Alejandro gives you the present when you are in the café. You are both drinking beer from the bottle, and, as usual,  there is only you, Alejandro, and the fat man who works behind the bar. You sigh when you see the present, because you do not want it, this small, purple and silver, carefully-wrapped box which he holds in his hands. His hands, you will remember later, shake. When you don’t reach for the present, Alejandro puts it on the table between the two of you, and sits back.     

‘For you,’ he says, and the words seem to sum up everything it is that you don’t like about him: predictable, obvious,  to the point, short, simple, and dull.

‘Thank you,’ you say. You don’t mean it.

‘Open. Open,’ he pants.

Alejandro sometimes reminds you of a dog, but not the kind that you want to take for walks, or the kind that would protect you from intruders, or even the kind you would like to roll around with in front of the fire, laughing and yelping together. Alejandro is the kind of dog you would actually enjoy drowning. You would hold him under, easily and without qualms, and as the struggles became weaker, your mind would probably drift to other things: what you were going to eat that evening; whether that bill needed to be paid before Monday; sex. Alejandro is the kind of dog who needs to be put out of his misery. You will remember, later, that you smiled as you thought this.

‘Listen, I’m sure it’s a lovely present. But it’s not my birthday.’ You look at the fat man behind the bar. He is drying glasses. He is not helping.

‘No birthday. No special day. Just present. For you.’ Alejandro’s head is nodding, and he is happy.

‘Jesus,’ you say, not to the fat man, and not to Alejandro, just to yourself. Incredibly, the present is in your hands, even though you swore you would never, ever accept another present from this boy. This man. This Alejandro. You pull at the gaudy wrapping, and inside is a box.

‘What is it?’ you say. You will remember, later – and it will bring on the tears again – that despite yourself, you were excited, just a little, to see what he had bought you this time.

‘Open, open, please.’ He is eager, a pulsing vein in his forehead.

The fat man is drying glasses, smiling.

You pull up the black lid, and it clicks back on its hinge. Inside is a cockroach. It is dead.

‘Ahh!’ says Alejandro. Later, when all this is over, you will remember this ‘Ahh’ as the sound of an orgasm.

‘What the fuck is this?’ You hold the box in steady hands, tilting it slightly in his direction, as if he didn’t know what was inside. As if he might be able to offer an explanation.

‘Cockroach,’ he spits. ‘I learn the word, special.’ He is snarling, thin lips turning purple. ‘Cockroach.’ The word sounds new and obscene in his mouth.

‘Why the fuck have you given me a cockroach, Alejandro?’

‘It is you. Cockroach is you.’ And he laughs, glancing at the fat man.

‘Listen,’ you say, pointlessly. He will not listen.

‘I give presents. You take presents. You like. You say.’ He is standing now. He is small, but he is standing. ‘But no. Monica say you hate presents. Monica say you hate me.’

‘Oh, for fuck’s sake.’ You aren’t talking to Alejandro, because you are thinking about Monica. About being drunk with Monica and laughing about stupid, obsessed, dog-like Alejandro and his stupid, lovesick presents. You are remembering the toy bunny
rabbit he bought you; you are remebering throwing it down the toilet; you are remembering the two of you, you and Monica,
taking turns to sit on the bowl and piss all over the drenched, bedraggled thing; you are remembering flushing the toilet, and the rabbit still being there, and you are remembering laughing so hard with Monica that you actually started to be sick;  and then that went down the toilet as well, and it only made the two of you laugh all the louder. You are thinking about that bitch Monica.

Alejandro is shouting. ‘Monica is friend! She tell me.’ He is shaking, and spit is flying from his thin lips. ‘I give you presents. I like you.’

You look at the box, at the cockroach. It is small, sad, and pathetic, and it does not frighten you at all. You will remember,
later, that it had traces of green, purple and orange to its black sheen, and that this did not surprise you.

‘Alejandro, you must listen,’ you say. Your voice is not yours. You are not you. You need to be someone else,  here,  at this
moment, to make this bearable.

‘I tell Monica what I think you. She tell me name, in English.’ He looks at the box, still sitting in your hands. ‘You cockroach.
Understand?’ He looks back at you. ‘Cockroach.’

There is nothing to say. You look at this boy, this sweet, Spanish Alejandro. You will remember, later, that this was when you started to cry, but at this moment, you don’t notice the tears.

‘You like? You like cockroach? Keep! Keep! Yours.’

‘I’m sorry,’ you say to no one. He is gone, to the darkness outside. There is no one in the café, apart from you and the fat man behind the counter. When you look at him he is laughing at you.

And later, as you lie on your bed listening to the rain, you will wish that you hadn’t thrown the cockroach at the fat man, because you would quite like to have kept it, in its box, on your windowsill. It could have sat there, just to remind you.

                                                                ~~

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Published in: on September 25, 2006 at 1:53 pm  Comments Off on