November 1, 2016

Pay Back in Anger

On Hecheres Beltrán’s Billete de ira y vuelta (“Rage Trip Ticket”)[1]

The protagonist of this 2008 novel is Javier, a young gay man from the Canary Islands living in Madrid for the last ten years who accepts his mother’s invitation to visit hometown for some days. At first blush, you may think that it will be a lovely personal event for the sonny. Well. . .nothing further from the truth: Javier is actually scared about going back home. Why? Just keep reading—

When he flew to Madrid, Javier left behind a history of abuse by his classmates. In primary school, he had to suffer Rayco’s cruel mistreatment; in secondary education, it was Alejandro the source of all evil. (Things have been developed as expected for these two scummy bullies: at present Rayco is involved in an issue about minors used as drug dealers, and behind Alejandro’s dazzling façade—he got married for money—the perfect example of an inveterate cheater is hiding.)

In addition to this, Javier’s family was not particularly empathetic towards him. His siblings hardly paid attention to him; when they did, it was hell. Moreover, his father used to hit him and insult him, calling Javier fag all the time, and griping that his son did not act as a regular boy.

Since Javier’s memories are full of abuse situations, both physical and psychological, he currently undergoes hard consequences: Javier is claustrophobic (a pretty bad feeling when taking a plane, or even the subway; that is to say, when trying to pop out with total freedom); besides, he distrusts people, what prevents him from socializing naturally.

But not everything goes wrong for Javier. Dancing and swimming meant a new lease on his life in Madrid, and now Javier has become a good-looking man, far from the image of fatty campy nerd from his past.

For his surprise, revisiting the island helps Javier live three awesome meetings:
·       First, his joyful reunion with Muriel, a good-natured Argentinean woman settled in the Canaries who had (unsuccessfully) tried to become Javier’s close friend: for the record, she was the first person who took him into a gay bar;
·       Secondly, his brother Sebastián, now grown into a gay-friendly straight man under his girlfriend’s decisive influence (she has a gay brother herself);
·       And last but not least, Manuel, a former classmate who made Javier sing the blues in primary school, but now he has become a hot surfer mad about Javier the very moment that he takes a look on our visiting hero.

Nonetheless, evil boils over in the sizzling festive atmosphere on the black-sanded beaches of the Fortunate Isles, and so Javier himself will check out that homophobia is a tightly rooted concept in not only town residents’ minds, but also a few of his own relatives’—some things are painfully impossible to change.

Javier’s response to the sudden end of what might have supposed a beautiful love story turns into another pretty darker thing. Whether Javier acts fairly or not, justifiably or not—it is up to the reader’s view. I just want to say that I find hard to remember any other novel’s grim, sore, harrowing conclusion such as this.

This disconcerting narration by Hecheres Beltrán means an impressive depiction about the tragic effects of one of the most dangerous plagues of our time. Sadly, bullying is not new: there have been lots of LGBT people enduring abuse and humiliation (in school, at home, etc.) throughout history. Nobody should turn a blind eye on this social problem, and reading Beltráns book is an excellent means of consciousness-raising.

[1] The original Spanish title is a play on words: the author puns on the terms ira (“anger”) and ida (“departure”), altering the usual expression billete de ida y vuelta (“round-trip ticket”) for just one consonant. Thus, we could not find any other translation better than the one proposed.

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