Hotel Good Luck

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Hotel Good Luck
By Alejandro Ricaño
Translated by Jacqueline E. Bixler

Volume 3, Issue 3 (Spring 2019)

In 2016, Alejandro Ricaño asked me to translate Hotel Good Luck into English for a potential staging in the US. I felt comfortable with this request as I had previously published an anthology of three of his plays—Historias para ser contadas: tres obras de Alejandro Ricaño, LATR Books, 2012—had seen most of his plays on stage, and had also written critical studies of some of them. I worked primarily on my own, meeting just once with Ricaño in Mexico City. The main challenge I faced while preparing the translation was in maintaining the cadence of the language used by the playwright. Given that the work deals with the concept of alternate universes and the idea that the same things can happen or not happen in one or another, there is a significant amount of repetition. At times it was difficult to capture the terse, staccato style of the discourse. Ricaño is known for his use of colloquial, often vulgar language, which presented an additional challenge, as there is not always an easy equivalent to such terms in English. While I have made every effort to create a natural-sounding translation, it is ultimately quite literal in the sense that I have omitted nothing from the original.

Alejandro Ricaño (Xalapa, Mexico, 1983) is one of Mexico’s most successful and well-known playwrights. He began writing plays at an early age and by the time he was thirty had won several of Mexico’s most prestigious awards for dramatic writing: Premio Emilio Carballido for Más pequeños que el Guggenheim/Smaller Than the Guggenheim (2008); Premio Víctor Hugo Rascón Banda for Fractales/Fractals (2011); Premio INBA for El amor de las luciérnagas/Love of Fireflies (2011). Another play, Un riñón de cerdo para el desconsuelo/Pork Kidneys to Soothe Despair (2008), was a finalist for the Premio Geraldo Mancebo del Castillo (a translation by Daniel Jáquez appeared in The Mercurian, vol. 5, no. 4, Fall 2015). Ricaño has also been the recipient of several grants, among them FONCA’s Young Creators program, the Antonio Gala Foundation in Spain, the Lark Play Development Center in New York, and CONACYT (Mexico’s National Council on Science and Technology). His plays have been staged in many parts of Mexico as well as in Spain, Hungary, Belgium, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Peru, and Buenos Aires.

A prolific writer, Ricaño has created some twenty plays to date, all of which have been staged, while some have had multiple stagings. His most successful play, Más pequeños que el Guggenheim, earned him instant recognition in Mexico and was later staged in other parts of Latin America and in Europe and the US. In this work and several others, Ricaño follows a dramatic trend known as “narraturgy,” which features a reliance on the spoken word and a hybrid mix of narration and dialogue. This trend is best exemplified in Idiots Contemplating the Snow/Idiots Contemplating the Snow (2010), in which one or more narrators stand to the side of the stage and relate the characters’ thoughts and past histories. More complex are Más pequeños que el Guggenheim and Timboctou (2010), in which the characters alternately act and serve as narrators of their own story and those of the other characters. While these plays contain intersecting characters and plot lines, Hotel Good Luck posits the possibility of parallel universes, in which one can be dead in one “reality” and alive in the other. Other plays by Ricaño include Un torso, mierda y el secreto del carnicero/A Torso, Shit, and the Butcher’s Secret (2006), Cada vez nos despedimos mejor/We Say Goodbye Each Time Better (2014), Un hombre ajeno/An Outsider (2014), La guerra en la niebla/War in the Fog (2016), Lo que queda de nosotros/What Remains of Us (2016), and the play offered here in translation, Hotel Good Luck, which premiered in the Teatro Milán of Mexico City in late 2015. In the spring of 2019, he was preparing to stage a new work, Tal vez mañana sea un día cualquiera.

Ricaño is known for his ability to tell amusing, memorable anecdotes, to capture the colloquial, often crude language used by the masses, and to use metaphor as a way to lend universal meaning to stories that are invariably about the common man. Other trademarks of his theatre include black humor, non-linear texts, intersecting plot lines, agile dialogue, and characters that are endearingly obtuse. The texts are relatively short and deceivingly simple. Given the dominance of verbal discourse and the lack of stage directions, Ricaño’s play can be staged virtually anywhere. While his inspiration has always been the stories of the hapless who live around him, he acknowledges the influence of writers Beckett, Molière, Camus, and Paul Auster as well as cinematographers Wes Anderson and Paul Thomas Anderson. A perfectionist, Ricaño almost always directs his own works and with a level of professionalism that has attracted some of Mexico’s most famous actors, including Diego Luna. His skill as a director, along with his uncanny ability to mix the profane and the poetic, the prosaic and the profound, has led him to become a perennial favorite among the audiences of Mexico City.

Jacqueline Bixler (Ph.D. 1980, University of Kansas) is Distinguished Professor of Spanish at Virginia Tech, where she teaches courses on Latin American literature and culture and the occasional course on translation. She also serves as the Editor of the Latin American Theatre Review, a journal devoted to the study and dissemination of Latin American and Latinx theatre. A specialist in Latin American and particularly Mexican theatre, Bixler has published books on Emilio Carballido, Sabina Berman, Víctor Hugo Rascón Banda, Mexico’s women playwrights, and trans-acting, as well as over sixty articles on Mexican, Argentine, Peruvian, and Chilean theatre. Rather a novice in the art of translation, she has published only one previous translation, Photograph on the Beach, by Emilio Carballido, in The Mercurian, vol. 5, no. 2, 2014.

 

Hotel Good Luck

Prologue

Bobby sits and smokes in front of a small basement ham radio set.

He leans into the microphone.

Bobby:

Tokyo Airport, 1954.

At a small counter, someone hands customs agent Takeshi Fukushima a passport from a country he’s never heard of.

Taured.

Fukushima is surprised to find three official stamps from the same customs office that show three previous visits to Japan:

1953.
1952.
And 1951.

Fukushima raises his eyebrows at the traveler.

Then, without taking his eyes off him, he awkwardly walks backwards toward the office of his supervisor.

A moment later, Fukushima returns with the Head of Customs, Kaoru Hashimoto, a man with a wary look and a small, porcine body.

Peering over the counter, Hashimoto takes a close look at the man from Taured and requests that he accompany him to a small, dark detention room.

There, standing a bit on tiptoes, he rolls out a map of the world on a rickety metal table and asks the man from Taured to point out his country.

The man from Taured runs his index finger across the whole map without finding any place to stop.

“So?” Hashimoto asks.

“It’s not there…” The man from Taured responds gravely.

From among his belongings, the mysterious traveler pulls out a drivers license.

A library card.

A membership card for a public pool.

And the photograph of his wife, a plump, sad-looking woman.

The man from Taured is escorted to a hotel, where he spends the night guarded by two men stationed outside his room.

Who would create a fake passport from a non-existent country? Hashimoto rhetorically asks himself in front of an ashtray full of cigarette butts.

In the morning Hashimoto goes to the hotel.

The guards, who have not moved all night, knock on the door.

The man from Taured does not answer.

When Hashimoto finally opens the door, he finds the room unoccupied.

Pause.

There was no exit other than the one the guards had watched all night.

The only window in the room, on the twelfth floor, had no exterior ledge.

And the only thing below that was a busy street.

Pause.

The man from Taured had vanished into thin air.

Silence. Bobby uses the ashtray to put out his cigarette.

Here at Parallel Radio, station 590, it is 12:56. And this is “7 Heures du Matin” by Jacqueline Taieb.

He sets the needle down on the record.

Music.

Bobby leaves the radio booth.

SCENE I

Bobby rolls down a screen in front of a slide projector and directs himself to the audience. “7 Heures du Matin” plays in the background.

Bobby:

This is my grandfather Cachalote. Bobby Cachalote. Lawyer.

He projects a slide of his grandfather Cachalote.

A strapping swimmer, national champion in the 100-meter freestyle, my grandfather Cachalote decides to become a lawyer after breaking both of his arms in an accident on a tandem bicycle with my grandmother.

On November 6, 1971, having recovered the use of his arms, my grandfather Cachalote defends his best friend, Tom Morsa, accused of having killed Jimmy Callo de Hacha in a bar fight. My grandfather Cachalote argued that Jimmy Callo had accidentally shot himself. To demonstrate his theory, my grandfather Cachalote takes the pistol from the evidence, not knowing that the gun is still loaded, puts it to his head, and shoots his brains all over the jury. My grandfather Cachalote wins the case and Tom Morsa is exhonerated.

This is my grandfather Chuletón, Bobby Chuletón. Jockey.

He projects a slide of his grandfather Chuletón.

On November 6, 1972, my grandfather Bobby Chuletón, who had never won a race, suffers a heart attack just 500 meters from the finish line, but remains on his horse. For the first time in his life, my grandfather goes from last place to first place, and becomes the first and only dead person ever to win a race.

This is my grandmother Manatí, Lori Manatí, Cachalote’s widow. Daredevil.

He projects a slide of his grandmother Manatí.

On November 6, 1973, my grandmother Manatí becomes the second woman ever to survive Niagara Falls in a barrel. That same afternoon, my grandmother Manatí slips on a banana peel and breaks her leg so badly that it has to be amputated. She dies from surgical complications.

This is my grandmother Burbujitas, Lori Burbujitas, widow of Bobby Chuletón.

He shows a slide of his grandmother Burbujitas.

On November 6, 1974, my grandmother Burbujitas suffers a heart attack while reading me a story about the fear and acceptance of death.

Bobby rolls up the screen.

The light focuses on him.

For four years my grandparents left this world on the same date, from which I derived four undeniable truths:

  1. Everyone dies. Everyone.
  2. Death can be fucking amusing.
  3. The world is full of ridiculous coincidences.
  4. I fucking hate the sixth of November.

SCENE II

Bobby again lowers the projector screen. He shows a slide of a sad dog.

Bobby:

This is Miller, the melancholic dog.

He shows a picture of his dog Miller looking melancholic.

Lone survivor in a litter of nine, Miller likes cloudy days, the music of Mahler, and the poetry of Walt Whitman.

This is Miller’s face when someone throws him a ball in the park.

He shows a slide of Miller looking inexpressive.

And this is how he looks when other dogs want to play with him.

He shows the same slide of Miller, inexpressive.

And this when someone buys him an icecream.

The same inexpressive face.

This story begins with Miller’s death.

SCENE III

Bobby:

Miller’s bloated body was on the side of the highway, in front of Dad’s house, just a few feet from the sea. He was almost completely buried in sand.

I had abandoned him a year before.

This is what happened a year before:

From his dark, wooden dog house, Miller hears a car arrive.

He walks lazily to the front of the house.

He finds me sticking a pale, worn-out suitcase into the trunk of a taxi.

We look at each other for the last time.

Bobby looks at the audience, as if Miller were there among them.

From the front gate of the house, Miller follows me with his eyes until the taxi turns the corner.

SCENE IV

Bobby:

Dad’s house is fifty yards from the sea, and a half mile from Mom’s house, but I’m not going to talk about that right now.

After my last grandmother died, I set up a small radio station in my father’s basement.

After a year, my little radio station had only managed to get four listeners:

Dad, Mom, my friend Larry, and Lily, whom I also abandoned.

I called her on the phone.

Bobby talks on the phone.

At the bus station.

Pause.

As far away as I can get.

Pause.

You know what day tomorrow is, Lil?

Pause.

November 6. I’m not gonna stick around and watch another member of my family die.

Pause.

I have four fucking listeners, Lil.

Pause.

You’ll be here, like always, Lil, waiting for me to take that step that I’m never going to take.

To the audience.

And this is what Lil said to me, from the other end of the line:

He attends again to the phone.

Where are you?

Pause.

Are you leaving?

Pause.

I don’t know. Tuesday?

Pause.

What about your radio station?

Pause.

What about me?

Pause.

I don’t want you to take any step, Bobby. I just want you to be here, on your own terms. And I want to be with you, just the way we are, no matter how strange that may be. I’m not going to pressure you. I’m not going to pressure you again to be something that you aren’t.

To the audience.

I don’t want to be here at all—that was the last thing I said to her before I hung up and left.

But the furthest I got was the next town over, where I washed dishes for a year in a restaurant and battled my obsession with death.

One day I decided to return.

I was thinking about Miller and about the last time I saw him through the back window of the taxi.

And I knew that I needed to be with him before he died.

But that same morning before I returned, Miller slipped through the front gate, following the scent of the salty sea breeze, and was hit by a car.

When the taxi parked in front of my father’s house, I found his swollen body on the side of the highway.

Dad wasn’t there and Mom had moved out five years earlier.

I couldn’t bury him by myself.

I called Lily.

Again on the phone.

Split open, Lil, in front of Dad’s house. I picked him up and took him inside. And now I can’t bury him. (Pause) I know that I can’t just up and call you like this. I would’ve liked to have called you just to tell you that I had returned.  But then this happened. And now I need you to come over.

To the audience.

And this is what she said to me from the other end of the phone line:

I’m with someone else, Bobby. I waited a long time for you to return, until I convinced myself that I was never going to see you again. And while I could drop everything right now and be with you, like before, I need to move on. I can’t keep waiting for you to call me every time you feel lonely, just to go and find that you’re not completely here. I’m really sorry about Miller.

Bobby hangs up.

So Lily didn’t come.

Pause.

I couldn’t bury Miller all by myself.

I left him lying in the patio. I stroked his white head and looked at his eyes, dim and opaque.

I told him, I love you so much, Bud.

As if he could understand me, or at the very least hear me.

Then I went up to my room.

I laid down on the bed, sank my head into the pillow, and fell asleep.

SCENE V

Bobby:

I fall asleep.
I dream that I’m sleeping.
I dream that I’m dreaming.
And in my dream a nightmare wakes me up
In the middle of my dark room.
Anxious.
With my tongue all dry.
I’m thirsty.
In my dream I’m thirsty.
In my dream I was dreaming that my parents were dying.
Run over by a car, like Miller.
A warm breeze slips through the open window.
It’s hot.
I’m thirsty.
I go to the kitchen
My T-shirt soaked in sweat.
Floating.
I stop in front of the refrigerator.
But I don’t hear the metallic hum of its old, rickety motor.
The refrigerator is disconnected.
In my dream
Someone disconnected the refrigerator.
I pull on the handle
And as the door magnets jiggle,
A dim light outlines
The edges of the door.
A soft, natural light
Like a small, cloudy dawn inside the refrigerator.
Steam emanates from inside.
I can’t see anything.
I stick my hand in the refrigerator but I can’t find the back of it.
I’m dreaming.
Something is calling me from inside.
A whisper.
I get in the refrigerator
Amidst the vapor.
Where I’m blinded by a bright light.
A bright light that envelops everything.
I can’t see anything.

            (Silence)

My sight begins to clear,
A foggy sea.
A dusty picture window.
I find myself in an empty room
Lying in front of a large picture window
That looks out on a calm, foggy sea.
Seagulls fly through the fog
Screaming above the waves.
I get to my feet.
I put my nose to the window
And my breath
Makes a small circle of steam on the glass.
Where am I? I write with my finger.
WhereamI?

            (Silence)

I hear a bark.
A bark that comes from the sea.
Miller!
I leave the room
Run down the stairs
Out to the street.
Miller is walking idly along the beach.
I walk over to him,
Kneel down,
Hug him against my chest.
The sea breeze wets my face.
Where am I?
I turn around.
Behind me
An abandoned building.
Above the entrance, a name in shining letters.
Blinking:
Good Luck
Hotel Good Luck.

SCENE VI

Bobby and Larry, in the office of the latter.

Bobby:

This is Doctor Tocino, Larry Tocino, my best friend. And only friend. In the last year of elementary school, Larry broke the noses of nine children. When the principal asked him why, Larry simply responded: I felt like something was burning inside me. (Pause) It’s entirely unethical, but Larry is my psychoanalyst.

Larry:  Like a tunnel?

Bobby:  A doorway.

Larry:  A doorway.

Bobby:  I dreamed that I was dreaming. And then that I was waking up. In my dream. Do you understand?

Larry:  A dream within a dream.

Bobby:  And I was thirsty. So I went to the kitchen for a beer. I went to the refrigerator, but it was disconnected.

Larry:  Did you disconnect it?

Bobby:  No, but someone did. I opened the fridge and something like a door opened. I entered, because something was calling to me from inside, Larry. I stuck my leg in and then I simply went in. And I came out on the third floor of an abandoned building that was facing the sea. And it was as if I had woken up, Larry. I heard a bark and left the building and there was Miller, walking along the beach. I found him, you know, dead on the side of the highway, Larry. This morning. Now I don’t know if I dreamt that Miller died or if I’m dreaming now. What’s going on with me, Larry?

Larry:  Have you slept since then?

Bobby:  Yeah.

Larry:  And?

Bobby:  Nothing happened. I woke up here again. Miller was asleep at my feet.

Larry:  Did you try to return to the building?

Bobby:  What for?

Larry:  To see if there was another refrigerator.

Bobby: Why would there be another refrigerator?

Larry:  I don’t know, like a return exit.

Bobby:  No. (Silence)  No. Am I crazy, Larry?

Larry:  No, Bobby, you aren’t crazy. It’s clearly a case of dimensional simultaneity.

Bobby:  Say what?

Larry:  You don’t need a psychologist, Bobby. What you need is a physicist.

Bobby:  A physicist?

Larry:  A physicist who specializes in quantum mechanics.

Bobby:  Where am I gonna find a physicist who specializes in quantum mechanics?

Larry:  It just so happens that I’m a physicist and a specialist in quantum mechanics. It’s my night job. Do you mind if I change my jacket?

Bobby:  …

Larry goes to the coat rack and changes into a jacket that is almost identical to the one he was wearing. He returns, sits down, and crosses one leg over the other. He’s excited.

Larry:  I thought this day would never come. According to the principle of dimensional simultaneity, two or more realities can coexist in the same space and time.

Bobby:  Since when are you a physicist?

Larry:  Since 1970.

Bobby:  You’ve been a physicist since 1970?

Larry:  It was a surprise.

Bobby:  For whom?

Pause.

Larry:  I needed another job, o.k.? I have less and less patients.

Bobby:  Well, you aren’t going to have any patients if you keep hitting them.

Larry:  Bobby, you know that burning feeling I have inside.

Bobby:  Inside.

Larry:  I’m burning inside.

Bobby:  You’re going to end up without any patients.

Larry:  I’ll still get more patients than you get radio listeners. May I continue?

Bobby:  …

Larry:  Well, every little movement we make, Bobby, splits our universe into an infinite series of possibilities. Every little movement instantly opens up an adjacent universe that we can’t see, just an inch away. You’ve apparently discovered in your dreams, Bobby, a portal between one parallel universe and another.

Bobby:  How do I get back to the original universe?

Larry:  There is no original universe, Bobby. There’s a universe to which you belong, but I don’t know how you get back. Maybe another doorway will open up. Meanwhile you should know that what doesn’t happen in one universe can happen in another. Are you familiar with the case of the man from Taured?

 SCENE VII

Bobby:  Miller was alive. He was dying, but he was still alive. Or he had already died and come back.

Dad had already died, too. Or at least it seemed that way.

I found him lying on the floor of the study with a glass of whiskey.

And it struck me that Dad had realized at precisely that moment that he hadn’t actually done anything with his life. I saw it in his eyes, which were looking at the salt encrusted on the ceiling.

His eyes looked like this.

He imitates his father’s eyes, looking at the ceiling.

And this is the sound the sea was making, one hundred yards from the window, while he stared at the salt on the ceiling.

Music.

This is what I think, Bobby—he said to me when I came in—I spent my life writing a book that didn’t say anything to anyone. That’s the story of my life. That’s what I’m going to leave behind, Bobby. And now I’m afraid of dying alone. (Pause) “We are born alone and we die alone.” Those are probably the words of some idiot who cheated on his wife, like I did.

Five years before that, he had cheated on my mother with an undergraduate. Mom caught them on the beach. She left that same night and then, after a month, inexplicably moved to the nearest house, just a half mile away from his.

She didn’t take anything with her, you know?, he said to me.

Her bike, I answered.

Her bike. Why the hell would she want her bike? We haven’t used them for years. Mine is still sitting there. Why did she take her bike?

I don’t know, Dad, I said, just to end the discussion and get out of there.

Miller and I went to the beach.

Miller’s body felt brittle and bony in my arms. But he was happy.

While I was walking with him on the beach, most likely for the last time, Dad, stretched out on the floor, found a letter tucked under his desk. It was from Mom.

Bobby takes the letter from his jacket pocket and unfolds it.

This is Mom’s letter. And this is what it said.

He reads.

How long has it been since I found you with that student of yours, you fat son of a bitch? I replayed that image in my mind until it had no longer had any effect on me. So many times that it dissolved in my memory and all that remained was you, naked, lying on the beach. And all I felt like doing was lying down at your side. Who in the world came up with the insane idea that we should sleep with the same person for the rest of our lives? If I loved you, if I really loved you, you fat bastard, I would simply have wished you a good time and the best fuck of your life—or at least the second best, as I’m sure I gave you the best one. The rest is just an unbearable possessive feeling. Time follows its course, my dear, but I still haven’t worked up the courage to come back, tell you that it wasn’t such a big deal, and sleep in your arms again. I’m afraid you don’t want me anymore. So I spend the days, looking from time to time at the window, to see if you are coming to get me. And since that hasn’t happened, I snuck in when you weren’t here and hid this letter, hoping that it won’t be too late when you find it.

Yours forever, your foolish, jealous wife.

SCENE VIII

Bobby:

This is the sound of my father’s bicycle.
The rusty chain.
Clanking.
The squeaky seat.
The cracked tires, quickly turning.
This is the wind, hitting his face.
Messing up his gray hair,
All tangled up.
This is Dad,
Riding a bicycle as bent and rusty as he is,
Trying to make up with Mom.
This is his heart
And this is the blood roiling and running through his body.
A light suddenly flashes in the sky.
A flame tracing a straight line.
A meteorite,
Slicing through the clouds.
Dad stops,
Turns and looks up
With his mouth half open
The light passes over his pupils.
He hears the tires of a car
He turns and looks behind him.
A taxi is about to hit him.

 SCENE IX

Half an hour earlier, while Mom was looking from time to time at the highway that ran to Dad’s house, as she had been doing for the past five years, a warm gust of wind moved the curtains and revealed a piece of paper folded and stuck between the shutters of the same window that she had been watching every afternoon.

It was a letter from Dad that had been there the whole time.

Bobby takes another letter from the pocket of his jacket. He unfolds it.

This is Dad’s letter. And this is what it said.

He reads.

I can think of a ton of excuses. I could tell you, for example, that it’s an insane idea to sleep with the same person for the rest of our lives and that I was simply being true to my nature, but I would only be trying to convince you of something that I myself don’t even believe. A fantasy, by definition, my dear, is a falsehood. What is truly insane and painful is to wander through this fucking life pursuing things that always slip away. I prefer to go through life bound to the only real thing I know: you. I dreamt about you last night, so I can say that you’re still the woman of my dreams. You appeared at the door and told me that you were coming back because you couldn’t stand to sleep without your back pressed against my chest. I can’t muster up the courage to look for you because I’m terrified that you won’t even want to see me. I spend my days at the door, until night falls, hoping that you’ll come back on your own. Since that hasn’t happened, I snuck in while you weren’t home and hid this letter, hoping that you’ll find it soon and know that I’m dying to see you.

Yours always, your fat, stupid husband.

 SCENE X

Bobby:

This is the sound of my mother’s bicycle.
This is the wind, caressing her face,
Her rosy cheeks,
The thin line of her uncontrollable smile.
And this is her little burning heart.
This is Mom, pedaling as fast as she can toward Dad’s house,
Finally.
A light suddenly illuminates the sky.
A meteorite.
Mom stops.
She turns to look upward
The light passes over her pupils.
She hears the tires of a car
She looks behind her.
A taxi is about to hit her.

SCENE XI

Bobby, in the radio station.

Bobby:

On November 6, 1975, a meteorite cuts across the sky.

Below, on a narrow highway, Trinidad and Tobago, twins separated at birth by their parents, are about to meet for the first time.

Neither of them suspecting that they share the same profession as taxi drivers.

A fleeting flash of light in the sky draws their eyes from the road.

The incandescent celestial body little by little disintegrates as it enters the atmosphere and falls into the sea, a rock barely the size of a basketball.

Twins Trinidad and Tobago turn their eyes back to the road and suddenly see a man and a woman on bicycles.

And run them over.

Pause.

Terrified, Trinidad and Tobago make a U turn and flee, not knowing that they were within one hundred yards of meeting each another.

Even more importantly, not knowing that they had just run over an older couple on the verge of getting back together.

Silence.

Here on Parallel Radio, station 590, it’s 12:36 and this is “Not Dark Yet” by Bob Dylan.

He sets the needle on the Dylan record.

Music.

Bobby rests his head on the back of the chair. He starts to fall asleep.

SCENE XII

Bobby:

I fall asleep.
I dream that I’m sleeping.
I dream that I’m dreaming.
And a nightmare wakes me in my dream
Anxious.
I’m thirsty.
I go to the kitchen
I stop in front of the refrigerator
The refrigerator is disconnected.
I pull on the door
A bright light.
I get in the refrigerator.
I can’t see anything.

(Silence)

My vision starts to clear.
Ocean fog.
A dusty picture window.
I hear my parents’ voices outside.
I leave the room
Run downstairs
And out to the street.
I find them walking on the beach,
Barefoot.
I run up to them.
I hug them.
The sea breeze wets my face.

SCENE XIII

In the office of Doctor Tocino.

Larry:  This is clearly a case of dimensional simultaneity.

Bobby:  I know, Larry! That’s what you told me yesterday!

Larry:  You were here yesterday?

Bobby:  It was a different “here.”

Larry:  You never come to see me two days in a row.

Bobby:  It’s not two days in a row. It’s twice the same day.

Larry:  And we talked?

Bobby:  You told me you’re a physicist. You changed your jacket.

Larry:  You saw my physicist’s jacket?

Bobby:  You said that what didn’t happen in one universe could happen in another. My parents died in that other fucking universe, Larry. And in this one they’re alive again. I got in the fucking refrigerator and went to the fucking hotel, and there they were, walking on the beach. What kind of shitty world is this?

Larry:  So you know that I’m a physicist?

Bobby:  Yes, I know you’re a physicist, Larry. I’m telling you that my parents are alive again. Could it be a form of reincarnation?

Larry:  Reincarnated as themselves? What the hell kind of reincarnation would that be?

Bobby:  I don’t know.

Larry:  Do you believe in reincarnation?

Bobby:  I have to believe in something.

Larry:  You could believe in the fucking principle of dimensional simultaneity.

Bobby:  Something spiritual, Larry. I have to believe in something spiritual.

Larry:  So you know that I’m a physicist.

Bobby:  What the hell does it matter?

Larry:  I thought you’d be surprised.

Bobby:  You told me you needed another job.

Larry:  You think I studied physics because I needed another job?

Bobby:  Why else would someone like you study physics?

Silence.

Larry:  So, the Good Luck Hotel?

Bobby:  Yep.

Larry:  I was in a building like that once.

Bobby:  Did you get there through a refrigerator?

Larry:  No, through a travel agency. It was the first time I went to India. I went… you know, to learn how to control that burning.

Bobby:  The burning…

Larry:  Varanasi is a city on the banks of the Ganges River. According to Hinduism, Bobby, everything that dies in Varanasi on the banks of the river is free of reincarnation; the soul passes directly on to Nirvana. There was an abandoned building on the river that some called “The Hotel.” It was a shelter for the old and dying who went there to spend their last days. They were hoping to see those dawns for the last time. Some think that the idea of reincarnation is insane. Some simply want their soul to die forever, Bobby, never to return.

SCENE XIV

Bobby:

Mom had come back home.

Miller, Mom, and Dad were alive. They wandered peacefully from floor to floor, unaware that they were already dead somewhere else.

Mom and Dad did at least knew that they were going to die soon.

They held hands and looked at one another as if for the last time.

As if they secretly knew that someone was going to come and drag them out of there without any kind of warning.

At any moment.

Pause.

I called Lily.

Bobby speaks on the phone.

It’s me, Bobby. I got back this afternoon. Or three days ago; it’s hard to explain. (Pause) Was Miller alive or dead the last time we talked? (Pause) Alive. (Pause) No, he’s fine, Miller is fine. Or, I don’t know, it’s hard to explain. (Pause) Listen, Lil, some things are… happening, things that you wouldn’t understand but that have helped me understand a lot of things. (Pause) For example, that we are only here for a moment. A brief moment. But as long as that moment, that brief moment lasts, Lil, one has to make the most of it. (Pause) I know you probably waited for me until you were convinced that you were never ever going to see me again. And that you are probably now with someone else, and that I can’t show up, just like that, and ask you to come back, because you have to keep moving forward. But one has to keep believing, during this brief moment, that nothing is lost. (Pause) I believe we aren’t totally lost, Lil. And that if I take that step now, maybe, just maybe, I’ll still find you on the other side.

I kept on talking for an hour, trying to convince her that we should be together.

It was raining.

I was still talking when they came to the door.

I left the phone on the table and went to open the door.

Lily was out there, soaked, trying to catch her breath.

When did you stop listening to me? I asked her.

When you said that you wanted to find me, on the other side, she answered, smiling.

SCENE XV

Bobby shows a slide of the back of a woman who is facing the sea. A woman with small shoulders and blonde, wind-blown hair.

Bobby:

This is Lily.

For as long as I’ve known her, Lily has mixed up words.

If she wants to say, for example, that a movie is based on real events, she says that it’s based on “verdict” facts.

When she wants to stick to her principles but doesn’t know what to do, she says that she’s in a moral “condilemma.”

Her favorite kind of cheese is Rockefeller cheese.

When she tried to explain to me that they named her Lily after one of the flowers that takes the longest to wither, she said that she was named after an “unwitting” flower.

Don’t you mean “unwilting”? I asked her.

Pissed off, she responded, “that’s what I said.”

SCENE XVI

We walked on the beach while the sun was setting.
It had stopped raining.
Behind us were
Two curved lines,
Dotted
With the exact outline of our feet.
Lily took my hand.
But something felt uncomfortable.
I thought I could be with someone else, Lily told me, but I never, no matter how hard I tried, stopped thinking about you. I’ve always been here, on this side, waiting for you. That’s the only thing that makes sense.
Lily squeezed her fingers
But they didn’t fit with mine
I felt awkward and out of place.
I’m named after a flower that lasts, she continued. I lasted, Bobby, til the last moment. I thought I was going to wither and die if you didn’t come.
Silence.
Lily stopped in front of me
And put her head on my chest.
But I felt disconnected
From her and from everything
Without understanding why.
Then she raised her face and looked at me closely.
I wanted to kiss her but I couldn’t.
I wanted to get out of there.
I couldn’t get even one inch closer.
Are you having doubts?, she asked.
I couldn’t answer.
Lily started to tremble.
Listen, Lily, I said, not knowing where to look, I know I said I wanted to be with you just a moment ago, a short moment ago, but now I don’t know. I don’t know why. (Pause) When I’m alone, I want to be with you, and when I’m with you, I want to be alone. I always want to be the other way. Maybe what I really want is not to be here. Just that: not to be here. (Pause) We’re never going to be all right, Lil, because I can’t be anywhere knowing that the other person is going to leave at any moment. Or knowing that at any moment I’ll cease to be here. I can’t be at peace. I can’t.

Lily was unable to respond.

She stood there on the beach.

I looked at her for the last time and then started to walk away from her.

I walked without looking back.

I walked until I no longer knew where I was.

SCENE XVII

I got home at dawn. Dad was writing in the study.

Where’s Mom? I asked him.

Sleeping, he said, without looking up from the typewriter.

Are you working on your novel?

I’m writing what I was never able to say. Because I didn’t dare to. Or because I couldn’t find the right words. Or because it wasn’t the right moment. But I’m going to tell everyone else that it’s a novel, OK?

OK, I said with a smile.

Just then I heard a voice outside the front door.
It was clearly Lily’s voice.
Bobby, she called.
Bobby.
But when I opened the door, all I found was a white cat staring up at me from the porch.
Then the phone rang.
It was Larry.
Lily’s dead, he said.
When I turned back around, the cat was gone.

SCENE XVIII

Bobby:

We scattered her ashes along the beach on a rainy day.
I remember her in front of the water
With her feet sunk in the wet sand.
And her honey-colored skin
And her piercing blue eyes
Brightly lit.
And her small heart
Unfading.

Pause

With her unevenly worn shoes
Lily went back to her cabin after she saw me.
She sat down on a chair
And listened to the waves for the last time.
She felt sad,
Sadder than she had ever felt in her whole life.
Before night fell
Lily was dead.
They found her at dawn, cold,
Seated in her chair
Coated in sea breeze.
There was no explanation.
When the coroner opened her body,
Before they cremated her,
He found something like a small wilted flower,
Pale and dry,
In place of her heart.

 SCENE XIX

Bobby:

I fall asleep.
I dream that I’m sleeping.
I dream that I’m dreaming.
I wake up.
I go to the kitchen
I stop in front of the refrigerator
I pull on the door.
A bright light.
I get in the refrigerator.

Silence

I see a foggy ocean.
A dusty picture window.
Outside I hear Lily’s laugh.
I leave the room
Run downstairs
Out to the street.
Lily is sitting on a rock, looking at the sea.

Pause.

The sea breeze wets my face.
What the fuck is going on?

SCENE XX

Bobby, in the radio booth. He lights a cigarette and leans toward the microphone.

Bobby:  Among all the unlikely destinies that could await us, to burn from the inside out is probably the last thing that would cross our mind.

On November 6, 1966, London firefighter Jack Stacey responded to a fire in an abandoned building. The house showed no signs of damage on the outside.

In the living room, however, Stacey found the burning body of an obese hobo, whom we shall call Oink, hobo Oink.

Oink had a tear about three inches long in his stomach. Flames were bursting out of it, like a blowtorch.

Stacey sprayed Oink’s body with the hose and put out the fire.

There was no doubt that the fire had started inside the man’s body.

There are dozens of documented cases of people who burned alive without any external ignition. Doesn’t matter where they are, they just start burning from the inside, and no one can do anything about it.

Oink was a victim of spontaneous human combustion.

Silence.

Here at Parallel Radio, station 590, it’s 12:56. And this is “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” by Led Zepellin.

He sets the needle on the Led Zepellin record.

Music.

SCENE XXI

In Doctor Tocino’s office.

Larry:  You saw my physicist’s jacket?

Bobby:  Yes, Larry, I saw your fucking physicist’s jacket, which is, by the way, identical to your fucking psychologist’s jacket. What I’m trying to tell you is that I’m living the same day every day. But with a different dead person.

Larry:  You think my two jackets look alike?

Bobby:  I’m telling you that everyone is dying, Larry! And then they show up alive somewhere else. Do you know what that is?

Larry:  These stripes are vertical and those are horizontal. How can you say that they are the same?

Bobby:  Are you listening to me, Larry? Every day I bury or cremate someone and throw their fucking ashes in the ocean, and before I can even start to cry I wake up on the other side and they’re alive again.

Larry:  It was going to be a surprise, Bobby. They’re supposed to be similar, but not identical. You can’t come here and tell me that they’re identical.

Bobby:  What the fuck are you talking about?

Larry:  I’m talking about my jackets, Bobby! I have a psychologist’s jacket and another, similar one that’s used by physicists. Sufficiently similar for you not to notice it hanging over there, but sufficiently different for you to notice that it’s different when I put it on. I had planned this surprise to the nth degree. And now you come and tell me that my two fucking jackets are identical. If you believe that my two fucking jackets are the same, it also means that you know I have two jackets, and if everything you are telling me is true, it means that for at least three parallel universes you’ve known that I’m a physicist and haven’t given a shit.

Bobby:  …

Larry:  I’ve spent five years studying physics for you, Bobby, so that I could try to understand the world and tell you that it’s not a bad place after all, and that I would like for you to stay. I visited you every day in that fucking desert town you moved to. I sat at one of the tables in the restaurant, with a disguise that was better than my damned physicist’s jacket, and watched you while I drank coffee. I was worried that your obsession with death would lead you to do something stupid. (Pause) Come with me.

SCENE XXII

Bobby:  Behind Larry’s office there’s a small patio with a huge tree. Larry had hung a swing from the highest branch. He took off his jacket and threw it on the ground. Then he sat on the swing.

Larry:  According to some scientists, death is nothing more than an illusion, Bobby, just like time and space. If time and space are things that exist only in our mind, death cannot exist in any real sense, do you understand?

Bobby:  I’m trying.

Larry:  We were taught to associate death with our biological body. But our body, like any spatial illusion, is just a concept that we invented to give meaning to things. In a world without spatial or temporal borders, Bobby, we’re immortal. If it is life that creates the universe, and not the other way around, our mind can create a universe in which everything is possible. (Pause) I don’t want you to be afraid, Bobby. You shouldn’t be afraid of death. (Pause) Have you ever heard of spontaneous human combustion?

Bobby: 

Larry began to swing.
Pulling his legs in
And then stretching them out,
Hanging tightly on to the ropes,
While the wind caressed his face.
He was smiling,
With his eyes closed.
The tree branch began to break.
Larry swung faster
Each time higher.
Until he suddenly looked like just a flicker
The last light of a soul
Trying to flee to the other side.
Don’t be afraid, Bobby!
That was the last thing he managed to say as he started to burn.
A flame emerged from his belly and then engulfed him completely,
With me unable to do anything.
I tried to reach him but the heat threw me back.

Pause.

When I got back up, Larry had been consumed by the fire.
His body had been reduced to a pile of ashes that the wind was starting to blow away.
He was gone.

Silence.

Above the swing, which was still swaying slightly in the wind, was a note:
“My job was always to burn, Bobby.”
It said.
“And in the mornings, when I was with you, my job was to be your best friend. I always had two jobs.”

SCENE XXIII

Bobby:

When I got home, Mom and Dad were sitting, dead, on two lounge chairs, facing the sea.

Cold and stiff, they held hands.

Miller was lying at their side, his eyes lifeless, no longer breathing.

I went in the house. I called Lily. But she didn’t answer.

They had all died, again, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.

I needed to fall asleep.

And pass through the doorway again.

And come out at the Good Luck Hotel.

And they would be there.

And everything would be fine again.

Pause.

I went up to my room.

And laid down on the bed.

SCENE XXIV

Bobby: 

I fall asleep.
I dream that I’m sleeping.
I dream that I’m dreaming.
In my dream, I dream that everyone dies.
Miller.
Mom and Dad.
Lily.
Larry.
Everyone.
And I’m left alone, in the darkness.
In the dream within my dream, I dream that I wake up
I go down to the kitchen
And I stop in front of the refrigerator.
The refrigerator is disconnected.
I open it.
I get in the refrigerator.
I come out on the empty floor of the Good Luck Hotel.
I go down the stairs
And find all of them
In front of the sea.

Pause.

And I know that they will die again.
Once again.
One by one.
And I will again be standing in front of the refrigerator
And I will again cross over to the Good Luck Hotel
And they will again be alive
And then I will watch them die
Once again.
One by one.
And everything will repeat itself
Time and again
Time
And
Again.
So I run back to the Good Luck Hotel.
I climb the stairs
But I find only a wall,
Damp and peeling.
I throw myself against it
One
Two
Ten times.
But I end up lying on the floor,
Hugging my knees,
Wishing that this would end
That it would end for once and for all.

Silence.

I wake up.
I wake up in my dream from the other dream
A breeze rustles the curtains in my room.
I go downstairs
To the kitchen.
I stop in front of the refrigerator
The refrigerator is disconnected.
I open it
Something inside is calling to me.
A whisper.
I’m about to cross the threshold,
Again,
But I stop myself.

Pause.

I stand there in front of the refrigerator
Looking at that endless bright light.
“What is truly insane and pitiful is to wander through this fucking life pursuing things that always slip away.”
I take a step back.
I close the refrigerator
And plug it back in.
I hear the hum of its old, rattling motor.
I leave the kitchen
And go up the stairs.
I lie down on my bed
And close my eyes.
I close my eyes as hard as I can.

SCENE XV

Bobby:

I wake up.
The cold morning wind rustles the curtains
Pale winter light filters through the window
I hear a voice below.
I get up
Go downstairs
Through the kitchen
And out to the patio.
I find Dad standing there
In front of Miller’s dead body.
Where am I?
Where the hell were you? he asks me.

Silence.

I don’t know.
You don’t know?

Pause.

Sleeping.
You were here? I spent the whole damned morning trying to figure out where you’d gone. Larry told me that you were in the next town over.
Did you think to look in my room?
Why the hell would I look in your room? You left a year ago.
I came back yesterday afternoon. (Pause) I think.
You think? Miller got hit by a car. Everyone is coming over.

SCENE XXVI

Mom arrived at noon. She stood in the doorway.

When Dad saw her, he raised his eyebrows and choked on his own spit.

I’m so glad you came, he said to her when he was finally able to say something. The truth is that I was kind of missing you.

I found the letter this morning, you fat coward, Mom quickly responded.

Dad smiled and said, and I found yours. Miller’s outside. Let’s go.

He took her hand and they walked together to the patio.

I heard a voice at the door. It was clearly Lilly. Bobby, she called.

When I turned around, Lily was in the doorway.

Forgive me, Bobby, was the first thing she said. I should’ve come yesterday after you called me. But I couldn’t move. I’m always going to be here, just as we were.

And I’ll always be here, just as we were, I said with a smile. Always. (Pause) Come with me. Miller’s outside.

Mom was kneeling in front of Miller, stroking his white head. We sat down next to her.

Did the funeral already begin? Larry’s voice interrupted from the doorway.

We’re going to eat first, Dad said. I don’t remember the last time we were all together.

Mom started to cry.

Miller is in a better place now, Lily said to console her.

In a better place? Dad asked. In what fucking better place is he going to be? He’s going to be in the ground. That’s where he’s going to be. We’re going to bury him in the garden and plant a tree on top. In the end that’s what we do, return to the earth. Serve as manure so that something else can grow. If that’s not enough for you, you can believe that he’s in fucking dog heaven walking at the side of a bearded faggot or that he was reincarnated as a butterfly and is going to smash into a windshield. I’m gonna go to the garden, see the tree, and think, there’s Miller, whatever is left of him. And that he was a good dog.

Dad looked for a last time at Miller’s body and went back in the house.

If you want, I can get an orange tree, he said without turning around. That way you can believe he was reincarnated as fucking juice.

He went in through the door.

Mom, Lily, and Larry followed him inside.

Silence.

I knew that all of them were going to die, again.

Or perhaps for the first time.

And I felt relieved.

For the first time in my life I wasn’t afraid.

SCENE XVII

Bobby, at the controls in his small radio station. He lights a cigarette and leans toward the microphone.

Bobby:

Time follows its course.

And in the middle of it all, for one brief moment, we’re here.

Frightened.

Counting the days.

And the hours.

And the seconds.

Knowing that everything, at some point, is going to end.

Pause.

And that’s fine.

That’s fine.

Pause.

This is my last program.

My name is Bobby, Bobby Good Luck. And this is the story of the man from Taured.

Tokyo Airport, 1954.

SCENE XXVIII

Bobby:

We dug a hole in the garden.
Mom, Dad, Lily, Larry, and I.
We laid Miller at the bottom
And then,
While we cried,
We covered him with dirt.
I hugged my mother.
Dad took the little orange tree
Leaning against the wall
And planted it on top.
Does anyone want to say something?
My mother asked, lifting her sad cheek from my shoulder.

Silence.

I want to sing a song, I said.

Bobby sings, very softly, the first stanza of a poem by Pessoa. Larry accompanies him on the ukulele.

“Sometimes, in a sad dream,
among my wishes exists
a faraway place
where happiness consists
merely of being happy.”

Silence.

We started to walk toward the house.
Maybe he’s at the Good Luck Hotel now, I muttered.
Dad turned around and looked at me with raised eyebrows.
How do you know about the Good Luck Hotel?, he asked me.
I looked at him silently for a moment.
Have you been in the Good Luck Hotel?
Your mother and I. It was a small hotel that faced the sea. We spent a night there. It was the first time we ever smoked marihuana. We made love until dawn. And as our damned luck would have it, your mother ended up pregnant with you.
How do you know it was that time?
You know when you get pregnant. You know it right away, my mother said, entering the house without turning to look at us.
Dad and Lily followed her in.
Larry lit a cigarette.
I stopped at his side and we looked at the sky.

Larry:  I listened to your program about the man from Taured.

Bobby:  Ah, that was you. Did you like it?

Larry:  A lot. Have you ever heard of the law of dimensional simultaneity?

Pause.

Bobby:  No, but I’m sure you can explain it to me. After all, you’re a physicist, right?

Larry:  You know I’m a physicist?

Bobby:  You’re my best friend, Larry. I have to know a few things.

Silence. Larry smiles.

Larry: According to the law of dimensional spontaneity, Bobby, …

Larry’s voice fades. Little by little the light focuses on Bobby.

Bobby: 

I often think about Miller, sniffing the salty air before crossing the highway.

And about my parents, one hundred meters away, trying to make up with one another.

And about my friend Larry, on a lonely swing, swaying with the wind.

And about Lily and her unwilting heart.

I often think about the last goodbyes.

And the last brief shared moments.

And the last strolls.

And the last hugs.

And the last looks.

And the last seconds.

And it makes me believe that, in the end, death is nothing but an illusion of our own making.

And that soon we’ll all be looking at a calm sea

In front of the Good Luck Hotel

Feeling a light breeze on our faces.

Mexico City, September, 2015

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