Boredom could be defined as a lack of interest in the surrounding world, and as such, not a particularly fun state of mind to be in, nor a compelling trait for a protagonist of a short story. But Andrea Maturana’s short story “Interiors,” (A Public Space 22, translated from the Spanish by Heather Cleary) shows how fascinating boredom can be, and that there are much worse afflictions.
We meet Dr. Villagrán, a gynecologist, in the beginning of his morning rounds, and quickly discover how cynical he has become about his job. “The first patients of the morning had the privilege of an identity,” but after that they retreated to nothing more than their crass physicality: “Mrs. Cunt Six, Seven, Eight.”
He’s also jaded about his marriage to his wife, Regina, and has been for years. Out of boredom, he recently had an affair with Blanca, his secretary. Though now even that has lost its luster. “His inability to maintain interest in things or people had become a trait nothing could change, not even Blanca’s lips.”
But Maturana reveals, through the last patient of the day, that though Dr. Villagrán is jaded about life, he hasn’t lost hope that it might change.
“While Villagrán waited on the other side of the curtain…he began to hope that there was something truly unusual wrong with her. He wanted the skin of her vulva to be like that of her cheeks and hands. He wanted to see something he’d never seen before, to be surprised…nothing surprising ever happened, so he pinned all his hope on the woman he could hear slowly undressing…”
Maturana handles the irony here—a world-weary gynecologist hoping that a strange new disease might deliver him from boredom—and throughout with a wonderfully straight face, and also manages to portray the doctor as, if not likable, very human. There’s something redemptive in the fact that his boredom springs from the desire to be surprised, to see something new—even if that surprise comes in the form of female genitalia.
Villagrán, wrought with anticipation, performs the last procedure of the day…but in the end is disappointed. The patient has an infection, but only a common one. He leaves the office and heads home tired.
It’s at the doctor’s home that Maturana performs the bold final move of this story. Villagrán arrives to find that his wife has left him. All of her belongings are gone and the house is empty and in “impeccable order.” He looks for a note, and finds “…nothing, and it occurred to him that the fact that Regina had nothing to say to him was almost more painful than her leaving.”
Dr. Villagrán finally has his surprise, but only in tragedy. He stepped out on his wife with Blanca in order to find something new, to be surprised in love. But now, after a fourth whiskey, Villagrán realizes that this is the moment “he finally lost all hope of being surprised.” The story comes full circle. His decision has, in the end destroyed what made his boredom even possible: hope.