The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 13, No. 1

Tuesday Meetings

by Slavko Zupcic

Translated by Janet Hendrickson and Mariana Morris-Grajales

Unusual Games Love Unit One Needs
That the pope will come in March and will send us a blessing from across the unit—that's what the letter read at the meeting on Wednesday said. It was the last point we dealt with. Obviously, we introduced the participants before the reading took place. The doctor went first; that's why he's the one in charge. "I am Ismael. I'm a psychiatrist for the unit." He passed the right to speak to the left, and this time he was followed by Pedro, from the depressives group. After him it was Jesús and Zambumbia's turn, depressives, too. As usual, they barely said their names and right away looked down at the floor. Then it was the bipolars' turn. Óscar, the most animated of them, began a speech that Doctor Ismael had to stop. "You can tell us all your problems later, Óscar. Don't worry. For now, you must only tell us your name." "For now and forever," Óscar replied immediately, and his two friends, Ernesto and José, also bipolar, started to laugh. Rafael, Humberto, and I were the last to introduce ourselves. José announced us: "Here come the psychotics." "Let them introduce themselves, José," the doctor chided, and that's how we could finally speak. Since I was seated to the right of the doctor, I went last. Perhaps José wanted me to say that I am René and I have schizophrenia. I wouldn't; I presented myself not as my illness, but as who I am: "Good morning, everyone. I am René, and I'm in charge of reporting this meeting for The Eye of Haloperidol." "Very well, René," Doctor Ismael interrupted. "You may also say that you are a patient in the unit." "I am." Then the doctor started with his recommendations. "I want to remind you that when it's time for treatment all of you must approach the nurses' station." "The depressives aren't doing it, my dear doctor," Óscar broke in, and the only one who could restrain him was Doctor Ismael. "Don't worry about that, Óscar. They'll do it as soon as they get better. Now, tell us: what are the two things we must always remember?" The doctor wanted Óscar to tell him about making our beds when we get up and taking our medication, but Óscar wouldn't; he didn't remember, he was thinking about something else: "Olanzapine rhymes with grin—Olanzagrin." "Ernesto, you tell us." Far from remembering, Ernesto was laughing at Óscar's joke. "José?" Rafael whispered the answers in his ear, and José could finally name them: "Our bed and medication." Then the doctor elaborated further, but not much, because it was obvious that he was in a hurry. "Before I read this letter that I believe will be important for everyone, does anybody have anything to add?" Óscar didn't think twice and raised his hand. His face revealed that he was about to say the bit about Olanzagrin, but Ernesto and José stopped him. Ernesto spoke: "I have something to say, and I want it to be recorded in The Eye so that nobody forgets." "Go ahead, Ernesto; we'd like to hear it." Ernesto remained silent for almost five seconds. It was apparent that it was hard for him to begin, but José and even Óscar encouraged him with their gestures. It seemed to be an important subject for everyone. "I'm embarrassed to say it, but we can't deal with this anymore, Doctor. We want to have relations." Doctor Ismael cut him off, not because he wasn't interested in the subject, but because he wanted to read to us the letter about the pope's visit. "We can work on that subject in our next meeting, Ernesto. It's important, I know. But for now I would like to read you the letter sent to me by the board of directors." Right after, he read a letter announcing that since the pope had to go by the hospital anyway on his way to the airport, His Holiness would be offering us a special blessing. "What do you think?" The depressives became a bit enthusiastic but didn't speak. The bipolars and the rest of us were annoyed at not being able to talk about relations. As usual, Óscar was the only one who dared say anything. "I don't want any popes. I just want to have relations." Doctor Ismael made as if he hadn't heard and addressed me: "You should write an article about this for The Eye of Haloperidol, René, to announce the pope's visit."

The Policeman's Ass
Today we couldn't make our presentations. We all sat in the unit patio; the meeting was about to start, but the depressed guys began to cry—the three of them together. I would say they were actually already crying on the way from their rooms, where the nurses went to get them, and when they saw all of us here they couldn't hold it any longer, broke down a bit more, burst into noisy tears. The reason? More or less the same as always: Yesterday was visitors' day, but for them there were no visitors. There were visitors for the bipos and even for us; but for Pedro, Jesús, and Zambumbia, none at all. It's just not easy to visit a depressed person. That's why the three of them were weeping, and Jesús' was the leading voice. He shouted and shouted. Why do I think it'll never be necessary to tell you that I waited all evening for you and that I felt like peeing? And Doctor Ismael tried to calm him down. Why do I feel that you look like me when I cover one of your eyes in the dark? "Maybe they couldn't make it, Jesús. Something must have happened." Certainly the doctor must have wanted to talk about the pope's visit and was upset because Jesús wouldn't let him. Why don't I care about the same things that used to matter so much to me? Why don't I touch a policeman's ass when I think about the possibility that you're with someone else right now? "The important thing is that you are doing well." Why don't I call a cab and leave? Why do I forget half of my problems when I'm with you? "That you are being taken care of and you don't want for anything." Fuck, instead of telling him the truth: that it's not easy to visit a depressed person who cries all the time. "Wait until the next visiting day. I'll try to contact them." Why don't I mind if I seem irresponsible when your saliva is still fresh upon my lips? Why do I stop strangers on the street to talk about you? Why do things slip off my hands when I think you're approaching? "We must start the meeting now." Why do I believe that it's your car constantly being parked by the curb? Why do I feel that people watch me anxiously? "It has nothing to do with religion, but in this case, since he is such an important person, I think that we have to do something special for the pope's blessing." Why do I fill in every empty space in the world before my mouth with your name? Why don't I go out for beer with my friends anymore? "We'll take ideas. Let's see, what can you come up with?" Why don't I masturbate at six every morning anymore, or answer "misogynist" every time I'm asked my gender anymore? Why do you always wear your pants so tight? "It's the pope who's coming. It's as if he were a president." Why do I hear some stupid Chavela Vargas song in my ears all the time? "This is a very important person." Why do I still wait for you if I have a premonition that we should have met at seven? "Does somebody have an idea? I'm waiting." Why did your car have an accident, and not any other? I was the only one who spoke and everyone thought that my idea was good. Why? Why? "I can dedicate a special edition of The Eye of Haloperidol to the occasion." "That's a good idea, René; congratulations." "Then I'll place a copy of The Eye on the bulletin board so everyone can see it."

The Pope Is Coming
The pope is coming. He's not a rocket, he's not Superman, but he's coming all the same. He will come all dressed in white and will greet us. We will receive benedictions from a pope called Benedict. He won't come in a motorcycle because Christ is the one who will come that way, but he'll come. Very pretty in his popemobile. A pope in white riding in a dairy-white popemobile. And we'll cheer. Long live the pope, long live the pope. And the knights of the zodiac will scold us. Perhaps I can interview the pope for The Eye. "How are you doing, Pope?" "Fine, just eating this pork rind." "I thought that the pope couldn't say things like that or ride the downtown buses." "That's because I'm a different kind of pope." That would be an interview that would travel the world. The title should be something simple so that everyone will take note: "The Pope Eats Pork." The problem is that the Arabs will get upset. I better not interview him. What we should do is ask him for a miracle. Not to be cured of schizophrenia because there's no cure for it. Although there is a cure for depression, but it doesn't matter. We'll request relations, relations for everyone. Relations, visitors, and Olanzapine for everyone, please. A friendly pope will deliver. A good pope will succeed for sure. A noble pope will not fail: he'll do it, the pope will come; on arrival he'll get us intercourse. We'll have to say one Hail Mary and one Our Father. And copy these prayers on a five-peso bill. And we'll put it inside our right shoe, close to the heel, not the big toe. And we'll distribute seven copies of it amongst neighbors and close ones. Those who don't distribute it will get screwed and stay stiff. The pope will come and maybe we can ask him that the meetings take place inside the unit instead of in the patio from now on so we don't dry up like coffee beans.
     PS: "Don't talk backward, please. Don't do it ever again," my first girlfriend screamed on that October 31. "Tub. Yhw seod ti rehtob uoy os hcum fi ti si ylno a emag?" "Don't do it, Ariel. Don't ever do it again. Don't you realize that it goes against all logic?" "T'nod eb yllis." "If you do it again I swear that I'll leave you." "Evael neht. Tahw era uoy gnitiaw rof?" I finally said to her. She left indeed. She left and did everything backward: 13 January the following year she married a dentist whose last name was Leira. Gib, denmad tuls.

Mint Binoculars
Susana in the bathroom of the house. "How do you see things, René?" Susana trying not to pant so she won't have to pay up. "Very well, Doctor. I think the latest issue of The Eye caused a stir." Susana in the faculty library reading a story by Cortázar. "What are you referring to?" Susana in the bathroom of the house, but standing and ejaculating in the sink. "It's that we're all excited now about the pope's blessing." Susana in bed and ejaculating on a literary supplement. "Are you speaking for yourself or for everyone, René?" Susana at the point of being named the most beautiful woman of such-and-such a place. "For everyone, Doctor. The guys are getting very excited." "Why do you say so?" Susana in bed and ejaculating on a Mickey Mouse sheet. "Look at Óscar and José: they're so excited about the possibility of a miracle." Susana drinking chocolate at the university café. "What miracle?" Susana in bed watching a porn flick and ejaculating on the breasts of Claudia Schiffer. "They've asked the pope to grant them relations." "And the rest?" Susana asking me out, in spite of her boyfriend. "Them, too. Well, Ernesto, no, because sometimes he has relations with David, the night nurse." Susana, very good, declining my invitations over the phone. "Yes?" Susana in bed without noticing where the ejaculation goes. Susana accusing me of being total blah-blah. "It seems those two knew each other already from outside." Susana in the movie theater, thinking of Miss Slovenia's skinny legs. Susana under a bridge using a condom from the WHO. "We're also asking him for relations. And visits." Susana trying to fit the key in the damaged switch of an impossible exit. "Who's 'we'?" Susana, two years later, accompanying me in the funeral parlor. "Rafael, Humberto, and I, the schizos." Susana in the movie theater, watching another porn film. "Only relations and visits?" Susana turned into a huge pill of whatever. "Also, cigarettes and Olanzapine." Susana watching Casablanca in the movie club on Lorenzo Street and ejaculating on the hair of the girl in front. "The part about Olanzapine seems very good to me. It doesn't matter if the pope won't bring it; it shows that you're fond of the treatment." Susana kissing us in the backseat of a bus. "Doctor, aren't you going to ask me about the others?" Susana, the next day telling me she'd liked it. "Who else are you talking about?" Susana by night, walking in the street. "About Pedro, Jesús, and Zambumbia, Doctor. You aren't going to ask me what they've asked the pope for?" Susana in a taxi, without the driver noticing. "Of course, René. I just got distracted." Susana not allowing penetration and ejaculating anywhere. "They're impossible, Doctor." Susana, divine, bathing naked in the patio of the house. "Because I made it very clear in The Eye." Susana on the Metro platform, ignoring the yellow line. "But they're very stubborn." Susana, angry, demanding that each day be the last time ever. "And they haven't paid attention to me at all." Susana remembering some nonsense. "The other day I saw them praying in a corner of the patio." Susana, any which way, but with the left hand. "Zambumbia held an image of the pope between his hands." Susana saying good-bye with her feet. "But it wasn't an image of this one now, but the other, that one from before, the one named John Paul." Susana announcing her wedding to me on a sad and unfortunate date. "They'd already prayed an Our Father and a Hail Mary to him." Susana with a piece of meat, begging me to never again pronounce the six letters of her name. "And they were asking him to cure them."

Everyone Against René. That could have been the title of today's meeting. Everyone against me, and I so deserved it. Even Doctor Ismael. It was he who turned the meeting into a referendum against me. When the presentations began, instead of simply stating his name and position in the ward, he said he was a reader of The Eye of Haloperidol. Maybe he just wanted to do me a favor, but he fucked it up and how. It wasn't Ernesto's turn to speak, but he jumped ahead of the other bipos, Óscar and José, and launched into a speech in which he basically asked that his privacy be respected. The depressives put forth something similar, and they were also right: whether they want to ask the pope for the miracle of a cure or not is their problem, and I have no reason to question them. It's necessary to say here that I understand this so clearly now because I've worked on it in therapy with Doctor Ismael. In the meeting I wasn't so calm, and I even threatened them with new issues of The Eye unveiling the secrets of the ward: how to get cigarettes, who sleeps with whom, and why the depressives don't want to have relations. They ganged up against me, and if words were stones, they would have killed me. It was necessary to suspend the meeting so we could calm down. The nurses took away the bipos. The psychology residents took Pedro, Jesús, and Zambumbia. And we went with Doctor Ismael. The break lasted approximately three hours, and when the meeting finally resumed, we were all calmer. We introduced ourselves. Doctor Ismael limited himself to stating his name and his profession; us, our names and illnesses. And when the floor opened, I asked to speak first, and I asked forgiveness from everyone, but principally Ernesto. He was touched: broken, absolutely broken, he started to cry on Óscar's shoulder, and I went up to his chair and gave him a hug. Then we had to take another break, but this time only five minutes. When we returned, Doctor Ismael took the stand and again asked us to give ideas for the pope's reception. I stayed quiet because I understood he was referring to things that didn't have to do with The Eye. No one said anything and I didn't either. Doctor Ismael insisted: "Any idea. Can anyone give an idea?" This time it was Zambumbia who broke the ice. He's normally so quiet, but the idea he gave was so good. "I have an idea." You could hardly hear him because he speaks softly and the acoustics of the patio are a little messed up. "Talk louder, Zambumbia. We can't hear you." Zambumbia tried, but just the same, you couldn't hear anything. So Doctor Ismael switched places with Jesús and, now sitting at Zambumbia's side, listened to the things he was saying and repeated them aloud to us. "Zambumbia says that it would be good if, for the pope's blessing, there were a lot of people in the ward." Ernesto took advantage of the pause to tell Óscar, but also all of us, that the emergency room psychiatrists could solve this problem easily by increasing the number of hospitalizations. We laughed a little but maybe Doctor Ismael didn't hear us, and when he separated his left ear from Zambumbia's mouth, he continued: "And the best way to do this would be for each one of us to communicate with our relatives and friends and offer them the possibility of coming to the ward, and thus all receive the blessing together." This seemed like a good idea to everyone, and with the doctor's approval the meeting concluded.
     PS: When she hardly knew him, she told him that she lived above a bakery and that every morning she woke to the smell of croissants melting in the oven. Thus, once he moved to her apartment, he could no longer complain that his shirts smelled like apple and chocolate, like vanilla—fundamentally, like cinnamon.

The Revolution Is Not a Dream
It has been Ernesto's initiative, but we all are in agreement. After the last Haloperidol, he spoke with Doctor Ismael to have him convoke an extraordinary meeting. They called it for Thursday, at three in the afternoon. Ernesto was inspired. "It has to be so, with love, like our comrade René has done." Doctor Ismael interrupted to tell him to get to the point. Zambumbia, who was cheering up little by little, tried to say something similar. "What are you referring to, Ernesto?" Ernesto stopped, walked toward the center of the meeting, and, as if he were a preacher, opened his arms and began his discourse anew. "I am talking about the pope. What else could I be talking about? About the pope from Rome. That if he's going to come and if we want him to come accompanied by women, we have to do more than call our relatives and friends." This time it was I who interrupted him. "But a lot of us have already gone ahead and made the calls." Ernesto continued in the center of the meeting. "It doesn't matter. We can keep making them. But you all well know that they won't come with phone calls alone. We have to invite them to a party, with music and everything. A complete party at which the pope will be only one of the attractions. A big party." We were all excited, it's true. I thought of a very big cake, with abundant frosting and a lot of colored sprinkles. Humberto thought of his music, which is what he likes best: a little Oscar D'León, a little Billo's. Rafael, of balloons and piñatas. All of us, thanks to Ernesto, imagined the parties we wanted, and Ernesto finished things off in a way that disappointed no one, least of all me. "All of this occurred to me while I was reading René's croissants. We can make a sort of card inviting people to the party. On the top we'll briefly write the bit about the pope, and below we'll stick the croissants. On the back, we can put something else, as long as it's about love. I've already written something, which I'm going to give to René right now." Ernesto was referring to a handwritten paper that, in effect, he gave me but that Doctor Ismael snatched away at once. The meeting ended, and Doctor Ismael returned the paper to me, after reading it himself. "Ernesto's right. You can put it on." "But how?" "Like he said, write an invitation. Imagine it's a special issue of The Eye." "A special edition?" "That's it, a special edition." That's how I understood it and that's what I'm working on. For now and for internal public consumption, the words of Ernesto as a postscript.
     PS: He saw a woman named Tamara drinking tea and he became entamored. "Tamara, tamarina," he tawharbled in the mornings, without a care for the neighbors' fury. "Tamala, tamalita," he would sing in Chinese as he plucked tamaritas. "Will you ever let me eat your tamalito?" "This is a tamareo," he told his friends, who called him the Tamarous. "Tamarica, Tamarina," he wrote in graffiti on the tamurals of the town. All until he understood that Tamara would never be entamored of him, and progressively he fell out of tamaramor.

Why Do We All Want a Woman Named Libruja?
Because. Because we have already sent the cards. Because the invitations turned out beautifully. Because we put my croissants on them and Ernesto's tamaras. Because we wrote them on pink card stock. Because we drew hearts all over them. Because Óscar got a tube of lipstick and decorated his and José's cards with lips. Because Pedro, Zambumbia, and Jesús participated and they looked so happy. Because on almost all of them we put the face of the pope and next to it the four letters of the word love in different colors. Because we also sent invitations to the soft drink distributor, to a business where they sell tequeños wholesale, to the guys from Olanzapine, and to the Marlboro factory. Because Doctor Ismael said he'd bring a stereo system. Because it's certain that we're going to have a big party.

Ernesto's Right
It seems like the cards are working. There's still a week left until the pope's blessing, and we're all receiving visitors. We're so happy, depressives included. So happy that we had to tell Zambumbia to fake it a little so they wouldn't discharge him. It's just that as happy as he is, he no longer seems depressed; and if he's discharged, he'll miss the party. However, since we talked with him, he's calmed down a little and every time he sees Doctor Ismael he starts to cry. That's how we all are, more or less. And the people are responding. The tequeños and the cigarettes have already arrived. The soft drink distributor wrote a letter to Doctor Ismael promising fifteen cases of cola and five of malt. The guys from Olanzapine also responded, and now we're all receiving the complete treatment.

Unusual Games Olanzapine Love Unit One Needs
This is the last issue of The Eye of Haloperidol. Not because they're going to discharge me or because the media have been prohibited in the ward. No, not because of that. It's just that I think it's necessary to take a break after the pope's blessing and come back later with another project. So The Eye will stop seeing, but the party we threw, we won't forget it, ever. It was wonderful. It drew a crowd. Never had Unit One received so many people. Girls of all colors and shapes. Black, coffee, olive-skinned and blonde, white- and red-haired. Fat girls and thin girls, though there were more fat than thin. We sang and danced. We smoked and drank soda. José even got a beer, and at one point in the party we split it between everyone in the bathroom. Of the nine, Óscar and Zambumbia were the only ones who had relations, but the rest of us made a lot of female friends and I'm sure we'll have them later. I met a very special girl who turned out to be José's sister. I was dancing with her when Doctor Ismael said there were five minutes left until the pope's blessing. We stopped the music and got close to the front door. Since there were a lot of people everyone huddled together. It felt like a New Year's party and we all counted down the seconds that were left. When we got to zero, nothing happened. Doctor Ismael said that we should wait, and that's what we did. We waited ten more minutes, and since nothing happened, someone put the music back on and we resumed dancing. I continued with Erika. We were dancing to a lively little ditty by Oscar D'León, "La Mazucamba." Halfway through the song, Erika heard a siren that wasn't coming from the stereo. It had to be the pope, but I didn't dare say anything. The others were in the same situation. The sound of the sirens kept growing louder, but all of us, patients and visitors, continued dancing. As the song finished, they started to pass. First, four motorcycles and two black limousines. Then a very pretty white car from which, as it passed at full speed toward the airport, a hand, also white, made a strange gesture, like a blessing. It was the hand of the pope. We all saw it, but we kept dancing just the same. We were having too good a time. The miracle had already been granted.

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