“Enough. I have to tell it to you, and what happens happens. It’s ridiculous to try to make this last any longer.” She stops talking for a moment, as if to gather momentum. “Listen: I’m not Maria.”
“What do you mean you’re not Maria?”
“That I’m not Maria: that’s what I mean. Maria is… Maria asked me to call you and talk as if I were her.”
“You’re pulling my leg.”
“She had to leave. And she wanted…”
“Leave where?”
“Out of the city. She wanted you to think she was here and not… It’s that… I can’t keep up this lie. Look: Maria and I know each other from acting classes. I also study at the theater institute. She asked me to call you and make us get into an argument. Because you’re supposed to see her tomorrow and she won’t be back yet. You hear me?”
“Where are you?”
“She left for a week. With a boyfriend.”
“With who?”
“With Jaume.”
“With Jaume?”
“With which Jaume?”
“Jaume Ibarra.”
“But listen: I am Jaume Ibarra. Who did you think you were talking to? What number did you call?”
“You’re Jaume?”
“Who did you think you were talking to?”
“With Joan.”
“With Joan? You mean Maria and Joan…”
“Ohhh: I dialed one number instead of the other.”
“And how do you have my phone number?”
“It’s that Maria wrote down both numbers, right next to each other, and I made a mistake: I dialed one instead of the other.”
“Why did she write down my phone number, if you didn’t have to call me? Or were you gonna call me too? But if you thought she had gone with me…”
“If I explained it to you you wouldn’t believe it.”
“Tell me one thing, eh… What’s your name?”
“Carme, tell me…”
The woman interrupts him.
“One sec. Are you really Jaume? But Jaume doesn’t live with anyone! Joan is the one with a wife! Why did you tell me your wife was in front of you?”
“You’re not truth incarnate either.”
“If you thought you were talking to Maria, why did you want to make me believe you were living with a woman?”
“It’s that, with Maria, we sometimes (less, recently, but sometimes) do things like that. As a game.”
“She never told me that.”
“Why would she have told you? Do you tell each other everything or what?”
“Oh yeah? And what does she tell you about me?”
“What does that ‘uph’ mean?”
“It means she explains all the interesting parts to me.”
“With all the bells and whistles?”
“With bells, whistles, and everything else.”
“Where are you?”
“In a bar, I already told you.”
“You also told me you were in a phone booth.”
“Forget about the damn phone booth!”
“What are you doing, now?”
“You’ve already asked me that.”
“When you were Maria. Now that you’re Carme, you might have something else to do. And anyways, you didn’t answer the question as Maria either.” The man bites his lip. “Why don’t we see each other?”
“It would have to be in the evening. This afternoon I have class.”
“In the evening, then.”
“At the bar of the Ritz?”
“At eight?”
“I get out of class at eight. We’ll meet at half past eight.”
“How will I recognize you?”
“I’ll wear the leather jacket, the one that you gave her a month before… I’ll wear the leather jacket.”
“A month before what?” The woman is silent. “The jacket: I gave it to her a month before what?”
“I have to tell you, Jaume. If I don’t I’ll explode.
“Then tell me.”
“Maria is dead. You gave her the jacket a month before she died. Look… Listen… It shouldn’t… She… I knew how much you loved each other. When she died I decided, we decided, the whole class…”
“I don’t find this very funny.”
“Let’s meet and talk. At half past eight. OK? Or, if you want, I can skip the class.”
“I saw her last week.”
“She’s been dead five months.”
“I’ve seen her plenty in the past five months. Last week I was with her. And she was healthy and hale. She was no ghost.”
“You’ve been dating a Maria who isn’t Maria for the past five months.”
“And according to you, who’s been acting as Maria all this time?”
“I would have realized.”
“I’m telling the truth.”
“If that were the case, why would you have had to decide that you didn’t want to meet me tomorrow?”
“I’m fed up with acting as Maria.”
“On the other hand, you just accepted that we see each other.”
“Because I’m going as Carme, not as Maria. Please, Jaume, I’ll explain it after.”
“And how did you not realize that I wasn’t Joan but Jaume?”
“You think I didn’t know who I was calling? Obviously you’re Jaume. I know you perfectly. I’ve been dating you for the past five months. And five months is a lot. Enough to know that…” The woman’s voice breaks. “That I’m madly in love with you. And I want to end this farce.”
“I don’t believe any of this. How could I not have noticed, all the times we’ve seen each other (seen each other, according to you), that you weren’t Maria?”
“I study theater.”
“Study theater all you want! How are you going to make me believe that I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference? The only thing left is for you to mention the porno where the twin sist… But listen: Maria does have a twin sister.”
“That’s me.”
“I’ve never seen her.”
“Oh yes you have seen her. I mean, oh yes you have seen me! For the past five months, a couple of times a week. Some weeks only once: that’s what we need to talk about. Because I want to see you more often. Does the meeting stand? At half past eight?”
“Is your name really Carme?”
“Half past eight, OK?”
“I love you. If I ever stop loving you I’ll die.”


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