Last year I translated a short story by Cuban writer Odette Alonso for the Palabras Errantes project ´Writing Lesbian Desire´.  It has just been published.  The original title in Spanish is ´Con la Boca Abierta´.  Below is an extract, click through to the Palabras Errantes site to read the story in its entirety in the original Spanish and my English translation.



By Odette Alonso. Translated by Peter W Davies.

“Does it hurt?”

As I can’t answer, I shake my head from side to side.  It seems like a test from God: before, the persistence of the drill caused me to suffer terrible nightmares; now her hands are holding one and her fingers are caressing my gums, building an entire universe from my tooth to the center of my breasts where a tickling sensation begins which isn’t precisely caused by the anesthetic.

“What’s that?” I manage to ask as the syringe loses itself inside my mouth “It’s part of the treatment…and this is phosphoric acid,” she adds as the bitter liquid is already falling onto my tooth.  “Rinse if you wish.”

I sit up halfway and press the button.  A trickle of water drops into the transparent cup.  I gargle, lie down again and instinctively open my mouth.  Now it is a yellow paste that tastes like garlic that she applies with horrible hooks; it’s as if she’s sculpting Venus de Milo or the Thinker or embossing a coin with the effigy of Caesar, with a laurel wreath and everything else.

“Why are you so quiet?” She asks while stretching her arm over me to reach some kind of plastic gun.
“How am I supposed to talk with my mouth open?”
We laugh.  A blue light comes out of the gun.  The device’s motor purrs right next to my ear.
“And that?”  I ask her, as she reaches over my chest to return it to its place.
“Ultra-violet light, for photo polymerization.”
What?”  I exaggerate the pronunciation.
“To dry the resin.  You want to know everything!”  She also exaggerates the exclamation.

We start addressing each other with the familiar tú at the second appointment.
“Don’t do anything until you give me the anesthetic.”
“But it doesn’t hurt” and she makes a mocking gesture to my mute request.  “Let’s see, open. Does that hurt?  It doesn’t. Right?”

It’s ridiculous trying to answer when she has filled my mouth with the draining tube and cotton wool.  She takes the opportunity to ask about my work and talk about the weather, about the traffic jam at the bridge exit, about the rise of the dollar that will make the laboratory materials more expensive.  She speaks and I grow dizzy between the fear, the acute smell of the drilled tooth and trying to respond with clumsy gestures and eye movements.

The telephone rings.  With the handset held between her shoulder and her chin she continues poking around my mouth.  Monosyllables, guttural sounds, laughter, something about a microwave, more laughter.  Finally she hangs up.
“My husband.  He doesn’t know how to heat up food.”

Her husband.  An elixir runs out of her nose and into mine.  It reaches my lungs and rises to my brain, ordering me to look at her.  She runs her hand across my lips over and over again. I am defenselessness.  I close my eyes.  “Is something wrong?”  I shake my head.  Her breasts lean towards mine; her face is just a few centimeters away.  Her fingers rest again on my lips.   “What’s the matter?” She enquires.  My hands rise and remove her mask.  She lowers herself to my lips and envelops them; her tongue enters my mouth like a tepid snake.


Continue reading at Palabras Errantes.


Peter W Davies

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