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Quim Monzó
Married life

Because they have some papers to sign, Zgdt and his wife Bst (who got married eight years ago) have to travel to a distant city. They get there in the early evening. As the business cannot be settled till the next day, they look for a hotel where they can spend the night. They are given a room with twin beds, two bedside cabinets, a writing table (there are envelopes and sheets of paper with the hotel’s name at the top, in a folder), a chair and a minibar with a television on top of it. They have dinner, take a walk along the river bank and, when they get back to the hotel, each gets into one of the beds and takes out a book.

A few minutes later they can hear people fucking in the room next door. They hear distinctly the mattress creaking, the woman’s groans and, more faintly, the panting of the man. Zgdt and Bst look at one another, smile, make a joke about it, bid each other good night and put the light out. Zgdt is turned on, as he can still hear them fucking on the other side of the wall, and he wonders about saying something to Bst. Maybe she is turned on just like him. He could go over, sit down on her bed, make a joke about the people next door and, without any fuss, start by stroking her hair and her face and then, immediately afterwards, her breasts. Very probably, Bst would respond right away. But if she doesn’t? If she pushes his hand away and clucks with her tongue or, worse still, says: “I’m not in the mood?” A few years ago he would not have hesitated. He would have known, just before putting out the light, whether Bst wanted to, whether the groans from the room next door had turned her on or not. But now that so many years have gone by, nothing is clear. Zgdt turns to one side and masturbates, being careful no to make any noise.

Ten minutes after he has finished, Bst asks him if he is asleep. Zgdt says not yet. They have stopped groaning in the room next door; now they are talking in low voices, with suppressed laughter. Bst gets up and comes over to Zgdt’s bed. She lifts the sheet, lies down and starts caressing his back. Her hand descends from his back to his buttocks. Zgdt does not have the courage to tell her he has just masturbated and says he is not in the mood. Bst stops caressing him and, after a short, very long silence, gets back into her bed. He hears her lifting the sheet, getting in, turning over. Feeling more courageous, Zgdt turns towards her and confesses that, a few minutes ago, he masturbated because he thought she wouldn’t feel like fucking. Bst says nothing.

Not long afterwards, Zgdt deduces, from the disguised noises reaching him, that Bst is masturbating. Zgdt feels a huge sadness, reflects that life is grotesque and unjust, and bursts into tears. He cries into the pillow, thrusting his head as deeply into it as he can. The tears are plentiful and hot. And when he hears Bst stifling the final groan with the palm of her hand, he moans with the very moan she bites back.

Translated by Christopher Whyte
Quim Monzó, Married life. Chapman. [Edimburg], núm. 88 (1997), pàg. 10.
Quim Monzó
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