Events with Life’s Leftovers









Nontenant (female)

In the Time and Anti-time of the Events.

And her moving height went before me,
        We alone having being.
And all that day, another day:
        Thin husks I had known as men,
Dry casques of departed locusts
        speaking a shell of speech...

Ezra Pound

On stage there are five chairs and a two person bench facing the public, with actors sitting in them. The chairs are all different, and each one, along with the benches, has a shower head above, with a chain to activate it.

From right to left the actors are lined up in the following order: the Nontenant, who is the only one standing, with the showerhead pressed against her head; 401 seated, 404 seated, 403/She is on the bench for two with one sole showerhead; 405, 305, and 408 are all seated below their respective showerheads.

The actors always address the audience except when they’re speaking among themselves.

At the top, all of the actors are present except for 403/He.

(The actors will determine for themselves when to turn on the showers; the moments where they rise, or their particular activities will be determined by the director.)


Millions of years ago.

When no life existed on dry land.

A fish.

A stupid fish.

Decided to leave the water.

No one knows why it thought air was breathable.

Why that lack of circulation in the survival instinct.

We know now that it made a mistake.

Just a stupid fish with a stupid idea.

Like so many we have every day.

Believing that a bad idea was good.

Like so often every day.

And no one has done anything to fix it.

A fish believing that air was breathable originated life on land.

And no one has done anything to put a stop to it.

All our problems begin with that first flop of a stupid fish suffocating on the sand.

With that basic lapse of the survival instinct.


We all agreed that that was the fundamental problem.


We agreed and agreements make problems.


We were all together, this was the problem.


But we were all together because we had a problem.


Plagued by insomnia, a small group of fourth floor tenants gathered in my apartment.


It wasn’t because of insomnia.

We were afraid of gas leaks.

It’s an old building.


It wasn’t because of insomnia.

We were lonely people.

Some of us still are.


It wasn’t because of insomnia.

There was a small man with a telescope, who’d repeat from memory the names of constellations and lunar seas.

Beautiful names.

For deserts, or for the children I might have had.


It wasn’t because of insomnia.

There were personal motives.

Unspeakably personal.


The guy who invented the wheel didn’t do anything either.

Nor did the inventor of the light bulb or the fishing rod.

No one who invented anything has ever bothered to fix it.

It being the fish problem, of course.


Yesterday, there was an afternoon.

It turned out that later on there was a night.

To get through it, we gathered in apartment 401.

Beat down by the routineness of the day, we drank too much, and someone mentioned a fish.

One that thought air was breathable.


We spoke of punishments, humiliations, and painful ways of cooking.

Fried, on the griddle, on the skewer, in the electric chair.

Of it or of its fossil remains.

Because they must be somewhere.

Everything that drags itself onto land leaves marks.


It was fun.

We were happy.

We were telling bad jokes and laughing.


To the point that 405 had forgotten her own ugliness.

Her crooked teeth.

That one eye was almond shaped and the other round.

A standoff between her father’s and mother’s genes.


To the point where I found 404 attractive.

In the style of an unshaven silver screen savage.

Wrapped in knots of rough-hewn clothing.

He and I both felt the flame.

For the fish of course.


We had a hereditary happiness.

like the width of an ear, or the texture of lips.

Enough for a group of haggard souls.

We had an abnormal circulation within the nerves of optimism.

Until he said it.


With a voice split by a vowel off key at the core.


As if he had two left tongues.


Why don’t we return to the water?

We’ll return to the water, and end it all with a smack and a plunge.

We all know that it made a mistake.

And no one has done anything to fix it.

Life on land will not be possible.

Air isn’t breathable.


After he said it, apartment 401 changed temperature.

As if they’d put a hot electric grill in the freezer.

As if they’d put a living thing under the blankets of our bed.


If among the listeners, there is a diver who has explored a shipwreck full of victims, he’ll understand the scope of the silence that floated between us.


It’s no good to arrive at truths.

And it’s bad manners to do so around company.


No one gave way to the loftiness of the circumstances.

No one belched or took the opportunity to declare false love.

No one burst out with an inexplicable wail.

No one ripped off clothes, or threatened to jump out the window.


We agreed and agreements make problems.


We were all together, this was the problem.


This building is a backyard full of leftover things.

This was the problem.


And the beer swirled in our stomachs.

Dragging our hopes down to the bottom of our own digestive world.

403/He enters.



My apologies for arriving late.

I spotted a weeping willow in a shop.

And it wept.

I felt its closeness.

Friendship at first sight.

My friend is deeply-rooted, up to the armpits.

It’ll never be able to detach itself from the land.

I pitied it.

A whole lot.

As if I knew that I would never see the like again.

I stuck around to watch it weep.

I left when a smiling guy approached me,

Undoubtedly the owner of the place, who’d come to jack up my friend’s price, folding it double into my self-esteem.

I didn’t want to get here with my shirt torn from a fight.

And so I left.

Since none of you have seen me before, it would be a good idea for me to tell you that I am a criminal, a kind of brute.

Criminal because I threw away love letters that I’d received from a handful of women.

They thought they loved me, and so they gave them to me.

I was scared that my wife would find them.

The same one I’ve always had, a counterweight for the bed.

I threw the letters away and confessed to her my crime.

Since then, neither she nor I have given any gifts.

I am a brute stuffed with regret and crushed leaves of paper

which my wife loves chewing on over breakfast.

I don’t attend the insomniacs’ gatherings.

I sleep like a swollen-footed log.

The blood spills downward as I sleep

The force of gravity inspires baseness in my internal fluids.

A doctor warned me that I carried a bacteria shaped like an old toadstool

One which, on the same day it killed me, would kill my wife.

Something about the mimesis of one toward, or against the other.

Mimesis, it’s when an animal makes itself the same as its environment.

It blends in, so that no one can see it.

Like the weeping willow.

Weeping blends it in, and no one can see it.


I should also apologize.

I forgot to introduce myself.

But with people, as with food, it’s better first to take a taste, and then to know the name.

I think of myself as a sad muscle that doesn’t know which body part to move first.

My life has been marked by small but important events which no one has witnessed.

For example, the day I moved here.

Or the day that I stole a bottle of fish food just because I’d never stolen anything.

Or when I cast myself down like a worn out scarf in the middle of summer to cry over the symmetry of my sadness.


I was delighted to be the first person to come up with that line.

A line so…so…

Worth repeating on a hot date.

Such hopes, that if they were edible we’d stuff ourselves to the gills with them.

One of those rare dates where everything goes well and the other person pays the bill.

The emotional one, of course.

But it’s a better fit for you.

Right your size.

Adapts well to the body.

It’s a compliment, you have nothing to be afraid of.


It’s said that I have that awareness that the parking meter of my life is about to expire, and I’m not even the most interesting woman in the building.

Not even the most interesting on the fourth floor.

I’m a person who lacks the ability to devastate another’s life with a glance.


I wasn’t able to live in a place where the earth shakes every month.

That’s why I moved here.

I come from a city where the law prohibits living near places that are barren.

Like a wax museum.

Or a dead sea.


I wasn’t able nor am I able to live in a place where it’s cold all year, and when it’s not, snow falls.

I didn’t know how to move either.

Someone referred me to an agency that provides an all-inclusive moving service.

All you do is hand over your apartment key, and your new address.

At night they fill your room with a sleeping gas.

One that smells of pine trees or of tea made from mountain flowers.

When you wake up, you’re in your new apartment.

They’ve transported you there, you and your furniture and your pets.

And as a special bonus, they also give you a wake-up call for your first morning in your new home.

All in eight hours.

Which is the necessary sleep-time for a body that is neither young nor old.


I wasn’t able to live in a place where I was stuck too often with “myself.”

“Myself” is a real person, absolutely unbearable.

I put it like that, to give it all a name, to everything which has to do with other people but which they leave inside me when they abandon me.

I can tell them about her, about her way of stuffing her spirit by exchanging loneliness with others.

A gorging of the strong emotions.


I wouldn’t be able to move to a place with less than a thousand inhabitants.

I dread the repetition of faces.

It grieves me to see a face repeated and to know from memory whether the person has a good or bad ass.

That takes away people’s mystery.

That is true unhappiness.


I don’t even live in this building.


Today, some hours ago, there was a morning.

It’s good to make that clear.

Because the awful thing happened this morning.

While we all swore not to drink like that again at a gathering of insomniacs.


“Oh yes, sorry my dear, but I wasn’t able to call you last night.

I went to bed late.

Someone said something about a fish.

One that had left the water, and a whole bunch of other stuff about frying it in the electric chair.

I don’t remember much.

With this phlegm in my neurons.

And my stomach-churning desire to tell you for the first time ever the whole truth.

I’ll call you for our unavoidable date.

I’m sending you enough kisses.”

And I cut off the conversation before beginning to discuss the correct way to breathe.

Those of us who are out to destroy yet another relationship always end up discussing respiration.


We ugly people have no willpower.

Just a wish for returned affection.

That business of beauty on the inside only applies to underwear and to the pink lungs of people who neither smoke nor live in big cities.


This morning I had a sense of grief big enough for twenty boxes of chocolates.

And the kind of sadness where you don’t get dressed for a year.

But nude like that, no one could go out for chocolates.

And I’m too old for petty crime.


If among the listeners, there is someone who has ridden alone in the last car of the last train of the night, alone with a beggar who’s heading home with pockets full of coins collected that day, the beggar richer, much richer, and happier too, then that person will understand the anguish we all felt this morning.


After they said something about a fish, about a stupid fish, one of those small domestic catastrophes that changes the world took place:

Someone spilled beer, wine or something on the carpet.

A small permanent discharge.

The woman from 401 looked at her stained carpet.

The lost innocence of her carpet, nude and lacking a rain coat.


That line is pretty good too, but for a second or third date.

If there is one, of course.


She ran to lock herself in the bathroom and turned her portable radio all the way up.

The broadcast from the astronomical observatory which punctually provides the time.

We all went back to our apartments.

When our own bladders started demanding our attention.


This morning I knew that I had to leave him.

I knew it when I saw that he was using a glass of water as an ashtray.

This is a crime against water.

An unforgivable one.

Water is for drinking, air for smoking.

Even people who’ve never seen the ocean know this.


I’m going to tell you something that I’ve never told anyone.

I lie to the people of the fourth floor so that I can join their insomniacs’ gatherings.

I have no right to be there.

I live on three.


And so I lie.

It’s easy to get fooled before daybreak.

At that time of night, we all suffer from sunken self-esteem.

We leave ourselves too open to loving others.

Too ready to soak ourselves in flattery and a bit of warm attention

Especially those of us who smell of abandonment.


I will tell you a truth that I would never tell anyone.

Well, anyone other than you.

To live in an apartment building is to be more in tune with nature.

We are things of the air.

Air choking with nerves, feet, and heads.

That is something about which we all agree.

And it’s those sorts of truths which mustn’t be mentioned around company.


Living on the third floor is a disgrace.

There are neither gatherings of insomniacs, nor preparedness drills for catastrophes.

Everyone has animals, old invalids, plants or water droplets on the bed.

They live wearily until snoring awake.

On the sixth floor, they have weekly gatherings.

Issues of ventilation, gas, and wall cracks.

On seven they hold fire drills.

On Sunday mornings.

It looks fun.

I hear them running.

They simulate screams when they run down the stairs.

When they pass by my floor.

I hear the panting when they return.

You can hear so much in shortened breath.

It’s the most erotic moment of my day.


I live on the fourth floor.

Apartment 408.

But I’m not from here.

I’ve always lived on five.

I’ve only spent a week on four.

I’m not part of this uncivilized floor.

They have strange customs.

We say that if this building were a sandwich, the fourth floor would be the french fries in between.

Of course, this is assuming a sandwich made like I make them.

But the world is not how I make it.


They’ve been holding drills because the elevator only works from the seventh floor up.

A true necessity.

It’s said that on nine they have gatherings where they eat people.

I don’t believe it.

That’s commonly said about people you don’t know: that they eat people.

And who knows what they say about the people who live above them.

The people above are always dangerous.

In the building, on the map, in the bed.

The third floor is a disgrace.

The specter of another floor that died a long time ago.


About the guy that I called this morning, I can explain.

The one to whom I sent enough kisses.

I love that expression.

They always ask: “Enough for what?”

You reply: For whatever you want.

I love behaving like a box of gift-wrapped sweets.

A gift that dissolves quickly in a soft bite.

A gift that concludes with a single pop in the mouth.

And is done.

Like my history with him: when I arrived

and I had to tell him something

But he thought that I’d say something else.

Then I said something that I no longer remember.

And he said something he shouldn’t have said.

That’s all.

In that easy way, we lose each other.

Like that like always.

A connection with weak current, for minor home appliances.

Wholly lacking spark.


You mustn’t be too harsh with someone whose only fault is telling lies.

More so if she’s bad at telling them.

Last night when my wife got home, she told me some about a fish.

She always lies about the guy in 404’s telescopes, or about the shapes of the neighbors’ mattresses.


Pardon me, but I’m real.


Pardon me.

But as far as I’m concerned, you’re one of my wife’s lies.


Yesterday she overflowed with lies.

About her mother’s recipes for cooking fish in a painful way on the electric chair, and about how it’s bad manners to talk while eating fish.

She smelled of wine and reproached me for burying a fish spine in her heart.

She crawled into our bed swollen with tears.

She threatened to find a Chinese restaurant which sold puffer fish.

I’d swallow puffer fish until I hit poisonous meat and died, shrieking, with swollen eyes.

I continued drinking water.

Once she quieted down I went to the bedroom.

She snored face down, with a posture which from my youth had propelled me to kill her with kisses.

I shoved her to free up my scrap of the bed.

I forgot to go to the bathroom.

I took advantage of the opportunity and pulled the covers over me.


As soon as I hung up the telephone, I realized that it was a good day for a thaw.

I opened the refrigerator door and let it happen.

The frost had trapped something that I’d forgotten there who knows how many distractions earlier.

I’d like to eat it for dinner, even though I know that defrosting takes time.

I propped open the refrigerator door with the garbage can.

I placed a bench in front of my favorite home appliance and I took a seat to watch winter come crashing down.


I didn’t go to bed at all last night…


Oh now I remember.

I put an anniversary present in the freezer.

The guy from the phone call, he of enough kisses, gave it to me when we’d reached seven years together.

I wanted to freeze it for three years.

To defrost it for our first decade together.

A furry stuffed fish.

And a box of sweets.


I didn’t go to bed at all last night…

After the thing ended badly with that fish business, and someone spilled beer or wine on the carpet in apartment 401; and the old woman from 403 told me that she was capable of loving me that night like a rock clinging to a sheer cliff, and made obscene references to my lunar telescope; and then she asked me about the kind of mattress I slept on, and her bladder forced her to return home; after that, as soon as she’d left the apartment to build a branch office of the world’s lamentations, I left the building.

I went to the Atlantis dance hall.

“Oh my god, when the Angel of Destruction descends to dilapidate our species, may it at least leave the Atlantis intact.”

So I shouted outside the place.

Drunk and as much a part of the place as the scuff marks on the dance floor.

“We’re closing.”

“I don’t care. I’m here to pick someone up.”

“You can’t come in.”

And I threw myself upon them crying as if I’d just learned how from the old woman in 403.

“Fine, come on in man, it’s not the end of the world”

They say that the Atlantis was a planetarium.

With constellations projected onto its dome.

Others claim that it was a seafood restaurant called The Stateroom.

With fish, shipwrecks, and sea nymphs painted on the ceiling.

Above or below–it makes no difference to me.

I go to the Atlantis to believe that it’s possible to find a dancing partner.

Someone lacking rhythm, compromised like me by two left feet.


I’d simply suffered overexposure to him.

I burned.

There are things that you don’t forgive.

And dropping ashes in water…


This morning I woke up with a headache, and urine on the sheet.

The urine was mine.

The next to last time that I went in my bed I was five.

The last was when I was thirteen, and I dreamt in black and white about a girl I loved.


This morning I turned on the news.

I only wanted to know if it was going to rain today.

To see a map of the world with suns and little clouds.

Lightning bolts and snow.

That’s the world.

A tolerable place if you decide correctly and in time to head out with an umbrella or with sunglasses.


“What else gives me a blue tone.

A blue carpet and that’s it.

Changes of blue result from changes in depth.

Because water is always blue.

A color is a color.

Someone spilled beer or wine in my apartment and I have to change the carpet.”

“I’m throwing away the carpet tomorrow.”


It can’t be tomorrow, it has to be done today.

Tonight I’m hosting a gathering.

One of insomniacs, helpless people in my charge.

A pile of life’s leftovers.

It’s important.”

Extra cost.

No big deal, I come prepared.

Things we want to arrive on time, relationships, or forgotten things, that come and go on time, always come with an extra cost.

Yes I know it well, having ended hundreds of relationships.

Above all with my very own self.


This morning I pulled out photos from a trip that I took years ago.

To the Holy Land.

There’s a photo that I like a lot.

A lot.

I’m in a red bathing suit in the Dead Sea.

Floating in the salty water.

It’s amazing, you don’t sink.

I’ve already lost too much time.

We have a limited amount of time to lose.

And mine is already gone.

Like all more or less normal people.

It’s part of growing up.

I had a partner.

Let’s leave it at that.

We were together in the Holy Land.

He took my photo floating in the Dead Sea, and my hand when he felt lonely.

The capital letter “Y” reminded both of us of the desert palms.

We fell in love from that, and from other minor coincidences which, at the moment of disappointment didn’t help at all.


In the Atlantis I met a woman.

We evolved as dancing partners to the point of mimesis.

She always had weepy eyes.

Due to lack of sleep and a small infection.

She gave sloppy moist kisses.

She left me because each time we embraced my lust grew bolder.

Only a little, nothing wounding.

It became sponge-like, like a little pillow.

One early morning I dared to say to her.

“Do you want to sleep on my little pillow?”

These were moist times.


I’m going to tell you a moist dream that I remembered this morning.


Someone gave the order to have our building painted yellow?

That is a horrible color.


It’s important to me because…


It’s the color of bile and vomit.

Of beer and wine on the carpet.

The stupid fish that left the water must have been yellow.

Sand: yellow.

Fire: yellow.

Yellow is the color of land, of the dead.


I never remember my dreams and for some reason…


Also taxis in certain parts of the world, and some dangerous animal species.


But today I felt a strange movement in my stomach which gave me an irrepressible desire to tell you about it.


Me too, but I don’t even live in his building.


Non-fattening foods, in other words foods that are torturous to eat, are yellow, the yellow diet.


Can you shut your mouths?

Why can’t you shut up for a moment?

Why are all of you speaking all the time, at the same time?

I’m older, and my life is going to sink down to the bottom of the clearance barrel.


Let me speak.

I have so little left to say…


Listen, problems are everyone’s birthright and they start with the same flop of a stupid fish…


Let her speak.

She’s shy.

Being her is boring.

And for the following scene, she’ll be dead.


Our bed was normal.

Fit for sleeping.





The bed of two of our fourth-floor neighbors is not normal.

It sinks so much in the middle that they sleep stuck together.

The other three neighbors’ beds aren’t normal either.

They sink in the middle because they broke the mattress springs.

Ours, my husband’s and mine, doesn’t look like those, it’s flat and unadorned.


Before sleeping she does relaxation therapy.

Standing causes her pain.

Her softened body sinks into the mattress.

When she relaxes, she feels sustained by the springs.

She sleeps to forget the day.

She doesn’t toss or turn, or scratch herself.

When she does, she wakes up ashamed, resets her face, and eats breakfast.

She and I go to bed at the same time, and one of us falls asleep before the other.


My husband assumes that when I sleep, I dream.


My wife goes to the insomniacs’ gatherings so she can imagine her neighbors’ mattresses.


When the nights get long, I get out of bed a few times and go to the bathroom.

It’s so I can feel like I’m changing places.

I stand in front of the mirror and make faces to relax.

If I don’t succeed, I stay there, staring at my reflection.

Like that, I alone make myself sleepy.


My wife moans in her sleep.

Upon waking, she immediately forgets what she’s dreamt.

She only exists while awake.

But she dreams.

All mammals dream.

Simple things, the day’s banalities disordered by dreams.

A shopping cart surrounded by a labyrinth of flowers.

A talking toilet, and she shitting dollhouses.

She has no more themes whereupon to dream.

I don’t dare abandon her.

When I’m about to do it, what comes to me is the image of her asleep.

When she sleeps she’s no one, she has no one, not even her own self.

But last night she made fish noises and it gave me chills.


I wanted to keep a dream journal, but all I wrote down was my fish’s birthdays.

I have two fish in a round fish bowl.

When the fish sleep, they float.

They sleep without closing their eyes.

I love them.

I change the water in which they float every ten days.

The water is dirty, full of fish dreams.


Today I dreamed that I left my wife.

After telling her that I’d burned letters from women who’d loved me.

I left her the easy way, while she was changing the water for her fish.

In the dream, I take advantage of the fact that she’s not looking at me, and I leave the apartment.


At night, I had a dream.

It’s no big surprise.

We were talking about fish, and I dreamed of fish.

The dream begins with me stopping in front of my round fish bowl.

Changing the water, as if I hadn’t heard that all water is the same.


When I leave, I close the apartment door, and slide in the security bar so that nothing can get out.


I’m on my way to change the water for my fish when I slip and fall into the fish bowl.

The water cleans the dust out of hair abused by the mattress made of dry earth where a few hours ago I couldn’t sleep.


Upon leaving, I see the world’s infinite landscape.

Valleys and mountains made with the blankets and pillows of my own bed.

I walk on a bedspread woven from blue woolen yarn.

“It must be the sea, I’m walking on water,” I think.

Suddenly, through one of the gaps in the woolen bedspread, I find myself sinking.


I try to scream, but bubbles come out of my mouth, and when they touch the water, they turn into little lunar telescopes that immediately swim towards the top.

My fish come along and eat them.

I am so small that the fish could devour me.

I resign myself to serving as their nutrient, “I’m a lousy nutrient,” I think, “one that’s bad for the heart, too rich in fat.”

And I close my eyes hoping to be food for the first time.


I fall from the blanket of sea wool down to another below.

It’s a white sheet.

What was the sea, now lingers like a woven sky.

The white sheet is a crust of hot snow.

I play with it, and each time that I lift it a bit, end up making a hole.

“She’s going to be annoyed with me, she loved this square of white cloth,” I think.

Because in dreams we think.


I open my eyes because my fish haven’t eaten me.

As I open them, I notice that they’re looking at me.

One of them says to me: “Breathe.”

I’m underwater, I can’t breathe, I’m going to drown.


Running, I move away from the snow-sheet that I’ve broken.

I run until a pink wall stops me.

Gigantic and endless.

I smell it.

I recognize it.

It’s my wife’s pyjamas.


“Breathe through your gills,” my fish tells me.

I try it and I can.

I don’t breathe through my gills but through a black dress that I wear with long sleeves that float like the wings of fish.

I breathe through my pores, and through those of the dress.

Through every spot where I get goosebumps when kissed.


I take a closer look at the cloth, it’s porous.

I understand why she gets cold at night.

I manage to pass through the cloth.

I am inside my wife’s pyjamas, up where the cloth sticks to her shoulders.


My fish asks me to take off the dress.

“No one swims in a dress,” he says to me.

And I take it off.

My fish takes off his fishhead-shaped hat, his outfit of scales, his flipper shoes.

Naked, he is a small transparent jellyfish in human form.

The light passes through his body.

Delicately, softly.

He draws close to me, and my body molds perfectly to his.

I love this sensation, like when I’m tired, and I put on my pink pyjamas.


I scrape the cloth.

Among the fabric, I find scraps of my wife.

A hair from which the dye has washed out.

An enormous sheet of skin.

I detach it, it’s fragile and translucent.

I think about taking it with me.

Hanging it like a curtain in our bedroom when she’s not there.

I roll it up and decide to get out of her pyjamas, but I see something else caught in the cloth.

It’s a mole that has fallen off my wife.


My fish and I finish embracing and doing things that are only done well in dreams.

I want to take him with me, to hang him like a curtain, and kiss him in the mornings when the sun shines through him.

“You want to kill me,” says my fish.

And before he escapes, I cut off his fins, I place him inside my dress and I swim with him towards the surface.


My wife’s mole is a round pillow.

I place it under my arm.

I’m going to take it with me.


My fish has died under my dress and is rotting.

Pink mushrooms grow through his transparent skin.

Disgusted, I let him sink.

My skin wrinkles, and stains, it turns heavy and dead like a coarsely woven blanket.


I’m looking for a way out of the pyjamas, when I hear noise around the blankets.

It’s my wife, she’s come home from work.

Depressed as always, she’ll want to put on her pink pyjamas.


On the surface, I once again breathe with my lungs.

Breathing hurts me, the air is heavier than the water, it tears at the pores of my skin, and the fabric.

I’m no longer a fish.

I’m drowning.

I beat on the fish bowl with the fins of my dress.


I rip the cloth with my nails; it’s stronger than the snow.

My wife draws near, I hear her taking off her clothes, undressing.

I weep and curse.


The fish bowl cracks open.

It’s a noisy blast of water, full of fish dreams.


My wife picks up her pyjamas.

She puts them on with me inside.


I’m heavier than the water, the air and the glass.

I fall faster.

The glass shards are going to cut me into smaller and smaller little scraps.

They cut me so many times, that I’m no longer able to say that I am me.


The pyjamas squash me against my wife’s skin.


I am dead.


I position my wife’s pillow mole so that it protects my face.

The mole suffocates me.

I am dead.


Dead, and my husband is not going to wake me up.



And I have never had anyone to wake me up.


Let us take a moment of silence.

One for the two of them of course.

Let it not be said that on this floor we treat married couples as anything but a single unit.


My wife and I wouldn’t mind being two.


But the others would.


Doesn’t it bother them that meanwhile I’m speaking?

I don’t even live in this building.

Thank you.

I’m going to deliver all this from the outer crust of my emotions.

I just spoke with a scientist of unpronounceably intelligent name.

He delivers monologues about major animals from human history.

He has one about Laika, the dog who wagged her tail in space each time her capsule passed over Russia.

Another about the sufferings of a chimpanzee movie star, from the silent film era, whom Chaplin ordered killed.

He has another one about a mammoth frozen during the last ice age.

It’s moving:

“I am a mammoth.

I froze during the last ice age.

I am cold, very cold, because I’m frozen.

In millions of years, they will discover me, and I will star in famous films like:

Cave Teenager. Prehistoric monsters against prehistoric rebels.

Us mammoths are just elephants without haircuts

Our horns are different, curved, like a just-cut fingernail.”

He has another monologue about…


That concludes our moment of silence.


I’m not done and I need to finish what I began.

If not, it’ll give me an unspeakable desire in my gut to tell truths.

Cause if anyone finds me attractive, people who fall in love with me better watch out.


My wife and I wouldn’t mind troubling you, for just two minutes…

One for each of us, but separate.


Well you’ll wait until we’re all done, since we still haven’t heard from the others.

And even though we’re not that old, we too are going to die.

Some day, they say, so get over it.


By the time I’ve finished saying this, ten animal species will have vanished from the planet.

And I’m in the same kind of anguish as a person who’s just been dumped, wherein even the simplest oversight drives me to tears.

That I forget to put leftovers in the refrigerator.

To find an hour a day to spoil myself.

And finding myself with too much time today, as much as a person who’s just been dumped, I decided to defrost it.

I don’t know if what I’m saying makes any sense.

What we say doesn’t make sense, which is why we say it.

Speaking only serves to promote the evolutionary process of our tongue

Until the thaw comes.

Sense, what we call sense, is rain in the rainy season.

That where there are deserts there used to be seas.

Everything else is like me, something incoherent and depressed.

Like that giant unfaithful mass of humanity that lives on the first floor.


I’m getting tired of the fact that the only thing I have to pair off with is my pillow.


Me, no woman ever wanted to lie on my lump as it grew and was like a little pillow.

One tires quickly of knowing little.


Please, respect our disinterest in the details of your lives.


This morning, I pulled out photographs of me floating in the Dead Sea.

I always try to have the remains of things that I love in hand.

In case I have to exit running.

Or in case I’m alone and there’s a clot in the survival instinct.

My partner took them.

He wanted to go to the Holy Land.

Me to anywhere other than our apartment.


Salt keeps our food from being boring.

And in the Dead Sea you don’t sink.

That’s why it’s dead, that’s why there are no fish.

I don’t know how to swim and that’s the only body of water I can enter without drowning.

“No dear, you go on your own, I’m a person with my feet on the ground.”

That “dear” is said out of habit, so don’t make any assumptions.

If sometime, someone has wondered how a strawberry slice feels on top of gelatin,

Then he knows what it feels like to float on the Dead Sea.

To rest all your organs on the water without any danger of sinking.

My partner disappeared a hairball’s length of time ago.

Not to switch me for someone else.

Ugly people only find friends.

I was only able to find a way to move from five to four.

I don’t understand their customs.

I’m not adapting to the change of climate.

I miss the fatigue of climbing one more flight of stairs.


You are exceeding your time.


I’m done:

The people on six, they ate my partner.

I swear it.

That’s why I changed floors.

I am an immigrant on a floor with savage customs.

With insomniacs’ gatherings.

Where they talk about the shape of their mattresses.

About torturing the fossil remains of fish.

But soon they’ll hear the people on five clawing at the ceiling.

They’re starving.

They have plans.

And they hate you.

I’m done.


This morning was morning because the sun came out, not because I woke up.

Until this morning I believed that morning was morning because we opened our eyes.

Today I discovered that it takes place because the sun comes out.

Bad ideas brought about in infancy.

I spent the early morning hours at the Atlantis.

At a table next to the dance floor.

Looking for a whole woman, or at least the scrap of one, to dance with.

One who’s confused by her two left feet

who wouldn’t mind sleeping on my little pillow.

“If you see a stray around here, tell her I’m coming.

Listen, I don’t mind if she’s throwing up in the bathroom or is as fat as a washing machine.”

I have a sense of humor.

Also a sense of humidity.

Everything that happened was foreseeable given my behavior.

It was foreseeable, like the consequences of a bad idea.

I found no one.

I got drunk off the dregs of stolen glasses.

The cleaning staff threw me out.

‘Cause at that hour the fat bouncers had already gone to bed.

Being thrown out by the cleaning staff is better.

Their treatment is gentler.

They’re people close to water pails.

Maternal types.

In the Atlantis dance club there is an enormous fish bowl.

They had to build it inside the club because it wouldn’t have fit through the door.

The story of this fish bowl is moving.


It’s my turn.


The owner of the place assumes that when they demolish the Atlantis the fish bowl will be demolished with the building.

There’s no way to get it out.

The more senior employees will eat the fish that they’ve been feeding for years.

There’s no greater comfort in old age

Than eating what you’ve fed.

A complete food chain

With the exception of those that look all dried up on the wall of…


Listen, it’s my turn.


This woman who’s shaped like a toilet is my neighbor.

We insomniacs gather in her apartment.

All of the building’s apartments are irregular and hers has the biggest living room.

It’s so big that we could fit all of the insomniacs of the world inside it.

To tell each other about our lives, and in that way make ourselves sleepy.

If she wanted, she could host a campground in her living room.

Pilgrimages to her place from the bedrooms of all of the world’s insomniacs.

Her living room could be the made bed about which we insomniacs dream.

And she the pillow.

The girl from 405 has a kitchen that looks like it could raise a brood of children.

The maniac bought a refrigerator big enough to stuff in all of us neighbors.

The people in 403 have a bedroom that’s out of proportion.

Like a circus freak.

Half bedroom, and half salon.


Oh! Please!

Say more about my living room

You do it so well.


I don’t have any livable space.

But I do have a lunar telescope.

And a mouth like a crater on the lunar sea.

That’s a spot on the moon visible from a home telescope.


About my living room, please, my living room.


My time has come to an end.


Time is meant to come to an end.

And it’s bad manners to leave scraps.

More so when someone’s accompanied you, or when a woman wants someone to accompany her.


She has a room carpeted with earth tones.

Last night, in the early morning, someone spilled wine or beer and also ashes from a cigar which started a small domestic disaster like so many that we have every day.


The old folks from 403 are starting to smell like fish.


Oh, excuse me.

It was only a little puff of air that escaped me.

Dead, I can’t control that anymore.


But we don’t walk from apartment to apartment scaring the neighbors.

We’re well-mannered people.

They should thank us for that.


It’s my turn.


We’re not done with my living room.


If anyone’s interested, I can tell them how it is in the beyond.

And if anyone were interested, I have no reason to be faithful to my husband.


No, you had your turn, and you preferred to talk about your stupid fish fantasies.

And we all know that the thing they told us, where they die inside a dream and where no one wakes them up, is in reality a Japanese film.

And a bad one of course.


No one is to blame for dying in a boring way

And I didn’t want to bore them by telling them that we died like everyone died

From a bacteria shaped like a toadstool that infected my husband

Yet in this way if someone is interested…


We already let her talk too much, and no one respects anything.

And would you please finish up with the carpet business.


Today they laid in a new blue carpet.


Don’t you want me to talk some more about your living room?


Oh it troubles me deeply.

But after much consideration, I’m getting too old to give up my solitude.

You’re right when you speak about the size of my desire to give up decency like a stupid and gullible student.

But I prefer to speak for myself.

I need to speak as if someone could cure themselves by speaking.


I would have loved to be the first to deliver that line.

At a singles party, or running behind a train in a station full of people.

you know, bad ideas brought about in infancy.


That’s my line.


Excuse me, but lines like problems, are everyone’s birthright, and begin with the same flop of a stupid fish on the sand.


You’re right.

Even though I already used that line.


I can…



You can’t.

He can’t.

She can’t.

I can’t.

Just let me talk about my carpet.

The synthetic sea that I bought today that resists stains.

Today I replaced the carpet.

A water blue.


Are you done?


I believe so.

I didn’t do anything else.

I devoted my remaining time to looking at my carpet.

I wanted to see how, at day’s close, the sun would find its way into my sea blue carpet.

Like the slow darkening of my apartment’s living room.


Today I turned on the news.

I wanted to see the forecasts of rain.

Snow, sun, and lively little clouds.

People who talk about weather on television, are a love bite on the spirits of lonely people.

They speak with such courtesy and confidence.


Yes, that sensation that something can be forecast.

That in the morning we can know whether to sulk in a sunny park, or to weep at the movies in a theater without leaks.

Because a downpour at the wrong time, could force me to steal some weights for exercising my muscles, to run with them all the way to a pier or a fire station, to bind them to my chest like a misplaced dorsal fin, and to throw myself into the sea with the coarse and obvious attitude of a siren, to let out all the bubbles that I have inside, like a cluster of air pockets.

Someone who didn’t love me, told me that those who have seen in the distance the storks who swoop down toward land carrying babies from Paris, describe them like a bouquet of white bubbles.

Oh yes.

If someone falls in love with me, they better watch out.

I am a woman you don’t want to meet when you’re happy with your life.

I don’t know where I heard that line, but I love it.

For a thing like that I would risk every last penny at an auction.


The government should take charge of important things like giving us all a mission in life.


From childhood I thought that fat women had red balloons in their ass cheeks, that one day we’d see them fly away.


Do you want me to tell you about the air currents in the beyond?


You don’t have the right to speak about the gases that are escaping me.

That’s something personal and you and I are already nothing.




Your breath smells of fish.


“I am a fish who left the water.

I thought that air was breathable.

I have my reasons.

You won’t understand them.

They’re fish reasons.

We fish have an unquenchable faith and an active spiritual life.

I hate the abundance of the sea.

That emptiness where all that space is everyone’s space.

If you bleed everyone can smell it.

If you’re born, everyone can eat you.

Everything that swims, lacks its own private space.

If you want it, you have to find it within the group.

Millions of years ago, when I floated on land, I swam with a group of insomniac fish.

We fish sleep with our eyes open.

A biological disgrace.

To not close one’s eyes.

To see our very own dreams screened on water.

Our group of insomniacs floated, blending in with the stone.

It’s a bothersome necessity that blending in.

To look just like a stone.

In general it’s painful to be a fish.

More so an insomniac fish.

But in our gatherings we were happy.



We breathed imitating the stiffness of a stone.

Until someone said it.

As if she had two left fins.

“Why don’t we head to the surface?

Where the world is divided.

And water is taught how to use pipes.

The dry space of stones.”

I replied:

“Because air isn’t breathable, we all know that.”

It’s no good to arrive at the truth and it’s bad manners to do so around company.

That night, I had a foreboding dream.

Those sorts of things happen to fish a lot.

The result of mimesis and of living in love.

And I see an enormous rock pile.

Rock on top of rock where we could each live alone.

Far from the totality of the water.

Where in the mornings we’d know whether or not to use a raincoat.

I know you don’t understand it.

These are fish things.

But I dreamt of the surface.

With open eyes.

Fish dreams.

And I knew, from a burst of rain.

That air isn’t breathable.”

Here ends the fish monologue.

That is my favorite monologue.

One of those things of mine, that doesn’t know it belongs to me.

It has an open ending.

I love open endings.

We’re forced to imagine what happens next.

That monologue was written by a scientist of unpronounceably beautiful name.

Do you want me to deliver the protobacteria’s monologue?


I’m sorry to bother you.

But my wife and I are seeing a thing that says…


It’s just a maintenance man from the building.


I’m not from maintenance, I don’t even live in your building.

Excuse me.

I wanted to keep quiet until the end.

But she said “fish” and the words slipped out of me.

Just like when someone mentions water, and you have to…

You know, make

make peepee.


That happened to me three times in my life.

And now that I’m dead, all the time.

Not to mention gases that smell of fish.


May I deliver the protobacteria’s monologue?


Only those of us who live on four may speak.

You can’t even though you’re from maintenance.

Besides I have something important to say to them: I’ll straighten up my room, and I’ll open an insomniacs’ campground.


Excuse me.

I have a confession to make:

I live on three.

In 305.

Just below 405.

I’ve been lying to you the whole time.

I don’t have the right to attend your insomniacs’ gatherings.

I scoffed at you with the neighbors on my own floor, and I’m planning on holding gatherings to parody you and to tell them everything you say.


Well then thank you for saying so.

We already knew it.

But you seem like the violent type.

And we didn’t want to see you get mad.

Or to see ourselves floating upward, looking down on our corpses below

That’s why we prefer to ignore you.

But in any case thank you for saying it.


I practiced my fourth floor accent

You can’t have known…


The ones above us eat people

Please God let me taste bad.


That’s stupid.


I live in a world that believes air is breathable.

If someone can explain that, I won’t be scared of the people above.

Meanwhile so many will say that they’re starving and they hate us.


We could float through the ceiling, rise to five, and come back to tell you about it.

We move like angels and they can’t eat us.


You are dead.

Stay quiet and still for once.


Water and scraps of ice are falling from the ceiling.

My television is getting wet.

The maniac from 405 put her refrigerator directly above my television.


The thaw has begun.

I’ll be happy while it lasts

And it will last all night.


I imagine my living room carpet turned into a camping zone for insomniacs.

Full of country stores and diving zones.


I went to float among all of their apartments.

They lied to us when they were alive.

Their mattresses are identical.


From the edges of my new carpet, coming from below.

A cockroach attempts to reach the surface.


The cleaning staff at the Atlantis beat me up with water pails.

Like a mollusk I went back to my apartment in the morning.

Early morning air is less breathable.


The ones above us are starving

And they hate us.

I was only able to save my Dead Sea photographs.

A map of tourist sites around the sea and…


A cockroach emerged from under my carpet.

What makes it think that air is breathable?

Besides I sprayed it with insecticide.

The kind that doesn’t hurt the ozone layer.

It moved its legs as if it were swimming and it died.

Air isn’t breathable.

And then I felt a liquidation of emotions that I’d never before felt.

Loving me without distraction.


And they planned on going to the laundry room.

To climb inside the washing machines along with laundry loads of underwear.

To switch them on to the hot water setting.

To spin, to leave the air.

To spin round and round until they were dizzy like drunks.

To forget to switch to the dryer.

To spin around in their compartments of soggy solitude.

To not think that water isn’t breathable.

That’s why no one noticed when the fire started.

When the sparks from 305’s television burned 405’s refrigerator.

“That woman was a maniac, all of the ice was alcohol that had frozen within the refrigerator and combined with the natural gases of the machine it made for the most flammable ice that I have ever seen. Don’t keep alcohol in the refrigerator and if you do make sure to put on the cap.” So said a fireman with an unpronounceable name to us curious onlookers who were watching the blaze.

“And then the fire spread to a cheap carpet in 401, and a photography archive in 408.

But that smell, that bad fishy smell, came from the cadavers of the married couple in 403 who were already something rotten before the fire started.”

So said the fireman before shouting: “We need to bring back the water” when the air turned against us and spread the fire.

I lingered in front of the building for three days.

During that time the fire consumed the totality of the cement along with all of its tenants.

All removed from the air.

Like a collective error in the survival instinct

No one climbed onto the balcony.

No one jumped out the windows.

People are not creatures of the air.

Downstairs, earth awaits us, the hardiest of liquids.

I didn’t say much.

I didn’t want to bother anyone.

I don’t even live in this building.

From within the sewers the rats leaped, fleeing the boiling drainage.

Spitting up ashes and water.

I don’t know why they thought air was breathable.

Why that lack of circulation in the survival instinct.

They made a mistake.

Flight is towards the bottom.

Toward the dead, and the drainpipes that flow into the ocean.

They are clumsy animals.

With clumsy ideas.

And I must tell it to them.

With a lie or a story.

But I thought that it was a bad idea.

Like so many that I have every day.

That if someone falls in love with me, they must take care, because I love open endings.

Do you want to hear the protobacteria’s monologue?

Mexico City

August 2006

The chairs disappear.

Somewhere in space, a giant fish appears, pulled onto the stage. The actors go to see the fish. The fish jumps as if it were being cooked, as if the set were a steaming grill and the fish were a living being that was suffocating. The actors watch it, the fish suffers, tries to breathe. Someone approaches it, and listens to it, as if it were saying something, leans in and puts an ear to its mouth. This actor leaves the stage, returning with a microphone which he puts in the fish’s mouth, the fish sings a sad song with a female voice, serious and sad. While it’s singing, the others observe it. From the ceiling a giant fish hook slowly descents. When the hook arrives at the floor, the actors hook it into the fish’s mouth. Its mouth bleeds but it continues to sing, it shakes, it boils, is cooked and suffocated. The fish is lifted with the hook. The fish dies. The fish disappears above. The actors watch the figure get lifted, the figure leaves the stage. End of music.

Slow fade to darkness.


Alberto Villarreal Díaz

Alberto Villarreal Díaz is a Mexico City-based playwright, director, and translator. Recent work includes Events with Life’s Leftovers, presented at Dramafest 2008 in Mexico City, and Para satisfacción de los que han disparado con salvas, presented and published in Santiago, Chile. The winner of numerous awards in Mexico, he has participated in the Royal Court International Residency for Emerging Playwrights in London, and been published by Nick Hern Books.

Andy Bragen

Andy Bragen, a graduate of Brown University’s MFA Program in Literary Arts, was the winner of the 2007 Clubbed Thumb Biennial Commission. Other honors include a 2009-2010 LMCC Workspace Residency, a Tennessee Williams Fellowship from Sewanee, and a Jerome Fellowship. The Hairy Dutchman, commissioned by the University of Rochester, was produced at the university in April 2009. His second collaboration with jazz saxophonist John Ellis, The Ice Siren, premiered at the Jazz Gallery in May 2009. Spuyten Duyvil was produced by Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep. in July 2008. Greater Messapia was produced at Queens Theatre in the Park in March 2004. Also a translator, Andy works directly from French and Spanish, and with a co-translator from the Japanese. Vengeance Can Wait was produced at PS122 in April 2008. Other plays and translations have been seen and heard at numerous theatres in New York and elsewhere. More information is available at

Desaire De Los Elevadores. Copyright (c) Alberto Villarreal and Arte y escena Ediciones, 2009. English translation copyright (c) Andy Bragen, 2009.