In a futuristic room bathed in blue light, inside a tank filled with similarly blue water float a bunch of little ghosts: jellyfish. They keep contracting at regular intervals to maintain their buoyancy. Alazne leans towards the glass, and her curious face gets reflected. The jellyfish don’t react, because if they have a brain it’s as minimally functional as possible. And they are lucky for it. For a few seconds I grow jealous of jellyfish.
Alazne agreed to let me organize a potentially exhausting outing for Saturday. I chose the aquarium in Donostia, because from the few times I came here as a ghost I recalled it being quite beautiful, and looking at animals is always cool; no matter how terrible the troubles in one’s life, at least you aren’t trapped in a zoo exhibit or a tank filled with water so a bunch of idiots can pay to gawk at you. Then again, if the animals are stupid enough, maybe it’s a good thing that people are keeping them safe and feeding them and cleaning their shit so they don’t have to worry. It’s like an utopia. And to an extent I would have loved to take care of Alazne like that, but eventually she’d feel like rebelling against her perfect living conditions and would think of ways to fuck everything up. I don’t blame her, that’s just human nature.
“Have you ever been stung by a jellyfish, Asier?” Alazne asks.
It takes me a few seconds to snap out of it and realize that I’m Asier. I’m such a moron, and yet I have to believe I can keep up this facade permanently.
“I have been stung by many jellyfishes,” I say solemnly. “Most had the form of human beings, others were abstract concepts that however caused me painful rashes, metaphorical ones at least.”
Alazne chuckles and pushes my shoulder playfully. I rub it pretending that it hurt.
“I see,” Alazne says. “You’re talking about your past relationships, aren’t you?”
Dumb as I am, I just gave my beloved an opening to pry into this troublesome past.
“Yes,” I say, smiling a bit. “At least I think so. Now then: have you ever been stung by a jellyfish, my dear?”
Alazne squints at me sideways. I can tell that she doesn’t enjoy my wariness, but she must realize there’s a good reason for it.
“A few times,” says Alazne. “Most were small and insignificant. Others were large and memorable.”
We move on from the damn jellyfish, and we enter a large, darkened room with a shape that brings to my mind a hallway, but without any doors that the visitors could get into. Dispersed throughout there are tanks, either cylindrical or hemispheres mounted on displays. All the tanks are lighted as if nothing else in this building mattered but looking at the fish and fish-related beings, and I guess that’s why people come to the aquarium. I have no idea why this aquarium looks like the rooms of a futuristic spaceship, though.
As we approach a cylindrical tank filled with small fish that remind me of sardines, and with a starfish glued to the glass, I can’t take out of my mind Alazne’s suggestion that she dated quite a few people before. Back when I stalked her as a ghost, I never saw her interacting with anyone who wasn’t selling her something. I guess she dealt with a few coworkers at different offices, but even as a ghost the idea of working terrified me, and I didn’t want to enter any office in case they captured me and I ended up spending my eternity chained to a desk.
“Tell me about this large and memorable one,” I say cautiously to Alazne, “I mean the metaphorical jellyfish who stung you.”
Alazne sighs and smiles.
“There’s not much to tell. He was an idiot, but I guess he had his reasons. He was a lot like you in some ways, and that’s why I liked him.”
“What was his name?”
“Asier, and he had this tendency to avoid opening up whenever I asked him any direct question about his life previous to meeting me.”
“Well, I’m lucky that I’m not Asier,” I say while trying a smile, but it falls on its own a couple of seconds later.
I look away, and my gaze conveniently happens to land on a crustacean resembling a shrimp, but larger, uglier and more armored. The creature seems startled that a stranger has noticed it.
I sigh deeply, although I avoid meeting Alazne’s deliberate stare.
“I mean, it sounds like he avoided the subject for a reason,” I say in a low voice. “Maybe he had something to hide, maybe that something wasn’t worth knowing or maybe it was something that you wouldn’t have liked. Maybe he had a good reason for doing what he did, or maybe not, but I do know that the only thing you’re achieving by thinking about those matters is losing time and energy that could be dedicated to making the best of now.”
I look at Alazne hoping that she understood my point. Her eyes are even sadder now, and her shoulders hang low. A wave of self-loathing threatens to make me tremble.
I grab her hands. They are colder than usual.
“I mean, I don’t have anything to hide,” I say.
Alazne looks around for a moment, likely hoping that no groups are approaching us, and none are. She hugs me, resting her face on my chest.
“You know I have wanted to die for a long time,” she says in a soft, vulnerable voice, “and that I have actively tried to. What detail about your life up to this point could be worse?”
I feel my whole body stiffening.
“Can you please be my rock?” Alazne asks, then looks up at me with glistening eyes. “You don’t know how much it means to me that there’s someone like you in my life. Someone who doesn’t judge me for my past, and accepts me despite it.”
I run my fingers along the back of her head.
“I am your rock, sweetie. It’s just that I meant it when I said that my life up to meeting you no longer mattered to me. I have… done and experienced things I regret. Just imagine someone showing you a video taken of you as a child, and that version behaves so embarrassingly and out of character for who you know yourself to be, that you just want to burn every single photograph and videotape that registered such a version.”
“You don’t need to prove anything. I love you.”
She says those words with such conviction that it makes me feel like crying.
“I love you too.”
“It’s just that I want to know. I want everything of you, and I will accept all of it like how you have accepted me. I can’t help but feel you are being silly, because whenever you end up sharing it with me, I will simply hug you, kiss you, and if necessary, dry your tears.”
“I’m physically incapable of crying, though, as a man.”
Alazne flicks my nose with barely any strength.
“Like I said, everything of you.”
She can tell that I won’t open up under pressure, so she grabs my hand and we keep observing the exhibits. We stop in front of a big tank featuring bushes of red algae and some weird fishes that just rest on rocks, seemingly dead except because they aren’t floating face up, and also move their fins from time to time. I can’t focus on any of the fishes now, though. Every day that passes with me concealing the sordid details about my troubled existence, I feel as if I’m pushing a poisoned pin millimeter by millimeter into Alazne’s heart. She needs to know. But how can I open up about being a ghost? It goes against the whole purpose of my previous existence as one of the damned.
And being a ghost wasn’t the worst part: it was being a woman. I have to face now that the most damaging aspect of my life is having been born with two X chromosomes. But what would I have done if I fell in love with a lovely woman, and had the best, most passionate sex of my life with her, only for my girlfriend to eventually reveal that she was a man all along? I’d probably kill myself. Is that superficial, though? The world would likely be a better place without me, but I don’t want to die, and I want to live with Alazne in love and happiness. My head hurts so much today.
“You okay?” Alazne asks.
I’m so preoccupied with my thoughts that I didn’t even notice that I’ve been holding a door open for Alazne. She looks at me worried.
“Yeah,” I answer. “Just some thinking. About me opening up and all that unmanly stuff.”
Alazne stands on her tiptoes and gives me a sweet kiss on the lips. I grab her by the waist and press my mouth against hers for a couple of seconds. When we pull away from each other, still holding on to each other’s hands, she offers me a sheepish smile, a slightly contrite one.
“Why would I pressure you about something you don’t want to do, when we already have such great times together? I’m selfish. I’m loving the fish exhibits and this whole day you prepared for me. Let’s keep enjoying it.”
I beam at her, maybe making my relief too obvious.
“That’s my girl.”
We come across the first view into the central tank of the aquarium, a lake-like monster of an exhibit in which swim placidly big fishes, bigger fishes, turtles, sharks and some other crazy shit. In the background I can make out the tunnel that awaits up ahead, so we will be able to look up at the passing sharks as they seem to fly overhead. The times I visited aquariums featuring such daring tunnels, I always feared that the glass would break and that we would end up swimming with the aquatic monsters. And I have witnessed a couple of times how one of those sharks bit in half some random innocent fish during feeding time, maybe because they confused a living fish with their meal, or just because sharks are demons masquerading as animals so they can catch us unawares.
I grab Alazne by the arm and ask her to stop next to the glass as I pull out my phone.
“Please, I want a photo of you in front of the horrifying monsters.”
Alazne poses. Despite our recent argument, she offers me a beaming smile that could outshine the whole tank. After I register the photo on the device’s memory, I make sure that I don’t delete it by mistake, so I can treasure it forever.
I put the phone back in my pocket and take Alazne in a kiss. With this display of affection I want to tell her how much she means to me, and that everything I do is for both of us, not just myself.
“Asier? That’s you, isn’t it?” a woman’s voice says to my back.
Through the sounds of splashing water and the chattering tourists, I didn’t hear anyone coming, but I spot an elegant woman with chin-length, shiny black hair styled in a way that looks as if a hairdresser just worked on it. She’s wearing a mid-calf length floral dress that is a mix of green, pale yellow and red, and over it a short denim jacket. She’s Ainhoa, my ex-fiancée. Or Asier’s. One of them anyway. She approaches us confidently, as if her mind had never been plagued by anxiety nor doubts, although Asier cheating on her with as many women as he could fuck must have destroyed her mindset.
It takes me a few seconds to notice that the man in his early thirties pushing a stroller next to Ainhoa must be her husband. He’s pale, probably unable to withstand too much time in the sun, and his hair is black. A mean expression draws his eyebrows together. By the look he gives me, I can tell he knows Asier cheated on the woman he loves. He probably realized that Ainhoa remains in love with that Asier prick, even though his ghost moved on to the beyond. At least this husband guy has the integrity to look annoyed that we ran into each other. I respect that.
“Funny running into you in an aquarium,” Ainhoa says, sounding friendlier and more stable than I expected due to how we last parted.
What the fuck are you doing here, Ainhoa?! That’s what I want to shout, but instead I say:
“It’s funny, yes. How are you both doing?”
“Good. This is my husband, Unai.”
“Nice to meet you,” Unai says in a monotone voice. He shakes his head slowly and looks at the ground.
I open my mouth to greet the nearly cuckolded husband, but I realize that Alazne is trying subtly to pull her hand away from mine. I’m surprised, as I wouldn’t have expected it, but I hold hers tighter. In a few seconds she gets the point and closes her fingers timidly around my hand. I gesture towards Alazne.
“This is my beloved, Alazne. Gaze upon her gloriousness.”
“Hi,” she says, then looks up at Unai with a nervous smile.
“Hi,” Unai repeats in the same monotone he used before.
Alazne glances towards Ainhoa, but she misses my ex-fiancée’s head. My beloved can’t sustain her smile for this greeting.
“Hi to you as well. Nice meeting you,” Alazne tells my ex, in a voice a moment away from breaking.
It might have only happened for a second, but my mind retains the image of Ainhoa’s glad expression as she stares at Alazne, who now I recognize was intimidated by how mature and well put together is Asier’s ex-fiancée, one of them anyway. And although Ainhoa wipes that expression off her face, she must be gloating internally about it. I recall having referred to my Alazne as gentle but passionate, reclusive, severely depressed. I’m a fucking bastard. Why would I tell anyone about Alazne’s private details like that? Who else should have to know that my beloved is reclusive and depressed? I want to punch myself in the gut.
“Where are you from?” Unai asks Alazne.
She hesitates, as confused as me that the guy would want to ask my beloved anything, but then tells him.
“I’m from Irún. Born there.”
Unai makes a thoughtful sound.
“So am I, although I haven’t lived there in a while. Olaberria. Really quiet area, nothing like this.”
“Yes, I… Yeah.”
Alazne fiddles with the hem of her jacket. I have no clue why this asshole husband startled my beloved, but I want to distract their attention from her. I nod towards the stroller that Unai is holding.
“As you told me, Ainhoa, you guys spawned a creature.”
Ainhoa is disconcerted by my choice of words, and looks towards the stroller as if she had expected to find something else there. But then she looks back at me, smiles and nods. This woman is hard to read. I suppose that she makes a habit of disguising how she really feels.
“… Yes. Our dear girl will turn a year and six months next Tuesday. We thought it would be nice to bring her to the aquarium, now that we have… disposable income.”
I can’t see the creature inside the stroller from here, but it isn’t making any noises, so either she’s sleeping or dead. Why would you bring a baby or a toddler or whatever this child of hers is now to an aquarium, when she doesn’t even know what a fish is? Does Ainhoa believe that her daughter will retain anything? Whatever. Parents don’t enjoy hearing these things. Or anything lukewarm about their children, for that matter. Parents become brainwashed by their parental hormones and they cease to exist as human beings: they have been reduced to tools to bring forth the next generation. I have never wanted to bear a child myself, even back when I inhabited a body that was capable of such supposed miracle. There are few things in life that I would want less than to be destroyed from the inside by a goblin that one day would yell at me, steal my shit, bring weirdoes home and then abandon me forever. People are so weird with their life choices.
“Yes. She will enjoy seeing the fishes,” I say with a fake smile.
Ainhoa nods and smiles faintly. Her silence is unnerving. I lack the tools to engage in small talk, and I’m never quite sure how much I can say about certain things. However, I realize she’s working herself up to tell me something. After a few seconds of awkwardness, she lifts her gaze towards me and opens her pretty mouth.
“I think most people would have refused the money,” she says softly, “but it will help us so much. I’m very grateful, as I texted you. Most of it will benefit our daughter, so… you did a good thing.”
Oh yeah, I gave her thousands of euros, didn’t I?
“You’re welcome. It’s good that you’re taking care of your daughter. That’s what’s important.”
“That’s not all, but thank you. Listen… I have to tell you something.”
Ainhoa is holding my gaze with a troubling determination.
“I know who you are,” she adds, “and I know you’re not Asier.”
I nearly gasp. I realize that Alazne’s hand that I’m holding is sweating, but maybe it already was. I cast a quick glance at her, and see that she has fixed her gaze on the floor.
“I know you’re not Asier,” Ainhoa repeats softly, “not anymore at least. So it feels wrong to call you by that name. What happened to you is a sort of miracle, the proof that people can start over. I no longer hold any disdain towards you. It would be like blaming someone for what another did.”
I’m immensely relieved.
Ainhoa looks at the both of us. Although Alazne clearly doesn’t want, or maybe can’t handle, any more of this encounter, Ainhoa ignores it. She starts walking as if to pass us by. Her husband lets out a soft sight and maneuvers the stroller. However, as Unai was already showing me his back, Ainhoa turns and talks to me from a meter and a half away.
“I hope the… problem at your house is solved.”
“Problem? What are…? Ah, you mean–” I realize that Alazne hasn’t got the faintest clue that Kateryna lives in my house, nor that she’s a ghost. The slight sweat on my forehead is turning cold. “It’s not a problem for me. You see it as an infestation of sorts, something for which to call an exterminator, but for me it’s simply a fact of life. Even millennia-old civilizations knew about them, right? They had all kinds of traditions and rituals to handle them. It happens all around us, although most people don’t get to realize it. Nothing to worry about.”
“Oh. I guess I was just not used to… bugs,” Ainhoa says awkwardly. “But you are for sure the expert. If it doesn’t bother you, I guess it’s okay.”
Ainhoa finally decides to catch up with her annoyed husband, but she keeps talking to me over her shoulder.
“I hope things continue going well for you.”
I wave goodbye.
“For you too. Take care.”
The encounter startled me so much, and I suddenly felt so relieved when Ainhoa and her family disappeared behind a wall, that I don’t realize that I have absentmindedly approached the tank as if I was very interested in observing the fish. I have dragged Alazne with me. When I look at her downcast, mortified face, my heart sinks.
“Ah… You aren’t well at all, are you, Alazne.”
“I’m sorry. I’m such an idiot.”
I raise her chin with my left hand, and speak to her in a voice brimming with affection.
“No, you aren’t. Why did you try to stop holding my hand?”
She tries to reciprocate my gaze, but ends up looking away. Her brow is trembling.
“B-because I thought you would want me to.”
“So you didn’t want to?”
I caress her blushed cheek, and then slide my hand to the back of her head to cup it and bring her mouth towards mine. I separate her lips with my tongue. She closes her eyes, and after a few seconds of making out, her hand stops trembling. When we pull away, she still looks up at me with a pained expression.
“Alazne, do you truly understand that you are my girlfriend?” I ask her. “I’m as serious with you as a person can be.”
“Of course I know it, but…”
Her voice sounds so frail that I feel an urge to take her somewhere else where we can be truly alone.
“That’s not how it seemed to me. If I am your boyfriend and you want to hold my hand, you keep holding it no matter who approaches us.”
Alazne takes a deep breath, then finds the strength to look me in the eye.
“Asier, you had something with that woman, didn’t you?”
“Yes, I did. It was obvious, I guess… She’s my ex-fiancée.”
One of them, anyway.
Alazne snaps her head back. I don’t know what kind of relationship she had expected Ainhoa and I to have, but this truth makes her grimace as if I had slapped her.
“Y-you had a full life before me… Do you still love her?”
“No, my mind is only set on you, Alazne.”
“S-she looked at me very aggressively. I think she loves you still.”
“Whether or not she does, it makes no difference.”
“Such an elegant and confident woman was someone you were about to get married to, but now you are with me…” Alazne looks down at the patch of floor between our feet. She presses her lips together as a naked despondency overwhelms her facial features. “I’m clearly a downgrade.”
“Don’t say that ever again, Alazne.”
“W-was I just a pity date…?”
I pull her into an embrace. She stiffens up, but then gradually falls limp as she sobs into my chest. Her tears stain my shirt while I kiss the top of her light brown hair.
“Well, clearly fish time is over,” I say as I sigh.
Alazne tries to say something, but she shuts up. I suppose that in her current state she wouldn’t have been able to finish a sentence without sobbing. A few groups, either young couples or older ones with their children, pass us by while offering us glances of either concern or embarrassment. I keep caressing Alazne’s light brown hair until she calms down.
We leave the aquarium a few minutes later. It must be around six and a half in the afternoon. As I hold Alazne’s waist, we walk along the port, near the edge to the calm, basil green, fish-smelling waters. The sky is getting cloudier, although there’s barely any breeze. It may not rain today. Still, the weather changes way too quickly around these parts.
I want for Alazne and I to sit in peace for a few minutes, so I guide her towards a long pier built like a regular street, only narrower, quieter, and surrounded by the bay waters on one side and a whole lot of resting leisure boats on the other. I always wondered how they manage to maneuver out of their parking spaces. In any case, this part of the harbour looks humid and depressing, but Alazne and I sit on a stone bench added to the low wall that protects us from falling into the bay.
Alazne is reluctant to speak, so I merely stroke her hand as I lean my head against hers. Some distance away a bunch of people are talking, and I also hear the background noise of traffic from a couple of streets away. A few minutes later I look up and find a sliver of clear blue, while most of the sky is puffy white.
“When that woman acted so familiarly with you,” Alazne begins suddenly, in a hollow voice, “I felt such a mix of worry, fear, and anger towards her… I have no clue what’s wrong with me.”
“There’s nothing wrong with you.”
I lean in trying to look her in the eye, but she turns her head slightly away from me.
“Well, while that woman was hitting on you…” Alazne says. “If she was doing it at all… I don’t know. Something just overwhelmed me. It was like I wanted to hurt her. I never had such thoughts before.”
“You’re jealous.” I smile, although she can’t see it. “Completely normal. The more you care about your romantic partner, the stronger it gets, but for some people it can get pretty crazy.”
“But I don’t even know her… I mean, I couldn’t know her. She’s a stranger to me.”
“She’s someone who came over and spoke to me with some intimacy. You are pissed because you feel you should be the only one treating me that way. It’s normal, as I say. And I would get similarly annoyed if anyone approached you. You learn to live with it.”
“S-so that’s what it was, jealousy…?”
I grab her head so I can kiss her forehead. Alazne finally turns her face towards me. Her hazel eyes look naked, defenseless, and still afraid.
“Asier… I haven’t dated anyone for more than two months.” Her voice becomes quieter as she speaks. “I could hardly consider the ones I had as proper relationships, and they happened a long time ago.”
“Alright, so this is all new territory for you.”
“But you already had a fiancée. You were that close to deciding how the rest of your life was going to go.”
“The divorce rates are quite high these days, if I remember correctly.”
“The intention must have been there.”
“I’m not entirely sure about that…”
Alazne’s mouth is slightly open and she’s frowning in confusion, as if expecting me to clarify the many unknowns of my life.
“Listen, Alazne… Ainhoa is a normal person. She can’t conceive except what passes for normal. That’s her measure of good and evil. I don’t want someone like that as a girlfriend, nor as a wife. A lifelong relationship with such a person would bore me out of my mind.”
“Th-that’s… That’s quite cynical…”
“I have never been quite sure of what that word means, or at least what people mean when they use it.”
“What I mean… What I mean is…”
“I have come to understand that even if Ainhoa is not a permanent fixture in my current life, if we happen to run into her, I can tolerate her. It’s just one of those things that happen, that come with someone’s life. Baggage of a sort. That’s all she is for me.”
Alazne rubs her eyes, then leans forward to rest her elbows on her knees. The slight breeze is tousling her hair, which she’s wearing loose.
“Asier, I’ve been thinking of what you said yesterday. You mentioned that you travelled the world because you wanted to learn more about your condition, and to meet more people with your same problems. That if you remained at home, you might surrender to despair. It was something like that, right…?”
“You have been comfortable with thoughts of death as well as… my suicide attempts. You are familiar with death, aren’t you?”
“Of course. I mean… I’m desensitized to it.”
Silence hangs between us. Alazne brings her knees up to her chin and wraps her arms around them, then closes her eyes.
“Asier, a-are you dying? Do you have a terminal illness or something to that effect that will take you away from me? I-I wouldn’t be able to bear it, but if that’s the case, you still need to tell me. I need to know in advance.”
I feel a cold, nasty sensation in my guts as if some organ had teared open. I’m a horrible piece of shit, aren’t I. Just the lowliest garbage imaginable. I didn’t predict how much refusing to open up was going to hurt the woman who loves me, or maybe I didn’t bother understanding how it would damage her.
I swallow to moisten my mouth.
“It’s the opposite case,” I say in a thin voice. “I was already terminal, and now I’m alive thanks to you.”
Alazne opens her eyes and stares straight at me, but she doesn’t say anything. I can’t tell what she’s thinking. A tear rolls down her cheek. She looks weary, as if she’s had enough of just about everything.
I try to focus on how to clarify what I mean, but nothing comes out. I don’t know how many seconds pass. Maybe more than a minute.
“I wish we could freeze,” Alazne says barely above a whisper, “or everything around us would freeze, so it would be just you and I and nothing would change. Maybe I’m too sensitive about it. Children are supposed to grow out of these fears relatively quickly, but… I guess I never really matured. I know well how easily people can die. I had my entire life upended. And after I met you and came to care so, so much about you, I fear that you are going to die at any moment, that one day you will leave my apartment and I will never see you again. I can’t take it. I guess I’m too fragile, but… I mean, that’s just how it is.”
Alazne has started to cry in earnest now, even though her expression doesn’t change and no sound escapes from her mouth. I place my hand on her left cheek and caress it with my thumb. She shuts her eyes and bites her lower lip, but she doesn’t try to hide the tears rolling down her face.
I don’t say anything, although I don’t think she expects me to.
“I had assumed that I would always be alone,” Alazne continues. “Still, by the end of that day you pursued me, I felt like I had been living in a stuffy, darkened, closed off room for decades, but suddenly the windows blew open, letting air and the sunlight in. I find myself imagining futures. I fantasize about going to this or that place, doing certain activities with you, and even travelling abroad.”
“Please, share those ideas one of these days,” I say calmly. “I might not come up with them on my own.”
I’m not sure if Alazne has paid attention to what I said, because she continues:
“And it’s just because you want me.”
I scoot closer to her, then pull her head towards me so she can bury her face in my chest. I rest my chin on the top of her head, and my gaze falls upon the wide view of the bay.
“I do more than want you, Alazne. You will integrate that eventually, I think.”
“It’s so hard…”
I allow her to cry silently onto my chest as she presses herself against me. I caress her soft hair slowly.
There are around three dozen leisure boats on the waters of the bay, some close enough that I can distinguish the expression in the couple of men walking around on top. Except for one of the boats, all the others remain static as if they had dropped the anchor, if that’s a thing that boats still do. Beyond the calm waters, which reflect the clouds that cover the sky, on top of the large cape that rings the bay stands the castle-like structure of Monte Igueldo, or of the amusement park. I never quite figured out if Monte Igueldo was the whole structure or if people just call it that because they are lazy. I guess I’m lazy as well, because I never bothered figuring it out. It doesn’t matter anyway, in the grand scheme of things.
It’s peaceful. Although Alazne is crying softly against my chest, or at least I assume she keeps doing it, because I can only feel her breath intake, the world that surrounds me, of which I’m a tiny and insignificant part, looks beautiful in its indifference. Once all of our pains have passed, way beyond whenever our countries and civilizations die off, these enormous shapes that our human constructions cling to will remain in place. It’s all so stupid.
“For many, many years I felt incapable of connecting with others,” I say. “I couldn’t even get interested in the living. Their existences kept going undisturbed whether or not I was present. By that point they felt like a different species, their busy lives an old foreign movie in another language. People came and went like the seasons. But I remained in the middle of all that. And I kept thinking, what had I done that warranted me getting trapped in this wasteland, enduring the pain of this acid loneliness with every passing second? For what regret did I remain penitent, and what goal would I have to fulfill so I could be free? Or was it my punishment to witness listlessly the ravages of time for no reason that I could understand? And at one point, a resolution flicked in my consciousness: I would keep drifting. I no longer expected the hurt to end, but I figured I would get to enjoy the sights as they came.”
I pause, waiting for some kind of interruption. Maybe Alazne will speak, or laugh, or cry, or simply ask me to continue. She doesn’t. I hope she’s still listening.
“I was a ghost for twenty years,” I say. “And then I met you.”
The breeze is picking up, pushing sea smells into my nostrils. It’s getting too chilly to just sit around.
“I don’t understand anything,” she says.
Note from May of 2021:
The same day I wrote this entry I walked up to the apartment building where I chose that Alazne lived for my probably fictional story. It didn’t take me long to walk there, because I live in the same city. I hadn’t seen that area of Irún in years, probably since I studied at the nearby high school, and as I have experienced before when coming across places or objects that I built fictional stories around, the experience was surreal, even dizzying. As I stood exactly where my protagonist did, I expected Alazne to come out at any moment. I thought about moments that had taken place there in my story, and it was as if I had fabricated memories in my brain that were more vivid than most real ones. Like Alazne herself, I have struggled with depression for most of my life. One therapist called it ‘clinical depression resistant to treatment’. I don’t suffer it the same way my fictional character does, as I have more functional coping mechanisms such as writing, but I’m sure this depression is responsible for how I have forgotten most details of my life, and how many of the remaining events seem tattered. I used to know people for years, and was even very tangled with some, and yet I only remember sequences of a few seconds of my experiences with them. By writing fiction it often seems as if I’m creating vivid memories to fill all the spaces in my brain where voids have remained. And unfortunately, given that I have been unlucky in the stuff that has happened to me as well as the people I’ve met, no matter how crazy my fictional memories get, they feel warmer than the real ones.