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 The Magical Realist Thing  

 Fernando Sdrigotti 

Fernando Sdrigotti was born in Argentina and lives in London. He is the editor-in-chief of Minor Literature[s] and a contributing editor at 3:AM Magazine and Número Cinq. His first book Tríptico was published in 2008. Shetlag, una novela acentuada, his latest book, was released in 2014 by Araña Editorial, Valencia. He has a forthcoming collection of short stories in English called Dysfunctional London Males.

I picked her up at 6pm from her furniture shop, off Church Street. I thought it was pretty much a done deal, that we would perhaps stop for a drink or two on the way to hers, and then fuck for a couple of hours, and then wake up late, cook something organic from Wholefoods for breakfast. But she came up with this dinner thing with Hilary. Talking her out of it didn’t seem like a good idea – Hilary was her best friend – I couldn’t possibly bail out. I could easily hold on for a while, meet Hilary for the first time, give her a good impression, keep everyone happy. We were going to have dinner at some Chinese place round the corner from her flat. She lived across the road from Stoke Newington’s library, not far from my place, all very local. And soon we were in the restaurant.


            “What happened to Hilary?” I asked.

            “Oh, she won’t make it.”

            “Shame. I wanted to meet her.”

            “She wanted to meet you too. She just texted: her boiler broke down.”

            “Oh, no!”

            “Yes. Pretty bad. Poor Hilary.”

            “We’ll have a good time anyway.”

            “Of course,” she said.


            I had a look at the menu and couldn’t make any sense of it – we don’t eat Chinese in Macondo. I decided to order whatever she had.


            “I can’t find any booze on the menu,” I said.

            “The place isn’t licensed. But you can get your own booze.”

            “I see.”

            “Get some from the off licence.”

            “Don’t bother!”

            “I wouldn’t mind some wine.”

            “I thought we could have a drink at your place, later.”

            “I wouldn’t mind some wine with the food,” she insisted.

            “OK, I’ll get some. What are you having?”

            “White wine.”

            “I know! I mean to eat.”

            “Oh! This vegetarian noodles with mushrooms, ginger, and cucumber.”

            “I’ll have the same.”

            “OK. Go get the wine and I’ll order.”


            I went across the road and bought a bottle of Pinot Grigio, six cans of Stella, a bottle of Smirnoff, and two packs of textured Durex. When I got back the food was already on the table. It smelled nice. Exotic. Chinese, I guess.

            Stacey motioned to the waiter and the guy brought a pair of wine glasses. I unscrewed the bottle and poured, long and steady, all the way to the rim, twice. Stacey downed most of her wine with one gulp. I drank fast too. And then poured some more wine and the bottle was empty. I opened a can of beer.

            We didn’t speak until we finished eating.


            “Hey... Been meaning to talk to you…” she said.

            “Shit,” I said aloud.

            “I think we need to cool things off… For a while.”

            “Why, Stacey, WHY? I thought things were going OK.” I felt stupid and intense and Latin American after saying this.

            “I don’t know... You’re a great guy… We have a good time… We have good sex… You have a killer accent… And you’re fun… But we have nothing in common.”

            “What do you mean? Of course we have things in common. We’ve even had the same noodles.”

            “You just ordered that because of me. It’s the same with everything we do. We don’t have anything in common: you just comply.”

            “OK, I don’t know much about noodles. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. I can learn. We don’t eat noodles back home. It’s a cultural thing: I can acculturate.”

            “This isn’t about noodles or culture…”

            “What is it about then? It is about the magical realist thing? IS IT THAT?”

            “Please…” she said and just like that the restaurant’s roof disappeared and the skies opened and a gigantic bird with pink and blue feathers flew towards us, belching fire, clucking like a motherfucker, it ate one of the waiters and then shoot off just like it came, and the roof was now back in its place, and everything was suddenly normal. Stacey was left speechless – Brits are always left speechless by these magical realist moments. I finished my beer in silence and opened a second can. It splashed my shirt. Stacey waved to the waiter, the one that hadn’t been eaten by the gigantic bird. She paid for the bill and we left. We forgot to tip. When we got to the corner she came to hug me goodbye. I tried to kiss her. She avoided me.


            “OK... See you around,” she said.

            “Stacey... I love you.”

            “No, you don’t,” she said. I grabbed her hand. “Let me go, please.”

            “Come on Stacey. Let’s go home and talk this over.” I could feel the condoms in my pocket.

            “I have to go,” she said and turned around and left.


            I watched her flip-flop all the way across the road and round the corner. I thought for a minute of running after her or having another magical realist moment: together again, with five children, living in a hut, we have a Spanish surname, we are in Macondo and not Stoke Newington, one hundred or so years have elapsed and I don’t need Viagra or a visa. But I didn’t have a magical realist moment or run after her and that was it. I’m pretty sure I knocked off most of the vodka sitting on that little square on Yoakley Road. I don’t remember getting home. I must have blacked out. I tend to black out when I mix my drinks and my head always hurts the next morning.

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