Claudia

The few women who came to his apartment during those months all left before dawn, without even showering or eating breakfast, and they didn’t come back. But at the beginning of summer there was one who did stay to sleep, and then also stayed for breakfast: Claudia. And she came back—once, twice, many times. One morning, emerging from the shower, Claudia stopped in front of the darkened screen, as if looking at her reflection, searching for incipient wrinkles or some other stray mark or blemish. Her face was dark, her lips more thin than full, her neck long, her eyes dark green, almond-shaped. Her hair hung down to her wet shoulders: the tips of it were like needles resting above her bones. The towel that she herself had brought over to Max’s house could wrap around her body twice. Weeks later, Claudia also brought over a mirror for the bathroom, but she still went on looking at herself in the screen, though it was difficult to find, in the dark reflection, anything more than the outline of her face.

After sex, Max tended to fall asleep, but Claudia would go to the computer and play rapid games of solitaire, or Minesweeper, or chess (at the intermediate level). Sometimes he would wake up and go sit next to her, giving her advice on the game or caressing her hair and back. Claudia gripped the mouse tightly in her right hand, like someone was going to snatch it from her, and she clenched her teeth and widened her eyes exaggeratedly—although every once in a while she let out a nervous giggle that seemed to give him permission to go on caressing her. Maybe she played better with him beside her. When the game ended she’d sit on Max’s lap and they would begin a long, slow screw. The strange lights of the screen saver drew fickle lines on her shoulders, on her back, her buttocks, on her soft thighs.

They drank coffee in bed, but sometimes they made space at the table so they could sit down to eat breakfast “the way God intended,” as she would say. Max would unplug the keyboard and monitor and leave them on the floor, exposing them to treading feet and minuscule breadcrumbs, and so, every once in a while, Claudia had to use glass cleaner and a kitchen rag to clean them. But the computer’s conduct was, during this period, exemplary: Windows always started successfully.

Alejandro Zambra, Memories of a Personal Computer. In: Alejandro Zambra, My Documents, McSweeney’s, 2015

Believe: naively, intensely, absolutely

After a while, my mom ran into a woman who was sure she had seen me serving at Mass. That’s impossible, my mother replied. But then someone else told her the same thing, and she asked me about it again. I told her the person was wrong, but that I had also seen someone who looked surprisingly like me acting as altar boy. I just have a very common face, I told her.

When I finally did go to confession with Father Limonta, it didn’t even occur to me to tell him that I had already taken Communion, or about my erotic experience with Mauricio. Later I received my First Communion at school which by then was my thirtieth or fortieth and I could finally take Communion legitimately at Mass. My parents were there and they gave me presents, and I think that was when I first felt the true weight of my double life. I went on serving at Mater Purissima without my parents knowledge until maybe the winter of 1985, when, after a tense and sloppy Mass, the priest criticized us harshly: he told us we distracted him, that we were too shrill, that we had no rhythm. His comments hit me hard, maybe because I was precariously coming to understand that the priest was acting, that it wasn’t all enlightenment or whatever you call that sacred calling, that spiritual dimension. I decided to quit and, at that very moment, I stopped being Catholic. I suppose that’s also when my religious feeling began to be quashed. I never had, in any case, those rational meditations on the existence of God, maybe because that was when I started to believe, naively, intensely, absolutely, in literature.

Alejandro Zambra, My Documents, McSweeney’s, 2015