Cristina Araújo Gámir’s debut is a harrowing, honest, and oftentimes difficult-to-read novel that tells the story of Miriam, a young girl who is the victim of a sexual assault. Araújo Gámir writes with careful and painstaking detail about the events before, during, and most significantly after this horrific incident, and confronts uncomfortable but necessary themes such as victim blaming, sexism and toxic masculinity. Most importantly, she gives space to Miriam’s voice as she attempts to come to terms with trauma that will change her life forever. The novel won Araújo Gámir the XVIII Premio Tusquets in 2022.
You’re sat on a bench, hands clutching your bag against your ribs, eyes blurred. It looks as if they’d tried to mug you. But nobody mugged you. It’s cold, you feel it most in your feet, and if you were in the position to think, you’d think about, for example, how long it was until sunrise. But you don’t think, and the only thing you feel is nothing. Nothing. The graze on the soft part of your knee stings. It’s taken on a wet, pink colour, and it hurts like hell every time the skin moves, peeling away just a little more flesh. You didn’t have a single injury when you left the house. You must have scraped yourself in the mess of grit and dirt that was on the floor.
At the end of the road, a streetlight hums discreetly. You swallow mucus. You spend about twenty minutes with your gaze lost in a stain on your sandal. After a while it changes shape, it grows limbs, expands. But it doesn’t really move, it’s just an illusion, and in the blink of an eye it shrinks back to its original form. That stain, you don’t remember that either. It must be a splatter of mud or the splash of a drink, or perhaps you stepped in a puddle of piss on your way to the foyer. Or someone’s vomit. Or it could even be, perhaps. Semen.
You should stand up and start walking. You should. But you don’t know if you can. And you don’t even know where you’d go. The graze on your knee throbs like a bite or a sting.
For a moment, you think about spitting on your fingers and cleaning it with saliva, but you can’t, you don’t want to, you don’t have any saliva. Nor the energy. You can’t move. You’re crying, you’re scared shitless. And what must you look like, messed up hair, leggings covered in dirt. You’ve rubbed at your eyes so your eyeliner is smudged across your hoody and now your tears sting too. You would have called Vix if only they hadn’t destroyed your phone.
The slice of sky beyond the square clears into an indecisive mauve. There’s almost no one on the street, and those passing don’t even want to look at you. Some are still partying. They giggle and stumble over one another as they embrace, bellowing indecipherable songs. The homeless are more discreet, their drunkenness shifts them with dragged feet. Further away within the fragments of the shadows, a man turns the corner. He walks along the line of trees alone, his motor functions are intact.
His back is stiff, trim, measured, like a bishop. He carries a newspaper rolled up beneath his arm, his hands are buried in his pockets. They’re easy to spot, those who have already crossed over into the realm of today, while you gasp in the gloom, languishing in the fuzzy edges of last night. A few metres behind the man is a poodle. It stops to pee on the leg of a bench and afterwards it makes its way over to you. Its paws scratch along the paving stones. You think you can reach out your arm to stroke it, but no, you can’t do that either, so more tears come, a sob or some sort of hiccup, you just want the dog to stay. And then a whistle, come here. The bishop man. He definitely thinks you’re hungover, or on something. Maybe you stink of sex. Definitely. You notice your wet underwear.
They’ll use that detail later.
By Cristina Araújo Gámir
Translated by Alice Banks
Mira a esa chica: © Cristina Araújo Gámir, 2022 / Tusquets Editores.
From MIRA A ESA CHICA
(‘Look at Her’)
by Cristina Araújo Gámir
Translated by Alice Banks
Published by Tusquets Editores (2022)
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Cristina Araújo Gámir has worked as a translator for documentary channels such as National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Her short stories have won several prizes and Mira a esa chica, her first novel, won her the Premio Tusquets Editores.
Alice Banks is a literary translator from Spanish and French based in Madrid. Alice’s most recent translation is Deranged As I Am, by Ali Zamir. She is currently working on a translation of Elizabeth Duval’s novel Madrid será la tumba, which will be published in autumn 2023.