I hope Alazne forgives me for causing her, a severely depressed person, to wake up at around seven in the morning so I can meet her at her apartment building’s door. But it’s time for our first date. The last time we spoke to each other in person I had promised that we would have a fun time together, and I fully intend to make Alazne happier than if she had remained at home to sulk alone.
I get off the bus close to Alazne’s apartment in Belaskoenea, and as I approach the front door of her working-class apartment building, down the street I spot an old man I have grown to hate: the self-appointed neighborhood watchman who annoyed me for staking out the building. He’s wearing the same likely foul-smelling tracksuit, and walking a tiny Maltese dog. I try to avoid even looking in the bastard’s direction; after all, I should only associate bliss with anything related to my beloved Alazne. But when I press the doorbell of Alazne’s third floor apartment, the old man notices me and glares at me. Damn old turd! In this body, I’m much bigger than you. Some people have no sense of self-preservation.
I hear a metallic crinkling sound as Alazne answers the doorbell.
“Is that you, Asier?”
I’m Irene, though, and I’d much rather have my beloved calling me by my actual name, but then again she has no clue that I’m a woman wearing a dead man’s corpse. For a second my heart sinks, but in a minute or so I’ll get to see my beloved again, which makes every lie worth it.
“That’s right,” I answer.
“I’ll be down in a minute!”
I realize that the front door is actually open, and I enter the comfortably cool hallway. I’m getting nervous. I can’t wait to look at Alazne’s angelic face again. I begin pacing back and forth.
The elevator opens, and Alazne walks out. As soon as she sees me she offers me a shy smile that lights my heart. She’s wearing a grey cardigan over a loose top that’s a lighter shade of grey, and frayed jeans. No jewelry, not even earrings. A small crossbody bag hangs under her right arm.
“H-hey, you,” she greets me, her cheeks tinging pink.
I have grown so used to watching Alazne either just wearing pyjamas, or t-shirts and shorts, or any variety of ‘Attack on Titan’ apparel, back when I was a ghost stalking her at home, that I’m well aware that she must have agonized over which clothes to wear to our first date.
I have failed to greet her back, and Alazne catches me checking out her attire. She looks down as if to examine her choices, and grows embarrassed.
“To be honest, I haven’t bought new clothes in a long time. I wasn’t sure what to wear. I must look a bit shabby.”
I walk up quickly to her, which takes her by surprise, then I cup her head and kiss her mouth. Her saliva tastes like mouthwash. As I lick her tongue, she doesn’t react for a moment, but then she hugs my waist and licks me back as she breathes deeper through her nose.
We finally part, and I place my forehead against hers.
“I couldn’t wait to see you again,” I say. “You look like an angel, you know.”
Alazne lowers her gaze again, her cheeks now tinged red.
“L-let’s go,” she says as she links her arm with mine.
After we exit her apartment building and we walk down the street towards the Belaskoenea train station, which is around three minutes away, I realize that the old man is standing between two houses while his little dog pees, and he’s following Alazne and me with his gaze as if I couldn’t just cross the street and clobber him for his insulting indiscretion. When we pass him by on the other side of the street, I flip him the bird behind Alazne’s back.
We reach the train station and wait for the next ride towards Donostia. I had only told Alazne that we were heading for that city, but it was the obvious choice. I haven’t seen many cities as beautiful as the capital of the province where I decided to settle. Just walking along it’s coast, past the La Concha beach, would have made for a lovely date.
Thankfully Alazne and I manage to sit next to each other. Having her so close, with our legs touching casually, is making me all tingly. I reveal that I have come prepared: not only I bought a MP3 player, but also a headphone splitter and two way too expensive earphones, which should deliver sublime audio quality. Money is no object. I know damn well how much Alazne cares about music, given that it was the main thing that could brighten her day to day, rescuing her for a while from her perennial depression.
When she notices that I’m going to enhance our forty minutes trip with music, she perks up, but then grows apprehensive as if she fears receiving a bad gift. Still, she combs her light brown hair behind her tender-looking ears, and shoves the earbuds into her ear canals. As I fiddle with what for me is a piece of modern technology, Alazne ventures to apologize in advance.
“Ah… I am very much into music, but I have particular tastes. I can’t stand most of what plays in the radio, so…”
“So you worry that the man who insisted on dating you might be a fanatic of reggaeton?”
“Our relationship would for sure be doomed if that were the case.”
I chuckle, then press play.
“Let’s see if we’ll have to cut this date very short,” I say.
Along many other fascinating discoveries, living in Alazne’s apartment as a ghost had allowed me to find out which songs she loved to play over and over, and it wasn’t a compromise on my part to share them with her now, because I loved her music as well. We were that compatible from the beginning. I chose to introduce my beloved to my musical tastes with The Velvet Underground’s “Oh! Sweet Nuthin'”. It only takes a couple of seconds of those melancholic guitar notes and the slow drum beats for Alazne to look up towards my eyes and for her mouth to curl in a rare smile.
“This… This is my jam,” she says with a thin voice, and reaches to turn the volume up on the player.
Less than a minute later, Alazne relaxes and leans into my shoulder. I entwine my fingers with hers on her lap. I keep staring at the passing waves of green beyond the window, cropped against the Jaizkibel mountain. For our first date we have been given a blue sky with only a few shreds of cloud. I close my eyes to feel the warmth of Alazne’s hand better as the song launches into its solo. I couldn’t get into heaven as a ghost, but I am there now.
“One of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard,” Alazne says close to my ear. “I have loved it for many years. But this time it sounded better.”
Alazne wasn’t ready for the onslaught of satisfying surprises I kept clobbering her with, one song after another. I even managed to surprise her with a few of my personal picks. For example, one of my favorites: The Unicorn’s ‘Tuff Ghost’. Not only it’s idiosyncratic and weird and has a punching solo, but it includes the word ‘ghost’ in the title, and it’s about a ghost. I also enjoy their song ‘Sea Ghost’ for some of those reasons. I first heard that album, and then over and over, back in 2007 when I lived for a while with a doomed, breathing person in Switzerland, who spent most of his days either listening to The Unicorn’s ‘Who Will Cut Our Hair When We’re Gone?’, or crying along to Joanna Newsom’s ‘Ys’.
By the way, the following is the full list of songs I wanted to dazzle my Alazne with:
‘What It Is’ – Angel Olsen
‘The Bells’ – Anna St. Louis
‘Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)’ – Arcade Fire
‘Neighborhood #2 (Laika)’ – Arcade Fire
‘Silver Soul’ – Beach House
‘Every Time I Hear That Song’ – Brandi Carlile
‘Broken Chairs’ – Built to Spill
‘Else’ – Built to Spill
‘Broken Record’ – The Cairo Gang
‘3 Legged Animals’ – Califone
‘Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away’ – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
‘K’ – The Clientele
‘Since K Got Over Me’ – The Clientele
‘Snookered’ – Dan Deacon
‘Periphery’ – Fiona Apple
‘Regret’ – Fiona Apple
‘Passing Afternoon’ – Iron & Wine
‘Marlene’ – Jackson C. Frank
‘White Rabbit’ – Jefferson Airplane
‘Cut Connection’ – Jesca Hoop
‘Baby Birch’ – Joanna Newsom
‘Cosmia’ – Joanna Newsom
‘Does Not Suffice’ – Joanna Newsom
‘Kingfisher’ – Joanna Newsom
‘Monkey & Bear’ – Joanna Newsom
‘On a Good Day’ – Joanna Newsom
‘Only Skin’ – Joanna Newsom
‘Something On Your Mind’ – Karen Dalton
‘Always This Way’ – Laura Marling
‘I Speak Because I Can’ – Laura Marling
‘Nothing, Not Nearly’ – Laura Marling
‘Pray For Me’ – Laura Marling
‘Rambling Man’ – Laura Marling
‘The Valley’ – Laura Marling
‘All I Want’ – LCD Soundsystem
’10 Años Después’ – Los Rodríguez
‘La Puerta De Al Lado’ – Los Rodríguez
‘Night Shift’ – Lucy Dacus
‘Tuesday’s Gone’ – Lynyrd Skynyrd
‘Free Bird’ – Lynyrd Skynyrd
‘Fireworks’ – Mitski
‘3rd Planet’ – Modest Mouse
‘Custom Concern’ – Modest Mouse
‘Edit the Sad Parts’ – Modest Mouse
‘Talking Shit About A Pretty Sunset’ – Modest Mouse
‘Abel’ – The National
‘Apartment Story’ – The National
‘Slow Show’ – The National
‘In The Aeroplane Over The Sea’ – Neutral Milk Hotel
‘Holland, 1945’ – Neutral Milk Hotel
‘King Of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 1’ – Neutral Milk Hotel
‘Two-Headed Boy, Pt. 1’ – Neutral Milk Hotel
‘Two-Headed Boy, Pt. 2’ – Neutral Milk Hotel
‘The Bleeding Heart Show’ – The New Pornographers
”Cello Song’ – Nick Drake
‘Mr. Self Destruct’ – Nine Inch Nails
‘The Past Is A Grotesque Animal’ – Of Montreal
‘The Last Living Rose’ – PJ Harvey
‘Kids’ – PUP
‘See You At Your Funeral’ – PUP
‘Airbag’ – Radiohead
‘Daydreaming’ – Radiohead
‘Let Down’ – Radiohead
‘No Surprises’ – Radiohead
‘Planet Telex’ – Radiohead
‘The Same Old Rock’ – Roy Harper
‘I Am The Resurrection’ – The Stone Roses
‘Sea Ghost’ – The Unicorns
‘Tuff Ghost’ – The Unicorns
‘Don’t Lie’ – Vampire Weekend
‘I Found a Reason’ – The Velvet Underground
“Oh! Sweet Nuthin'” – The Velvet Underground
‘Who Loves the Sun’ – The Velvet Underground
‘I Lost You’ – The Walkmen
‘Seven Years Of Holidays (For Stretch)’ – The Walkmen
‘Silver’ – Waxahatchee
‘Swan Dive’ – Waxahatchee
‘Across The Sea’ – Weezer
‘Only in Dreams’ – Weezer
‘Undone (The Sweater Song)’ – Weezer
‘Baba O’ Riley’ – The Who
‘Dear Songs And Daughters of Hungry Ghosts’ – Wolf Parade
‘I’ll Believe In Anything’ – Wolf Parade
‘Happy’ – The Wrens
‘She Sends Kisses’ – The Wrens
The train reaches Donostia’s Amara station while we were listening to Laura Marling’s ‘Rambling Man’. Having to cut that one short feels like a sacrilege, and I can tell by Alazne’s expression that she doesn’t like it either, but when we step onto the station, Alazne holds on to my right arm as if she doesn’t want to stop touching me for the entire date. After we walk through the main building of the station and exit in front of the Easo square, she nudges me for us to cross through it despite the homeless-looking people that often tend to occupy those benches. As we approach the gazebo, Alazne looks up towards me with a shy smile.
“I’m very easy to please, I think, and you have already given me the most satisfying forty minutes in a long time.”
Wait until I give you the five minutes of satisfaction I’ve been daydreaming about.
“I’m glad to hear you’re easy to please. Takes a load off my shoulders. So you appreciate my music taste?”
“For the most part, it was mine.”
She’s right about that.
“I guess that some of those songs you heard for the first time,” I say. “Did they fit your particular tastes as well?”
She nods, and touches my shoulder with the side of her head.
“I liked them.”
I would have preferred more elaborate praise, but I won’t complain.
“I am not surprised that our tastes match to that degree. Like I told you, the first time I looked at you it felt like we were meant to be.”
Her shoulders rise and fall as she takes a deep breath, but her smile is still there when she looks at me again.
We stand next to a construction fence and a group of tourists with backpacks as we wait for the traffic light to turn green.
“I get the feeling that music is very important for you,” I say.
“It’s one of the few things I can look forward to,” she says. She’s only holding my hand now, and she squeezes it warmly. “Thank you for indulging me.”
“I plan to indulge you in many things. Maybe too many from your perspective, but we’ll figure out the balance on that.”
My words make her laugh softly, and she stares into my eyes when the light turns green.
“Only if you won’t have a problem with me liking you too much.”
“I’ve had worse problems. I’m not the kind of guy who only wants the woman of his dreams for a rainy day.”
“Well, that’s good then.”
Few pass through this area of the city without veering towards the large square that contains the Buen Pastor cathedral. A lovely mix of gothic, baroque and modern architecture. I suppose, I’m not a buildingsmith. I’ve never been inside the cathedral; I never cared that much even as a ghost. Still, I’m sure it has a real good churchy vibe.
Alazne focuses on a cathedral closest to her interests: that of a music store that shows off expensive Gibson electric guitars. I would never pay that much for an instrument, and I’m rich.
Alazne’s expression, as much as I can tell from her profile, suggests that of a shivering orphan looking into a rich person’s living room that’s kept warm with a fireplace.
“This… This looks really cool,” she says, staring at the display.
To my surprise, she sounds like she’s never been here.
“Are you thinking of learning how to play an instrument?”
“I-I’ve always wanted to play the guitar.”
“Wanted to? You don’t know how to play it?”
“I… can’t justify taking classes.”
I’m not sure why she’s pretending she doesn’t know how to play the guitar.
“Do you want me to buy you a guitar at least? You can begin to figure out how to play it through YouTube videos, I’m sure.”
She gets surprised, then shakes her head and tugs on my arm for us to keep walking.
“I can’t accept that. It’s not right, you are being far too generous. W-We have only seen each other in person for two days.”
It’s surprisingly easy to be generous with a dead person’s money.
“So? I would also get you a keyboard, as well as some drums and amplifiers. Your neighbors would love it.”
Alazne lowers her head.
“I already avoid looking at my neighbors in the face. They might join forces to evict me in that case.”
A few minutes later we reach my intended bus stop, in a street lined with palm trees. The row of buildings in front of us hides the view of the beach. When I make a point of stopping to wait for the bus, Alazne is confused.
“You planned for us to go somewhere in particular? I thought we were just walking around the city.”
For someone as reclusive as Alazne, I’m sure walking aimlessly through Donostia and getting to gaze at the bay would have been enough.
“One of the advantages of being a couple is that you can share experiences that otherwise might not seem worth the effort.” When I stop to think about my words, they sound wrong. “I mean that visiting some places feels better when you are accompanied by someone you actually want to spend time with.”
“I get what you mean. Sorry if I’m being a downer, I’m just not used to this.”
I put my arm around her shoulders and kiss her head.
“Don’t worry about anything. I want to show you a good time, or at the very least make your day better than it would have been otherwise.”
She tightens her lips and turns her head away from me slightly.
“You are too kind. Too good for me.”
“If you saw yourself through my eyes, you would know how silly you are being.”
Alazne blushes. A middle-aged couple notices and they smile kindly towards her, which makes Alazne turn her head towards me in embarrassment.
“I would have spent my whole day at home, and the most I would have to look forward to would have been rewatching last week’s episode.”
“Well then, it’s a good thing I came along when I did.”
“My point is that I can’t figure out how to do anything by myself,” she says, but her eyes dart around as if she isn’t comfortable with her own words. “I’m just boring, I mean.”
“I don’t care about how boring you might be as long as I can look at your pretty, freckled face.”
Alazne’s eyes widen and her cheeks grow a deeper shade of red.
“I’m not pretty enough for you,” she says, almost in a whisper.
“You keep being silly. What episode was last week’s, anyway? The eighth?”
“Y-You are following it as well, huh?”
“Of course. I can’t get enough of titans, even if there aren’t many around any longer. Of the animal-minded ones, at least.”
Alazne turns her whole body as I’m resting my arm on her shoulders, then she leans into me from the front, resting her head on my chest.
“You don’t have to be into everything I am, you know,” she says seriously, but with gratitude. “It’s not good if you are not being genuine.”
“Hey, I did recognize that logo on your hoodie from the beginning, didn’t I?”
“I just get obsessed about stuff like that because I don’t have a life of my own. I have to get my share of excitement from somewhere, I suppose.”
“Well, I hope that as our life gets more interesting, you won’t stop watching your shows nor reading your manga. That would get boring. I don’t want to become one of those couples that only talk about whatever they say on the state-sponsored news.”
She glances at me with a smile. She looks much healthier than that time I witnessed her testing how to strangle herself with a sheet.
“Yes, I’ll keep obsessing over Japanese stuff. I couldn’t care less about the news.”
Our bus arrives, and it takes us on a scenic route along the La Concha beach. I never got tired of this view, so I wait in silence until the bus leaves the fancy, likely expensive as hell, beachside restaurant La Perla behind, and then the full view of the bay opens up. Beyond the dozens who are enjoying the water on this mostly sunny day, on the right side of the panorama, a green, foresty mound blocks the horizon. The base of the mound is encircled by a small town, and the nearby waters are scattered with shiny leisure boats. In the middle of the bay there’s another green mound that from some angles looks like a cetacean, but from here it kind of looks like a flattened breast with some serious skin infection. And on the left side of the panorama, the villas of the much richer than me have grown uphill on a large cape topped with our destination. I make a mental note to downplay my riches if Alazne brings them up, because I’m not villa-on-a-hill rich.
Alazne is placidly staring at the view as she squints against the sun.
“This is one of those things they say…” she begins with a low, shy voice.
“What do you mean?”
“That the view looks better when you share it with someone.”
I smile. I don’t react, afraid to break the spell. We don’t speak for as long as the bus ride keeps following the beachfront, but eventually it distances itself from the coast to climb the road that surrounds the fenced Miramar palace grounds. The ride takes us on a long detour that returns to the beachfront at the beginning of Ondarreta beach, similarly crowded on this nice day.
Alazne keeps looking around towards the sumptuous houses of this area, an area known to regular people because of the fancy options for night leisure. My woman then cranes her pretty neck on the direction of the Peine del Viento, even though you can’t see it from here due to the heavy vegetation.
“Ah, we are going to the Peine,” she says. “I haven’t been there in so long.”
“Not today, but I’m for sure going to bring you there at night for purely romantic reasons.”
She blushes and averts her gaze. She looks cuter the more shy and embarrassed, so I’m surely going to create regular trouble for her.
The bus finally leaves us at our destination, close to the old cable car station. As Alazne and I head towards it, she wonders out loud what this place is, until she reads ‘FUNICULAR MONTE IGUELDO’ over the front doors.
Shortly after we enter the old-fashioned station we locate the cable car itself, which is painted red, is prominently sponsored by Coca-Cola, and has been built awkwardly angled to follow the upward slope of the tracks.
“This thing looks pretty cool by itself, huh?” I say to Alazne. “Reminds me of those scenes in which the main couple would get in a ferris wheel to sit shoulder to shoulder, then make out on the top.”
“Not the most original of scenes,” she says, “But I guess it doesn’t need to be.”
We get into one of the cabins as a group of teenagers gets out. When I sit next to Alazne, I’m a bit concerned with how uneasy she seems. Does she suffer from vertigo, or gets dizzy on these kinds of rides? As the cable car operator closes the doors and then the vehicle begins its climb, I scour my memory for any instance during the time I knew my beloved as a ghost that could give me a clue for what she might be thinking, but it’s hard to extrapolate when most of what she did was stay at home, watch shows, cry and masturbate.
The cable car is moving uphill slowly in between old houses and spooky-looking vegetation.
“Alazne, are you alright?” I ask her softly as I hold her closest hand.
“I’m just thinking about… things.”
“Things as in…”, I say, trying to sound as non-threatening as possible.
Alazne is looking out of the window as if wanting to keep her head turned away from me.
“We are going to the amusement park, right?” she asks, her voice sounding a bit weaker than usual.
“Yes, we are. Was that a bad idea? It’s a nice place to spend some hours in. People don’t get to do that often. Many barely visit one of these places once every few years. I’ve missed being in one, and I’m sure we are going to enjoy it much more together.”
“I-it’s a bit… I feel threatened, althought that’s not the word I’m looking for. Because it’s a place where people are supposed to have fun, but I haven’t been able to feel anything resembling that excitement in a long time. Not because I don’t try things that should be exciting. In fact, over the years I stopped bothering because they did nothing. It’s hard for me to feel anything resembling happiness or joy.”
Ah, this is about her seemingly lifelong struggle with depression.
“It has been ongoing,” she continues. “There was one year when I felt happy, but I think that was the residual effect of becoming an adult and thinking I was going to leave bad memories behind me. A foolish thing to believe, in retrospect… Everything has felt flattened and colorless for so long, devoid of meaning.”
“That’s depression screwing with your brain,” I say.
“Well, sure, but that’s all there is. You can only feel as much happiness as your brain allows you to feel, right?”
I’m not sure how to answer that statement as a ghost inhabiting a man’s corpse. Maybe my couple of decades in the afterlife aren’t that distanced from Alazne’s experience with major depression, with the added disgrace in her case that she’s supposed to exist in the same reality as all those other millions of people who do enjoy or at least tolerate their day to day lives. Alazne lives among them as a ghost. There were times in the afterlife in which I felt that I was wading through mud during every second, and I know that I wouldn’t remain sane for long if I had been forced to endure it constantly. I can’t say that I blame the insane, ancient ghosts I came across for how they behaved.
“Yeah…” I say, unsure of how to respond. “I guess that’s true.”
Alazne scratches her cheek absentmindedly.
“Back when I bothered to learn more about the subject, when I thought there was a point in doing so, I’m quite sure I learned that depression physically damages your brain. After so many years, my grey matter, or at least areas of it, must be shriveled and rotting. It certainly feels that way. I have trouble remembering most moments of my life, although unfortunately it doesn’t erase how they made me feel, and I also have a tremendous problem feeling… any good.”
“That’s awful,” I say, meaning it. “And your concern is… that you will be reminded of your inability to feel joy properly?”
She turns her head to hold my gaze, although her furrowed brow suggests she’d rather avoid this conversation entirely.
“I’m concerned that you will be disappointed.”
“Disappointed?!” I shake my head, then put an arm around her shoulders and bring her closer. “I’m not expecting you to pretend, Alazne. I don’t want a fake you. Not to mention that if you get used to pretending, you’ll grow resentful in no time.”
“I would…?” she asks, and looks down. “Y-yeah, I guess so.”
I maneuver to kiss her lips, and let it linger for a bit.
“I know you are tired in general, and like you said, you have trouble feeling happiness. That’s fine. I don’t see why we can’t try this out and see how it goes. All I hope is that you get to have some fun, however fun feels for you.”
She nods as she tries a shy smile.
“Just being with you feels fun enough.”
“It just happens that having money allows you to try experiences you wouldn’t go through otherwise, and I’m sure that a variety of these will do any brain some good. If anything, they fight against the onslaught of nonsense that the day to day throws at us. And I have to spend the money I have. Which as I said, is a lot.”
Once we reach the station on top of the mountain, we get out and lean on a balustrade to admire the wide view of Donostia from up high. There is a pleasant cool breeze. Even as a ghost I took solace on the views from such heights, both in this city and and many others, not to mention all those years I spent travelling around aimlessly. What strikes me is not so much the beautiful white city, nor the island at the entrance of the bay, which from up here does look like a green whale, but how civilization is huddled close to the coast. The further you go into the land, the more deserted everything looks, and the most I can see in the distance are overlapping mounds of hills and mountains which blend increasingly with the sky the further back.
I rest my head on my palm.
“There’s the rest of Spain back there,” I say. “I often travelled around it. Lots of sights to see. Beautiful ones, ugly ones, scary ones.”
Alazne looks at me with a confused smile.
“One of these days tell me about all the places you’ve gone to, and the experiences you’ve had.”
I won’t be able to be truthful about almost any of those trips, nor about the experiences there. I’d have to somehow erase every possible suggestion that ghosts were involved in them. And I don’t know what lies I could tell about how I got into most of those buildings, which was what allowed me to witness so much crazy shit. I feel cold all of a sudden, and like a lying sack of garbage. Because I am.
I step away from the balustrade, and I make an effort to wipe every hint of unease from my face.
“Well, let’s get into some rides, shall we?”
I wrap my arm around her shoulder, and I squeeze her into me.
Once I pay for the tickets, we walk around for a bit. The rides, some of them at least, are built with metal and plastic, but the remaining structures are castle-like, with ivy or moss-like vegetation growing on the old bricks. It does look comforting, though, as if we stand above all the problems in the world.
Most of the the rides are slow and simple, so people don’t have to deal with those awful, stomach-churning drops at the end. Plenty of families are walking around while they eat candy floss and drink sodas. Some children are being particularly noisy as they crash into each other in the bumper cars attraction.
“This place looks good by itself,” I say.
“Yeah. It’s very pretty.”
Shortly after we get into one of the simplest attractions imaginable, which is a tank full of opaque water on which we move around slowly on a boat. I handle the steering wheel; I know enough of Alazne to understand that she wants to be on the passenger’s seat. Maneuvering around while floating on the water and feeling the breeze is pleasant enough with Alazne by my side.
Later on we go to a higher floor. A rollercoaster car is following its track both below and then slightly above our path. The track is built on a structure of stone and old wood that doesn’t inspire much confidence.
“I want to ride this,” Alazne says, looking at the rollercoaster. “We should be able to fit in the same car.”
Merely the fact that she wants to do it warms my heart.
“Sure. But I wanted to ask… You have been looking around as if you didn’t know where you were.”
“Yeah… I feel as if I were walking in a dream, as if this whole place was being created while we moved through it. Built from my subconscious. It’s so strange… I don’t know if maybe I came here as a child and I have lost every conscious memory of it. I almost feel as if I were hallucinating.”
“That’s a recurring theme with you, huh?”
“Yeah… But it also feels more real than reality tends to do. I can smell the scent of the fairground. I can hear the children’s laughter.”
I hug her from behind and lay my chin on her right shoulder, then check out the rollercoaster.
“It looks safe enough,” I say.
“I’m not sure about that, but let’s get in it anyway.”
The rails make us go through narrow, wavy slopes, darkened tunnels, and a elevated stone path with a fantastic view of the rocky, broken coastline beyond Donostia. A short ride, nothing mind-shattering, but I don’t feel like I need any more when I’m already hanging out with Alazne.
Once we exit the ride, Alazne smiles at me as she holds her hands in front of her waist.
“I feel like I’m in some storybook. All a mix of déjà vu and jamais vu. You are not from here, are you?”
The question startles me. Is it lying time? Where am I from, that Alazne should know?
“I didn’t tell you, did I? I live in Hondarribia.”
“Ah, that’s nice. A beautiful city, much more than mine. But before that?”
I put my arm around her waist and offer her a hopefully warm smile, but I am trembling inside.
“I was a ghost in the afterlife. Now I have returned to life in Asier’s body. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to being on this plane again.”
Alazne chuckles. She takes a deep breath, and nods as if she understands. She looks at me with a lovely expression that I can’t quite decipher. She’s not smiling nor frowning, but it’s somewhere between the two. Her eyes ask me a million questions, and I don’t have a good answer for any of them.
“And before your horrible accident in one of those death machines, which place or places did you come to consider your home?”
“I… did live in Donostia for a few years. I loved it here. You won’t find a better place where people can actually live by the sea and not be excessively affected by the weather.”
Alazne appears to think about that. Shit. Why would have I moved to Hondarribia if I already lived here? She doesn’t question it. We keep walking around in silence, taking the sights.
“If… If I can be honest to a fault, I don’t care where I was before I met you,” I say. “It only feels like home when you are with me.”
She stops us, then buries her face in my neck as I rub her back. Her breath warms my skin.
“I really like you too,” she says. After a silence, she adds, “I know that this is moving too fast, but I don’t care.”
She pulls her face away and looks at me in the eyes, then kisses me on the lips.
The sounds that surround us return to my ears: the mechanical noises of the rides, the animated voices of children. The teenager siblings of a family that passes nearby look at us with embarrassed curiosity.
Shortly after we head into the haunted house attraction. I visited many amusement parks when I was a ghost, and even lived in one for a while. Never had to pay for any attraction, but sometimes it was hard to get an empty seat. In any case, I technically also worked in a haunted house attraction for a while as an unpaid intern: there was this stoner young adult who worked as an actress and whose mind already bounced in and out of reality, so it was easy to possess her and get to scare the visitors. I also used that girl to learn to tolerate the full body licking sensation that came with possessing a breathing person, but I never got over it. I was mad about how ghost powers had been distributed seemingly at random; why would I only be able to possess people, when so many ghosts that I knew could record their voices fluently, or poltergeist some apartment into oblivion? But I guess I was the lucky one, wasn’t I? If only I had realized that I could possess fresh corpses…
In any case, inside the haunted house we come across a T-Rex head straight out of Jurassic Park, a reaper with glowing eyes, some disturbing imagery involving a decaying corpse and some animatronic rats, two dirty skeletons somehow playing chess, a random octopus… In the darkness filled with scary ambient noses, Alazne clung tighter to me, but she seemed to be liking it. I must have loved it too much, because when we finally reach the exit and the midday’s sun makes me squint, I want to go back in. I was never what I would call happy in the afterlife, but I came to feel attached to haunted, tenebrous places.
“That was fascinating,” Alazne says with a pleased tone.
“That much, huh?”
“It’s so nice that people cared to put together those horror movie scenes just to make us feel things, isn’t it? And they don’t even know we exist.”
“I guess that feeling something is better that nothing, maybe independently of how painful it gets.”
Alazne lowers her gaze to the pavement, and loses the interest in her surroundings. She seems deep in thought.
“I fear I might end up pulling you towards many scary scenes,” I say. “That’s just what I’m naturally drawn to, I guess.”
“It’s fine,” she says, now staring at my face. “But it was true what you said. I found some comfort in the darkest periods of my life, because at least then I felt strong emotions instead of nothing. It’s like an abusive relationship, I suppose.”
I only nod. I’m not sure what to say, and I want to keep her talking anyway.
“There is a presence of sorts,” she says with a thin voice. “Others have mentioned it. The darkness embodied, and coming back as it had promised wordlessly. You know what I mean? It becomes the only reliable presence in your life, and you can’t help but care back.”
“So are you…” My voice has gone dry, and I gulp to bring saliva back to my mouth. I feel cold. “Are you in a relationship with both of us now? That’s some heavy competition for me.”
She looks at me with her sad hazel eyes as if to reassure me.
“I’m ready to move on, I think.”