Just Marta
Bruno HenrŪquez
Published in the book, ďBy a shortcut", Oriente Publisher, 1993
(Translation: Daniel W. Koon)

        When Marta protested that she had more than four things to do at the same time, I proposed the matter of the dimensional multiplier, and although she didnít take me seriously, I gave it to her. I put it on her left-hand ring finger, dialed the multiplier to five and told her that they would come out one after another and would take care of all her chores, that at midnight they would return to the singularity and that the following day she could return it to me, and if not, that was fine, I had another one or I could make others since itís really quite simple.
        They would come out at a time and she should wait at least one or two minutes between each one so that the rush hour crowd wouldnít notice, because everyone knows that at the end of the workday nobody looks at anybody else because all they want to do is to get out of the building as quickly as possible. Thatís how it went and itís not my fault that she didnít follow my instructions to the letter, but the most important thing was returning on time in order to singularize -- or should I say simplify? In order not to complicate things, she needed to be alone: the fusions should take place one at a time and they are sometimes a bit nasty.
        The first Marta ran to the meeting room: she wouldnít be done until eleven at night. The second one went through her motherís house to grab the things that she had to take to her aunt in the hospital. When she left there she would have to stop by her sisterís house and would also return home late. Marta 3 would go straight home and would take her clothes to the dry cleaner. She would straighten up the den when she returned and prepare some things to bring to her daughter that weekend at the Pioneers camp. Marta 4 would first go shopping, then come home after Marta had left, would take a long bath, put on the dress that her husband had given her for her last birthday, (and it really was her last one, she swore, because the only useful part of this business of having birthdays was her husband giving her presents) and she would wait for him so that that evening they could go to the Giraldilla cabaret to celebrate she still didnít know what: a wedding anniversary, her husbandís birthday (men, on the other hand, are always celebrating), a prize from work, or the simple accomplishment of having managed a reservation at such an exclusive place. And Marta 5, well Marta 5 had no chores awaiting her and was completely free to go wherever she wanted until midnight when the multiplier would kick into reverse and Marta would simplify -- or should I say singularize?
        It went off just as planned, at least at the beginning, although at the beginning the doorman at the ministry thought he saw her leave four times in a row without seeing anybody enter, mixed in with the avalanche of persons who left through the door at closing time. He was even more surprised when he saw her leave for the fifth time, at 11:30pm, from the meeting which she said had taken place in the Dorado Hall.
        Marta did not have to worry: once she was all alone again she would remember everything as if she had lived it all herself, and in fact she had, because they all were Marta and the only thing that I did was to tweak her dimensional representation a little, yes, well, maybe I did one more thing, but this was not the most important thing: what happened to her was, or should I say to them. In the end, it was only Marta, and if somebody went around telling her husband some rumor, he knew that she hadnít left his side that whole evening, nor did he notice anything strange, other than that the drinks made him see two or three or maybe even more Martas, but that was already in his own house and he does not remember exactly how many women were with him there in bed but he did know that it was only him and Marta.
        So Marta 1, 2 and 3 were not bothered that Marta 4 had been enjoying herself, just as Marta 4 was not bothered that 1, 2 and 3 were wasting away her life in meetings, hospitals and laundry while she was enjoying her well-deserved break, nor did any of them worry about what Marta 5 was doing because in the end there was only one Marta which was all of them, and she did (they did) whatever seemed most appropriate to her.
        The ring I made shines when the multiplication is about to occur and the person feels a cold in her stomach and her entire body stiffens in a wave that starts from her spinal column. The bones of her head and the rest of her body shake as though they were about to split apart, but only she can hear it and whoever is watching sees her turn invisible, for in that moment she both is and is not in the normal world and she unfolds and appears in other dimensions. I programmed them to exit one by one, because the first times when the unfoldings were simultaneous they produced a lot of static which would interfere with radio and television reception and my neighbors would complain to me about that; it also scrambled the probabilities of other events a little, sometimes causing it to rain on the very day that the Meteorological Institute called for rain. With Marta there was not a lot of static and it did not rain.
        Marta 1 was brilliant at the meeting. She didnít care how long the meeting was going to last, so she didnít pull any punches. Furthermore she didnít have other worries for that evening so she could put all of her enthusiasm into that meeting, and so she called the shots for the full six hours that she was in the Dorado Hall, where the meeting took place.
        Marta 2 spent the evening talking about old, bygone matters with her mother and her aunt, looking at yellowed photos that she had brought to her aunt in the hospital, looking at faces already forgotten and remembering the things she had not done and the opportunities she had lost as a child, a teenager, a young woman and now as a grown woman and how time slips away when you arenít looking, and she spent all her time with a melancholy that very rarely came over her but which now gushed forth, until she cried when her aunt was not looking and also when the ring glowed again, signaling that there would soon be a single Marta in both time and space.
        When Marta 4 arrived home loaded with boxes of clothes, perfumes and many other things, she saw that the purchases from the grocery were already in the kitchen and that the food had arrived from the market and that the dirty clothes had gone to the laundromat carried by Marta 3 with whom she did not cross paths until much later in the night when the ring which I gave her glowed again and then she, the third one, left the other room, where she was resting after so much work, to singularize, except that she did it when Martaís husband (who was the husband of all the multiplied Martas) and Marta 4 should not have been interrupted and the fusion took place in a mass of bodies in the bed which although Marta did not tell me I know very well how it is because it was not the first time that somebody had used my multiplier, and I myself had given it a test drive.
        But with Marta 5 it was different, because she did not have a fixed program and that was the result of my negligence for not asking Marta how many times she wanted to be multiplied and for not paying attention to the saying that itís not the shortfall that gets you in trouble but the surplus. For that reason, the Marta with no obligations went for a walk to disentangle all her accumulated tensions, to revisit those places of her earliest and later hopes and dreams. She noticed that the multiplier had multiplied not only her but also her clothes, her wallet, her money and keys, her ID card, the ministry pass and everything she carried with her, so that all of Martaís immediate surroundings, multiplied by five, were wandering around Havana. And she, with no set plans, felt like she had been given a free Sunday in the middle of the week; how many times had she wished for time and freedom to do whatever she pleased and now that she had it she didnít know what to do with it. Thatís when he appeared. He had returned from abroad and from her memories and he had only one day in Havana, then on to Santiago de Cuba and from there five days in a boat in the Pacific, but his eyes were the same as they had been so long ago, when she meant everything to him, and that night, well, she still meant everything to him, until the ring glowed and Marta wanted to rip it off her finger, but she could not and she felt as if her body would be squeezed from her bones to her nerves if she didnít return home; and her former love saw her turn invisible and fly away, as though carried on a beam, all the way back to her home where like a shadow she merged with the bodies that frolicked in the eveningís passion, in the moment and in the alcohol, until only she and her husband remained, exhausted. Afterwards there was the neighborsĎ gossip and they say that itís my fault because of the multiplier, although nobody really believes that it works, only Marta who used it and who kept it, maybe to try it again or maybe just as a keepsake. Like I said, I have several. Would you like to try one?

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