The private teacher – 05/20/2023 – Our strange love

I was throwing away some old papers so I wouldn’t keep carrying it through life in one more move and, amidst the scattering of boxes and folders, the notebook appeared. It was like she appeared to me. Her stay in my blood came rushing back. My wife and children walked past me asking me questions, small decisions. Do we put the towels in the big boxes or in the small ones? Didn’t you have to defrost the fridge before transporting it? I couldn’t answer. I held that notebook in my hands as if it were the only thing I would save from the fire.

On the scratched pages were his handwriting, his numbers and fractions, his chemical formulas, his phrases like “smooth endoplasmic reticulum.” And the lyrics were already sitting in the kitchen of her tiny apartment, giving me private lessons, sitting while hugging one of her knees, one foot bare, her sandal on the floor, her bare foot. She, in a T-shirt and shorts, her hair half tied up, trying to make me understand an equation.

An amount of scientific information that went in one ear and out the other, because true universal science was her eating an apple before my eyes, the way her teeth sank into the fruit and, with a crunching noise, took a bite. and left the bite mark. Your white teeth. I was 19 and thought I wanted to study medicine. I was deluded, but fascination with my private teacher made me stretch out the big lie a little longer.

I was bad at everything. My destiny as a doctor was beginning to evaporate. I was ashamed to go to college. Sometimes I stayed in the cafeteria. My classmates advanced like a battalion, got together to study, mastered concepts that I still didn’t know. I was falling behind, but knowing that I was going back to my private lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays gave me a little life.

She opened the door for me with little variants: gym shorts, black leggings, T-shirt, top, loose hair, loose bun, with glasses, without glasses, sometimes friendly, sometimes talking on the phone with a contained fury against her boyfriend. Those phone calls led her to lock herself in the bathroom so I wouldn’t hear: you’re an idiot, I told you that, I told you I felt mistreated, you ignored me the whole party and stood there talking to that slut, as if I didn’t existed.

Dear private teacher, if you were my girlfriend, I would never make you feel alone at any time, much less at a party, where I would give my life to see you smile by my side, to see you having fun, radiating, among all the people , the energy of her beauty and her charisma.

I saw her come out of the bathroom with red eyes. Excuse me, she said, are we going to do biology today? Yes, I thought, and let’s see the chemistry of love, the microcellular alterations of my inflated and red heart, let’s see how my hormones boil when I look at the hairs on your arm writing something down in the notebook, let’s see the damage that oxytocin and the dopamine they do in my bloodstream when, in the heat, you tie your hair, and your neck is all made of imaginary kisses, and I quickly glance at your armpits, which are etched in the helpless depths of my sexual frustration. Are you listening to me, Chico? She didn’t call me Francisco, she called me Chico.

The last day I saw her, she opened the door with her face melted from crying. This time the fight with the boyfriend seemed to have been fierce. I said hi. Are you all right? I asked, and she burst into tears on my shoulder. I was motionless. Then I hugged her head, kissed her on the cheek so she wouldn’t cry anymore; she took a deep breath and suddenly we kissed deeply and desperately.

Translated by Livia Deorsola

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