It’s always the same. I load the weapon. I raise it. I stare down the barrel for a moment, as if it had something to tell me. I point it at my left temple (yes, I’m a lefty, so what?). I take a deep breath. Screw up my eyes. Wrinkle my brow. Caress the trigger. Notice that my index finger is moist. I slowly release my strength, very cautiously, as if there were a gas leak inside me. Clench my teeth. Almost. My finger bends back. Now. And then, as always, the same thing happens: a burst of laughter. An instantaneous laugh so raw and meaningless that my muscles quiver, forces me to drop the gun, knocks me off the chair, prevents me from shooting.
I don’t know what the devil my mouth is laughing at. It’s inexplicable. However downhearted I feel, however ghastly the day seems, however convinced I am that the world would be a better place without my annoying presence, there is something about the situation, about the metallic feel of the butt, the solemnity of the silence, my sweat dripping like pills, what can I say, there is something impossible to define that I find, in spite of myself, dreadfully comic. A millimeter before the trigger gives way, before the bullet travels to the source of rest, my guffaws invade the room, bounce off the window panes, scamper through the furniture, turn the whole house upside down. I’m afraid my neighbors also hear them, and to add insult to injury, conclude I am a happy man.
Devote your life to humor, a friend suggested when I told him of my tragedy. But except when I’m committing suicide, I don’t find any jokes funny.
This problem of mine, this laughter, is going to test my patience to the limit. I am ashamed of the ridiculous euphoria that ripples through my stomach as the weapon falls to the floor. Each time this mishap occurs, and although I’ve always been a man of my word, I offer myself a brief postponement. A week. Two. A month, at most. And in the meantime, of course, I try to have fun.
– Andrés Neuman (1977) was born in Buenos Aires, where he spent his childhood. The son of Argentinian émigré musicians, he grew up and lives in Spain. He was included in Granta’s “Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists” issue and is the author of numerous novels, short stories, essays, and poetry collections. Two of his novels—Traveler of the Century and Talking to Ourselves—have been translated into English.Traveler of the Century won the Alfaguara Prize and the National Critics Prize, was longlisted for the 2013 Best Translated Book Award, and was shortlisted for the 2013 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the 2014 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Talking to Ourselves was selected as number one among the top twenty books in 2014 byTypographical Era, and was longlisted for the 2015 Best Translated Book Award. His works have been translated into twenty languages.
Translated from the the Spanish by Nick Caistor & Lorenza Garcia.
Copyright © 2015 by Andrés Neuman from The Things We Don’t Do. Reprinted by permission of Open Letter Books.