My Own Desert Places, Pt. 7 (GPT-3 fueled short)

I had taken the bus towards Alazne’s apartment building, intending to stake out the place for another afternoon. I was distracting myself with elaborate daydreams involving me mostly naked and Alazne completely naked, but my senses, tuned to run in the background looking for any sign of my beloved in the world of the living, forced me out of my delusions. Then I spot her, my queen: she’s walking along the street in front of the Bidasoa trade school, towards the center of the city. A static shot lingers in my mind of her pale, freckled features, of her sad eyes looking down at the pavement as she walks, that awkward posture that suggests that Alazne wants to deflect attention at the same time as apologize for occupying space. She’s wearing a grey hoodie that features the Wings of Freedom logo from her favorite anime, and she has tied up her light brown hair in a loose ponytail that leaves two locks framing her face, more out of carelessness than as a fashion statement.
The shock paralyzes me as the bus slowly passes her in heavy traffic. Now that I’m an exile from the ghostly plane, the holy vision of my beloved affects me as if I had visited my favorite monument after only having seen it in pictures. For a moment I think my heart has stopped, and seconds later, as the bus continues to the extent that I cannot see Alazne anymore, my heart threatens to stop permanently because this may be the only time I come across my woman.
I run to the nearest closed doors of the bus and try to pry them open. It doesn’t work. I try to walk through them with my ghostly powers, but the body I’m currently inhabiting gets squeezed against the solid obstacle, and now both a half of my face as well as my ribs hurt. Two passengers seated nearby stare at me with confusion and worry.
“Wait, stop this vehicle!” I shout at the driver.
“What?” he asks as he looks over his shoulder. “There’s a stop just a minute away.”
“This is an emergency. I will lose her, I just know it. If I wait too long, whenever I get out my beloved will have disappeared!”
The driver points ahead towards the stop in front of the La Salle school, where a bunch of students are waiting for our bus to arrive.
“It’s just there. You are disturbing the passengers.”
I feel that if I keep insisting, the driver will slow down just to spite me, so I bite my lower lip and keep tapping on the closed doors until the bus turns towards the stop. As soon as the doors open, I jump out and nearly crash into a fat guy who was walking too close to the road. I break into a sprint following Alazne’s footsteps. My ribs hurt almost immediately, even though I’m high on painkillers as usual. I push the discomfort away and continue jogging.
I finally spot the back of her gray hoodie as well as her soft ass in jeans as she walks in front of the dingy bars of Serapio Múgica street. Alazne has gathered enough courage to leave her depressing apartment, and is allowing the unworthy sun to bathe her freckled skin. I have her so close I can almost smell her stale sweat, and the musky smell of her underwear that she might or might not have changed to venture out of her apartment.
I slow down to a fast walk and then to a normal pace, trying not to make any noise with the pair of black boots I found in Asier’s house. They suit me well, giving off an air of sultry mystery. I also check my reflection in the storefronts in front of which I pass, hoping that I look like the kind of mature, confident man that Alazne would fall for. Although the combination of shirt and pants I chose for such an encounter look sophisticated and as if I have money to spare, which I do, I unfortunately notice the growing pit stains, as well as the still prominent wound on my head from Asier’s suicidal driving. Even when it heals entirely it will still leave a scar.
I shouldn’t have tried to obsess about it, because I can’t do anything about my image at the moment. When I look up again, I can’t see Alazne, but after I quicken my pace I realize that a group of retirees gathered in front of a bar were blocking my view of her.
The only plan of approach of those I have considered and that could work now is running into Alazne deliberately. She tends to follow the pavement with her gaze, which in the past has made her crash into people. In any case, I’m stalling. Running into her it is. In a couple of minutes I will finally look into my beloved’s eyes as she acknowledges my existence for the first time. I may as well die right afterwards.
I retrace my steps so I can run around the apartment block to intercept Alazne. Twenty or so teenagers hanging out next to the entrance of a grocery store, right in front of the Pío Baroja high school, almost doom my approach by slowing me down, but as I finally turn the corner I realize that I’m going to make it, because Alazne has turned in my direction. She seems to be heading to the comic shop. She may have left her apartment only for that.
Stumbling deliberately into my unsuspecting Alazne now feels like a sacrilege, but it’s too late to back down.
I walk towards her, and then I feel her solid body as it crashes against my manly torso. My ribs complain, but as I find myself staring down at her hazel, puppy-like eyes, a warm feeling bursts in my heart, an echo of how I felt the first time her guitar playing called out to me and I sneaked into her apartment. The memory couldn’t retain the strength of the emotion now coursing through my body. I’m looking down at Alazne’s pale, freckled face, and she now knows I exist.
“Ah… Excuse me,” she says with her soft, shy voice. “I wasn’t paying attention…”
For a moment I panic. I imagine her hurrying up to walk past me. I imagine myself asking her to please stop for a minute, and in my daydream she mutters ‘no, no, no’ and picks up the pace, as if offering her any degree of human interaction was on the same level as trying to burn her precious skin with a lit cigarette.
However, Alazne’s mouth is slightly open as she keeps staring at me. Something in my expression seems to have stunned her. Maybe my devotion shows in my eyes, that threaten to well up.
I force myself to push my fear aside and speak.
“I’m sorry,” I say in a deep voice that I didn’t know I was capable of producing, until I remember that I have been a man for a while.
I want to continue speaking, but Alazne’s skittish gaze jumps from my eyes to the still healing wound on my forehead, near the hairline. I see myself from her perspective. I’m some almost middle-aged man who clearly hit his head and who now caused a collision with Alazne’s holy self. How could the man in the vision proceed to declare how much he yearns to know her intimately? She would believe me to be some loon with brain damage. But thankfully Alazne’s gaze slides down to my strong jaw and chiseled features in the face of a man nearing forty. I have witnessed around two hundred instances of Alazne either browsing PornHub videos to find the kinds she prefers, or playing from her hard drive those she had saved to rewatch over and over. I know what she’s into.
I open my mouth and I speak from the heart.
“You have an angelic face that could cure men from their darkest depressions.”
Although I wish to have introduced myself with almost any other sentence, Alazne looks taken aback. She has never expected to hear someone compliment her like that, or in any way for that matter.
“Looking at you made my heart stop,” I admit. “I had never felt that with anyone before.”
Alazne’s hands rise to her face, as if trying to hide herself from my view.
“I-I’m sorry…?” she asks sheepishly.
Although I want to put my hand on her shoulder, I don’t.
“I didn’t want to disturb you, but I also can’t ignore what I suddenly feel for you, even though I have never met you before. What’s your name?”
“A-Alazne,” she answers, the tone of her voice resembling that of a kid who has just been caught stealing from a cookie jar.
I swallow a lump in my throat as she looks up at me with her big hazel eyes.
“Well, Alazne. I’m Asier. Let me invite you for a coffee. I want to know you better. Thankfully we are right next to the Pío XII square. We can sit comfortably at one of the outside tables, where we’ll be able to speak at length.”
Alazne gazes around her as if she were looking for an excuse to decline my invitation.
“I think you were heading to the comic shop,” I say. “If you want to buy something now, I’ll wait outside and then we’ll go for a coffee. I’m not in a hurry.”
“No, it’s fine. L-let’s go to the square.”
Alazne starts walking towards my chosen destination. I try to contain my joy. When I adapt my pace to hers, she looks at me timidly.
“Was it that obvious that I was going to the comic shop?”
I smile.
“Nothing wrong with it. Besides, you are sporting the Wings of Freedom, so it’s obvious you are a woman of culture.”
She blushes, and lowers her gaze to the pavement.
“I-I prefer to think that I have refined taste. I’m surprised that… I mean, you don’t look as if you would know what that represents, I wouldn’t have thought.”
“Hey, hey! There’s a lot you don’t know about me yet, although I’ll happily tell you more as we go forward.”
We are entering the wide square. We slow our pace at the same time. Alazne has shoved her hands into the pockets of her hoodie, and the locks of her light brown hair sway with each step. I want so bad to embrace her and kiss her all over that it’s a struggle to contain myself. Alazne is here, she’s truly here, and I’m alive.
There’s a few people crossing the square in diagonal, but thankfully most of the outside tables of the couple of bars and coffee shops are empty.
“I’m sorry, but… have we ever met before?” Alazne asks me. “I get the feeling that we have…”
“I don’t think so, but it certainly feels like we were meant to.”
“I-I can’t say I disagree. It feels as if…”
Even though she doesn’t finish her thought, her words give me such delight that my heart wants to explode. I have to focus. I point at one of the tables under an awning, distanced from the people who are occupying a couple of these tables. I pull away a chair for Alazne, and I sit close enough that I won’t have to turn my head much to hold her gaze as we speak.
The waiter comes immediately. We both order coffee with milk. When the waiter leaves, I hold on tight to Alazne’s gaze.
I have to somehow let her know how rich I am, and how happy I can make her. But how? I haven’t attempted to court a woman in around twenty years, and back then it wasn’t so much courting as just making out and occasionally finding a way to fuck some girl who didn’t want anyone else to know she was shoving her tongue into another girl’s mouth, not to mention what we both were doing with the rest of our bodies.
I take the most direct approach I can think of, and tell her the truth.
“I’m very rich.”
Alazne had lowered her head for a moment, and she raises it sharply.
I’m an idiot, and yet it can work. Alazne needs assertive, strong men. She yearns for them, diddles herself thinking about them. I will be the man of her dreams.
“I’m rich,” I repeat, lowering her expectations slightly.
“Yes…?” she says cautiously.
“I’m not some young guy that’s struggling to make ends meet. I want to make that clear. Almost everyone has a process running on the back of their mind that attempts to figure out how to extract enough money from society so they can pay the bills. I don’t have to worry about that.”
Alazne is struggling to hold my gaze, and her eyebrows are trembling slightly.
“W-well, that’s…”
“I already know I want to share experiences with you that would require certain resources. When we date, you won’t ever have to think about paying for anything.”
Alazne throws a hand over her mouth.
“D-dating? You are so forward… W-why would… I mean, I’m not…”
The waiter, failing to read the mood, interrupts my queen’s holy words to place our orders on the table. I have to contain myself from glaring at the guy. He’s just doing his job, that’s probably how he justified this blasphemy. I will never forgive him, though. When he finally leaves, I calmly pour sugar on the damned coffee with milk I ordered.
“Are you dating someone?” I ask her firmly.
“No…” Alazne says, probably shocked that I would ask her such a question.
I lean forward as I look into her eyes.
“Well, you’re mine now.”
Her lips part slightly in surprise as her pale face turns red.
“Y-you… Y-you can’t just…”
I can almost smell her panties getting damp.
“Had you given up on meeting someone? I only needed to look at you once to realize that you are real in a world lacking true individuals. If nobody else had snatched you up it’s only because people are getting dumber and dumber. I’m not one to let an opportunity like this go, and I know I can make you happy.”
As if wanting a break to put her thoughts in order, Alazne hurries to sweeten her coffee, and then stirs the liquid.
“I… You’re very kind, but I just don’t know if I can… I mean…”
I place my hand on hers. I’m sure she notices how the contact with her skin, one I have yearned for, makes me shiver.
“Go out with me.”
Alazne’s eyes widen and her eyebrows arch up. In an instant, the blood in her face drains, making her paler than usual.
“I will take good care of you, Alazne,” I add confidently.
She casts her gaze down, and to my distress she retracts her hand, lowering it to her lap.
“You don’t know anything about me,” she says softly. “I won’t deny that… something happened when we looked at each other for the first time, but I assure you that if you truly knew me…”
“I wouldn’t want to date you?”
Alazne gulps, and something like fear runs through her facial features for a moment. She rubs her right eye, then raises her gaze towards my conspicuous wound.
“Can I ask what happened? You hit yourself, right…?”
I wonder if she’s picturing me bonking my head against a wall.
“I was in a nasty car accident a couple of weeks ago,” I say. “My car crashed against the highway divider, and I almost died. You could say I visited the afterlife for a bit. In any case, I spent a few days in the hospital. The experience shook me, made me reconsider everything. It was an inflection point. There was a life in this body before I crashed that car, and now another life occupies the man you are looking at.”
Alazne blinks nervously as she heaves a deep and heavy sigh. She shifts her weight in her chair, and she must feel tears coming, because she stops blinking entirely.
“Ah… My parents… They were in an accident when I was a teenager. A car accident as well. They both died. Instantly, I hope. So I…”
I already knew her parents are dead, of course. I accompanied her a few times to their graves. However, I had no clue they had perished in a car accident. It may be fate.
“I’m so sorry to hear that, Alazne,” I say with a distraught tone I don’t need to fake. “How are you holding up?”
I shouldn’t have asked that. Not to her. But I can’t stop to think about every damn word coming out of my hijacked mouth.
“Well, I… Terribly, to be honest. That’s part of the point I intended to make. Ah… I hate cars, that we are supposed to learn how to drive and risk our lives along with strangers that are heading to their destinations way too fast, even though they can die in less than a second if any obstacle shows up in front of them. I don’t know how people stand it. They must have so much confidence in other people. I have been terrified of cars ever since…”
She fades out as she stares at me from the side. She’s expecting me to jump in and complete her thoughts, offer a solution to her fear. I never got a driver’s license before I killed myself those many years ago, and this new life started with my current body getting dragged out of a ruined car. I’ll take the public transport.
“You are right about that. Those things are death machines.”
“They are. You know what else are death machines? Microwaves, electric blankets, coffee makers… I don’t use any of that stuff.”
I blink for a few seconds, unsure of how to react or if I should even react at all. Alazne, making a joke?
“A Luddite, huh? Wishing to go back in time to a comfortable life behind a wall, or three, where people haven’t discovered electricity yet?”
“Something like that.” She shrugs. “I think we are too late to return to such times, though.”
“Maybe the best things have already been invented.”
Alazne drinks more coffee, then shakes her head as she licks her lips.
“You know, I even lost a job a few years back because they wanted me to drive around the province to do some tedious, meaningless work at other offices. They hired me under the condition that I would get my driver’s license in a few months. I found the whole thing so ridiculous… But somehow I was surprised when they let me go.”
I sigh. Let’s just say, my life hadn’t been sunshine and rainbows since I killed myself.
“What’s truly ridiculous is waking up at six in the morning and returning home at around four or five in the afternoon because you need to spend most of your energies at an office, where you do stuff that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, in order to earn enough money to survive.”
She nods, but then averts her gaze as if embarrassed.
“At least you have a job. I’m on unemployment benefits. And they won’t last for much longer.”
“Yeah?” I ask casually.
“I have never managed to land a stable job. I feel that I would need to be someone else for that to happen, have been born a different person. I’ve had quite a few, and they treated me like a loser. The other women pushed me away, bonded over mocking me. Nobody wanted to have me around. I always feared I would get fired at the end of the week, right as I was picking up my things to leave for the weekend.” She sighs. “I just don’t know what to do anymore. I feel like I would be better off dead.”
It only takes a couple of seconds for her to raise her head, startled, as she realizes that she wasn’t talking out loud at home. She hasn’t spoken with anyone outside of an office, let alone a man, let alone a man who wants her, for a long time. Maybe ever, but I wouldn’t know. She had been single the whole time after I came across her that one day, when I heard her playing guitar while I was roaming this city as a hopeless ghost.
I keep looking at Alazne calmly, and when she dares check the effect her words had on me, I share some warmth with my smile.
“I prefer you alive. The afterlife is colorless and boring. A punishment of sorts, one could say. And as I told you, you don’t need to worry about money, nor about wasting your precious time working for someone else. I’ll gladly keep you home, warm and safe.”
I can’t describe the expression that overwhelms her facial features for a moment, because I had never seen it before. But she quickly hides it behind her hands and takes a deep breath.
“Why are you doing this…?” she asks with her voice muffled. “Why would you want to be with me…?”
“Alazne…” I begin in a soothing tone. “Let’s take a walk.”
Once I stand up next to her, she lowers her hands, showing her face again. I grab her left hand. She flinches as if the contact had shocked her, but she doesn’t make any effort to draw back her hand this time.
“Let’s go,” I say.
I lead her away from the square, from the couple dozens of people that either walk around or enjoy their beverages at the outside tables. So close to the center of the city, we are in a poor location to isolate ourselves, but nearby, in Aduana street, I find a narrow path that curves around a residential building on its right side. Beyond the fence to our right there are buildings related to the many railways that occupy a huge chunk of this area. As we hide ourselves from people behind the residential building, we walk a bit further. A natural wall of unkempt wilderness hides the railways. A small cat hurries to cross the path in front of us, and sneaks through a gate into a car depot.
I squeeze Alazne’s warm hand.
“You were saying?” I ask.
She smiles shyly, then looks down.
“I’m a forgotten pot in the corner of a darkened room,” Alazne says in a thin voice.
“We’re all pots in a darkened room. The difference is that some have been carefully brought to the light, and others have been forgotten in the corner.”
“Well, I have been forgotten. Back when they forced others into dragging me for social occasions, nobody ever noticed me. If some guys called out to whatever group I was in, they made a point to address the other girls and never me. But I can extend moments like those to every aspect of my existence, no matter how much I struggle. It’s like my birth was a mistake, and for the rest of my life the universe has been trying to correct it.”
Alazne loses a tear as she squeezes my hand back.
“I want to kill myself,” she admits.
I stop and turn towards her, but she lowers her head to hide her face. I inch closer until I rest her head on my battered ribs. I dare not embrace her until she accepts me.
“Maybe you just need someone to listen to you?” I ask gently.
Alazne sniffles, then nervously rubs her eyes with one hand.
“I hide, I pretend, because otherwise I will be replaced,” she mutters. “I don’t want to see in other people’s eyes the reflection of how much of a disgrace I am, that I’m humiliating them by bothering with me. I was never good enough. I can’t be loved. It is better to disappear from everybody’s gazes and thoughts. It’s better to be alone than to house that pain.”
“It is not.”
“It is. That’s why I want to kill myself. Because I have to live with myself for the rest of my life.”
I don’t have to think about it before I find myself hugging her. I run my fingers slowly along the back of her head. I had never felt this tenderness towards anyone. I wouldn’t have thought it was possible for me.
At first she hugs me back by reflex, but when she realizes what’s happening, she gets scared and pushes herself away from me. Her face is contorted with disgust and shame.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “I just…”
I shut her up with my mouth. Her lips are soft. A shiver moves through her body as I press my own against hers. I feel her heartbeat quicken. Alazne doesn’t resist, so I deepen the kiss. I taste the creaminess of her saliva, I feel the living muscle of her tongue as it caresses mine. I pull her tighter to me; she’s the only thing in this world worth keeping. I wish I could do nothing for the rest of this stolen life than experience the warm wetness of her mouth.
I break away from our lip lock. Alazne is staring at me, her face flushed. I can’t tell if it’s embarrassment or arousal. I rest my forehead on hers and get to watch the freckles on the bridge of her nose from up close. I look into the hazel irises as if daring her to blink.
“Even if you can’t help but hate yourself,” I say, “or others can’t stop themselves from disliking you, I will love you anyway.”
A sob escapes her lips.
“But why…?”
“The whys don’t matter remotely as much as people like to pretend.”
After I move back, Alazne exhales and looks up at me through tear-filled eyes. I touch the tip of her nose with my index finger.
“I kept you from buying some stuff at the comic shop,” I remind her. “Let’s go. Afterwards you’ll get my number and I’ll get yours, and this friday I’ll take you out so we can have some fun.”
She nods.
“Just don’t hurt me,” she says.
I smile.
“Nah, I will hurt you a bit. Just the way you like it.”

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