Ripe, a novel in three parts

Ripe is the first novel I ever wrote. Though I call it a novel only for the sake of a generic, if not childish, necessity. I started writing the first part in 2009 when I had just completed my undergraduate studies and spent the whole summer reading and writing. A couple of years later I wrote the second part. Then I thought the endeavor wouldn’t be complete without a third part. Since it’s a novel about the painful process of acquiring maturity and of discovering oneself I thought a third part would close the circle, and close it for good.

Ripe is also a novel about the nature of light. I’ve always been fascinated with the textures of light, its whims, the way it often appears as a mood rather than a stream of rays. But more specifically, it’s a novel about how different people have different light around them. Some of my characters appear in a golden light and some of them have no light at all. There are mirrors and beds around these characters, windows, closets, a mental geography that has stayed with my writing and with me since then.

There’s no structure to this novel, it does not follow a narrative except the one you could deduce from what’s being said. The structure is the novel itself, there’s no chronological order but episodes coming from different moments of my life. Ripe is an end in itself, an ax digging into the trunk of a fallen tree. It’s an attempt to reconstruct that tree, to bring it back to the exploding leaf buds, the greenery of Spring, and to force it back into that final admit of defeat, the falling.

Ripe is a novel that must be read, I think, in small doses because it might smell like gasoline, or like fresh paint. And like all of my novels, this one is dedicated to a person I can’t name directly but who has haunted my writings, whatever shape they take. All of my novels, in fact, are a prolonged apology to that particular person.

You can download the full version, for free, here: ripe-a-novel-in-three-parts

Megafauna (a poem)

when I woke up

there was so much body around me

waves of flesh that

blended in with the sheets

the skin

wooden fences to keep

wild animals from coming in

or going out? the civilizing gesture

so masterfully planned

so present in the composition

waves of flesh

flowing under mother’s feet

positioned at the end of our bed

flowing upwards and over

mother’s questioning face

the eyes moving away from what was once

her beloved son

only to see you

alpha male a hairy hand going over

my neck to pin me down

the picture finally complete

stampede of teeth and

suppressed bursts of laughter

a morse code

of not knowing

who is this fourth man

coming into our house

to claim my bed?

mother

you’ve given me a body

that doesn’t seem to make you happy.

Father our (a poem)

 

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A reading by the author:

 

father, you’ve taught us how to kill each other

when there was no one left to kill

you drove our hands backwards

there, where our hearts and guts were sitting and watching

our hands that still held the knife

with the stubbornness you taught us to trust

but then how much of me is there left to kill

how many unwanted versions of me are there?

because when I held within my palm

not the knife but

my uncle’s erection

the coronation of a midday nap spent

under the covers on a summer’s day

I did not think of eternal damnation

I was too short to fly above my adults.

no such thing had crossed my mind

when I let the other boys pretend

I was the wife and they the breadwinners

who came home from work with green leaves

instead of money.

back then my flesh had not yet acquired

a memory of fire

the skin did not burn when

I lowered my pants

and hid my face in the tall grass

or when I felt their weight descend upon me

that pressure not resembling

the one of being buried alive.

back then it was only the red-cheeked embarrassment

of nakedness.

I did not see the demons dancing

around my head when

later on

I watched boys in the locker-room

and marveled at the way they wore

their bodies

and wondered what was wrong with me

when girls

in the mind of other boys

occupied categories

held distinctions according to their pubic hair.

father, you’ve taught us how to hide twice over

once, within our bodies

and then within our minds

you’ve taught us how to tie the knots

over our hands

to keep them close to our bodies

when everybody else was free

to reach and show

the objects they desired most.

you turned our blood against us

imagined branches withering

on our family trees.

my flesh did not resent me

when I let another man’s tongue

come searching in my mouth.

I only thought of coming home

that home unlike the promised land

the house beyond the walls you built.

so tell me, father

shall I not seek your love

man, in the arms of another man?

Random Moment (Guernica II)

 

A reading by the author:

 

Seeing the world through the eyes of a fish you see me in ways and colors I could not see myself, stolen from the world, perched on the mountains of my mind, my left hand raised not to catch a glimpse of the sun but to hold on to the entrails of my beautiful gods. Against their ruins I throw my own body to deface it, make it resemble something you could have feelings for. Today, I make myself ugly, awakened, as leeches are, by the smell of the pulsating warm limbs of mindless children, just to give you reasons to uphold your lack of nerve. For once, let your blood talk. Because nobody has ever had the courage to tell me they loved me and you are no different.

I often wonder whether it’s a question of time, or timelessness. Do you postpone your words, promise to utter them tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow? Because when I look up I can only sense the narrowness of a breathing tube, its transparency made to resemble that of swimming jellyfish. The narrowness that curbs upwards like the momentary thrust of anticipation. The narrowness that then plunges downwards and curls into itself, struggles to reach the tiny mouth of a machine. Will that be the moment when you will finally say something? When the plastic lips will finally touch in a kiss bound to go on forever? Say it now, while you can still distinguish between the brownish hues of my skin and the sheets in which I sleep as in a cocoon. For once, let your blood speak, because if I speak the leeches will come out of my mouth and you will turn away, disgusted.

Then I will tell you about the sounds that come from the walls, and the way sometimes construction cranes resemble the skinny limbs of a praying mantis. What are they praying for? I’ll speak of resonance and the ground we stand on, which was once a battlefield. Of the bed we could be sleeping in. Of how I don’t want to imagine you with your back turned to me. Of how I often feel as if people are afraid of me. Is it because they know I’m afraid of their emotions? I am, in fact. But not because I’ve never went through them. It’s because whenever I see them do it I feel as if they are taking something away from me. In time, I got used to it, and started giving them everything until, at the end of the day, I would feel depleted. I gave them my dreams and kept the nightmares for myself. I offered them my hopes and they took them. I gave them my time. And I will keep doing that until you finally decide to speak.

Moment Twenty-Seven (Mind Cancer)

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I craved to make you see your eyes not by reflection but by themselves, so I broke all of our mirrors and locked all the doors to keep you inside. The neighbors rushed to our door because you were screaming and they threatened us. They said they were going to call the police. Then they went away when I smiled at them and reassured them there was nothing wrong. You weren’t exactly screaming. What kept coming out of your mouth was more like an accusatory howl, and you were telling me I had taken away all of our eyes. Somehow I believed that by blinding all of our mirrors your beauty would finally go away.

I pushed you against the bathroom mirror until it broke and pieces from it flew all over the place. Water ran over the shards of glass and I told you look, darling, it’s raining sadly. I kept you in there because I wanted to see your blood. At least one drop of it: to make sure it was still crimson with passion. I wanted to suffocate you because I was feverish.

Let this fury blind the both of us until we can’t see each other again.

That’s the reason why I had been doing all of our daily chores. For the both of us. I went to work in your stead. Your boss did not notice the difference. Your colleagues did not look up from their computer screens when I went into the office. They did not react in any way when I put all of your things into a box and exited the building. Your manager did not say anything when I placed your resignation letter on his desk. When I got into his office he merely extended his arm and pointed to the stack of unopened envelopes. He did not look up from his computer screen. I needed you to stay inside the house, away from everybody else.

What can you write about when you feel as if your life is being lived by somebody else under your very nose? You write about the mind. And all I wanted was to suffocate you. Tie you to a chair and wrap you in plastic foil until you resembled Barbie’s boyfriend. I had no intention of preserving you. I wanted you to disappear. I was furious, I’m sorry. It was the only way to make your beauty go away. It was the only way to turn it into silence.

So I split open my head and did not use the plastic gloves mother used to clean the toilet. I did not wash my hands beforehand. In the splinters of the bathroom mirror I looked at my open head and dug with my fingernails deep into the layers of tissue. I took out the mind and my body felt like an empty tube that amplified the remains of the rest of the world. Against these remains I threw my mind as in a pillow fight. Or like an empty highway turned upside down, that’s how it felt.

Then it had all seemed like a waste of time because I couldn’t find you there.

I told you my mind is a terrible place because you aren’t there.

So I swept it along with the broken bathroom mirror under the linoleum floor of the kitchen.

I was furious because I had wasted all that time for nothing. I couldn’t find you there.

The evening then turned green with nausea so I took the garbage out on the balcony, and watched as the steam rose from my dying mind, shards of mirror sticking out of it like thorns on a pink and grey rose, while I smoked a cigarette, taste of chemicals blooming on my tongue. I couldn’t decide whether to have coffee or not because I couldn’t remember, for the universe’s sake, when was the last time I had one.

Sleep (Adam the Second)

 

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Night comes crawling, pulling itself along, sweat on its brow, supplication on scorched lips, begging on its knees. Our night comes not like perpetrators do but laden with guilt, and we can’t help but do the same, kneel by its side and call it a day, call it a night, adorn it with achievement. As you fumble between the sheets, I can sense the despair inching closer to your bones. I feel you moving and my body wants to move along yours. Then breathing and doing nothing else, then moving again.

All I want to do is ask you what’s wrong because I know that’s what good lovers do even though they already know the answer. For a very long while I have known what’s been bothering you.

But I wonder, if I skip the questioning and abandon fully to the knowledge of the answer will I still be the good lover?

Because I do, I know the answer already, I know what’s bothering you. It’s buried deep inside of you. I know this because I’ve felt it too, I’ve been there too, I’ve been working with those demons my entire life.

I have broken you in the process of conquering you, not following the old adage of divide and conquer, but thinking that were I to prove myself incapable of loving the whole of you, I could be capable of loving at least one part of you.

Grandfather talked about similar demons, similar but entirely different somehow, mainly because he’d not been introduced to these new ones we’ve been acquainted with ever since we came out of our mothers’ wombs.

Grandfather held his right hand on the Bible and talked about Adam and Eve and about how we’ve been carrying their sins ever since, and how could you not hate Adam and Eve? They left us with nothing but the sweat and pain of labor. The life we could have had there in Paradise. Grandfather would sigh at the end of this parable, stand up, and continue working.

Grandfather then ate and slept as if Adam and Eve never existed.

But Adam, he was a man, the man, he lost no sleep over the whole forbidden fruit conundrum, he slept, he ate, and fucked, and lived the rest of his life not only as a man but also as a reminder, until he stopped being a man and remained forever a reminder.

You stir again between the sheets and I almost speak to you except that I’m afraid I’ll startle you and my voice won’t be heard over the sound of your moving limbs.

I know what’s bothering you, trust me on this one, because as opposed to grandfather we’ve had another ancestor, one that our grandfather doesn’t know about. Unfortunately, this, our ancestor doesn’t have a name or a face for that matter. He hasn’t fought wars and though he was there, in the background, all the time, he never had the courage to come out. Our ancestors were closeted as well. We don’t need to know his name, at least for now, we only need to assure ourselves of his existence.

Who was the man that first dared to yearn for another man?

Not grandfather’s Adam, because Adam had to be Adam.

We ran back to the origins while playing hide-and-seek, literally, we hid from those who were not necessarily our enemies but rather from those we considered enemies because of the simple fact that they were looking for us. The secrecy that stems from hiding and from being searched for always verged on the illegal, and somehow we felt illegal.

But, conceptually, I thought while you were sleeping, that first man who longed for another man had to be told about that yearning, had to be taught. Somebody had to explain things to him. How could he have known otherwise?

Wake up, please wake up and explain this to me.

You would wake up and look at me, then you would close your eyes again as if mentally preparing for a long explanation. Then you would open them again, swallow in vain, stand up, lean against the railing of the bed, swallow in vain again, and then set on explaining, gesticulating, moving your lips, sometimes arching them as if in disgust. You’d start with banal matters, you’d start with the controversial discussions about the origins of their universe and then move on to our universe. You’d start with that particular distinction even though I would’ve never thought of you as a methodical person.

Yes, you would say, the origins of their universe is controversial, but ours is not. Our universe is simple, there was no Big Bang, no sudden revelation. Wait, yes, revelation might have been involved, but it wasn’t sudden for sure. Ours was gradual revelation.

Imagine Adam the Second, our Adam, Adam from our team, monstrously beautiful Adam the Second who descended from the most noble bloodline, our very own bloodline, so much cooler than their bloodline.

Imagine Adam the Second descending the stairs of Heaven down into the world. No, he wasn’t being expelled from Heaven. He had been ceremoniously asked to go into the world and discover the world by discovering himself. And he’s going down, pretty happy and excited thinking about the things he is about to discover down there, or up there, depends which point of view you adopt in this story. He’s pretty psyched about the entire experience.

He was happy because he had also been told that down there he is going to be immortal and live for thousands and thousands of years. I mean, he’s still alive today. Wait for it, you’ll get to the point eventually. So he’s immortal, still roaming the world in search for his ultimate love and the meaning of life, a difficult task if you ask me.

On his way through the world he encounters another man. In fact, he encounters many many other men, and women, too, and he discovers friendship, then, after thousands of years, he discovers affection, and so on and so forth. Basically, with every thousand years that pass he discovers new sentiments and does his best to explore them to their fullest potential only to discover that they are not what he was looking for. And with every emotion that he discovers and explores he feels as if each and every one of them is just another step toward that ultimate love he is in search of. And he goes on doing that, but he is unable to forget any of the previous experiences.

They are never lost, they hang in there forever and he can’t do anything at all to get rid of them. Whatever he does, he can’t.

Then, at one point, he discovers this thing we have, this thing the two of us have. And he registers it, he stores it, and once he does that it cannot be forgotten.

And so on, you know the rest.

You go back to sleep.

I know what’s bothering you.

Our imaginary talks feel like small betrayals.

Epidermis (VI)

Epidermis (VI) Bodies fall into categories. Like corpses they drop dead, one by one, in tombs tunneling the red dirt of our desires. In the morning, as we both wake up, we wonder if by chance, overnight, our room was invaded by armies of ants, their tiny legs carrying the smell of earth back to our unaccustomed sense of smell. Only moments later we discover our dirty feet and realize that it had been us all along, and not the ants, that we’ve been crossing the night barefoot in search of justification. How long before they find the tracks we’ve left behind in the immense fields of the night? The dirt we have stepped into, hand in hand, was a trap and now we carry clay on our feet as a reminder of our escape. In this game I will be [body number two]. You will be [body number one]. Into those two numbers we’ll fall like corpses, one by one, in tombs tunneling the red dirt of their desires. We’ll carry that deep smell for the remainder of our lives, somewhere in between our ribs and we’ll keep blaming the ants each morning. Only then [our love] shall cross, undisturbed, the night once again.