:: Article

Eunuch

By J. E. Suárez

Hot mediterranean sun comes, fractured, through the mudejar punctures in the white wall, drawing diamonds and crescent moons on the floor, bathing the already-opulent room in a sort of idealizing glow, and against the far wall, the eunuch in the service of the Vasconcelos family, named Suaro, surname forfeited, is suffering through another erection of the sort that will not cease to plague him until his death.

Perhaps you have seen something reminiscent of this. It is common enough with neutered animals that the operation does nothing to quell their copulation instincts—nor to prevent them from actually having sex with each other—but merely ensures that the sex cannot result in progeny. However, whether the animal may actually be said to “suffer” the erection, whether a word such as that may be used to describe what his lust and its futility causes in him—or whether “lust”, indeed, is even the right word for the vestiges of his reproductive instinct—is ultimately a problem of empathy. That is to say, it is a question of how far we are willing to say we know what is happening to a being so different from ourselves, when we see him furiously rubbing against the old armchair leg, probably scented with fur castoff that humans can’t detect, with a fury that in ourselves would certainly betray a desperation, an ache of some sort—how far we are willing to impose human motives upon him. Perhaps the neutered dog “suffers” the erection, the lust, the loss of his virility, but then, perhaps he does not.

The eunuch Suaro suffers the erection, as he always has, not in a metaphorical sense, but a physical one, because a series of frayed nerve endings at the base of his scrotum have—through the same miracle of bodily regeneration that allowed him not to perish in that tub of milk where his scabbing was left to accelerate, or him bleed out—become reconnected to the penile tissues which engorge upon filling with blood, causing him suffering, terrible pain which has nothing to do with desire, every time this occurs, which is not infrequently.

He leans, in a manner that he has perfected, with a very straight back and a composed demeanor that betrays nothing, against the far wall. His pain is visible only in the velocity of the sweat drops that course down his forehead.

Eunuchs are neither customary nor well looked-upon in Spain, but Suaro was bought—and renamed—by don Adolfo Vasconcelos from a Ottoman merchant who was liquidating the estate of a deceased nobleman, of which his eunuchs, more educated than the nobleman himself, were one of the most valuable possessions. The merchant convinced Adolfo to make the purchase by suggesting he employ the eunuch for the same purpose his previous owner had: as the only male servant that could be trusted to guard the women of his household. Vasconcelos thought it incredibly practical; Suaro knows this, because he stood calm and silently by while the exchange was had.

All three of his charges, the Vasconcelos sisters, ten, thirteen, seventeen, are presently in the room with. It is too hot to exist outside, so they have retired for their midafternoon nap, and are sprawled—one,  perhaps, asleep, the others merely in a haze—on the beds or in the cushions.

Does he suffer, also, from lust and its fruitlessness, and not just from pain? He has wondered about this. The erections are not predictable, and when they happen, they will more often than not be absolutely random, as though merely to prevent him from carrying out his tasks, but sometimes—

Sometimes there is a form; a darkness, a heat. A scent of the unknown, sometimes, as wafts up when one is standing by the port at night; summer wind like breath, the black ocean of space, stars, and the lights of distant ships.

But these moments are brief and unanchored to any person or thing. Certainly the pretty shapes of the sisters cause nothing in him, much as the oldest, especially since she learned of his condition, goes out of her way attempting to torment him.

A fresh spasm of pain makes him involuntarily flinch, just for an instant. The youngest daughter, stretched over cushions on the floor, catches his jerky motion out of the corner of her eye, and flicks her head around to watch him with curiosity. He smiles at her affably.

It is ebbing, thank the gods. Discreetly, when the girl has lost interest in him, Suaro pulls out his handkerchief and wipes at the sweat drenching his forehead, neck, and chest.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J. E. Suárez
is a writer and translator from Quito, Ecuador. In 2019, he obtained his MFA in Fiction Writing from the University of Virginia. He has published an essay in the Ecuadorian journal Líneas de Expresión and book reviews for the University of Virginia’s Meridian Journal.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, June 9th, 2020.