MAYRA MONTERO | Molto Vivace

Issue 13

The British musician, who ordinarily conducts the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, was called home to substitute for Zubin Mehta for one night. While attacking Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony—it had to be Tchaikovsky—Judd hit his forehead with his own baton and produced a wound that began to bleed like an authentic bullet wound. Nonetheless, he refused to leave the podium and was spattering the public for forty-five minutes. I think the ladies have kept their clothes as a memento.

MAYRA MONTERO | Appassionata

Issue 12

I WOULD HAVE FALLEN IN LOVE WITH HER, had I been a gentleman. One falls in love with the least expected trifles—the way someone asks a question, or lights a cigarette, or simply the quick, guilty, almost suicidal gesture of a cellist bending down to pick up a bow she had dropped on the floor. Something like this happened to a cellist in front of a gilded hall a few days ago, halfway through a concert. It was clear that she was a fine, conscientious person. I could tell by where she was seated among the other musicians, and the way she followed the conductor—a tall, handsome man who always gives the impression of having just stepped out of the shower. She was attentive to his smallest gestures—every motion—whether directed to her or to others, including the violins, the oboes and the singers. (There were singers that night.)

MAYRA MONTERO | In the Shade of the Maria Tree

Issue 11

EVERY MORNING AT ABOUT EIGHT O’CLOCK she parks her car near my house, under the shade of a María tree. She does not shut off the motor or roll down the windows. She simply stops, adjusts the rearview mirror so she can see her face clearly, and takes out a little cosmetics bag. Then her ritual begins. She is not just powdering her nose and dabbing rouge on her cheeks. At this inhospitable hour, indifferent to her surroundings, she does a serious makeup job, here on this lonely street where I usually walk my dog.

MAYRA MONTERO | On the Brevity of Life

Issue 10

There is a small staircase that leads to the sea, and she usually goes down it slowly, wrapped in a long terrycloth robe with the hem dragging in the sand. She is ageless, or she is as old as one wants to imagine. The skin on her athletic thighs and her strong arms has not stretched much: it sags there, and also on her chest and around her neck. It is not simply a matter of wrinkles: these are the folds of eternity. Lana is very old.

MAYRA MONTERO | For Miguelina

Issue 09

She is way too quiet, and she rarely smiles; I have never seen her look into anyone’s eyes, or sit down to gaze at the scenery; she moves noiselessly and speaks in murmurs; she is capable of working twelve or fourteen hours in a row. She’s sixteen years old and still does not know what she will do when she grows up. But she doesn’t dream or remember her dreams, either—or perhaps she doesn’t want to remember them, which is also understandable.

MAYRA MONTERO | The Brightest Flower

Issue 07

One quiet afternoon during Lent, not long after she turned 100, Madame Lulú gazed off into space, breathed a small sigh that could easily have been taken for a yawn, and like someone letting go of a little bone he’s had stuck in his throat a long time, said: You were wrong to kill yourself, Pablito. She said it in French, which she only used when she was really angry, or on the few occasions when she was very happy.

MAYRA MONTERO | Pollack (Pollack The Man)

Issue 03

TODAY I SAW MY FATHER’S HOUSE. I saw it just as it had been, with the stone façade and the circular terrace. It was in a book about architecture, a birthday present that my wife’s best friend Sara brought me. When she said, “Take a look Esteban, the houses of Havana,” I had a premonition. I don’t know why I thought I would find it there. Or yes, I think I know: the house was quite famous in its time. It had what was called a Roman bath, which was just an intimate pool, a bubble dreamed up for who knows what madness. And in that bath, in that ironical chamber, I attained bitterness and indifference. I destroyed my life at the age of ten.


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