It was still pitch dark when the Mallmann entered the village and the bus driver slammed on the brakes like an assault vehicle full of pigs with lengthy hunger to crush protesters. Não-Me-Toque (Don’t-Touch-Me), nearly 300 km clattering west from Porto Alegre.
Nobody was waiting for me.
I sat on a bench outside the deserted terminal and looking at the sky and sucking on some long and slender Lucky until they fill my lungs dawn arrived, accompanied by a rickety taxi and its poor fellow driver in need to be polished by a hundred parties. Leastwise.
—At a hotel.
After a long yawn, the driver asked— Any hotel?
—There is only one —the wretch clarified, I’m not sure if pulling my leg or because his neurons were still moth-eaten.
—Pull the other one…
—Then go to that one.
The room had toilet and hot water, two hours a day. It wasn’t a five star, and the owner asked me three times what I was coming to do in the village and, speaking of paying, the day is paid in advance. I didn’t answer and I paid one day.
—Electrical appliances are not allowed and we request silence during the rest hours —the bellboy, his son, recited along the way, fourteen years at most, the face full of purulent pimples—. Neither would we accept tips —he added, as he pocketed a bill of 5 real, the smallest I had at that moment—. Are you going to stay long? —he still boldly asked.
—The time it takes —I replied and almost slammed the door on his nose.
I didn’t learn the name of the hotel, but Alcatraz seemed appropriate for its tenebrous facilities and the goddamn awful mood of the guardians.
I thought that if I hurried the paperwork perhaps I could get my ass back that same night and continue with my holidays. The same bus that had brought me was going back to Porto Alegre at 11 pm. If everything would go well I wouldn’t have to sleep in that pigsty.
I was damn wrong. That was two weeks ago. And I’m still here and many mind-bending things have happened these last days. But that’s another story. Or many.
I’m not in Alcatraz actually. Somehow I’ve improved. Asking you get to Rome, though I had not much to ask to find the brothel of Não-Me-Toque, a ranch about two kilometers from town and hundred meters from the route by a dirt road. Adobe walls and red lights outside; inside, penumbra and two dumpy whores moored next to the bar. The Madame, however, kept her line and she looked less decadent than her pupils. Understand me, they are good girls, though somehow broken down. “Brief Heaven” the slum is called, and it’s where I am residing now. Wasn’t a cherub who brought me here but the taxi that had collected me at the terminal. My entry, the first day, caused a moderate uproar; not every day foreign clients might be seen at Brief Heaven, and to make matters worse, I was the first in a dreary night that promised little. But when I asked for Anne the disappointment came.
—Anne the French. She works at home —informed me the Madame, who according to the taxi driver called herself Monique des Champs Elisèes—. Although I have learned that she has retired to winter quarters, after her affair with another foreigner.
The two heavyset released some mice laughter in the dark.
—I’m authentic French, I was born in Marseille. But that one was born in the Meat Market of Buenos Aires. If she ever tried to leave the continent, must have run aground on the coast of Recife.
The mice laughter again.
That Anne were French or Tucumana I didn’t care. I had to see her. The detective’s intuition, that I never had intended to be because, as the promises of politicians, police novels always end disappointing me. And I do not believe the exploits of the cops: criminology is a pseudoscience that doesn’t base its findings on experimentation, but on devastating beatings that too often end in the early death of the suspect.
—She is not good in bed —one of the fat pupils gave me her view—, I don’t know why men seek her.
—They say is now a bit sick —her partner completed the diagnosis.
—My girls defend their source of income —justified the Madame.
I deployed an enigmatic smile which, as it was dark, didn’t mean anything to the women. I put a fifty bill over the counter that the Madame gave me back without looking.
—We are not snitches —she said.
—It’s to invite the girls to a couple of whiskeys.
In two glasses with ice she served a yellowish liquid. The girls looked at the glasses like dogs tired of canned food. I ordered a long drink for me and she served it from a different bottle. Although bad, at least it was whiskey. I drank it in a gulp to shorten the suffering. The Champs Elisèes pleaded abstemious.
I left the Brief Heaven a little nauseated and with an address scribbled on a napkin. The driver must have thought I came from a stormy coition.
—You look pale.
—Like Socrates after the hemlock. Let’s go to this address.
—The party goes on —he said after taking a quick look at the napkin.
This is proving to be the strangest travel of my life, and I’ve been in too many strange places before.
Não-Me-Toque – Dugutigui’s free adaptation and translation of a text by Guillermo Orsi