Yes, I remember. I remember everything, all the details. From the smallest detail: the BOOM of the bomb, a woman in white, running and screaming, the silence after the bomb; how I started to run and suddenly stopped in my tracks. How I stayed for precisely a minute and a half; then I realized I was plastered against the door of a Fiat Punto with the key inside and it wasn’t locked. That I got in the car and started it up and got on the road in the middle of the night. It was eleven twenty. I knew very well that all roads would be closed off so I went toward the bus station and from there on to Bar llan street, up to the University exit and toward the Dead Sea.
I remember everything, thousands of details, I could write a whole book about all those details that I remember. But nobody believes me, nobody, not even me. Well, I DO believe me but I can’t convince myself of anything . And afterward, going down to the lowest point on earth and the accident with the yellow truck- it was yellow and I am sure of it- although it was a dark night. Very dark. And the hospital.
When I woke up they called me Mariano. A woman “my wife” called me Mariano. And I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t answer “ I’m NOT Mariano, you are mistaken.”
“I came right away Sugar. Sugar, you gave me a real fright.”
“What Sugar? What is going on here?”
And then, from this first unasked question, this woman, “my wife” responded as if it were a normal conversation. She answered all the questions as I thought of them.
“Yes, you are Mariano. The doctor already told me that you might have temporary amnesia and that you might not remember a lot of things. He told me to tell you all about your life, about everything.”
“What’s your name?”
“That you probably wouldn’t even remember my name . I’m Muriel. We’ve been married for seven years. We have a three- year- old daughter. She couldn’t come. She stayed in Madrid.
“Where? But I’ve never been in Madrid! What’s going on here?”
“Try not to get too excited. Calm down.”
It seems I was trying to rebel against my sudden identity change.
“ We live in Madrid. You were born in Madrid.”
“Not me. I was born in Tangier Mrs. Muriel. In Tangier. My name is Max. Max Benamu.”
And I fell asleep.
Just like that.
“When I woke up, Muriel kept talking. I think she didn’t know for sure when I was asleep or awake and she was under orders to talk to me as much as possible. She told me all about my life. My past. My new past.
The truth is that it wasn’t all that bad and I especially loved her voice. In under two or three days I had fallen in love with her voice. Muriel…Voice of Muriel, please, SAVE ME. I couldn’t see her or imagine her but I was sure she talked a lot. This is very common in Spanish women…or, at least, in the Spanish women I had known.
The thing is, in reality, what was happening to me didn’t seem all that negative. I didn’t get along at all with my wife Sarah, who was French, and we had been married for twenty years. True, we had a daughter. I had a daughter with my two wives. My daughter was seven. I didn’t get along at all with Sarah. Or, really, I didn’t even associate with her, good or bad. It was total silence. Even though she talked all the time, I remained silent. Or, that me, the Max me, not the new me: The Mariano me. Max me and Mariano me.
Muriel told me about my life and I listened to her voice. She told me I had been born in Madrid, that my father was an official during Franco’s rule. That I traveled to Israel because I was interested in Judaism. That I had said that I had a Jewish grandmother but that was pure speculation, that I was thinking about converting but she didn’t think that I would really do it. She had time to tell me thousands of things but without seeing, I heard her voice I SAW her voice. Her voice had COLORS. When she was in a good mood her voice was yellow. When she got nervous it tended toward sky blue because she tried to calm down by talking and narrating.
She talked about our daughter Sarah, who she also called Dana, about my business, or my father’s business, the restaurant chain Pibx which had begun with one restaurant my father had opened in 1977 on Orense Street. It was notable for having a lingerie store at the entrance. This was a great idea because lovers liked to purchase undies for their conquests before or after dinner. So much so that that it is now a chain with eighty locations…or more. Who knows? And it’s even international since we have opened one site in Buenos Aires and another in Istanbul. The Turks are crazy about it. She kept on talking. Muriel talked all the time. Business had more of a brown color. Sometimes with a reddish tinge. You are the owner of the business, meaning more or less that I didn’t do anything because the manager made all the decisions. The first thing I set out to do when I got out of the hospital a year and a half after the accident, was to open a branch in Jerusalem, which the manager resoundingly opposed because this would mean that we would lose clients all over the world and we wouldn’t be able to open any sites in Arab countries.
“We could open in the Arab sector, couldnt we? That would be revolutionary wouldn’t it? Panties for Palestinians?”
“No Mr Caro, I don’t think that is such a good idea and I don’t think you are in any condition to make decisions.”
“I know the Israelis have enough panties but they could eat a little more Kosher.”
“Look, why don’t you just do what I tell you. After all, I am the owner.”
But It was not to be. I had two brothers and my father had made it clear that I was the owner but that the manager Mr. Carlos Ortega y Gasset (yes, that guy, the great grandson of the philosopher) And unfortunately, for that reason, we could not send panties to Palestine. I was still pondering piling up pillars of panties in Palestine.
Muriel continued telling me that my father got rich during the seventies importing cars in a business with his brother but he lost it all. The brother lost it all at the casino in Monte Carlo , well, not everything in Monaco- he also lost a lot in Spain. He spent millions on the lottery “and when your father found out about it it was too late. Fortunately he was able to salvage something, enough for your parents to get by until he opened the first Pibx.”
Then, after she told me that, she took off her… and I heard her close the blinds. She shut the door and touched my cock. That’s the only thing you don’t have a cast on, and then she sucked it. It was the first of the seventeen times she sucked it while I was in the hospital and the only moments when she wasn’t talking to me while I was awake. She probably talked to me when I was asleep. It wasn’t very easy to enjoy that without moving at all because any movement at all caused me horrific pain, especially in my back.
Two and a half years later I went to Jerusalem for the second time. That time I rented a flat across from Sarah. 41 Yehuda Street, first floor. I had lived there years before. An eternity ago. I first started watching her through the window. She lived with a man. From the window I could see that she was getting along just fine, or at least that is what it looked like.
I had to talk with her. At least I had to ask her why my name was not on the plaque that they had placed beside the attack site. I had to talk with her.
I went along with what the family was doing and finally discovered the right day. On Tuesdays the man of the house would leave and she would stay home alone for two hours until another man would come to clean the house. What I did not know was in what language I would speak to her. I did have a serious brain injury but not the one the doctors had diagnosed. It wasn‘t amnesia. It was something else. All of the languages I knew how to speak had disappeared. And I only spoke my original language. And that was Spanish from my infancy. The Spanish from Tangiers.
My wife, the second: Muriel, had told me that I had learned to speak just like the Tetuanies but nothing else. I couldn’t speak French, English, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, nothing. None of the languages I knew. What is worse, I took French classes and there was no way I could hold in my brain for longer than five seconds that a table could have another name. First I would say “table”and then the word in French and then I would go back to “table.”
I pushed the bell but nobody came to open the door. So I knocked on the door - hard. She opened it without asking who was there.
“But you’re …”
I think she spoke Hebrew.
“It’s me, Max. Can I come in?”
And I went in.
I went in to the living room.
The flooring had been changed. Now it was wood. Fake wood but the living room was the same. She conserved her physical attractiveness and I got a half erection.
“Look, Sarah, Listen, It’s me. And I’m not dead. I’m alive. But I can’t speak French. I can only speak Spanish. I think you understand me
“Yes,” she said.
She had on blue jeans and a black blouse. She didn’t sit down.
“I think I need to explain to you what happened.”
“Please, leave. Get out of here.”
She spoke Spanish with a strange accent , saying “poj favoj” instead of “por favor”
“I’m better now, I’m fine, You know, I got married again and yesterday my daughter came and said that she saw you in the street and that you laughed and I told her it was her imagination.”
She kept pronouncing Spanish with a strong accent but I was getting used to it.
“Well I didn’t know you spoke Spanish so well!”
“For this, yes, Don’t you remember that I took a course on Cervantes and another in the Ibero/American Institute?
“Well great, I get it.”
And then I hugged her, I kissed her on the mouth. I was attracted to her more than ever. She was beautiful that Spring day. You are my wife, I thought, we never divorced.
“You are my wife. I miss you.”
“What’s that about?”
“Well, I miss you. I want to be with you.”
“I can’t. It’s over. It wasn’t easy, even though we were divorcing. A day before that, I went to see an attorney. I felt really guilty. You know?”
As with Muriel it was very difficult.
“Yes, OK, Well, look, I’ll tell you before I go. I was in the terrorist attack and I almost went crazy, I got in this car and started driving. It was a blank spot. Later I was in a coma for six months. I couldn’t speak or move. I had seven broken ribs, both legs and both arms. But mostly my back hurt. And then it turns out I had got in the car of a Spaniard, a real rich one, and his wife, whose name is, to top it off, Muriel who has a daughter named Sarah, who is now my daughter, came for me. I couldn’t even say it wasn’t me.”
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