Out of the Wings

You are here:

Siempre se olvida algo (c.1964), Virgilio Piñera

You Always Forget Something, translated by Kate Eaton


Lina and Chacha have returned from their travels, 'wilfully' having forgotten something.
Sample text

One Week later; Lina and Chacha enter. The living room which has remained in darkness is illuminated by Lina switching on the lights. Once the room is lit, Chacha enters.

LINA: (Leaving her suitcase by the door.)

Objective achieved, operation completed…

CHACHA: (Who has just come in also leaving her suitcase by the door.)

It’s like a dream, Madam… Only a few hours ago we were bathing in Breeeton…

LINA: (Correcting her pronunciation.)

Brighton, Chacha, Brighton…


I’ll never be able to say it, Madam. (Pause.) Well a few hours ago we were in Bree-ighton and now we are in Havana. (Pause.) Have we arrived in time, Madam?

LINA: (Looking at her watch.)

One minute to nine. (Looking towards the telephone.) Señora Camacho will be on the point of calling. That won’t fail. (Pause.) But we have failed. (Pause.) That’s why we have returned. What did you forget, Chacha?


The aspirins, Madam.


And me?


The iodine, Madam.

LINA: (Walking over to the bottle of iodine, she picks it up.)

You rascal! So you hid yourself did you, eh? But I’ve come back for you. (She kisses it several times and murmurs mmm mmm to it.)

CHACHA: (Imitating Lina, she picks up the bottle of aspirin.)

You rascals! So you hid yourselves did you, eh? But I’ve come back for you. (She takes out an aspirin, kisses it and swallows it.)

LINA: (She takes the lid of the bottle and starts to dab herself on the face, the neck and the arms.)

Wounded, I am wounded, lacerated! (She dabs herself again.) Knifed, pierced; stabbed!

CHACHA: (Imitating Lina she starts to stuff aspirin in her mouth.)

My head is splitting; I have a migraine, neuralgia, ants and scorpions!

Lina starts to dab at Chacha who in her turn puts aspirin into Lina’s mouth; at the same time they both express the pleasure they are feeling by making sounds with their mouths, showing the whites of their eyes, contorting, etcetera. Suddenly the telephone rings.

LINA: (Putting the lid on the bottle and leaving it on the coffee table. She runs to the phone.)

Yes! (Pause) How could I not know who’s calling me, Señora Camacho? This call could only be from you. Yes, we’ve just got back from England. (Pause.) Yes, I already know that you never forget anything. (Pause.) Of course, but I tell you that you always forget something. (Pause.) Yes, Señora Camacho, I will continue to state it: you always forget something. (Pause.) So you don’t believe me? What are we going to do with you! (Pause.) That would be useless, it’s already happened. (Pause) What’s already happened? Well I have wittingly forgotten the iodine, and Chacha, my maid, the aspirins, that’s what’s already happened (Pause.) Yes, Señora Camacho, we always forget the iodine and the aspirin, despite the list. (Pause.) Of course! And as we always forget them, now we leave them behind wittingly. (Pause.) Just so that you know… and we will continue to forget the iodine and the aspirin. (Pause.) Yes, in an hour we will catch the aeroplane again. (Pause.) Yes, to England. I am sorry that the news is giving you a headache. Take an aspirin. (Pause.) Señora Camacho, hallo, hallo, Señora Camacho… (She replaces the receiver, creased with laughter.) She hung up! (Walking towards the centre of the room and addressing Chacha.) She’s having a fit. She says that the world is like it is because of people like me. What nerve! If she only knew that the world is like it is because of people like her! (She sits in one of the armchairs.) Look at us, not only do we eat, sleep, walk and talk but we also forget the iodine and the aspirins; whereas she, eats, sleeps, walks and talks and never forgets a thing. What a colourless life! (Pause.) Chacha…

CHACHA: (Goes over to Lina.)

Yes, Madam.


At what time does our plane leave for England?


At ten, Madam, it’s already a quarter past nine.


Where will we be on Monday the fourth of August at ten o’clock in the morning?


Madam, we will be in Breeeton…

LINA: (Affecting a British accent.)

Brighton, Chacha, Brighton…


Forgive me, Madam, we will be in Breeeighton, having our morning dip.

LINA: (Slowly getting up.)

And what will I suddenly say to you?

CHACHA: (Imitating Lina.)

Chacha, I forgot to put the iodine in the suitcase!

LINA: (Imitating Chacha.)

And I forgot the aspirins, Madam!

CHACHA: (Clapping her hands.)

And we will hurry back to Havana.

LINA: (Also clapping her hands.)

And then we will return straightaway to Brighton! (Pause.) I’ve thought of something even better..

CHACHA: (Doubtfully.)

Something even better Madam? Is that possible?


Something even better; that’s to say, the same thing, but improved upon. (Pause.) Look: we will leave something behind at the hotel in Brighton… Let me see…, let me see… (Thinking.) Ah, got it! At the hotel in Brighton, I will leave behind my garters…

CHACHA: (Waving her hands about.)

And I, Madam, will leave my rosary.


Splendid, Chacha, that way you can be an atheist one day and the next day not; theist in Brighton, atheist in Havana.

CHACHA: (Giving a shriek of terror she slumps down into the armchair.)


LINA: (She goes over to Chacha. She takes her hands; she gives her little slaps on the face.)

Chacha, what’s the matter? Wake up. (She looks all around her.) What have you seen, Chacha; tell me, what have you seen?

CHACHA: (Giving an even more piercing shriek.)


LINA: (Embracing her.)

Speak to me, Chacha, speak to me!

CHACHA: (Pathetic and ridiculous)

Madam, haven’t you thought that one day we might forget to travel?

LINA: (Retreating towards the other armchair with horror written all over her face.)

What, Chacha, what…! What are you saying?

CHACHA: (In the same tone.)

That one day we might forget to travel!

LINA: (She falls into the other armchair)

Aaaargh! (She faints.)


Aaaargh! (She faints.)

Long pause: suddenly, the front doorbell rings, loudly; first prolonged ring, pause, second ring even longer; pause; another ring, longer still.

CHACHA: (Coming round.)

Where am I? (Another prolonged ring of the doorbell.) (She looks towards the door then towards Lina, who is still in a faint.) Who can it be? (She gets up, goes over to Lina, she shakes her.) Madam, Madam! Someone’s ringing the doorbell!

LINA: (Coming round, looking distractedly at Chacha.)

What? What are you saying? (Another prolonged ring.)


There’s someone at the door, Madam. Didn’t you hear the bell?

LINA: (She leaps up.)

Who could it be? I don’t receive visitors, you know that.

CHACHA: (Making as though to walk over to the door.)

Shall I open, Madam? (Another prolonged ring.)

LINA: (Shaking her head.)

We haven’t got time. (She looks at her watch.) Only just enough time to catch the plane. (Now the bell rings uninterruptedly; to Chacha.) Open that door and tell whoever’s ringing that Madam isn’t here.

CHACHA: (She goes over to the door, she opens it.)

Madam isn’t here. (She makes to close the door but an arm from which hangs an enormous lady’s handbag prevents her from doing so.)


I’ve just told you that Madam isn’t here.

SEÑORA CAMACHO: (Entering followed by Tota her maid who is carrying two suitcases. Señora Camacho is an extremely stout woman of about fifty whose sense of fashion is at least ten years behind the times; over her dress she wears the kind of antiquated overcoat known as a duster; hat with veil, ankle boots. Tota, the maid, between twenty-five and thirty years old, also demodée: long yellow dress; wears a black beret.)

But I am here! (She walks to the centre of the living room and repeats.) Yes I am here!

LINA: (Getting up.)

Señora Camacho!


The very same. (She lifts up the little veil.) Here I am!

LINA: (Going over to Señora Camacho.)

Señora Camacho, I wasn’t expecting you. We spoke only a few minutes ago and you didn’t announce your visit.

SEÑORA CAMACHO. It’s true, I didn’t announce my visit; but in view of the gravity of the situation…


The gravity of the situation? I don’t understand, Señora Camacho. Would you like to explain yourself? (Pause.) Actually, I don’t have time; the plane is waiting for us…

SEÑORA CAMACHO. The plane is waiting for me and for Tota (She points at Tota.) too…

LINA: (Looking at Tota She sees the suitcases.)

What, Señora Camacho? Are you both travelling tonight as well?

SEÑORA CAMACHO. (With great composure.) We are travelling as well, Lina. (Pause.) I can tell you that this trip wasn’t in my plans, but in view of the gravity of the situation…

LINA: (Brightly.)

Some family incident?

SEÑORA CAMACHO. If only it were that! (Pause.) No, Lina, the family is in perfect health. (Pause.) No, no, nothing to do with families. I have come to dot all the “i’s” and to cross all the “t’s” (Pause.) but first I will sit. May I?


Certainly! Make yourself at home.


Thank you. (Looking at Tota again; to Chacha.) May I tell Tota to sit too?


Of course! Make yourself at home.


Tota, first say thank you to Señora Lina, then put the suitcases down on the floor and after that you may sit.

TOTA: (To Lina.)

Thank you very much, Madam. (She puts the suitcases on the floor, next to the door, but apart from Lina and Chacha’s suitcases. Finally she sits on the sofa.)

LINA: (To Chacha.)

Chacha, sit next to Cota…

SEÑORA CAMACHO: (Correcting Lina.)

Not Cota, Tota.


That’s it: Tota. Sit next to Tota and make conversation.


Careful what you say, Tota. Don’t let the cat out of the bag.

TOTA: (To Señora Camacho.)

Don’t you worry yourself Madam; my lips are sealed.

CHACHA: (Sitting next to Tota.)

We’ll see about that!


You would do well to warn Chata…

LINA: (Correcting Señora Camacho.)

Not Chata, Chacha…


That’s it: Chacha. You would do well to warn Chacha not to try any funny business with Tota. I wouldn’t like to answer for the consequences…

LINA: (To Chacha.)

On guard, Chacha.


On guard, Madam.

SEÑORA CAMACHO. (To Tota.) Remember, Tota…, cat in the bag…, and don’t let her out.

TOTA. (To Señora Camacho.) She won’t get out Madam, I swear it.


Well, now we can begin. (Pause) Sit down. This will take a while.

LINA: (Sits.)

At what time does your plane leave, Señora Camacho?


At ten (Looks at her watch) we still have fifteen minutes.

LINA: (Interrupting her she makes as if to get up)

Fifteen minutes! We must leave at once. We can talk on the way to the airport.

SEÑORA CAMACHO: (Making a movement with her arm as if to stop Lina.)

It is not usual for delicate matters to be dealt with hastily; much less in an automobile. Haste plus speed spells catastrophe, my dear. (Pause.) No, no, no, no… This lovely sitting room is the ideal setting for our conversation tonight. (Pause.) By the way: where exactly in England is it that you are headed?

LINA: (With self-possession.)

Once we have landed in London, we shall go directly to Brighton.


Might one know what that is?


The seaside; Brighton is a coastal resort.


So the seaside… (To Tota.) Tota… (To Lina.) I would have preferred somewhere else…

TOTA: (Leaning half off the sofa.)

Yes, Madam.


Hand me the bathing suits. (To Lina.) Somewhere less worldly; but, what can we do!

Tota, meanwhile, has opened the suitcase and is rummaging through it.

LINA: (Impatient.)

Señora Camacho, don’t take this the wrong way, but your behaviour isn’t, shall we say, exactly commendable…


(Calmly) Uh-huh! How so?


You arrive unexpectedly; you do it knowing that we are about to take the plane to England; not content with that, hardly have you burst – yes that’s the word – burst into my house, than you say that the reason for your … unexpected visit is to clear things up. (Pause.) What things – I’d like to know – what things? (Pause.) And as if that wasn’t enough you ask me for our exact destination in England. As soon as I inform you that we go to Brighton from London, you hurriedly notify me that you are headed for Brighton too. Then as if to rub my face in it, you tell your maid to take the bathing suits out of the suitcase.

TOTA: (Approaching Señora Camacho.)

Excuse me Madam: here are the bathing suits, yours and mine.


Thank you, Tota. (She takes the swimming costumes. To Lina.) before dealing with all your criticisms point by point I shall first explain these bathing suits. (Pause.) although I hadn’t thought to have a summer holiday this year – neither in that resort of Bree…




Thank you…, neither in that resort of Breeeighton nor in any other seaside town, nevertheless, foreseeing that a fortuitous circumstance might find me beside the sea – such a circumstance as has now arisen – I ordered Tota to put our bathing suits into the suitcase. (Pause.) In much the same way we carry woollen stockings and longjohns with us in case of a sudden frost, or in case we should find ourselves scaling an Alpine peak, or who knows, even in the Himalayas – because I assure you that anything is possible. (Pause.)

LINA: (Sarcastically.)

That’s exactly what I say, Señora Camacho. Anything is possible – even forgetting something.


Juana Camacho Widow of Pérez never forgets anything that matters… I simply keep it in my bag. (Pause.) Do you know what the two sworn enemies of forgetfulness are? Well I’ll tell you: phosphates and lists.

CHACHA: (To Tota with an air of complicity.)

You always forget something! I forget the aspirins, how about you?

TOTA: (Sharply.)

I drink two bottles of phosphates a month and I make my lists. I don’t forget a thing.


Good, Tota! In the bag!

LINA: (Roundly.)

That’s what you think. Wait till Chacha puts her in her place. (To

Chacha.) On guard!

CHACHA: (To Tota.)

Phosphates? That’ll put hairs on your chest then!

LINA. (To Chacha.) Touché, Chacha! Touché!

Tota: (To Señora Camacho, making the characteristic sign to denote dementia.)

Stark, staring, Madam, stark, staring!


If you don’t want your domestic to end up on the funny farm at Mazorra I advise you to give her phosphates morning, noon and night.

LINA: (Seriously.)

What are you thinking of Señora Camacho? Do you want Chacha to be completely covered in hair?


You are both regrettably confusing restorative hair tonics with memory-enhancing phosphatic substances. But it doesn’t surprise me. It’s all a product of forgetfulness. If you continue like this, one day…

CHACHA: (Interrupts her in fits of laughter.)

We’ll start thinking with our hair and combing our brains. What fun!


An idiot, that’s what your maid is: an idiot!

LINA: (Evenly.)

I don’t doubt it, Señora Camacho. I’ll start giving her phosphates immediately. Then she’ll not only be an idiot, she’ll also be hairy.

SEÑORA CAMACHO. Splendid! Give her phosphates before she ends up putting you into the suitcase.


Fantastic! That way we’ll only have to pay for one flight.

SEÑORA CAMACHO: (Slapping her thighs.)

Well, do whatever you like. I haven’t come here to waste my precious time on your maid. Sort it out as best you can! (Pause.) The object of my visit is, as I was telling you just a moment ago, to discuss a matter of the utmost gravity with you.

LINA: (Leaning forward in the armchair.)

I am at your disposal. Although I have to warn you that anything you say to me will go in this ear (she points to her right ear.) and come out the other. (She points to her left ear.)

SEÑORA CAMACHO: (Sorrowfully.)

That is your business. I for one am not in danger of making a similar mistake, nor, like you, of spouting nonsense. If I wanted to be mad like you, I would tell you, right now, to put a plug in your left ear, so that what goes into your right ear can’t escape. (Pause.) No, I am a normal woman, with a head on her shoulders and a husband in the cemetery, that is to say, a respectable widow; a woman who is careful to note down on a piece of paper everything that she should take with her on a trip to another country – near or far – and who simply cannot allow certain other people to travel to countries – near and far – and forget to take with them items of personal use, and what is worse, forget to take them with them wittingly.


Have you finished? Have you said everything, Señora Camacho?

SEÑORA CAMACHO: (Smugly and affectedly.)

That was merely the exordium. Now we will get to the crux of the matter. (Pause.) I am prepared to offer you a practical demonstration.


A practical demonstration of the exordium?


Indeed. (Pause.) But first, do me the favour of expanding upon what you were saying to me over the telephone concerning those forgotten aspirins…

LINA: (Animated.)

And the iodine! Certainly! When it comes to forgotten items I’m in my element. (Pause) As you will see, Señora Camacho; every time that I travel I forget the iodine, and my servant Chacha forgets the aspirins. We can’t avoid it.


Uh-huh! Anything else?


No nothing else! In order not to continue forgetting the iodine and the aspirin we have decided to forget them wittingly.

SEÑORA CAMACHO: (Making a gesture with her hand.)

That will do! (She gets up.) Now I will offer you the practical demonstration. (Pause; to Tota.) Tota, get up!

TOTA: (Springing up.)

Yes, Madam! At your command, Madam!


Bring me a suitcase.


One of our suitcases, Madam?


Yes, one of our suitcases. I never use anything belonging to anyone else. Bring mine.

TOTA: (Picking up one of the suitcases.)

That’s right, Madam; you never know what you might find in someone else’s suitcase.


Come here, Tota, you’re a darling. Let me kiss you. (Tota approaches pulling faces and Señora Camacho kisses her.)

TOTA: (Going back to the suitcases.)

Madam is very good. (Finally she picks the suitcase up. To Señora Camacho.) where shall I put it, Madam?

SEÑORA CAMACHO: (Pointing to the empty armchair.)

There. Open it. (Tota opens the suitcase whilst Señora Camacho says to Lina.) This practical demonstration is called: You never forget anything!

LINA: (Sarcastically.)

The facts demonstrate the opposite. (Pause, solemnly.) Señora Camacho, you are in the house of a person for whom forgetfulness is strategic. Therefore: you always forget something!

CHACHA: (Jumping up like a spring.)

And… wittingly, Madam.

LINA: (To Chacha.)

Come here, Chacha, you’re a darling. Let me kiss you. (Chacha approaches pulling faces and Lina kisses her.)

CHACHA. (Returning to the sofa.) Madam is very good. (She sits down again.)


Well I was telling you that you always forget something…


That is precisely why I am here. I cannot permit such an irregularity to continue. Where will we all end up? (She turns to the audience.) Ladies and gentlemen, you have just seen this crazy woman (She points to Lina.) congratulating her no less crazy servant. I ask myself: should this be allowed to continue? Either this lady mends her ways and travels normally, taking with her the iodine and the aspirins, or I throw her into the funny farm at Mazorra.

LINA: (Sarcastically.)

And since when did you become director of the Psychiatric Hospital, Señora Camacho?


That’s quite enough of your silly little jokes; don’t change the subject. This is a very serious matter (Pause.) and now, to the practical demonstration. Listen attentively your life depends on it. (Pause, transition; in a normal voice to Lina.) Would you have the kindness to fetch me the iodine and the aspirins?

LINA: (Picking up the bottles of aspirin and iodine from the coffee table.)

Here you are. (She hands them over, sits down again.)


Tota let us prepare our luggage. (Pause) Please read out the items that we will take with us. (To Lina.) Come, you may check for yourself that every item on the list is actually in the suitcase.

TOTA: (She stands up; she takes a piece of paper from one of the pockets in her dress and reads slowly.)

Detailed inventory of the items that Señora Juana Camacho Widow of Pérez will take with her on her trip. (Pause.) Garments: two morning dresses, two afternoon dresses, two evening dresses; three petticoats, three pairs of knickers, three brassieres, three pairs of longjohns, five pairs of stockings. (Pause.) Toiletries: a bottle of eau de cologne, one of lavender water, one of mouthwash, a pot of face cream, a tin of talcum powder, one of face powder, and a… a… (She clears her throat, coughs and looks confused) and a… a sw… sw… sw…

SEÑORA CAMACHO: (Surprised.)

What’s the matter, Tota? Can’t you read your own writing?

TOTA: (Stammering)

Madam, it’s just that…, here…, I don’t understand… (She bursts into tears.)


Come on! Pull yourself together. Keep reading.

TOTA: (Fearful.)

Madam, it says here a…, sweet potato…!

SEÑORA CAMACHO: (Astonished.)

A sweet potato? But that’s not a toiletry; anyway, I never take a sweet potato with me on my travels. (Pause) Let’s see, let’s see! (She rummages feverishly in the suitcase. Finally she pulls out a sweet potato.) Here it is! And what a sweet potato! It looks like a sputnik… (To Tota) Since when have we taken sweet potatoes on our travels? What were you thinking of, putting it in?

TOTA: (Wringing her hands.)

I’m sorry, Madam, it won’t happen again.

LINA: (Laughing heartily)

Perhaps she was reading the shopping list as well and the sweet potato slipped in amongst the toiletries.

CHACHA: (To Señora Camacho.)

Beg pardon, Madam, don’t take this the wrong way, but that Tota’s a total liability; she’ll slip a whole barrowful of vegetables into your suitcase when you least expect it.

LINA: (Still laughing.)

I agree: better the maid who’s too frugal than the maid who’s too extravagant. Chacha is right, Señora Camacho. That Tota’s a total liability. She’ll slip a man into your suitcase, when you least expect it, out of sheer extravagance.

SEÑORA CAMACHO: (Very serious.)

It won’t be because of that! I have a man in my suitcase.


Don’t change the subject, Señora Camacho. There’s a sweet potato in your suitcase, a fact you should be ashamed of.


The above sample taken from the translation You Always Forget Something by Kate Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 15 June 2012.

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment. Please log in or sign up for a free account.

  • King's College London Logo
  • Queen's University Belfast Logo
  • University of Oxford Logo
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council Logo