Marta Orriols

Artwork by Sukutangan

He is waiting for her in front of the cinema, where the queue is considerable. Ariadna recognises his reproachful expression from the other side of the street with the red of the traffic light reflected in his eyes; for a moment, the bad mood she sees on Roger’s face weakens the air of magnificence with which she imbues Friday nights, but she deftly looks away towards the lightbulbs framing each of the films being shown and she stretches her neck a little, a hidden smile on her lips. When it goes green, she crosses Balmes swaying her hips expressly to make him laugh, but Roger rolls his eyes.

“Damn, Ari, you’re late. We said to meet at ten to.”

“Do you have the tickets or not?”

“Yes, but it’s not right. Where were you?”

Happy, Ariadna gives him a quick kiss on the mouth and looks for something in her bag.

“I finished early and killed some time. I had to buy some tights.” She puts cocoa butter on her lips as she looks around distractedly. “Want some?”

Roger doesn’t even look at her. She digs her index finger into his ribs playfully.

“Please stop. What did you say this film is about?”

The disillusionment reaches Ariadna’s ear loud and clear: that sound, even the nuance of its tone has been gathered so many times before. However ethereal it is, the disillusionment is always caustic enough to infect her too, pondering the summary of the film now as she walks on the carpet of the cinema where the truth of the viewers’ lives takes shelter.

“Don’t expect spectacular twists or special effects, but I’m told they are both exceptional and artistically it’s a delight.”

Scornful, she fails to mention the detail that it’s by the same director of the other one he found overlong, because it no longer matters: she knows that their evening has unexpectedly deflated, has been diluted to become yet another banal Friday. Despite everything, when they sit in seats six and eight in row twelve, Ariadna takes his hand and he digs his nails into it, a form of affectionate and tender greeting that at this stage of their nine-year relationship has become an unequivocal sign of what they once were.

“How was your day? Busy at work?” Roger asks her, more cheerful. Ariadna shrugs. “What’s going on, are you pissed off?” She doesn’t let go of his hand. “I’m not, are you?” But a selfish impulse that still wants their Friday night brakes a “You started it with your sour grapes face, all because I arrived ten minutes late, fuck, you always destroy my enthusiasm,” in time. “Normal day, I entered data that means nothing to me and called clients who haven’t paid, the usual. And you? Did you sort out that thing with Manel?”

“Uff. He told me that soon he’ll let me lead penal cases but that right now everything is being outsourced and he needs me in Labour.” He lets go of her hand, making a gesture of complaint.

“Little by little, you’ll see. By the way, I’ve finally taken the May bank holiday weekend off, let’s see if we can escape to Formentera for once.” She kisses the nape of his neck. She wants him, wants to feel good and for them to feel close to one another. They love each other in a simple, classical way. The lights go down and the crowd settles into their seats with the last of the murmurs giving way to the music that from the first instant enchants Ariadna.

“Don’t fucking tell me it’s subtitled, Ari,” whispers Roger. She looks at him incredulously, palms turned upward.

The film unfolds powerfully and transmits unexpected emotion that delicately calms the party spirit with which Ariadna left work only a few hours ago, when she still had the expectation that it would be a wonderful evening. There are dialogues by the actors that strike her soul, so transcendent does she find them. She would like to hold them and bring them home, but she knows she can only possess them here and now, in the intoxication of a cinema auditorium.

When the credits appear she doesn’t move, completely dumbstruck by how it has moved her, and she needs a few more minutes to soak in the story and momentarily do without the reality awaiting her outside.

“Shall we go?” Roger is already on his feet, jacket on. He scratches his head with one hand.

As much as she can, Ariadna disguises her emotion and unwillingness to collide with the certainty that it has bored him deeply, and because of that there will be no animated conversation nor laughter with hotdogs and beer as there is when they go and see the films he likes.

When Roger puts his arms around her shoulder and they walk down the street, Ariadna relaxes a little and tries to be filled with the seductive feeling of the moment. In her head, everything oscillates between the reality of the pavement and the theatricality of the fantasy she has just absorbed. Spring is just awakening and the relaxed ambience of the streets greases the mechanisms of the beings that are moulded by signs of the equinox. He lets his hand drop inside her blouse to rub her bra. They look at each other and smile. Maybe they will make love today—it’s likely, thinks Ariadna, because it’s Friday and there are no excuses—and what’s more, for weeks they have both felt tired and fallen asleep while deciding in silence who will be first to make the move of putting their hand on the other to kickstart some lazy intentions. She doesn’t know when the wild nights dwindled; she often asks herself how it is possible to overlook the moment of no return, the moment in which a spontaneous hand on a breast stops being an explosion of desire and becomes a timid request that prays please, don’t let this chance slip away. Ariadna detests preempting this way, and with the pomp of the film still on her retinas, she dismisses this thought and makes herself believe that nevertheless, they still have plenty to give each other and maybe it’s as simple as refreshing her collection of lingerie or even better, her hairstyle.

“Let’s eat at home, ok Ari?”

“Whatever you like. I feel too lazy to cook, but if you feel like it, go ahead.”

Before, Roger would put on the apron and pour them a glass of wine. He would make her dinner while they discussed their day or talked about trivial things. He would bring her the wooden spoon to taste whether salt was needed and she would always eroticise the gesture, licking the utensil greedily. In hindsight it seems ridiculous, but if she dwells too long on the memory, a visceral jealousy ignites in her for the days when they were so alive and consumed with absolute newness.

Once home the habitual choreography is nimbly executed throughout the flat. Ariadna turns on the dining room light, and as she leaves her keys on top of the table she can already hear Roger urinating in the toilet. She knows if she turns forty-five degrees to the right she will have the stark vision of him from behind with his mobile in one hand and holding his member in the other. She’s on the verge of shouting at him to do her the courtesy of closing the door and not splashing but she bites her tongue. She wants sex before her desire evaporates and she’s not interested in starting a slanging match. Barefoot, she goes to the kitchen and grabs a beer from the fridge.

“Want a beer?” she calls to him.

She tuts because he doesn’t answer, so, annoyed, she closes the fridge and opens the cool bottle. While she drinks she reads the note stuck there that with time has become a kind of litany. It’s been there for so many years it has faded. It’s a list of things they wanted to do to the flat and they had agreed they would attack one after the other with Christmas bonuses and birthday presents, but apart from painting one wall of the bedroom mauve, the other tasks remain undone.

By the fourth gulp of beer she feels heat in her cheeks. She touches up her fringe a little with her fingertips and leaves the bottle on the counter. Why not? Show a little emotion.

She begins to unbutton her shirt little by little, circling the whole button and pushing it carefully through the buttonhole. She sways, a seductress. She recalls fragments of the film and tenderly she plays with images of the protagonist but Roger suddenly appears with his pyjamas on and opens the fridge, not even noticing that Ariadna’s shirt is completely open. Oblivious to the sexual vanity of the woman with whom he lives, he mumbles something random about dinner. Ariadna represses a thought about why mothers of men continue to buy them pyjamas above a certain age, and focuses on lowering the zip of her skirt and feeling the silky warmth of the fabric slide down her legs.

“I told you I didn’t feel like cooking, didn’t I?” she lets slip, sensually.

She snaps the elastic of his trousers and seeks his eyes. She bites her lower lip. He laughs and they allow themselves to be led by the balance of two bodies that have agreed not to marry nor, for the moment, to have children—and this “for the moment” has become almost a decade.

“Ari, beautiful, listen . . .” She likes it so much when he grabs her chin and strokes her hair that the pleasure makes her overact. She feels magnificent.

“Tell me. I’ll do anything you want.”

“Before you take off all your clothes, why don’t you go down for a minute to the Pakistani’s and get a pizza?”

She doesn’t have time to weigh up the triviality before disillusionment seeps in once again and irreversibly distorts the eroticism.

Hurt, she huffs and furiously picks up her skirt off the floor.

“You’re an idiot, Roger, you really are.” With rough movements she tucks her blouse into her tights.

“What’s wrong? Come on, don’t get angry sweetheart, you’ll be down and up in a flash and then we’ll go on, I promise, it’s just that if not we’ll be too lazy to go out later.”

“I’m not hungry. If you want a pizza go get it yourself.”

She notices her dry mouth and tense expression but Roger’s apologies are so saccharine that Ariadna hastens to end the matter. So when he raises her skirt a little, she knocks his hand away, she unbuttons it without thinking and removes it again angrily. She removes everything, in fact, and before he can blink, naked and wounded she puts her hands at her waist.

“Imagine I’m a Four Seasons, dumbass.”

She turns and goes towards the bedroom. Roger laughs playfully but for her it’s already too late. Disillusionment has blurred the charm of flirting and the image of Roger as a naive and feeble being comes back to her.

They’ll make love that night following the prescribed formula: first Ariadna will take off her makeup with the wipes whose scent he can’t bear, she will mess around at the mirror with the spot that always emerges on her chin, and Roger will wait for her in bed, distracted by the new app he has downloaded. They’ll ponder how it is still a bit cold at night and discuss whether or not to turn the heating on, just a little. They’ll remember that tomorrow evening they are having dinner with friends to start discussing the summer holidays and finally she will come to bed and turn off the light. They’ll lie in silence for a few seconds and their bodies will adapt quickly to the familiarity of the sheets, the cushions, the little noises of the flat. Him on top, her below, now change and one, two, three.

They’ll be lethargic, with extended arms and legs that already know the way back.

Love, sex, hunger, sleep.

Far away, out there, the infinite moon embellishes the city like a frame incapable of containing so much reality.

translated from the Catalan by Laura McGloughlin