We take a break to eat lunch outdoors. The sun warms our skin moderately, and the fresh breeze brings sea smells. We eat hungrily from our standard combo plates. I finish before Alazne, but to be fair I also spent many, many years lacking a body that could process food. It worries me how much I enjoy shoving crap into my mouth now. I have been keeping Asier’s dumbbells and his exercise bench busy, because I don’t want to deal with getting fat, not when I need to look good for my girl.
I turn on my phone, and I see that the reception is strong. That reminds me that we are much closer to civilization than what I would prefer, but I’m enjoying the view of the vast sea, which feels like coming up for air after being underwater for far too long.
As Alazne finishes eating and cleans her fingers, I get the urge to take a photo of her. It’s the future: the current generation of phones capture moments at a tremendous resolution, and I intend to hoard many photos of my Alazne for those long hours or even days when we won’t be able to see each other.
“I’m capturing your essence with my fancy new phone, if you don’t mind,” I tell her.
“Go ahead. Take a good photo if you can.”
I snap a quick photo. I navigate through the complicated menus, with buttons you need to press on the screen, to bring up my masterpiece: I have captured Alazne’s angelic, pale, freckled face, her slightly furrowed brow as she worries about how she’s going to look, but also a pleasant smile because she welcomes the attention. Her big, hazel eyes are narrowed like a cat’s, and she has combed some locks of her light brown hair behind her ears so they wouldn’t get on her food. Her eyebrows are thin and curved, her nose small and cute, with its bridge just beneath her eyes.
Proud, I turn my phone towards Alazne.
“Look! What a masterpiece of nature.”
“Oh, please!” She turns redder. “I don’t look good at all! Turn it off, I don’t want to see!”
I smile knowingly and shake my head.
“I will cherish this photo of you for a thousand lifetimes. And when I finally manage to copy it into the computer, I’m sure it will look clear even in my brand new monitor! I still can believe the amount of pixels these things pack now.”
Alazne chuckles softly.
“You are such a dad.”
“A dad, huh? I guess this body is showing its age,” I say as I focus on the phone to make sure I don’t delete the photo by mistake.
Alazne has gone quiet. When I look up again, her smile has frozen, and she’s looking down and beyond the table. Her brows twitch for a moment.
“Are you okay?” I ask.
She snaps her head towards me. She’s breathing deeply.
“Yes! I’m fine. Just… Just thinking about something. I have to go to the bathroom, though.”
Some minutes later we planned to go through the remainder of the attractions that aren’t aimed at, and full of, screaming children, but we first stop in front of a small souvenir shop. Although I try to convince Alazne to buy lots of stuff with my money, and that I’ll hold the bags, she only agrees to purchase a grey hoodie with the name of the city on it. A wasted opportunity.
We both shoot fake rifles at a colorful map of Spain. I hoped to earn a bunch of plush toys, but Alazne is the one who ends up winning a stuffed dark seal. I would have loved to have it for myself, to be honest. However, when Alazne offers it to me, I refuse.
“Nah, keep it and hug it at night wishing it were me.”
“Don’t worry, it is you!” she says while grinning, but then she covers her mouth with her free hand.
I would have loved to just make out with her for half an hour right at that spot, but we move on.
We discover an indoors rollercoaster with a space theme. I don’t recall having seen it before, or maybe it hadn’t been built yet; although my memory has grown unreliable, I think I only came to this amusement park once as a ghost, and I wasn’t in the best of moods back then. The ride plunges us in darkness except for the bright images of starships and stars. The car turns a bit too sharply for two people who are digesting a meal. However, Alazne is clinging to me as if she’s hoping we’ll end up glued to each other, so my stomach can take on anything at the moment.
After we get out, Alazne asks to rest for a while. We find an empty bench nearby, behind some bushes that separate us from the main stream of visitors.
“That made me a bit dizzy,” she says.
I don’t think the ride made her feel that way, but rather the feeling of being so close to me, as if she’s one more step closer to falling in love. Or maybe that’s just my wishful thinking. I put my arm around her shoulders to stroke her hair. After half a minute, she looks up towards me and focuses on the still healing wound close to my hairline, obviously from back when Asier tried, and I guess succeeded, to kill himself by driving his car into the opposite lane. Alazne is studying my wound carefully, and I know that it looks significantly worse than healthy skin, so I grow uncomfortable.
“Does it still hurt?” Alazne asks in a higher-pitched voice.
“Only when I scratch it. And also randomly throughout the day.”
Alazne hugs me and leans in to push her wet lips against my wound. She does it so gently and lovingly that my temperature raises. When she tries to pull away, I don’t let her, and tangle her in a makeout session of a couple of minutes.
Alazne looks tired. I’m about to say something when she suggests we try to locate new rides. As we walk around, we come across a square circumscribed by a balustrade, and that offers a view so wide of the surrounding lands that it feels as if we should be able to overlook the entire province. On our left, the ocean extends to the horizon, I guess until it reaches Iceland or the North Pole or whatever the hell is in that direction. Alazne yawns noisily, her eyes brimming with tears.
“You’re sleepy. Should we go home?” I ask with genuine concern. This is a woman who could barely stay awake from morning to night even if she just spent it holed up at home.
“No. I don’t want to return yet.”
Less than a minute later we descend some steps and we see the track, if one could call it that, of a water ride so narrow and close to sharp falls that it makes me nervous. Alazne, however, lets out a noise of delight, and points at a water wheel that keeps turning. She pulls on my arm.
“Ah, I want to get in this one.”
As we get in line for our boat to come, I realize that the breeze is getting chillier. Nothing worrying yet, but the vast view from up here shows that a cloudy front is sliding towards the city from the sea. In any case, we sit in our boat, and the precarious ride begins. The track follows an artificial cliff to amaze people with the view of the city, but it only takes me about a minute to feel weird. It’s not exactly vertigo: as a ghost I used to jump from rooftops, and whatever city I ended up in, I made my way up the highest skyscrapers and performed some leaps of faith, assassin style. But this feeling that threatens to overwhelm me is something different: a fear of managing to fuck up enough that I fall and die, which would mean that I would abandon Alazne, maybe destroy her utterly through my carelessness.
Alazne is holding on tight to my arm. When the track goes into a short, old tunnel with cavities mined in the left side to exhibit some counterfeit-looking Disney characters, I turn towards my girl to tell her, for no particular reason, that I’m not feeling good, but I realize that she’s crying profusely. I freeze, my heart stops for a moment. Alazne must have been containing herself, because she now convulses as if hiccuping. She doesn’t look in as much despair as the amount of tears suggests, but she’s also keeping herself from sobbing by closing her mouth tight.
A pang of guilt pierces my heart. Have I triggered some kind of trauma? I hug her from the side as best as I can, and lean in towards her ear while I stroke her neck.
“What’s wrong? You can tell me.”
Alazne trembles as she shakes her head slowly. She offers me a sad smile that doesn’t calm me down in the slightest, and she turns towards me to bury her face in my neck, wetting my skin.
I embrace her tight. I wish we were somewhere else instead of being carried by a boat along one of the most concerning tracks I’ve witnessed. Above all, I need to protect and keep warm this unique being that is huddled against me. A swell of emotion tightens my throat.
“My precious girl,” I whisper against her hair.
As soon as we get out of that ride, we head to the exit of the amusement park. I must have pressed Alazne too much for a first date, or maybe for any date. She now looks depleted and clings to my arm as we take the cable car down to the city.
I’m worried. For this date I figured out online what bus stops we should walk to, which bus line we should wait for. Returning to the Amara Euskotren station will take walking for significantly longer than Alazne may tolerate in her current state.
However, after we walk downhill from the cable car station towards the park near Ondarreta beach, passing in front of fenced tennis courts, Alazne points towards the beach, and in a vulnerable voice she asks me if we can sit on the low wall that delimits it. Although she has stopped crying, she looks weary as if she needs to be alone in a darkened room.
It’s already five and a half in the afternoon, and it won’t take that much longer for the sun to begin a quick slide towards the horizon. After we sit aligned with the band of breaking waves about ten meters below, I cup Alazne’s head to bring her closer to mine. I kiss my girl deeply. We keep caressing each other’s tongue, and rubbing our backs and shoulders, for a couple of minutes or maybe more. Afterwards we merely remain in each other’s arms for a while.
“I feel like a fool,” she tells me.
“You’re not a fool. I’d tell you all the things I believe you to be, but you’d suffer a sugar overdose.”
Alazne lowers her gaze towards the beach and wipes her eyes slowly.
“I have no idea how you convinced me,” she says in a low voice. “I had learned that adding people to my life would only mean buying pain that would end up echoing until I died. You can try to convince yourself that all that pain is worth it. All these people we’ve come across today, that myriad of strangers, seem to get by just fine. But the math never added up for me. If you allow someone to worm their way into your heart, you are just pushing a poisoned pin into it. And eventually comes all that you had chosen to sign into: the feeling that you, because you are yourself, have lost something precious you will never get back. All that guilt, all that regret. It never gets any easier. It piles up like a landfill.”
I can’t figure out what to say. I keep looking into her eyes, helpless.
Alazne curves the corners of her mouth upwards slightly, and then she combs a swaying lock of light brown hair back behind her ear.
“I think people like me can at the most fantasize about meeting by chance someone as broken as ourselves. It’s not even about having an intimate relationship with them in a romantic or sexual sense, but just about being able to recognize in this meaningless and hopeless universe, and feel it down to our bones, that someone else understands how alone we are.”
“So you’re saying you’ll never…” I struggle to say, but I can’t continue that sentence. I don’t even know where it was supposed to go.
Alazne caresses my cheek with an understanding look. A few isolated tears are jumping from the corners of her eyes.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “In that sense, maybe you are too normal for me. It does worry me. You are well put together, and I’m doomed. Still, I… I think it’s better for me to date you. If my other half were someone as broken as me, we’d end up dead in a month. I know it too well… What I need as a human being that is forced to continue existing in this ridiculous world is someone who can drag me out of my hole, discipline me… Break me out of my endless cycles of pondering everything over and over and rarely coming up with conclusions.”
I clear my throat. Despite her last sentences, I’m terrified that some of her next words will include a decision to never see me again.
“Does it mean that you don’t like me much, because you think I’m not particularly broken?” I ask in a vulnerable tone that I wouldn’t have used willingly.
Alazne chuckles as if I’m being an idiot. Then she passes one of her hanging legs over the low wall to the street’s side, so she can hug me fully.
“Not at all. Believe me, I have never… Truly, I have never felt this for anyone. I’m exploring new territory. I want it to stay.”
It’s already evening and the city is losing light quickly as we reach the Easo street on foot. A kilometer or so away we’ll arrive at our train station. I can’t wait, because I’m spent. I feel like a shriveled raisin. However, both Alazne and I find ourselves glancing at the proud apartment buildings to our left. They are in a different category than the working class towers of nests that I identify with most of the cities between Donostia and Irún, and in Irún itself, particularly the area where Alazne lives.
“Must be nice, huh?” she says softly, exhausted.
“Yeah. A lot of things must be nice. I’ll try to find some of those. If you are referring to living in a better place than… Well, what I know of your apartment building, you don’t have stay there for much longer if you don’t want to. I live in Hondarribia, as I said, in a nice house inside a gated community. Nothing nearby resembling the throng of this area, nor any bastardly old men wearing tracksuits who walk their shitty dogs. Whenever you want, just come live with me.”
Alazne’s eyes widen, astonished. We stop, because she nearly trips.
“Are you being serious?”
“I would be far too cruel if I was joking around about this. I know it’s too soon… Not the kind of thing you say to your girlfriend on your first date, but–“
“No, I know what you mean. I feel as if I have found who I was supposed to be with.”
As I stand close to her and my heart beats quicker, I remember the day when I first heard Alazne play guitar. I had felt drawn to her song, and then to her presence, as if I had sensed the threads that had tethered us both to each other from some ancient beginning.
“Yeah, that’s… I said something to that effect, didn’t I?”
Alazne holds on to my shirt with both hands, and steps closer so the tips of our shoes touch. People keep walking by us.
“It must be a red flag, right?” she whispers. “This urge to declare what I feel towards you, when we have barely started seeing each other. But…”
“I can’t say I care about any red flags. They are not relevant to people like us.”
Alazne’s eyes are glistening, and her expression implores me as nakedly as I’ve ever seen.
“Then, please, never let me go. Be with me forever.”
I feel my whole body heat up, and I can’t think of anything else than how our lips should meet. I guess that the people around us think that we are too old for a display like this. Sucks to be them.
Once our train leaves the Amara station, we each put on a pair of expensive earphones, and Alazne asks me to play from the beginning Laura Marling’s ‘Rambling Man’, which we had cut short on our way here. It’s dark out. Alazne is drained, close to mute, and fights to keep her eyes open. Past Oiartzun, as Waxahatchee’s ‘Silver’ pours into our ears, Alazne’s eyes finally roll back and she dozes off, about to fall forward, but she catches herself and straightens her back.
I reach with my hand to caress her opposite cheek, then I kiss her lips.
“Why are you resisting to fall asleep, sweetie?”
“B-because I’m going to lose my stop and end up in France.”
“You silly girl, just lean against my head and fall asleep. I will wake you up when we arrive at your station. Then we’ll walk together to your apartment. I fear that otherwise you may collapse of exhaustion along the way.”
She looks at me baffled. She hadn’t considered it a possibility. I guess she always thought of herself as standing in this world with only her two feet. She lowers her head, and by how her eyes get watery I fear she will start crying profusely again, but she then closes them and leans towards me. I also lean her way, so she rests against my head. I take her hand in mine and I stroke it slowly. In less than a minute, Alazne starts breathing deeper.
The woman that I walk up to her apartment building is as close to an empty husk as a human being can be. She’s almost sleepwalking, but fortunately I’m holding her up by her waist. Finally under the lights of the hallway of her apartment building, Alazne embraces me tightly.
“I can’t do these plans every day, I’m afraid, given that this body and this brain feel like I’m running on borrowed fumes,” she says in a similarly hollow voice. “My energy never recharges enough. But I look forward to the many experiences we will have together.”
“That’s good, because I would hate to tire you out any more than I have.”
“I’m shaking a bit…” she says. “Let’s go inside. I need to sleep for a whole day…”
She opens her bag and takes out her keys, which hang from a keychain that’s also ‘Attack on Titan’ merchandise: it features a chibi version of some character I don’t recognize from here. Alazne hasn’t even noticed that she invited me to sleep with her, but she has endured too much for today.
I cup her head and kiss her goodnight.
“Don’t hesitate to message me or call me as soon as you want. I’ll wait until you do, in fact, because otherwise I fear I’m going to wake you up.”
“Hmm… Yes, I’ll message you soon. Thank you for today, Asier.”
As she shambles into the elevator and its door closes, I find myself standing for a while in the artificially lighted hallway. I hear a dog’s echoed barking from a few streets away. “That’s right,” I tell myself to try to lighten the weight pulling my organs towards the ground. “I’m that guy who went around fucking up everything he touched and who then died, and I will keep showing that face to you until the end.”