Julio Cortázar

He had started reading the novel a few days before. She abandoned him for urgent business, went back to reading when she returned by train to the farm; he slowly let himself be interested in the plot, in the character design. That afternoon, after writing a letter to his attorney and discussing a partnership issue with the foreman, he returned to the book in the tranquility of the office that overlooked the oak park. Leaning back in his favorite armchair, with his back to the door that would have bothered him as an irritating possibility of intrusions, he let his left hand caress the green velvet from time to time and began to read the last chapters. His memory effortlessly retained the names and images of the protagonists; the novelistic fantasy absorbed him almost immediately. He enjoyed the kind of perverse pleasure of moving away line by line from what surrounded him, and feeling at the same time that his head rested comfortably on the high-backed velvet, that cigarettes were still within reach, which, in addition to the windows, danced the air of the evening. under the oaks. Word for word, absorbed by the tragic disunity of the heroes, allowing themselves to be carried away by the images that formed and acquired color and movement, he witnessed the last meeting at the hut on the mountain. First the woman came in, afraid; now the lover came, his face hurt by the whip of a branch. She kissed her blood admirably, but he refused to touch her, she had not come to repeat the ceremonies of a secret passion, protected by a world of dry leaves and stealthy paths. The dagger was warm against his chest, and beneath it hid hidden freedom. An engaging dialogue ran through the pages like a stream of snakes, and it felt like everything was decided from the start. Even those caresses that enveloped the lover’s body, as if wishing to retain and dissuade him, unpleasantly drew the figure of another body that it was necessary to destroy. Nothing had been overlooked: impediments, bad luck, possible mistakes. From that hour on, each moment had its job minutely assigned. The cruel review was barely interrupted so that the hand of one caressed the face of the other. It was getting dark.
Without looking at each other, firmly attached to the task that awaited them, they separated at the door of the cabin. She was to continue on the road to the North. From the opposite way, he turned for a moment to see her running with her hair down. He ran in turn, dodging trees and fences, until he could make out in the rosy mist of twilight the path that would lead to the house. Dogs were not supposed to bark, and they didn’t bark. The foreman wouldn’t be at that hour, and he wasn’t. He went up the three steps of the porch and entered. Through the blood galloping in his ears came the woman’s words: first a blue room, then a balcony, a carpeted staircase. At the top, two doors. Nobody in the first room, nobody in the second. The door to the hall, and then the dagger in hand, the light from the windows, the high back of a green velvet chair, the head of the man in the chair reading a novel.
From the book Final game. Translation by Remy Gorga Filho.

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