THE DOORMAN – REINALDO ARENAS

1. That old man with his womanizing delusions, our doorman thought, was a lonely soul and therefore in need of some guidance, (…) (p.15)

2. “Do you know what it means to be always at the mercy of other people’s madness just because they are driving ahead of you or behind you? We waste a lifetime for the green light, or crawling through a tunnel, or on a plane, waiting for permission to land or take off, not to mention being stranded because of delays and schedule changes. Just figure out how much time is left for you to live, and you will see it’s not much.” (p.47)

3. She was profiting from a hell she did not have to suffer. (p.51)

4. It was raining. The kind of aimless and never-ending drizzle, capable of undermining the most cheerful of dispositions. It was the typical gray New York rain, heralding winter, that brings even more chill to our tropical souls than to our bones; the kind that fills us with nostalgia for warm, torrential showers that make the grass smell fresh and the earth glisten and come alive. (p.62)

5. Yes, the rain would continue. It would not stop to let in a single bright, sunny day. It would bring instead some dirty snow, which like a grimy crust would stick to the sidewalks, the rooftops, the bare tress, and even to the skin of the unfortunate pedestrians who had no choice but to venture out in such weather. (p.62)

6. Well past midnight, dressed as men but hoping to be raped by some macho man, they had strolled through the center of Harlem all the way uptown; dressed in drag, and hoping to attract some lively transvestite on the make, they had combed every gay hangout, from an underground den called La Escuelita (The Little Schoolhouse) to the crowded sidewalks of 42nd Street. (p.70)

7. She was sitting half-naked on the windowsill in the hope that she would catch acute pneumonia and die. (p.95)

8. In their stillborn dialogues, the silence itself seemed to demand words, even the most conventional ones, to validate it. (p.97)

9. In some more or less conscious way, people need to sum up their year, either with a word, a joke, or a scream. (p.97)

10. The stark desolation that had always accompanied our doorman was, like so many times in the past, about to explode. (p.97)

11. (…) and in a palm grove I bury my own corpse. (p.99)

12. I will vanish and in that way at least I’ll no longer be a part of this mechanized world that is going nowhere…. (p.105)

13. He had left behind his homeland, a world “to which I not only will not return but which I will not even want to remember.” However, this other reality he had adopted was also, for him, a world he would have to alter in order to make it bearable. And if it was true that he couldn’t stand the world he had left behind (which, in spite of himself, he had not been able to forget), then it was also true that he could not fit into the reality he had found. And if none of it could be transformed to match his aspirations – he was thinking out loud on his way out – is there a place for me?…what sense does it make for me to stay here, or there, or anywhere?… (p.105)

14. We interrupt this narrative to warn our readers that if you even faintly expect some kind of rational or scientific explanation (or whatever you might call it) concerning Cleopatra’s attitude or powers, we hasten to ask that you completely dismiss any such hopes. The reason we can’t explain these happenings is very simple: we don’t have any explanation. (p.106)

15. At the present time, even our grief is being expressed in a tongue still foreign to us. (p.107)

16. Naturally, the door itself was not what counted – it was the determination to go beyond it and discover what lay waiting on the other side. (p.108)

17. “My only question is, can we succeed? And if we succeed, can we survive?” (p.123)

18. “And who is to blame, if not those fickle, war-like, and vile creatures, so conceited in their self-appointed role as masters of the world, a world they have converted into a gigantic zoo for their private enjoyment?” (p.127)

19. “To have an enemy is already to be only half ourselves, the other half always occupied by our enemy. Anyone who harbors a passion for destruction or the fear of being destroyed does not really live, but merely suffers a long-term agony.” (p.130)

20. “The only means of escaping their reasoning is to ignore it.” (p.130)

21. “Though people live on land, don’t they always head for the water? For reasons they cannot understand (but we can), don’t they manage to march in strange processions to the seashore? Note how they stop at the edge of the water and stay there for a while as if mesmerized…. What are they looking at? What are they after? What drives them to come from even the farthest corners of the earth to this encounter with the sea? They do not know it, but are searching for themselves. They are looking for the other half of themselves that they lost either through suffering or from their own cowardice, and which belonged to the water. In this water, as in all waters, they hope to find their own reflection, an image that became distorted thousands of years ago. We can see them everywhere near the shore, as if in meditation.” (p.131)

22. “Impossible for them to show their distress; instead they have to smile forever….” (p.136)

23. “But what does he do but run from one hole into another? What do all people do but keep digging different holes, fixing their holes, coming out of holes, and getting into holes? Holes that subdivide into many more holes, into thousands of smaller holes. Holes to sleep, to bathe in, holes to keep your clothes, holes to store your food, holes to hide your jewels or keep your money safe…Holes undoubtedly created by fear. Look at their cities: holes multiplied endlessly by fear. Holes with bells and alarm systems, with protective wiring, policemen, and doormen. (p.154)

24. “Do you honestly think that something not worth dying for could be worth living for?” (p.158)

25. “To soar, while still strong, upon a warm ray of sunlight and then, still entranced, to fall. To go in an instant, without even realizing it, from ecstasy into eternal sleep. But before that, to have experienced the intense joys of filth or of cake, of milk or urine, of blood or wine…So it’s not a matter of escaping or not escaping, but of how to flutter around with joy before vanishing forever, and even to see that final moment as one to be savored….” (p.159)

26. “Our true identity is a constant disguise, an eternal joke. The only truly serious thing is death. Let’s mistrust serious faces; they have been wearing a mask for so long they can’t take it off.” (p.161)

27. “This is another difference between animals and humans: we don’t wear masks, we are. They, in order to be, have to live in a perpetual struggle to prove what they are. In the game that is life, they always lose because they are tainted with hypocrisy.” (p.161)

28. “There is no reason to pay for an ephemeral pleasure with an early death. On the contrary, pleasure should last and drive death away….Let’s understand reality at its deepest level, that is, as it really is. Let’s laugh at everything, let’s be versatile, irreverent, and light-hearted. (p.161)

29. But all of this we see again and again as if through a dense fog, and when we come back to our senses and return once more to this place where we have been living for so many years, we cannot be sure if all these memories, even of hell itself, are fictions we cannot forget, or true events we cannot clearly remember….Even the voices clamoring over there, even the applause of those who betray, and even the crackling of gunfire, and the muffled cries of those who are dying seem to vanish, as if a heavy curtain had fallen between that place where we once existed, because we suffered, and this other place where we now survive, but where we don’t exist because we no longer dream….And here we are again, amid the unending mechanized din of this life, in which – even though we may publicly deny it, and we do – we can’t help but feel alien. The suit, the necktie, the briefcase, the car, the bills, the office, and above all, the ever-present wish for a trip south, far south. South as far as possible, to the very edge of horror. (p.168)

30. The explanation is simple: madness is perhaps the only state in which human beings apparently need no advice at all. (p.174)

31. “These so-called prophets or philosophers, whose works are collected even by some people in this building, have only made clear that they know nothing, and they go on disgracefully contradicting themselves. In this way they manage to make themselves so desperate that some have made desperation their philosophy. Others aim to find satisfaction in abstinence, joy in sorrow, not to mention those who, in the name of peace, are constantly destroying each other. The saddest fact is that the world is saturated with the objects they have produced: whining, pretentious volumes, loaded with obscure phrases, nothing but gibberish from hysterical exhibitionists trying to prove what geniuses they are.” (p.179)

 

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