This character profile was written by Sólo con tu pareja screenwriter Carlos Cuarón, in 1990, as a way to help actor Claudia Ramírez get to know her character. It was translated for this release by Mariana Carreño King.
THE DAY AURORA ALBOR DE NEGRETE GAVE BIRTH to her oldest child, Clarisa, the city raised its curtains to allow the sun to come out, the volcanoes to be seen wearing their vests of snow, and Mount Ajusco to proudly display its mane of pine trees, prior to adopting the premature baldness of a decrepit young man. The rare sight of a clear day in the city provoked much comment among the population, accustomed as they were to melting into the pavement.
“Mexico, the belly button of the world,” the renowned Conchero [Aztec dancer] Nezahualpilli Teototzin Hernández called his native soil, covered in the milky shine of selenite sand. “Look carefully, brother. What you see in between the volcanoes Popo and Iztla is Cuahutétoc burning Cortés’s feet,” Pancreas told his friend Anxiety, while sipping pulque from a plastic bag outside the bar If Life’s Bad, Mescal. If It’s Good, Mescal Too. The greatest thinker in national history couldn’t resist the temptation of deceiving future generations, declaring publicly that the Anahuac Valley was “where the air is clear.”
Of everything that could have been said about such a clear day, the words of Taciturno Albor, Mrs. Aurora’s uncle and the legendary explorer, were the closest to an involuntary omen. Admiring the view of a seemingly sterilized high plateau, shortly before falling into a snow trap in the Popocatepetl and disappearing along with his legends, he told the young hiker traveling with him, in his characteristic proclaiming tone, “Whoever is born on such a clear day will be free and transparent like the air, but he will be chased by the weight of the dirt that exploits the clean.”
Dr. Serafino Infiernillo was surprised at how Clarisa left the maternal womb. “A childbirth is always like a match between two teams pulling from opposite sides of a rope with a mud pool in between. Clarisa’s birth was different. I’ve never seen anybody so eager to leave her mother. It was as if she felt incarcerated and had the urge to escape through the window bars. She presented no difficulties. I even felt useless! To top it all, she came out with a confident smile. We couldn’t, and didn’t want to, smack her on the butt,” declared the gynecologist during a conference on extraordinary childbirths.
As for Mrs. Aurora, she showed off to any pregnant woman who crossed her path during her brief hospital stay, saying, “There’s nothing to fear. It’s faster than losing money at the horse track and way less painful. I’d give birth to my little girl a thousand times if necessary. It was like a short flight without turbulence.” The other parturient in the ward answered by whining and screaming, which Mrs. Aurora would understand three years later, during the long and turbulent flight that was the childbirth of her younger daughter, Luz Maria.
When he found out that Clarisa had not been welcomed to the world with a spank on the butt, Mr. Albino Negrete left his wife’s room insulted, went to the hospital offices, and declared Dr. Infiernillo to be incompetent. Immediately after, he grabbed his daughter from the maternity crib, unwrapped the little blanket, and gave her a good spank in the right place—an event that constituted the first encounter with machismo in Clarisa’s life. The newborn cried briefly and then returned to her habitual smile, just in time to receive another spank, cry briefly again, and then adopt that sweet, happy expression. Mr. Albino dressed her again, placed her back in the crib, kissed her forehead, and ran to his wife to complain: “Aurora, what the hell did you bring into the world? A normal being or an electric doll?
The first time Mrs. Aurora dropped Clarisa, like a bale in a warehouse, inside her baby pen, the baby cried until she ruined her last vocal cord. Mrs. Aurora took her out from that mini prison to test a Piagetian hypothesis, after the abrupt entrance of Mr. Albino, burping beer and defying common sense, demanding, “Turn the volume down on that kid. I can’t hear the baseball game.” That day, Clarisa calmed herself by watching two swallows build a nest under the roof of the shed where the family slaughtered chickens.
During her first three years, Clarisa enjoyed her parents’ unconditional attention. Mr. Albino took his daughter and wife along on his frequent trips across the country and beyond, while he was promoting his expansionist taxidermy business. Mrs. Aurora devoted herself to teaching her daughter speech and good manners, while the head of the family insisted on directing little Clarisa’s development. In some Super 8 home movies that survived the brief family separation years later, Mr. Albino can be seen pointing with a rabbit’s paw hanging from his key chain, demanding of his wife, “Rorrita, try to change the baby’s diet to change her diapers’ odor,” and, “Don’t take her slippers off if you want her seven o’clock smile,” and, “Damn, woman! I asked you to set her for six, so I could be on time to my appointment with Dr. Morales. You set her for six-thirty: she cried half an hour later, and I was an hour late. Next time set her an hour early so she cries on time, ’cause I think Clarisa is getting behind.” Of all the family movies, the most memorable is the one where Clarisa is laughing as hard as her little diaphragm allows, watching her father trying to break a chicken’s neck while a rooster pecks his shins, a swallow deposits the product of its digestion on his scarce hair, and Mrs. Aurora screams, “The hat, Bino! You should have worn the hat!”
Nine months before Luz Maria was born, the Negretes went out for a picnic in the woods of El Chico. After enjoying white-bread sandwiches and Yus juices, Mrs. Aurora put Clarisa in a secured chair. While Mom and Dad hid behind the precarious foliage of the woods to enjoy a brief romantic moment in the mist of an unfriendly winter, Clarisa escaped from the belt that secured her and left to experience the serenity of life in the high mountains. When her parents were done making the dry leaves creak, they found, to their terror and surprise, an empty chair. “It was horrible to see the chair without the child. Bino asked me if I had turned her off, packed her, and returned her because of some factory defect. But I’m not the kind of person to return merchandise over a loose string. We looked for her like crazy through the woods. For the first time ever, I prayed to God for the existence of Yogi Bear so he could help us find her. After an hour, we found her sucking milk from a white-tailed deer, along with its baby. Bino suggested that we take the deer and stuff them, to remember the day and keep Clarisa company. But the girl started crying and wouldn’t stop screaming, ‘Bambi!’” Mrs. Aurora told her best friend, Fedra, after they’d gone to get a coffee-grounds reading from a gypsy.
Although this anecdote became part of the family’s repertoire, Clarisa only remembered it as something that her parents had told her. The real accomplishment that day was that they took away her pacifier and bottle for life. The definitive weaning wasn’t a transformation that affected her too much, since she rapidly adapted to glasses and straws. However, it bothered Clarisa that she couldn’t share her pacifier or bottle with anyone else, since she had always taken every opportunity she had to relinquish some of her beverages to satiate the thirst of any child at her side.
With the birth of Luz Maria, the girls’ parents’ attention turned to the newborn. Clarisa was not jealous; on the contrary, she became an extra mother to her sister, although she always refused to change diapers. “I don’t know why, but I didn’t like to see how they changed her wrapping. I think Luz peed while they were changing her once and she squirted me,” she told Teresa de Teresa one afternoon as they were having tea. Symbolically, that squirt defined the sisters’ relationship. If Clarisa offered Luz her love, complicity, and comprehension, Luz just took over Clarisa’s toys, candies, dresses, rubber bands and headbands, books and notebooks, makeup, shoes, underwear, contraception pills, and even her imported perfumes. Luz’s sense of possession of Clarisa’s property was such that after stealing her high school boyfriend she declared, “What belongs to Clarisa is twice mine.”
When Clarisa started kindergarten, she enjoyed the motherly role she had imposed upon herself, and the zoo of her neighbor’s domestic animals with whom she shared her house. The relationship between the two families was excellent, until the day when Zarathustra, a Siamese cat, was lost, and they found it stuffed on Mr. Albino’s shelf. Up until then, Clarisa didn’t understand why her father’s animals didn’t move, but she discovered the truth at a spring festival for which Mr. Albino lent her an ocelot to bring as a pet. The kids told her over and over again that what she had was a stuffed wooden thing covered with fur. Clarisa came home crying and demanded that her parents get her an animal that was not stuffed. They bought her a cage with canaries.
Following Clarisa’s early school years, the veiled beauty of her childhood evolved into a fragile beauty. However, Clarisa didn’t seem to notice the passions she awakened, and she felt like an ordinary child, playing that Barbie kissed and hugged Ken.
Although Clarisa was never prone to morbidity, her first experience of natural curiosity was triggered by her young friend Esperanza Triste [Sad Hope], who suggested during a playdate, “Why don’t we take Ken’s pants off to see what’s underneath?” The disillusionment of the two infants was immense when they discovered that the Plastimarx brand favored hermaphrodite dolls. Around the same time, a boy told Clarisa, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours, but you go first.” Clarisa raised her skirt and pulled her panties down, and the boy ran away screaming, “Sanchez, you’re right! Their thingy was cut off!” Clarisa didn’t get it. It wasn’t until third grade that she had visual contact with masculine sexuality, when Jonás Sajón, an impertinent boy with blond curls, pulled down his pants in front of the blackboard, shook his peepee, and sang, “Para bailar la Bamba . . .” Surprised, Clarisa approached him and asked, “What happened to you down there?” “It’s called a dick, you dummy,” Jonás responded, pulling the little worm of his virility.
Clarisa didn’t have any problems talking to people in school and making friends with the world. She liked to talk and play with whomever was available. She carried her Chinese rope and her jacks, although she always returned home without them, since her sister or some other girl would claim them and innocent Clarisa would have to kiss her toys good-bye. Clarisa’s sense of possession was almost nil, to the point that one day she lent Roberto Rafles her scissors, forgetting to get them back to put them away, and the next day Roberto was showing off his new scissors to her without eliciting any complaints. As time passed Clarisa learned to write her name on her property. “People kept my school supplies anyway. But at least they knew whom they had stolen them from and who was their true owner,” she told Tomás Tomás while sipping a piña colada under a tropical palapa during their honeymoon in Huatulco.
In her last two years of elementary school, Clarisa fell, for the first time, into the bittersweet condition of being in love. When she saw Celestino Limbo run a hundred-meter race, she decided that he was the right man for her tender age: fast and strong and, in addition, he had flat feet. Celestino also fell in love with her, but he didn’t behave toward her like a man in love. They would play dodgeball during recess, and they would always end up on opposite teams. When Clarisa caught the ball, she threw it back to him gently or would miss him on purpose. But he would throw her fastballs straight to the head while proudly yelling, “Ha! Tag! Go to jail!
Celestino fell from Clarisa’s grace during a final exam in sixth grade. “It was the reading and comprehension final. The idiot finished earlier and I was still scratching the multiple choices when the guy asked me if I wanted to fool around. I said yes, because I thought he was asking me for an answer, but when I felt that heavy twelve-year-old hand on my back, I understood what he wanted. Not that I was an expert, but it wasn’t the right place or the right moment, nor did I need him to iron my starched blouse, so I threw him an eraser that erased his eye for a short while, and, after school, before I could tell him that I didn’t want anything to do with him, he said the same to me,” Clarisa told Captain Carlos Carles during a Mexico–San Francisco flight that marked the beginning of a short and truculent relationship.
Before seventh grade, Clarisa and her family went on vacation to Barrancas del Cobre. During a brief stop in an indigenous town, Clarisa saw with surprise the ritualistic mating flight of two eagles. Back home, she opened her canaries’ cage and set them free. Her parents scolded her harshly and she tried to jump off the roof of her house. “I thought it was unfair that Piquito and Alpiste couldn’t do what the eagles were doing. Nobody loved them as much as I did. That’s why I thought they deserved a shot. I wasn’t angry at my parents when I tried to jump off the roof. I just wanted to know how it felt to fly. Luckily, I didn’t get to take off,” she confessed to her neighbor Mateo Mateos when she came back from her honeymoon.
Middle school surprised Clarisa with the fulminating nuisance of her menarche, which intimidated her for a while, especially when her father found out and, pointing his rabbit’s paw toward her, said, “So, you’re a lady now, doll.” She left her shyness behind when her body got used to the hormonal changes and to the karma that women pay in uncomfortable monthly installments. Then Clarisa’s nascent puberty gave way to a progressive, sweet, and subtle adolescence that attracted the worst types of freaks. So many lesser men went after her that she became a selective woman, and she usually selected the worst.
In junior high school, Píndaro Puntadas courted Clarisa, and one afternoon she finally agreed to go to the movies with him. “He invited me to see the latest James Bond movie. He was five minutes late and had no money. I had to pay for his and my ticket. He asked me to go ahead to get the seats. I waited for him for the whole movie, but he never came back. Then I found out that he had sold his ticket and gone bowling with his friends. When I saw him again, the idiot asked me, ‘Where were you hiding? I told you the fourth row on the right. I looked for you afterward but couldn’t find you.’ I responded with a low blow that promised him eternal sterility, and I went back home crying because he had stood me up and because I had hit him,” Clarisa nostalgically told her husband when he took her to the Hipophysis for the first time.
Clarisa wasn’t a straight-A student. She was only interested in the natural sciences and languages. After junior high school, she handled English well and dabbled in French. After she freed her canaries, she spent her time reading ornithology books, which eventually resulted in her obsession with flying. When the family separated briefly over an argument about the credibility of the film Skeleton of Mrs. Morales [a 1960 Mexican horror-comedy about a taxidermist and his deformed wife], Clarisa yearned for wings so she could fly as far away as possible, but, lacking the instruments to fly, she settled for frequent visits to the airport. The family reconciled and went back to normal life two months later, when Mr. Albino accepted that his wife didn’t have a defective knee, wasn’t friends with any priests, didn’t force him to wash his hands with alcohol, and, in addition, admired the art of stuffing dead animals. “It was so stupid that I preferred to stay away from home. I chose the airport as a home base so as not to be with them. Then, watching the planes, I realized that I could fly,” Clarisa told Federico Ficachi, an airline captain with whom she would have a disappointing affair.
The first two years in high school were the happiest of Clarisa’s life. Not only was she a friendly and popular girl, she also avoided falling in love with any weasel so as not to hurt or get hurt. She devoted her heart and soul to learning languages. By her senior year, she spoke three languages and was beginning to learn the fourth, German. That same year, Luz Maria began high school and Clarisa yielded to love and fell for Tertulio Gómez, the son of a businessman who owned a Norwegian preserved-foods concession. The courtship lasted eight months of peace and love, a motto they learned during a screening of the movie Woodstock at a college theater, before the people waiting to see the next screening knocked the door down and forced their way in.
Unfortunately, shortly before Clarisa’s graduation, on a Saturday she was to meet Tertulio at a movie theater to see Let It Be, Clarisa found him locked in Luz Maria’s arms. “If you’re ugly and obnoxious and want my things so you can be more like me, that’s your shit. But you do it again, Luz, and I will knock you so hard you won’t know your own name. And, like Juan Gabriel says, ‘That poor idiot who fell in love with you’ is a poor idiot. So lass mich allein,” Clarisa told her sister, who never again claimed ownership of anything that wasn’t hers, with the exception of imported perfumes and contraceptive pills. And if Luz and Tertulio’s relationship lasted less than three months, Clarisa quickly forgot him and only remembered with pleasure the Coca-Cola-and-popcorn bath she gave them that afternoon.
After high school, Clarisa wasted no time registering for flight attendant training, and she excelled due to her polyglossia and her consistent 97s on tests that required only an 85 to pass. After a short time, her dedication to the trade earned her a promotion to the transatlantic routes. As bad luck would have it, she fell in love with the Mexico-Madrid captain, Federico Ficachi. His ex-wife, Pérfida Maltrato [Perfidious Mistreatment], the flight attendants’ manager, made sure to demote her again to the national routes. Ficachi made sure to remove her tender petals in the cargo section, as they crossed from a Western dawn to an Eastern sunset. They had a short relationship in which Ficachi focused only on ensuring that Clarisa lost each and every one of her petals, and one afternoon, at the Cibeles, he bumped into Pérfida and went back with her. Clarisa went back to the national flights. “Ficachi? No comment,” she told Tomás, her husband, on their flight back from their honeymoon.
“Poor thing, you were born a Libra. You’re attracted to justice, but justice is unjust to you,” Cristina Orozco, witch and astrologer from Catemaco [a town known for its witchcraft, in the state of Veracruz], told her. Clarisa returned to Mexico City, and because of her reputation, she was put in charge of international flights within the continent. She boarded the first flight she could, a Mexico–San Francisco. While she was reaching the climax of her depression and brooding over opening the emergency door to jump, Captain Carlos Carles called her, and a new romance was born. Clarisa thought she had changed Carlos’s loose ways and for the first time let her sense of possession grow. Together not even three months, they decided to become engaged. They found an apartment to remodel and live in before marrying. It was the beginning of a new life for Clarisa, an opportunity to paint over old paint and finally leave her sister, Luz Maria, and the family, who had just began arguing over the credibility of Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. Carlos quickly became Clarisa’s sole reason to live, so much so that she confessed to Teresa, her neighbor, that “if Carlos does to me what the last one did, I’ll kill myself but well—even if hell is worse than two Minatitláns [Minatitlán, another town in Veracruz, is home to a major sulfur development center].
Clarisa never imagined that her fiancé had not changed his modus vivendi, modus operandi, or hocus-pocus. She had to find him with a Continental flight attendant to convince herself of the kind of love that Carlos offered her. Desperate, Clarisa decided to commit suicide next to Tomás Tomás, then her neighbor, who, for some reason related to public nudity, she at first compared to Jonás Sajón. She found in Tomás the honesty of a man confronting his death through suicide, which attracted her as much as the eagles’ mating ritual in Barrancas del Cobre.
If it’s true that Tomás’s suicide was prevented by a scuffle provoked by a nurse, Clarisa’s was resolved by finding in Tomás the sweet desperation of a being looking for a change, a man determined to be the receptacle of Clarisa’s newfound sense of possession. “If you leave me, I’ll kill you,” she threatened Tomás the moment they got engaged, years before he got entangled in Osaka with the despicable lace of Susan Sometime and Clarisa had to fulfill her promise with .10 ounces of arsenic before escaping to India and becoming a swami of the Saraswati order.
Although there was no doubt that Clarisa and Tomás were happy when they got married, as a great suicidal once said, “What has to happen, happens.”