Noé is a middle-aged man who pays precise attention to the details of his appearance—his trim mustache and creased clothing—and the details of his house, which has blue trim and a blue door that will stand against spirits. Noé’s existence, however, is one of utter loneliness, with a complete lack of social and emotional contact with other human beings. His profession as a butcher brings him sadness, even though he chose this profession in an effort to do good things. Noé considers that the townspeople’s polite disregard of him might be because he is overweight, but he does not think of himself as fat. He considers his body as a heaviness that has come from the inside out. He attends wakes in the town simply for the opportunity for human contact, but he receives only obligatory common courtesy from others. He simply wishes to be part of the town.
To find a release from his loneliness, Noé dresses in a blue suit and dances outside of the town. Noé dances with the faceless wind and encircles his arms around the branches of black walnut trees; the trees are as unyielding as women’s arms, but they at least cannot leave to gossip about him. He feels free to let out his “thin girl”—a partner who will not ignore him. Together, they dance the dance of weddings through the night.
In an attempt to become more of a regular man and be in the mainstream of human relations, Noé begins to wear his blue suit to his butcher shop. He also devises a small plan to shake the hands of women vigorously in order to see some movement of their bodies—some indication that he is recognized as another human being. By attending wakes, he can kiss the cheeks of the bereaved, but even this clumsy attempt often meets with failure.
As a further antidote to his unwanted loneliness, Noé begins to collect clocks, even hanging them on his butcher shop walls. He collects the clocks because they have hands, “and in so many clocks was a kind of heaven, a dream of sounds to make the hours pass in a manner that would allow him to open up shop the next day.” He perceives of them as women—giving them women’s names—and imagines that they are beckoning and speaking to him. Despite the townspeople’s objections to this strange behavior, Noé is left alone. One winter evening, however, Noé hears the blue clock, his favored “Marina,” hesitate. He hurries to the clock that is calling to him as “a wife in pain.” Even though he tells himself that Marina is only a clock, he is disconcerted, and after examining her, he wraps her up in butcher’s paper like a piece of meat, an act that seems to bring him comfort.
As Noé quickly walks home in the darkness, cradling his precious Marina, he hears an oleander call to him as he passes by the stand of walnut trees where he has danced before. He hesitates as he hears his name called again, searches through the leaves, and then puts down the clock to investigate. It is a whispered voice that he recognizes, the voice of Marina, “who had made so many places for herself in his life. . . . She was the blueness inside him, the color of his appetite, the color both of what filled him and what he needed more of.” The voice asks Noé if she loves him, and if so, to act like a horse. After hesitating, Noé obeys the voice, stamping and snorting, willing to do anything for Marina, the embodiment of his loneliness and desire. The laughter of soldiers hiding in the oleanders forces Noé to turn for home, without Marina, bereft of even this small comfort in his desolate existence.
The loss of Marina causes Noé to sell his butcher shop, buy a brown horse, and leave the town. He rides into the future, feeling that he has “become an exponent to a regular number.” All he really wanted was to belong and for everyone and everything to be nice, for people to follow the Golden Rule of common courtesy and humanity. This, he now knows, is too much to ask. In the final section of the story, Noé meets up with a circus and feels as if he has finally found his real career with a “company of half-size men, two-bodied women, and all the rest of the animals who danced.” Within this group of supposed misfits, Noé reaches a place where he is free to dance and free to be himself.
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