Authors: Juan Villoro
TRANSLATED BY KIMI TRAUBE
S T O R I E S
“He who holds back a word is its master;
he who utters it, its slave.”
“Should we do it?” asked Brenda.
I looked at her white hair, split into two silky blocks. I love young women with white hair. Brenda is 43 but her hair has been this way since she was 20. She likes to blame it on her first shoot. She was in the desert in Sonora, working as a production assistant, and she had to round up 400 tarantulas for some horror-movie genius. She pulled it off, but when she woke up the next morning she had white hair. I suppose it's genetic. Anyway, she likes to see herself as a heroine of professionalism who went gray because of tarantulas.
Strangely, albino women don't excite me. I don't want to explain my reasons because when they're made public I realize they aren't really reasons. I had enough of that with the horse thing. Nobody has ever seen me
ride one. I am the only mariachi star who has never in his life mounted a horse. It took the reporters nineteen video clips to catch on. When they asked me about it, I answered, “I don't like transportation that shits.” Very banal and very stupid. They published a photo of my platinum BMW and my 4x4 with the zebra skin seats. The Society for the Protection of Animals said they were ashamed of me. Plus, a reporter who hates me got his hands on a photo of me holding a high-powered rifle in Nairobi. I didn't hunt any lions because I didn't actually hit any, but there I was, all dressed up for safari. They accused me of being anti-Mexican for killing animals in Africa.
I made the horse declaration after singing until three a.m. in a rodeo arena at the San Marcos Festival. I was leaving for Irapuato two hours later. Do you know what it feels like to be fucked up and have to leave for Irapuato before the sun rises? I wanted to sink into a Jacuzzi, to stop being a mariachi. That's what I should have said: “I hate being a mariachi, singing under a five-pound hat, tearing myself to pieces, swollen with the resentment earned on ranches without electricity.” Instead, I said something about horses.
They call me El Gallito de Jojutla, the Little Rooster from Jojutla, because that's where my father's from. They call me little rooster but I'm not an early riser. The trip to Irapuato was killing meâone of the many things that were killing me.
“Do you think I'm too sexy to have been a neurophysiologist?” Catalina asked me one night. I said yes to avoid an argument. She has the mind of a porno screenwriter:
she likes to imagine herself as a neurophysiologist, stirring up desires in the operating room. I didn't tell her that, but we made love with extra passion, as if to satisfy three curious onlookers. Afterwards I asked her to dye her hair white.
Since I met her, Cata's hair has been blue, pink, and cherry red. “Don't be a jackass,” she answered. “There are no white dyes.” That's when I understood why I like young women with white hair. They're not on the market. I told Cata this and she went back to talking like a porno screenwriter: “What's really going on here is that you want to fuck your mom.”
Those words helped me a lot. They helped me leave my therapist. He thought the same thing as Cata. I had gone to see him because I was sick of being a mariachi. Before lying down on the couch, I'd made the mistake of looking at his chair: on the seat was an inflatable donut. Maybe it comforts some patients to know their doctor has hemorrhoids; someone intimate with suffering to help them confess their own horrors. But not me. I only stayed in therapy because my therapist was a fan. He knew all of my songs (the songs I sing: I haven't written any), and he thought it extremely interesting that I was there, with my famous voice, saying I'm fucking fed up with
Around the same time, an article appeared where they compared me to a bullfighter who'd gone through psychoanalysis to overcome his fear of the ring. They described his most terrible goring: his intestines fell out onto the sand in the Plaza Mexico. He picked them up and managed to run to the infirmary. That afternoon, he
had been wearing dark purple and gold. Psychoanalysis helped him get back in the ring with that same suit on.
My doctor flattered me so ridiculously, I loved it. I could fill Azteca Stadiumâincluding the fieldâand get 130, 000 souls to drool. The doctor drooled and I didn't even have to sing.
My mother died when I was two years old. This is an essential piece of information for understanding why I can cry on cue. All I have to do is think about a photo. I'm dressed in a sailor suit, she's hugging me and smiling at the man who would drive the Buick that flipped over. My father had drunk more than half a bottle of tequila at the
where they'd gone to eat lunch. I don't remember the funeral, but they say he threw himself weeping into the grave. He got me into
songs. He also gave me the photo that makes me cry. My mother smiles, in love with the man who's taking her to a party. Outside the frame, my father snaps the shot with the bliss of the wretched.
It's obvious I want my mother back, but I
like women with white hair. I made the mistake of telling my therapist about the theory Cata got from the magazine
“You are Oedipal. That's why you don't like albino women, that's why you want a mommy with gray hair.” The doctor asked me for more details about Cata. If there's one thing I can't fight her on, it's her notion that she's extremely sexy. This titillated the doctor and he stopped singing my praises. I went to our last session dressed as a mariachi because I was coming from a concert in Los Angeles. He asked to keep my tricolor bow tie. Does it make sense to talk about your inner life with a fan?
Catalina was also in therapy. This helped her to “internalize her sexiness.” According to her, she could have been many things (almost all of them terrifying) because of her body. On the other hand, she believes the only thing I could have been is a mariachi. I have the voice, a face like an abandoned ranchero, and the eyes of a brave man who knows how to cry. Plus, I'm from here. Once I dreamed the reporters asked me, “Are you Mexican?” “Yes, but next time I won't be.” This response, which in real life would have destroyed me, drove them wild in my dream.
My father made me record my first album at 16. I never went back to school or looked for another job. I was too successful for a career in industrial design.
I met Catalina the way I met my previous girlfriends: she told my agent she was available. Leo said Cata had blue hair and I figured she could probably dye it white. We started going out. I tried to convince her to bleach it, but she didn't want to. Plus, authentic white-haired women are inimitable.
The truth is I've found very few young women with white hair. I saw one in Paris, in a VIP lounge at the airport, but I froze up like an idiot. Then there was Rosa, who was 28 with beautiful white hair and a diamond-encrusted belly button which I only knew about because of the swimsuits she modeled. I fell for her so hard it didn't matter that she said “jillo” instead of “Jell O.” She didn't pay any attention to me. She hated
music and wanted a blond boyfriend.
That's when I met Brenda. She was born in Guadalajara but lived in Spain. She went there to get away from
mariachis. Now she was back in Mexico with a vengeance. Chus Ferrer, a genius filmmaker I knew nothing about, was in love with me and wanted me in his next movie, no matter the cost. Brenda had come to round me up.
She got chummy with Catalina and discovered they hated the same directors who had ruined their livesâ Brenda's as a producer and Cata's as an eternally aspiring character actress.
“Brenda has a nice figure for her age, don't you think?” Cata said. “I'll take a look,” I answered.
I had already looked. Catalina thought Brenda was past it. âA nice figure' was her way of applauding an old nun for being thin.
I only like movies with spaceships and children who lose their parents. I didn't want to meet a gay genius who was in love with a mariachi who was, unfortunately, me. I read the screenplay so that Catalina would get off my fucking back. The truth is they only gave me bits and pieces, just the scenes in which I appeared. “Woody Allen does the same thing,” Cata explained to me. “The actors only figure out what the movie is about when they see it in the theater. It's like life: you only see your own scenes and the big picture escapes you.” That idea seemed so accurate I thought Brenda must have told it to her.
I suppose Catalina was hoping they would give her a role. “How are your scenes?” she said every three seconds. I read them at the worst possible time. My flight to El Salvador was cancelled because there was a hurricane, and I had to go by private jet. Amid the turbulence of Central America, the role seemed incredibly easy to me.
My character answered everything with “Heavy, man!” and let himself be adored by a gang of Catalonian bikers.
“What do you think about the scene with the kiss?” Catalina asked me. I didn't remember it. She explained that I was going to “tongue kiss” a “really filthy biker.” She thought the idea was fantastic: “You're going to be the first mariachi without complexes, a symbol of the new Mexican.” “The new Mexican kisses bikers?” I asked. Cata's eyes lit up: “Aren't you tired of being so typical? Chus's movie is going to catapult you to another audience. If you keep doing what you're doing, soon you'll only be interesting in Central America.”
I didn't respond because at that moment a Formula 1 race was starting and I wanted to see Schumacher. Schumacher's life isn't like a Woody Allen script: he knows where the finish line is. When I was moved that Schumacher had donated a huge sum to the victims of the tsunami, Cata said: “Do you know why he's giving so much? He's ashamed of having gone there for sex tourism.” There are moments like that. A man can accelerate up to 350 kilometers an hour, he can win and win and win, he can donate a fortune, and he can still be treated this way, in my own bed. I looked at the riding crop I go out on stage with (it's good for whacking away the flowers they throw at me). Then I made the mistake of picking up the crop and saying, “I forbid you to say that about my idol!” In one instant, Cata saw both my gay and my sadomasochistic potential: “So you have an idol now?” She smiled longingly, as if waiting for the first lash. “Fuck, yes,” I said, and went down to the kitchen to make myself a sandwich.
That night I dreamed I was driving a Ferrari, running over sombreros until they were nice and flat, nice and flat.
My life was unraveling. My worst album, a series of
songs composed by Alejandro RamÃ³n, the hit maker from Sinaloa, had just gone platinum, and my concerts with the National Symphony at Bellas Artes had sold out. My face stretched out over four square meters on a billboard in the Alameda in Mexico City. I didn't care about any of it. I'm a star. Forgive me for saying it again. I don't want to complain, but I've never made a decision in my life. My father took charge of killing my mother, crying a lot, and making me into a mariachi. Everything else was automatic. Women seek me out through my agent. I fly a private jet when the commercial liners can't take off. Turbulence. That's what I depend on. What would I like? To float in the stratosphere, look down at Earth and see a blue bubble without a single sombrero.
I was thinking about that when Brenda called from Barcelona. I pictured her hair while she said, “Chus is flipping out over you. He put a hold on the house he's buying in Lanzarote while he waits for your answer. He wants you to grow your fingernails out like a vamp. Perfect for a slightly seedy queer. Do you mind being a vamp mariachi? You'd look just adorable. I fancy you, too. I suppose Cata's already told you.” It excited me immensely that someone from Guadalajara could talk like that. I masturbated after I hung up, without even opening the copy of
magazine I keep in the bathroom. Later, when I was watching cartoons, I thought about the last part of our conversation. “I suppose Cata's already told you.” What should she have told me? And why hadn't she?