Sanjay: An Excerpt from ‘Spain

Nonfiction by Caren Beilin

Those cruises are crazy, I was on one actually. There was an alarm and we all had to get into boats. It was crazy, man.”

Kristen and I are having a hostel roof special in Seville. Paella and alcoholic punch up here for seven euros. What the fuck. Sanjay has been talking. He’s been telling us about going on a cruise and about street food, in India. He’s Indian. It’s boring. It’s not boring but there is the anxiety of enduring something potentially ultimately uninteresting. We both scrutinize, on the roof, the sun setting, “Is this uninteresting?”

Image: Rescue Press. (Purchase)

“The cruise was nice, man. One of the nice ones, but the alarm went off and it was a big deal. We had to, like, get into these little boats, man. Everyone had to get off!”

We’re feeling shrewd. We’re two traveling women and a man has been talking to us for some time, on a roof, and yes Sevillano hippies are playing guitar up here and paella is served with alcoholic punch, sure. We’re women, we’re writers. We’re worried, man. We think about precision, all the time, about the problem of going on for too long, about how a woman has to be interesting, or mean something soon, or explain herself or demean herself or be sex to be read, or heard. How crucial you have to be, if you aren’t one. A man. We think about storytelling, about being women, and about if our time, by this story, is taken. Ok, the alarm went off, Sanjay, ok, you went on this cruise and there was an alarm, alarming. Italics wake up a word. It’s boring. We’re thinking, Sanjay, you haven’t lived so much, though you are Indian and we are American women. Here we are, in Spain. I am covered in flea bites. Kristen’s got a bite on her neck, right on the jugular — it’s like a plum slaughtered in the heart’s basin that bellied up, dead, right there on the skin of her. You could skim it off, but you can’t. Somebody bit her, Sanjay. Do you see this? This kid, this young Indian man, younger than we are we really have to realize, hasn’t been around, or bitten. We’re women. We’ve been bitten. He thinks everything he does or has happened to him, because he’s a man, because he’s a person, is so interesting. Goddammit, Sanjay. Everything you ever experienced is worthy of time? Of telling? This roof? This paella? Goddamn this. Worthy of this beautiful sunset?

“Everyone was freaking out, man. The alarm went off. We all had to get in these boats, it was craaazy.”

The sun is setting like it is birthing from its burning bright one (its cunt) a determined knife set, which kills it, and Sanjay, you’re, what, saying you felt alarmed at an alarm of some kind in the ocean, on a nice cruise you took with your family or friends, or something? You keep going on? We have things to say, too, Sanjay, things we wish we could actually get published. We have had to become so crucial, so cutting. To cut our own work! I, personally, have had to become impregnated with a grown man in the publishing industry and birth him through the cunt of my burning writing so that he cuts it up and kills it, on the birthing butcher table, on my writing desk in the American hospital, so that I could at least publish some pure blue laminates — clearer than all this — of night with no sunset.

It’s not right. It’s not right we have to listen to you.

“They kept getting all the people into these small boats, man. It was crazy.”

We’re half asleep on the roof at this point. We’re like the people listening to Marlow in the book Heart of Darkness, when he tells his whole story, the whole boring book, when he mansplains colonizing Africa to a handful of sleeping people, other men, on a small boat in an eddy twenty miles from London. He goes on and on, Sanjay does, about the cruise and its alarm system.

And then there’s just silence, sitting around. It’s like we’re beholden to something but nothing happened. He never even finished the stupid story but here we are, like dupes, like women, sitting around in the story’s unend. In this eddy. Why don’t you end this thing and leave us the fuck alone.

I look despairingly, bitterly, at the dark air, to have been so disinterested, to have feared disinterest, for so much time, with my dear friend, in Spain, the blue air that went white, and then dark, the larkbuttered bread (the sun is dead) and I have to ask, to just end this thing with Sanjay, to take the social reins as I often do when I am with my Kristen (she is shy, my friend), “So what happened, I mean how long were you in the boats?” Just kill it, Sanjay, come on.

“You don’t understand. The ship went down, man.”

CAREN BEILIN is the author of a novel, The University of Pennsylvania (Noemi Press, 2014), a memoir, Spain (Rescue Press, 2018), and a forthcoming nonfiction book on women’s health, Blackfishing the IUD (Wolfman Books, 2019). She lives in western Massachusetts where she teaches creative writing at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.