Klinsman wished Rita hadn’t mentioned Edwige Fenech back at CafĂ© Cinema because here the trolley was soaring above the land of his youth, where the old ranches and horse farms were now buried under the orange sodium lights of cheap subdivisions and strip malls with dollar stores in them. In his youth he’d read books in his room by the light of a TV, almost always set to Channel 12, almost always after 2 a.m., when he would wake for good and then wrestle insomnia until dawn. There were the Santo movies. And then there were the Italian giallos, dubbed twice-removed into Spanish, so out of sync that the voices seemed to float between the actors like noise clouds, sometimes drifting so far as to put women’s voices over men’s lips. But whenever Edwige Fenech appeared on screen, Aaron would thumb his place in whatever book he was reading. He would hear her voice or her music or catch the startling dark-pale contrast of her and sense that he should look up. Some of the giallos were haphazardly edited for television, but many passed through unconcerned Mexican censors. Who would watch Canal Doce at 2 a.m.? Back then, Aaron felt he was the only one.

So he saw Edwige Fenech, all of her, when he probably shouldn’t have seen her. It took a long time, well after he quit watching Channel 12 and all television for good, for him to realize that women did not look like her. Even through college, when he had moved just out of range of border television, her image had cursed him with a kind of relationship trip switch, a prompt inside him: Time to end this. Time to draw back. There is something more out there for you.

That more went well beyond Fenech and her mascara beauty, high raven hair, pale thighs, and rocket-ship breasts. Her characters were always so worldly, above all men, apart from all other women, but troubled with secrets as dark as her eyes. After he matured enough to cringe at his own superficiality, she still remained a shadowy impression, a promise at the door.

While doing a story on border radio and TV for the Review, he had been shown the storage room for the Channel 12 broadcast station in Baja. There he’d found an old cardboard vodka box containing the giallos. They were on old reel-to-reel videotape and had disintegrated well past salvage. He had dipped his hands into the broken and tangled strands of tape, twirled them about his fingers as though they were a lover’s cool hair.

TAGS: , , , ,

DAVID BAJO is the author of the novels Panopticon (2010) and The 351 Books of Irma Arcuri (2008), which has been translated into ten languages. His short stories have appeared in Five Chapters, The Cimarron Review, Zyzzyva, and The Sun. He has worked as a journalist and translator and currently teaches writing at the University of South Carolina.

One response to “An Excerpt from Panopticon

  1. Simon Smithson says:

    Oh my God – I just Googled Edwige Fenech, and I’m not sure there’s any time it’s appropriate to learn about her.

    Thank you for expanding my horizons, Mr. Bajo.

    And welcome to TNB!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *