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THE DOORMAN by Reinaldo Arenas


by Reinaldo Arenas

Pub Date: June 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-8021-1109-2
Publisher: Grove

An affecting parable of a modern knight-errant's search for the ``true door to happiness,'' and the first story by the late Cuban writer and exile Arenas (The Palace of the White Skunks, 1990, etc.) to be set in the US. Young Juan, a refugee from Cuba, is the doorman of a Manhattan apartment house—home to a disappointed and eclectic group of men and women, and to their even more unhappy pets. There are, among others: an aging leftist who keeps a polar bear to serve her (when she isn't in Cuba buying desperate young men with cheap trinkets); a suicidal young woman, beloved by Juan, whose pet is a rattlesnake; an impotent and aging lover-boy whose pet orangutan helps him out on dates; the nearly identical gay couple Oscar One and Two, with their terrified rabbit and fierce bulldog; the Supreme Pastor of the Church of Love through Constant Contact and his menagerie; and the millionaire family that owns the remarkable dog Cleopatra. As Juan opens the door for them and their pets, he always tries to please, hoping that they may know of the door he is looking for. His helpfulness is increasingly abused, and poor Juan despairs. But Cleopatra and the other animals have been watching him, and they appoint him their leader. Thought now to be mad, Juan is consigned to a psychiatric ward, but the animals rescue him and together set off across the country to California, where they find the doors to the lands and waters of their dreams. But Juan—the ``only hope'' and ``great weapon'' of outsiders and the persecuted—can find no door. The parallels to Arenas's own life are obvious, but this richly imagined story—often witty despite the tragic undertones- -transcends such limits as it celebrates the defender of ideals, Juan the doorman. A fine memorial.