Hills like white elephants
The hills on the other side of the valley were long and white. On this side, there was no shade or trees and the station was between two lines of trails in the sun. Close to the side of the station was the warm shadow of the house and a curtain, made of strings of bamboo beads, hung on the hollow door to the bar to stop the flies. The American and the girl with him were sitting at a table in the shade outside the house. It was very hot and the Barcelona express would arrive in forty minutes. He stopped at this junction for two minutes and went to Madrid.
“What are we going to drink?”, The girl asked. She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.
“Is it really hot?”, The man said. “We are going to drink beer.”
“Dos cervezas,” the man said to the curtain.
“Large?” Asked a woman from the doorway.
“Yes. Big two. ”
The woman brought two glasses of beer and two felt supports. He put the felt pads and the beer glasses on the table and looked at the man and the girl. The girl looked at the hill line. They were white in the sun and the region was brown and dry.
“They look like white elephants,” she said.
“I never saw one,” the man drank his beer. “No, there would be no way.”
“I could have seen it,” the man said. “You say that I would have no way to prove anything.”
The girl looked at the beaded curtain. “They painted something on top,” she said. “What you mean?”
“Anís del Toro. It’s a drink. ”
“Can we prove it?”
“Listen,” the man called out through the curtain. The woman came from the bar.
“We want Anís del Toro.”
“Do you want it with water?”
“I don’t know,” the girl said. “Does it look good with water?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Do you want it with water?” Asked the woman.
“Yes, with water.”
“It tastes like licorice,” the girl said and lowered the glass.
“It’s always like that.”
“Yeah,” said the girl. “Everything tastes like licorice. Especially those things that you’ve waited for a long time, like absinthe. ”
“Ah, stop it.”
“You started it,” the girl said. “I was loving it. It was a good time. ”
“Well, let’s try to have a good time.”
“It’s all right. I was trying. He said the hills look like white elephants. Isn’t it brilliant? ”
“I wanted to try this new drink: we don’t do anything else, do we? Look at things and try new drinks. ”
“I think so.”
The girl looked at the hills on the other side.
“The hills are beautiful,” she said. “They don’t really look like white elephants. I mean, just the skin seen between the trees. ”
“Do we drink one more?”
The hot wind blew the beaded curtain across the table.
“The beer is good and cold,” the man said.
“It looks great,” the girl said.
“It’s a really simple operation, Jig,” the man said. “Nor is it a real operation.”
The girl looked at the floor on which the table’s feet rested.
“I knew you would agree, Jig. It is nothing at all. Just let the air in. ”
The girl said nothing.
“I’m going along and I’m going to be with you all the time. They just let the air in and then everything is completely natural. ”
“And what do we do next?”
“We’ll be fine later. As before.”
“How do you know?”
“This is the only thing that gets in the way. It’s the only thing that makes us unhappy. ’
The girl looked at the beaded curtain, reached out and held two rows.
“And you think that afterwards we’ll be fine and we’ll be happy.”
“I’m sure. You do not have to be afraid. I know a lot of people who have already done it. ”
“Me too,” said the girl. “And then they were all very happy.”
“Well,” said the man, “if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. I wouldn’t force you if you didn’t want to. But I know that it is very simple. ”
“And do you really want to?”
“I think it is the best thing to do. But I don’t want you to do it if you really don’t want to. ”
“But if I do you will be happy and things will be as they were and will you love me?”
“I love you right now. You know that I love. ”
“I know. But if I do it will be good again when I say that things look like white elephants, will you like it? ”
“I’ll love it. I love it right now, I just can’t think about it. You know what I look like when I get worried. ”
“If I do, won’t you be worried?”
“I will not be worried because it is all very simple.”
“So I do. Because I don’t care about me. ”
“I don’t care about me.”
“Well, I care about you.”
“Ah, I know. But I don’t care about me. And I will do it and everything will be fine. ”
“I don’t want you to do it if that’s what you feel.”
The girl got up and walked to the end of the season. Ahead, on the other side, there were fields of wheat and trees along the banks of the Ebro. In the distance, beyond the river, were the mountains. The shadow of a cloud crossed the wheat field and she saw the river between the trees.
“And we could have it all,” she said
. “And we could have everything and every day make things even more impossible.”
“What did you say?”
“He said we could have everything.”
“We can have everything.”
“No, we can not.”
“We can have the whole world.”
“No, we can not.”
“We can go anywhere.”
“No, we can not. It is no longer ours. ”
“No, it’s not. And after they take it off, you never take it back. ”
“But nobody took anything away.”
“We will see.”
“Come back here to the shade,” he said. “Do not feel this way.”
“I’m not feeling anything,” the girl said. “It’s just that I know.”
“I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to do …”
“It’s not that it’s not good for me,” she said. “I know. Shall we have another beer? ”
“It’s ok. But you have to understand … ”
“I understand,” the girl said. “Can’t we just stop talking?”
They sat at the table and the girl looked at the hills on the dry side of the valley and the man looked at her and the table.
“You have to understand,” he said, “that I don’t want you to do it if you don’t want to do it. I am perfectly willing to move on if it makes a difference to you. ”
“Doesn’t it make a difference to you? We could move on. ”
“Of course it does. But I don’t want anyone but you. I don’t want anyone else. And I know that everything is very simple. ”
“Yeah, you know that everything is very simple.”
“You might as well speak like that, but I know how it goes.”
“Would you do something for me?”
“I would do anything for you.”
“Can you stop talking, please, please, please?”
He said nothing but looked at the bags leaning against the station’s wall. They had labels for all the hotels they had slept in.
“But I don’t want you to do it,” he said, “I don’t care about anything.”
“I’m going to scream,” the girl said.
The woman crossed the curtain with two glasses of beer and deposited them on the damp felt supports. “The train is in five minutes,” she said.
“What did she say?” Asked the girl.
“That the train arrives in five minutes.”
The girl gave the woman a radiant smile to thank her.
“I think it’s best to take your bags to the other side of the station,” the man said. She smiled at him.
“It’s ok. Then come back and finish the beer. ”
He picked up the two heavy suitcases and carried them through the station to the tracks on the other side. He peeked but failed to see the train. Returning, he entered the bar lounge, where the people waiting for the train were drinking. He drank an anise on the counter and looked at people. They were all waiting for the train. He went through the curtain of beads. She was sitting at the table and smiled at him.
“Are you feeling better?” He asked.
“I’m fine,” she said. “There is nothing wrong with me. I am fine.”