Óscar Iván Hernández Carvallo / Marbles

“Glumdalclitches, mythological beings without whom the Earth would not continue to exist, appear to be ordinary humans. If they are discovered, the existence of the world is threatened.”  (Alexandru Irimie)

Carlos always walks to work rapidly, but he pauses to watch the little girl who is always playing with her marbles in front of the entrance to the subway. On the train, he tries to find some kind of sense or order in the maps of the city and the icons representing subway stations. These diagrams delimit streets and avenues, names of places which bring to mind days marked by voices that have fallen silent.

At work, Carlos turns on his computer and answers his emails and phone calls. When it’s almost time to leave, he traces the image of the little girl in his mind. Like in an eye exam, where you slowly begin to make out the outlines of the letters, he realizes that she’s always wearing the same jacket, the same shirt, the same shoes. Then, as the optometrist slides the last lens into place, he sees the freckles on her nose. He also manages to recall that her orange marble is surrounded by seven smaller spheres.


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As he leaves the office, he realizes what he must do. He will talk to her the next morning. He will ask for her name. He wakes up early and looks at himself in the mirror. If you aren’t capable of talking to her, he tells himself, how are you going to get her to turn around? Don’t you want to know who she is? Don’t you want to know her name? If only Don Corleone were there to grab him by the shoulders, slap him and say, You can act like a man, you can act like a man!

Carlos walks down the street that would take him to her. From far away he can see her face, a face that to him is like the summit of Mount Sinai. But instead of black Hebrew letters carved into stone, he sees the meaning of the maps and roads that have intrigued him all his life in her freckles. Pedestrians pass by them like moving walls. A few steps away from her, and he feels like he has become unstuck from reality. Only the girl’s marbles are left on the ground. Carlos notices that the largest, the orange one, is missing. Frightened, people turn to the sky. Buildings move like sheets hung up to dry. Carlos lifts his gaze and watches the sun go out.

(Translated by Joshua Neuhouser)