So begins Gabriel Garcia Marquez's novella, Memories of My Melancholy Whores. In 115 pages, Marquez offers a tale of an unnamed narrator, a former news editor who now barely scrapes by writing a column and some pieces on the arts. He describes himself as "ugly, shy and anachronistic" and is a bachelor living in a house his parents lived in, in which he has "proposed to die alone, in the same bed in which I was born and on a day that I hope will be distant and painless".
Our bachelor enlists the help of a brothel owner, who finds him a young plaything. But as he watches the girl of 14, who works in a factory attaching buttons, as she lies sleeping the first night, "as naked and helpless as the day she was born", something changes. He leaves the brothel "determined never again to provoke fate" and feeling like a different man.
He continues to return to the brothel, but only to watch the sleeping beauty, although sometimes he's not entirely sure if she's real or an illusion: "it troubled me that she was real enough to have birthdays". But he does know that he loves her, whoever she is. "Thanks to her I confronted my inner self for the first time as my ninetieth year went by." So love can change a man, no matter how old he is.
This tale of obsession is a little creepy. It does start out sounding like the perverted last romp of a dirty old man but somehow ends up bordering on what seems to be an adolescent love affair. I'm not entirely sure if I liked it or not.