nuestra palabra 2007: Joan Francisco Matamoros

Big BopIn 2007, at the age of 19, the Mexican writer Joan Francisco Matamoros became the youngest person ever to win the nuestra palabra short story competition. Matamoros was born in the Mexican border state of Chihuahua, and at the age of 12 he moved with his mother to Toronto, where he completed much of his secondary education. At sixteen he returned to Chihuahua to live with his father, and then decided to return to Toronto to settle and study here. He began writing stories in earnest at the age of sixteen during his return to Mexico, when he reconnected with the Spanish language.

Night Queen

Joan Francisco Matamoros

The summer was slipping through my hands. Now I needed a sweatshirt after nightfall, which incidentally was happening earlier than it had in the weeks before. It was all like stepping through a mirror and turning into the reflection, or vice versa, it makes no difference. Summer-No matter-Winter-No matter-Summer. A countdown to winter and my darkest time, with suicidal thoughts day and night. Like a challenge to the imagination, how and when to end it all put my ingenuity to the test. Dramatic or undramatic? It didn’t matter, because I wouldn’t have dared to do it anyway. I would carry on in this rotten existence, darkened all the more by that fear of winter’s return, its arrival on a date looming just around the corner.

I think it was the growing darkness that drew me to that corner on the west side, just past that fashionable hotel. Prowling around like a dog, I was on the final lap when I bumped into her, so weighed down by life with her sagging breasts and her wrinkled face caked with makeup.

I suppose she thought that I’d gone straight there to meet her, because she approached me announcing her prices and the services she offered. I gave her a look of amused bewilderment.

“Excuse me?”

“Yes. Twenty dollars for a blow job and seventy to go all the way. A hundred for both but only anal. If I like you, I’ll add a few little extras.”

I merely raised my eyebrow disdainfully, making her move away with her constant tremors of the body and tics that made her frown strangely. But curiosity and something else made me call her back again.

“Hey, you!” She turned around. “And what are your blow jobs like?”

Her face lit up at the question in a way that I still can’t explain. Perhaps it was because it gave her the chance to comment on her skills as a professional sex worker.

They’re wonderful!” she answered me, in English.

I invited her over to talk it over further. All this gave me a sense of danger that somehow excited me, so that I overlooked her ghastly teeth and stench that just about knocked me unconscious. We slipped down a side alley and I undid my pants while she knelt down.

She was a true professional. Her state of intoxication prevented her from concentrating on the service and she used every moment that her tongue wasn’t occupied with my member to tell me about her life and career. In spite of these interruptions, she did her work well, leaving me wondering whether I should spend another eighty dollars to find out what the little extras were, because it seemed to me she liked me. When she was done she reached out her hand. I gave her a twenty and a ten as well. She smiled at me and, without even saying goodbye, headed back towards the main street.

“Help me get a little crack,” I called to her.

She stopped cold in her tracks and turned back to look at me.

“What’s wrong with you, you idiot? Do I look stupid? You get your own crack.”

I didn’t understand how things worked in the underworld, but I thought we’d really hit it off. Sometime later a friend of mine who knew the neighbourhood told me about her. She was over fifty and had been dubbed the queen of that street so filled with surprises.

I worked for a while in a fast food place a few blocks east of where I met her. My shift was during the wee hours of the morning and there were a few days when she would pass by. Sometimes she’d buy a bottle of water and even leave me a good tip.

Thus began my obsession with her feminine beauty. She was a hardened, imposing woman, depending on the angle that you watched her from. Not a single night went by at that job when I didn’t wait for her to pass by for her bottle of water and stare at me without even remembering me. Rather than insulting me or annoying me, this only made me more attracted to her. One of those nights the obsession began.

I closed up shop right on time so as not to anger the boss. Then I stalked her cautiously. Walking for miles and miles, we headed southward through a place filled with old whiskey distilleries. The sun began to rise and she entered one of those old factories.

I approached, keeping a safe distance, and stumbled into a crowd of around fifteen other people, all of whom seemed to be waiting for her. I felt weary from so much work and so little sleep, and the rising sun blinded me a little, but I could see that they were all just sitting there, in a closed circle. A simple social gathering? I don’t think so.

Within a matter of minutes more than half of them had fallen to the ground under the effect of something which, judging by their faces, was giving them a great deal of pleasure. At that point I decided to call it a day. I went home and slept. Waiting for winter.

On the nights that followed, I felt almost like I was her confidant. I’d worked out her whole routine, which was mainly nocturnal. I’d managed to identify her regular customers and various other interesting details. The fact that she didn’t recognize me every time she came into the fast food joint to buy her water might have wounded my pride, but it also fanned the flame in me all the more. I followed her around the back of the Big Bop (a nightclub at Queen and Bathurst) and saw her take a huge member out of her pants to urinate in the corner like any man would have done. It got me thinking. If she could play her part so well, why couldn’t I? Why couldn’t I be her? Perhaps it would make the winter a little more interesting. The decision was made. I would be her killer.

The scene of the crime would be that huge green park, the one where the youth would go to smoke a joint or gather at dawn when the parties were done. That would be a problem. Obviously nobody should see. If I was patient and lucky, she and I might bump into each other there alone at around three in the morning, after one crowd had gone and before the next arrived.

It took a week and a half for this coincidence to take place. I had turned into her shadow by then and knew the speed of her step perfectly. I cut her off and simply pulled the trigger, aiming at her head. I tried to keep it all as quiet as possible. Fall was upon us now and my sanity seemed to have flown like the leaves did at that time of year. I wasn’t just insane but reckless too, because I took the bold step of burying her right there in an act of respect for her person and her soul, which lurked forever in that place. Her body was there, six feet down, naked. The wig, jewels, shoes and dress had been inherited by me. The new Queen of Queen.

The snow lashed my newly painted face. One thing that remains a question mark is the exact place of residence of my predecessor. After months of following her I’d never been able to locate it. It looks like I’ll die a frozen man… I mean, a frozen woman.

Translated by Martin Boyd

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