Now That's What I Call Alternative Literature

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'Terminal Velocity' by Mario Ariza

I have always wondered what kept Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir together. Between the two of them they must have ruined more than ten marriages. They were, in my opinion, a little like the nightingales that would keep me up late at night in Buenos Aires. Beautiful to listen to, but terrible when you wished to fall asleep.

Does that make sense? It probably doesn’t. When two people have a relationship like that, and keep it open and seduce the partner’s of others, they are terrible and beautiful, like a corpse you cannot bear not to look at. The secret of what keeps them together escapes you, even as you try desperately to hang on to the one you love and who is, inescapably, escaping you.

I guess there are only really two kinds of relationships – those that reach their terminal velocities, and those that never do. It’s like the difference between Terrible Beauty, and being beautiful and terrible. Beautiful and Terrible is Sarte, prickly nose hairs escaping from his nostrils and with chronically unbrushed teeth. Terrible Beauty would be Simone, lithe and cool, brilliant and angry and seductive.

Neither will ever apologize for what they have done. Neither will send you a kindly letter of regret, to arrive as you sit dazed in an empty apartment after your lover has packed boxes and fled. What would happen if you ran into them at a café, together, smoking, drinking and laughing? Surely, they would say hello.

Depending on how decorous they are feeling, Simone and Jean Paul may even invite you to sit down next to them in the cramped, brightly lit café. Jean Paul will offer you a cigarette, which you will accept with glum diffidence and Simone will order for you from the plump waitress a cup of sweet vermouth. The conversation of course, will be somewhat dull. They will have been talking about Kojeve, or the Hermeneutics of St. Anselm before you were spotted, and you will puff your cigarette and smile meekly as the one says to the other “No, my dear. That is not was meant, not at all.”

Who cares? All you wish to hear is news of them, them you loved and love still. One of the two sitting in front of you, with one of their hands, and then with one of their kisses, began a betrayal that led to your loss. You can’t hold it against them, really. They are after all, Jean Paul Sarte and Simone De Beauvoir. But things only seem bleaker because you know they will not ask about the lover, will not even bring them up anecdotally, and certainly not accidentally. Those two survived the german occupation, and waltz around the subject of your broken heart with queer and discrete joy.

They will begin to banter back and forth as your vermouth arrives; Simone’s eyes with a sparkle to them, Sartre with a coy smile. The vermouth will disappear unusually quickly, and before any respectable amount of time has passed you will excuse yourself, muttering something about a missed appointment, leaving a few sous on the table for the Vermouth. Walk out, alone, onto the streets of Paris. Let those two keep talking forward, keep taking lovers, keep falling faster and faster until they hit the ground.


Mario Alejandro Ariza‘s ambitions far exceed his abilities. A foreigner, he teaches a foreign language for a living, and in his spare time likes to use big words in small ways. Make no mistake though – he is a fiend and an execrable poet who has been featured in Circle Show, UP literature, EL Vestíbulo and Keep This Bag Away From Children. You can read his first book of poems, The Same River Twice, by going to