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Mario Benedetti (in full: Mario Orlando Hamlet Hardy Brenno Benedetti Farrugia) (September 14, 1920 – May 17, 2009)[  was an Uruguayan journalist, novelist, and poet. He was not well known in the English-speaking world, but in the Spanish-speaking world he was considered one of Latin America’s most important 20th-century writers.

Quoted from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario_Benedetti where much more information is available.

Mario Benedetti was influenced by life in the urban world and his short stories reflect this.  His story”La noche de los feos” is a moving “cuento” about two people, both scarred and far from being attractive, who meets and end up making love after realizing that life, regardless of the odds, has possibilities; that what seems impossible or improbable can be achieved.

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THE NIGHT OF THE UGLY

BY

Mario Benedetti

 Both were ugly, even commonly ugly. She has had a sunken cheekbone since the age of eight, when she had the operation. The disgusting mark next to my mouth comes from a ferocious burn, which occurred at the beginning of my adolescence. Nor can we say we have soft eyes,- that sort of justifiable luck that freaks sometimes get when they come close to beauty. No, in no way.  Both her eyes and mine are eyes filled with resentment, which reflect little or no acceptance of the misfortune we face. Maybe that’s what has united us. Maybe united is not the most appropriate word, considering the Implacable hatred that each of us have for our own face.

We met at the entrance of the cinema, queuing up to watch to two beautiful ‘whatever.’ That’s where we first looked at each other, without sympathy, but with dark solidarity and noticed, at first glance, our respective solitudes. In the queue everyone were in pairs, but there were also genuine couples: husbands, boyfriends, lovers, grandparents, God knows. Everyone was holding hands or arms or had someone. Only she and I had our hands by our sides, loose and clenched.

We looked at our respective ugliness carefully, with audacity, but without curiosity. I looked at the cut in her cheek with smug self-confidence that made my cheek pucker.  She didn’t blush.

I appreciated it was difficult, her returning my inspection with a meticulous glimpse at the smooth, shining beardless area of my old burn.

Finally we went inside. We sat in different, but contiguous rows. She could not look at me, but I, even in the darkness, could make out the blond hair down her neck, her shapely young ear. It was the ear on her normal side.

For an hour and forty minutes we admired the rugged beauty of the hero and smooth softness of the  heroine . At least I’ve always been able to admire beauty.  I reserve my animosity for my face and sometimes for God and also for other ugly faces of other scarecrows. Maybe I should feel pity, but I can’t. The truth is they are like mirrors. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened to the Narcissus (1) myth if he had had a sunken cheekbone, or if acid had burned his cheek, or he was missing half of his nose, or had stitches on his forehead.

I waited for her at the exit, and then walked a short distance over to her and I spoke. When she stopped and looked at me, I felt she hesitated. I invited her to chat together for a while in a café or a confectionery. She accepted immediately.

The confectionery was full, but right then a table was vacated. As we passed among the people, behind us were the signs and gestures of astonishment. My antennas are particularly tuned to capture such perverse curiosity, the unconscious sadism of those with miraculously symmetrical faces. But this time it was not even necessary to use my trained perception, since I could clearly hear the murmurs, the snickering and pretentious clearing of the throat. A horrible single face, by itself,  is obviously a curiosity; but two ugly faces together constitute in themselves a greater spectacle, a little less so than if organized; but something that should be viewed together with him (or her) and those who are handsome and worth sharing with the world

We sat down and ordered two ice creams. She had the courage (I admired that) to take out a small mirror from her purse and fixed her hair. Her pretty hair.

“What are you thinking about?” I asked.

She hung on to the mirror and smiled. The hollow in her cheeks changed shape.

“A common place, such as it is,” she said

We talked at length. An hour and a half went by and we had to order two coffees to justify the long stay. Suddenly I realized that she and I were talking with frankness so upsetting that it threatened to change the sincerity and almost turn into the equivalent of hypocrisy. I decided to get to the bottom of it.

“You feel excluded from the world, isn’t that so?”

“Yes”, she said, still looking at me.

“You admire the beautiful, those that are normal. You want to have a face as pretty as the girl sitting over to your right, even though you are smart, and she, judging by her laughter, is hopelessly stupid.”

“Yes.”

For the first time I couldn’t hold my gaze.

“I also like that. But there is a possibility, you know, you and I can get something.”

“Something like what?”

“Like lovers, dammit. Or just getting along. Call it whatever, but there is a possibility.”

She frowned. “I did not want to get any hopes.”

“Promise me you will not take me for a crackpot.”

“The possibility is wandering into the night. Through the whole night- in total darkness. Do you understand?”

“No.”

She blushed, and the cleft in her cheek suddenly turned scarlet.

“I live alone in an apartment, close to here.”

He raised his head and looked at her; wondering about her yes, trying desperately to reach a conclusion.

“Come,” he said.

Not only did I shut off the light but I also pulled the double curtain. She was breathing next to me;  but not an excited sort of breathing. She did not want him to help her undress.

I saw nothing, nothing. But I realized then that she was motionless, waiting. I moved my hand cautiously, until i found herbreasts. My touch gave me an exhilarating, powerful erection. Then I saw her belly, her sex. Her hands also touched me.

In this moment I understood that I had to retract or begin to retract the lie that I had made, or tried to make. It was like a Flash of lightning. . We were not that. We were not that.

I had to use all my reserves of courage, but I did. My hand rose slowly to her face, found the disfiguring scar, and began slowly caressing it, persuasive and believable. Actually my fingers (a little shaky at first, then gradually calming down) passed over her tears many times.

Then, when I least expected it, her hand also touched my face, and went and felt the scar and smooth skin, this island without any beard.

We cried until dawn; both unhappy and, happy. Then I got up and drew back the double curtain.

1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narcissus_(mythology)

Translated by Kenny Beechmount, Oct, 2012

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