With Heart in Hand, by Quim Monzó
They become engaged on New Year’s Eve, at the stroke of midnight, while in the city the fireworks are exploding and people are embracing each other: in houses, in the streets, at parties. For both of them, the period of friendship is over and the engagement that leads to marriage is beginning. When will they be married? They’ll decide later; right now the emotion is too intense. They look each other in the eyes and swear eternal love and faithfulness. They decide to wash away their past lovers. They also promise to be completely honest with each other; to never lie.
“We’ll be completely honest with each other. We’ll never lie to each other, under any pretense and with any excuse.”
“A single lie would be the death of our love.”
These promises excite them even more. At two in the morning they fall asleep on the sofa, exhausted, in each other’s arms.
They wake up at noon with a hangover. They shower, they dress, and they step out into the street with sunglasses on.
“Shall we eat?” he says.
“Yeah. Not much for me. A couple of tapas and I’ll be fine. But you must be hungry.”
He is about to say that no, anything is fine, but he remembers his promise.
“Yes. I am hungry. But I’m fine with tapas. You eat a couple and I’ll have more.”
“No. You must want to get a table. Wouldn’t you rather we go to a restaurant?”
They’ve promised to be completely honest with each other. He can’t tell her, then, what he would have told her otherwise: that he’s fine with getting tapas in a bar. Now he must recognize that in fact, he would rather go to a restaurant and get a table.
“So let’s go,” she says. “Should we go to that Japanese restaurant that we went to a week ago and you liked so much?”
A week ago they hadn’t yet promised to be completely honest with one another. Moreover, he never said he liked the Japanese restaurant. He remembers it clearly: to answer her questions, he had said that the restaurant had seemed alright, a wording that did not express the enthusiasm she now attributed to him.
“I told you it seemed alright, not that I liked it.”
“In other words, you didn’t like it.”
He has to tell her:
“I hate Japanese food.”
She looks in his eyes bashfully.
“You know I like it a lot.”
He is not sure if the promise requires it or not, but since he’d rather take it all the way than fall short, he speaks the rest of his mind: that one of the things that he dislikes about her (and which has to do with a certain attitude that she thinks is uppity but in the end is just vulgar) is her passion for going to restaurants that replace good cooking with good advertisement. She tells him he’s an idiot. He finds himself forced to tell her that he doesn’t feel like an idiot at all and that he’s convinced that, if one had to test who had the more powerful brain, hers would not come out the victor. These words offend the woman, who slaps him angrily while repeating that he’s an idiot, an incorrigible idiot, that he will be one his whole life and that she never wants to see him again, an offer he immediately takes her up on.