It starts with the story of a woman, who danced the bolero under the strings of young men’s guitars on the town square in the cool evenings. Her name is Ileana Carlota.
Her childhood is marked by a trauma that had grown repetitive with the span of years in which her father, Don Silvio had raised an abusive hand over Ileana and her mother Dona Magdalena. After so many nights with drying tears over aching bruises, Ileana had stood up to her dominating papa and shot him with his own pistol.
She took care of her mother, working in Huan’s café, serving chicha to military man and police officers from the next town’s station, taking serenades in the evening from the young cholo boys that had come to hear her hum to their music, or watch her dance the bolero with old Huan. She was beautiful, tin and dark, with glistening raven hair, and hazel eyes.
Many man wanted to make Ileana their bride, but she was just a girl full of childish dreams and simple wishes, blushing over their lustful remarks, never answering their yearnings. They craved after her innocence, stretching grabby hands to strip her naked and glare with hazy eyes at her purity, wanting to stain it, taking away her childhood.
Ileana shook her head even when her mother urged her for marriage, desperately trying to secure her daughter’s future, before her death, which came soon after Ileana turned 18.
Ileana then had to sell her father’s estate and move to a small hacienda next to Huan’s café which she bought with the money left. She worked and she danced, but always kept much to herself, walking along the paved roads alone, the wind stealing black glistening locks of hair.
It was the night of Dia de Muertos when she met a special boy who only wanted to take her hand and hold it. Mathias didn’t sing, nor played the guitar. He helped Padre Antonio in the church and taught the word of God to the children on Sunday’s. He read to Ileana from the Bible, page by page restoring her faith, passage after passage releasing her from the memory of her father and shielding her from the wants of wretched men. He loved her hazel eyes, curiously watching him, her lips curling in a playful smile.
Mathias was Ileana’s first true friend and her first love. Their youth was spend together, until Mathias took an oath and became a man of God, engaging on a mission of his own across Mexico. Ileana kissed his cheek and prayed for him, counting the days of his return, which turned into months, growing into years. She often imagined him walking back up the road in his black clothes, a tall stranger that she had met on the night of the dead.
When he returned five years later, heart trembling with anticipation, Mathias found Ileana dancing for money, exposing her body for the eyes of those who had the necessary amount. He cried at that sight. He wept for her soul, depraved and blackened by the misery her life had turned to in those years. “Five years are too long, Mathias for a young woman to wait for someone who could never take her as his wife. Love is not meant for everyone. You have the love of your God, and I have the lust of all those men.” Those where her words to him, and he carried them within him, like a rusty dagger struck between his ribs.
This is not Ileana’s story solemnly.
It continues with that of a boy, who fell in love with a beautiful, but sad girl, and even after countless attempts to save her soul and preserve her purity, the boy failed, and now the girl was a whore, who every military man has touched and kissed, who every man but him had had. And the boy, hurt and angered, retreats, stepping back inside the small church, becoming its new Padre.
Kneeling before the crucifix, the cross pressed hard against his lips, Mathias swears to his new mission, to rid the town off its demons, to cure the wicked and release Ileana from her fate.
But his faith evaporates day after day, seeing Ileana taking the hand of some local and pulling him seductively into the shadows behind the café. He sees the glimmer in the stranger’s eyes, his features twisting, deforming as he kisses her neck, wanting to devour her whole. Mathias would never do that. He would honor Ileana, keep her…safe. But as he hears the groans of that man, filling the night, slipping between the poignant guitar solos, Mathias feels a craving of his own. His flesh burns, aches for Ileana. His fingers seek her dark skin, touching her lips in his dreams, kissing the curve. Is it the whore in her awakening a beast in him? Does the boy still love the girl, or is the man running after the woman selling herself carelessly? The doors of the church close. There is no faith.
He wants to consume her, love her, own her. His mind is poisoned, and no silver cross pressed to his lips can release him from the torture her beauty puts him through.
“Let the Devil come and take you, wretched woman! Let him make you his whore, to suffer!” With his back to the crucifix, a bleeding Jesus, a silent watcher, Mathias digs the dirt on a crossroad throwing her fading picture in the hole. With trembling finger he buries the last piece of faith.
Now the story comes to its end. The girl and the boy, the woman and the man. And me.
Called upon the night when the dead are celebrated, welcomed by the reflection my own face, painted on those of mortals, I walk through the town square, seeking the whore who danced the bolero with old Huan. Here I take her hand in mine, beautiful Ileana Carlota and let her glare into the red pits of my ancient eyes. El Diablo’s whore.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Inside the small church sinful Mathias sits, blindly brushing the blood of his face, my words echoing in his head. No faith remains. No love remains.