Excerpt: Frigid Tales by Pedro de Jesus

from Instructions for a Single Man

For lazaro, zapadora

1. Make him come back. Like someone traveling from one vacuum to another. Like someone who has hardly ever moved.
2. Place yourself so you face the evidence, the same objects, and the same disorder.
3. Make her sit in her usual chair, sighing, and wait for something extraordinary that allows for a story.
4. Maneuver a minimal event, almost a trick: Virgilio’s arrival.
5. Be infinitely happy. Show it.
6. Set us to talking about loneliness in a way that moves us from the general to the particular. As if anyone’s loneliness were unique.
7. Drag them to a tautological confession: to say they are alone.
8. Make you see—you out there—that the characters’ needs touch on the metaphysical. As if their consciousness of loneliness stole their bodies in one swift stroke.
9. Grant Virgilio the opportunity to see a tentative way out and to communicate it to us. Then send him off, as if it were all a revelation, or a gift, whose effect was to leave us once more alone.
10. With this insistence on the part of Virgilio, allow yourself to feel motivated to dial the phone number of that underground agency to which others like you resort, communicating their descriptions, their desires, and their needs.
11. Describe myself, convert myself into someone’s ideal. Then describe my ideal man. So this ear will know it, so you out there will know it, so I can know it at last.
12. Take care, in this sketch, that this man should be good, sincere, intelligent. Sensitive, mature, responsible. That he should almost not be.
13. Make the voice on the other end demand concreteness, specificity. It should be quite clear, at this point in the plot, that the character has been pushed into declaring himself in favor of fair skin, medium height (or, better yet, tall), and voluminous
muscles to be shown off in the street or m the sack. Age may vary between twenty-five and forty.
14. And then you feel moved to add: beautiful, not too flaming, sexually open and daring, and possessed of a cock somewhere between normal and lethal.
15. But: Make us shut up. All of us shut up. For fear of a thunderous collapse of the metaphysical aura.
16. Think—you out there—that the character is racist and frivolous. Get her to inflict such adjectives on herself, once she’s hung up the phone. Create an atmosphere of pathos around the affair. Lead the character to a memorable to be or not to be.
17. Make me wait for two different men: the good man and the beautiful one. As if waiting always implied the loss of one of the two.
18. Maneuver another event: the call—reply—date from the agency.
19. Dress him inch by inch, as if in tattoos from head to toe. Send him off to his encounter with the man who has given his name as Rene.
20. Induce them to arrive before Rene, identify themselves with the code name Pedro de Jesus, sit down at the tiny round table in the middle of the small, elegant room to which they are solemnly led… and to wait, sipping a Cuba Libre on the house.
21. Maintain your equanimity when you see Virgilio, well decked out, and the oh-so-friendly young man from the agency announces, “Pedro de Jesus, we are delighted to introduce you to Rene. Rene, we are delighted to introduce you to Pedro de Jesus.”
22. Be overcome by sadness. But I don’t show it.
23. Smile when the young man leaves. Take it all as a joke, a revelation, or a favor that leaves us, once again, alone.
24. Have Virgilio declare: “I never knew, till now, that we were each other’s ideal.”
25. Everyone in agreement, yourself included.
26. Have Virgilio add: “But it’s obvious: we’re not really looking for our ideal men.”
27. Agreement again—us, I don’t know about yourself.
28. They pretend that they are beginning to get acquainted,
that the date is a success. Get drunk. Spend too much. Pay the
agency’s bill. Leave.
29. Come back. Like someone returning from one vacuum to
another. Like someone who has hardly ever moved.
NOTE: Don’t write the story. Not that one, nor any other. Give
up the vice.

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The beautiful and original collection of stories found in Frigid Tales plays opportunely with realism and fiction to create a world divided into six tales that form an interlocked unity-forming a passionate novel that gives us a tour de force of alienation and erotic obsession by taking us deep into a world where sex is casual, but real love elusive.

“The new Reinaldo Arenas.”-El Pais

Pedro de Jesus was born in 1970 in Fomento, Cuba and studied at the University of Havana. In addition to writing short stories, de Jesus has published essays, and a novel, Sibilas en Mercaderes. Frigid Tales has been published in Spain and his work has appeared in anthologies in Germany, France, and Italy.

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