Cinnamon Girl

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Cinnamon Girl by Mayra Montero

When I was young I knew a woman who mixed her face powder with ground cinnamon. She said it attracted men, and considering the large number of gentlemen who sought her out, it was probably true. One night I went to see her and she tried to send me away without letting me in because she was expecting another visitor. I lost my head — back then you lost your head — and all I could think to do was rush to her dressing table, take her face powder and toss it in the air. She burst into tears, scratched my face and threw me out of the house. But I didn’t leave, I stayed on the street waiting for the other man to arrive, a short man who seemed fastidiously, almost fussily dressed, and who had soft, boneless hands that made you want to suck them. He spent a long time inside, and when he finally left I was still there, standing on the corner, meticulously planning my revenge, and I felt jealousy and violent desire when I saw him brush from his jacket and his trouser cuffs all the powder that had clung to his clothes. I waited until he had gone away, then I returned to the scene of the crime, and knocked at the door, and she opened it without saying a word. She was still covered with perspiration, she still smelled of that man’s sweat, and I began to sniff at her like a dog searching for the scent of another dog on his owner’s hands. The face powder was still scattered around the room, in the rumpled bed, heaped in small mounds near the cracks in the door. I forced her to the bed, I raised her skirt and powdered all her black pubic hair; I spread her legs, got more powder and smeared it inside, spreading an aromatic tapestry that slowly began to blend with her juices, and the other man’s. Neither of us had spoken, and I thought that at any moment she’d begin to insult me, but she didn’t, all she did was gasp when I took the first mouthful, sob very quietly when she felt the second. I stopped, sat up to look at her face — she had the wildest expression I’d ever seen on any woman — and I immediately lowered my head again. She tasted bitter inside, up close she tasted of crushed shells, and faintly, more and more faintly, she tasted of cinnamon. A short while later she howled, hit the bed with her fists, and then lay perfectly still. I got up on all fours, licking her here and there, sucking whatever bit of flesh came my way. I turned her over, bit the back of her neck and at the very moment I was penetrating her, I heard the sharp-edged voice of revenge: along with the powder, she said, I had swallowed the other man’s come.


I didn’t see her again after that. For many years I had an ambiguous relationship with cinnamon: sometimes it disgusted me, at other times I would wake up with an overwhelming desire to taste it. Celia once asked about it. I said I’d had a bad experience with a dessert. I didn’t have the nerve to admit that whenever she wore the perfume, what came to mind was the brutal image of myself, a solitary man waiting his turn, standing on a street corner, obsessed by that fraudulent powder silently falling into an abyss.

From the forthcoming American edition of The Last Night I Spent With You. Copyright © 1991 by Mayra
Montero. Translation copyright © 2000 by Edith Grossman, to be pubished by
HarperCollins Publishers, New York. Reprinted by permission of Susan
Bergholz Literary Services, New York. All rights reserved.

©2000 Mayra Montero and, Inc.