My girlfriend Alazne, gifted with an obsessive personality, is enraptured by us having a ghost roommate. She keeps talking to Kateryna, describing her own activities and intentions in case the ghost feels lonely. I tended to do that as well in the beginning, but I think Kateryna and I, as we grew to know each other better, came to an understanding that most of the actions around the house were so mundane an uninteresting that describing them would annoy anyone, even a ghost sick of being trapped in the afterlife. Also, the more time I spend inhabiting this stolen body, the less interested I become in talking to ghosts. I see Kateryna as a friend and I treat her as if she just happened to be invisible, but I avoid addressing her current predicament, because her being a ghost reminds me that I will inevitably die some day. I didn’t appreciate enough being alive during my first time through.
Alazne also insists on testing Kateryna’s powers. A few times I witnessed my girlfriend arranging different kinds of objects, for example cutlery, her phone, random mangas she brought over, a lamp, an empty cardboard box, the stuffed seal she won at Monte Igueldo, etc. so Kateryna could lift them, hold them in the air, pivot them, or even throw them around. Alazne was mainly curious, I think, but Kateryna hadn’t exercised her poltergeist powers as much as now that my girlfriend lives here. Maybe Alazne wants to train our ghost into becoming a more proficient poltergeister. Because Kateryna remains silent unless she’s using the board, and even when she communicates through the planchette she can’t transmit her emotions properly, I couldn’t tell if Kateryna appreciated all this attention. It could be that she considered Alazne’s insistence as pestering.
When my girlfriend wasn’t talking to Kateryna, browsing the internet, watching anime, reading manga or playing the guitar in a bare room of the second floor, she had begun to enjoy cooking. We always prepared our meals together, given that neither of us had to work and we rarely left the house alone. Today we prepared a fairly decent meal of pesto tortellini with chicken, and as we are eating it at the living room dining table, Alazne, seated right next to the ouija board, keeps talking to Kateryna, who may feel that us eating in front of her is just a reminder that she will never get to eat anything ever again.
“How old are you, Kateryna, by the way? I can’t believe I hadn’t brought it up!” Alazne says as she chews.
The planchette moves as swiftly as usual, but from where I’m sitting I can only see the board sideways, so I don’t catch the answer.
“What did she say?” I ask.
“Forever twenty five,” Alazne says, then turns her head to the empty space next to her, intending to look at our ghost pal in the eyes. “For some reason I pictured you as an older, courtly lady from like the Russian aristocracy.”
The planchette moves around, and Alazne chuckles.
“Kat said that I should feel honored. Yeah, I do. It’s great being able to talk to a ghost and know that there’s something waiting for us after we die, even if it is colorless and dreary. So you aren’t from the Russian nobility, huh?”
The planchette slides around almost angrily.
“… Kat said ‘all massacred by communist weasels’.”
I shake my head, then pick up more tortellini with my fork.
“Yeah, I think they were governed by communists for a long time. And then they endured the whole Chernobyl thing. Quite a few refugees came here.”
Alazne nods, and eats another forkful of pasta.
“I must have pictured you all wrong, Kateryna. How did you look back when you were alive?”
The planchette sputters across the board, spelling out words.
“… Yeah, I’m sorry, Kat,” Alazne says in a low voice.
“What did she say?” I ask.
“That her body is now a skeleton in a dress.”
“To be fair, I doubt the decomposition has advanced that much since you died. If I were to dig up your casket, Kat, you would probably still be recognizable.”
Alazne winces as she chews, then turns her head to stare at the board, because Kateryna hasn’t wasted time to reply.
“What’s that?” I ask.
“Kat said ‘when I was alive I was hottest in the world Asier said so’.”
I gag on the bolus of tortellini, and I have to cough a few times as well as drink from my glass of water. I blink a couple of tears away.
“Yeah, I’m sure she was a real beauty,” I say in a grating voice, “being Ukrainian and all. But I wouldn’t know for sure, because nobody can see her. Isn’t that the case, Kateryna?”
“Are you okay, my love?” Alazne asks me, worried. “Do you need me to hit you on the back?”
I feel a twinge of pain in my chest.
“I need you to hit me all over, sweetie. Just punish me and make a real mess of this body.”
Alazne gets up, walks up to me and hugs me tightly while I rest my chin on her shoulder. She turns her head and kisses my cheek.
“We can always go into the bedroom and try new stuff like that. Not before we finish eating and digest the food enough, though.”
I wanted Alazne to become acquainted with Hondarribia, even though I wasn’t from here nor did I choose to settle in this city: it just happened that the man whose body I stole lived in its outskirts. Also, I loved taking walks with Alazne as she held on to my hand or to my arm and she kept talking without a care in the world. Leaving our home meant distancing ourselves temporarily from the only other person in this world who knows I’m a woman ghost wearing a very elaborate disguise. I feel that for Kateryna, isolated in the afterline and unwilling to seek out other ghosts because she’s afraid of them, my horrifying secrets have become an inside joke, instead of damning information that would destroy my relationship with Alazne.
As my girlfriend and I walked through the residential neighborhoods and approached the center of the city, I kept feeling like I needed to look over my shoulder. Why, though? That blond, Eastern European dude’s angry face flashed in my mind, and for the next couple of minutes I pretended that I wasn’t annoyed. Alazne and I could enjoy such a relaxed time in this city, but now I have to wonder where that crazy bastard might be. He promised that he was going to harass me again, too. Quite a few times as I was working out and my muscles were burning up, I imagined myself grabbing that Oleksiy’s head with my hands and bursting it like a balloon.
My girl and I sat on the low wall of the Butrón promenade so we could eat lemon ice cream cones while looking at the calm waters of the Bidasoa river. A cool breeze blows against us, bringing sea smells. Apart from the few fishing boats that bob in the water, on the opposite bank of the river we can see France, particularly the city of Hendaya, although from here the view only offers a few white houses with orange roofs on the left, and on the right a line of palm trees behind which stands tall a branchless forest of white masts from all the boats that rest on that port. A few seagulls keep squawking like the annoying maniacs that they are, above the background noise from not only the nearby traffic but also the dozens of people, couples of all ages with or without kids, who are also enjoying this promenade.
“I will think of something bigger to do instead of just taking walks, don’t worry,” I say unprompted.
“Well, we’re already eating ice cream,” Alazne says with a smile, then licks some liquified ice cream that had trickled onto her hand. “I’m not worried at all. I’m a very domestic person.”
“Still, I want us to do something fun and meaningful. There are plenty of organized activities out there that require money and that people wouldn’t do alone. I’d say we are overdue for a visit to the zoo, for example.”
“Are there even zoos in this province?”
“There may not be. A serious oversight on the part of whoever is responsible. There’s the natural park at Cabárceno, though. It’s not that far.”
“That’s true, but it’s not a zoo, is it? The animals won’t be as close as you would want them to.”
“Well, the point is to be in nature and do stuff outdoors. That’s still an option.”
Alazne strokes the back of my neck with her free hand, then leans in so she can touch my cheek with hers. I turn my head and kiss her lemon-flavored, cold lips.
“What I meant, my love, is that you don’t need to rack your brain,” Alazne says sweetlyw. “I told you a few times that just being with you is enough. You must not truly understand how much of a recluse I used to be. I spent years in prison, a sentence for which my broken brain was both judge and jailer.”
“Very poetic…” I say, although my heart hurts when I think of how she had felt like.
“During the periods in which I had a job, I went to work and returned home. I only left it otherwise to buy groceries, and I was a disaster at planning how to fill my fridge properly. When I was unemployed, I… spent weeks without leaving my apartment. I think once I didn’t shower for two weeks or more, let alone change my underwear.”
“I’ve… always loved your smell, though. I’d love it if it were stronger.”
Alazne smiles sadly.
“No… You wouldn’t.” She sighs. “This is how I’ve lived for a decade or so. It’s only since you met me that I’ve felt… well-adjusted.”
“Well, I’m glad you’re feeling well.”
“I feel great. But that’s the point. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have come out of my hole. So, whatever you want to do is fine by me. If you come up with a fancy plan, then I’d love to experience it with you, but don’t get stressed as if you had to impress me constantly.”
I’m touched, and I have trouble holding my girlfriend’s gaze for a moment. There’s also guilt mixed in.
“You sure are a romantic today.”
“I don’t know of what you speak. Now, was there anything else?”
“Not really. We can go back to doing what we have been doing.”
We kiss until we both feel cold, sticky ice cream trickling onto our fingers.
A bit later we walk deeper into the city, and take a leisure stroll along the popular San Pedro street. Most of the outside tables of the restaurants are occupied by chatty families. Groups of all kinds of people are hanging out on and around the benches. Instead of walking in the shade of the lines of old trees, we take advantage of the sunlight remaining in this increasingly cloudy afternoon. I keep glancing at the small houses facing this pedestrian street, which look as if they were built a hundred years ago and only painted over every couple of decades. I wonder what kind of people live there.
While we pass by the outside tables of some bars, the tumult from all the talking drowns out Alazne as she went on about an episode we had watched last night. She shuts up. After we leave behind the throng of people, however, she changes the topic.
“Asier, has Kateryna spoken to you about this Irene person?”
The warmth leaves my body as if a breach had opened in a spaceship, and Alazne had spoken to me while looking at my face, so she already knows I’m unsettled. I mumble something before my conscious mind can formulate a proper lie.
Alazne is frowning slightly, worried.
“She seems like an important person to Kat, but she’s frustratingly tight-lipped about this Irene. I can’t get Kat to say whether Irene is alive or not. It seems to me that she hadn’t intended to mention her at all.”
I can’t hold my girlfriend’s gaze any longer. If only I had witnessed every interaction that Alazne had with our ghost, I would have been able, maybe, to weave a lie around the facts my girlfriend learned, likely because Kateryna fucked up and said something she shouldn’t. But it could be the case that Alazne knows some detail I haven’t predicted, or maybe Kat made something up that I would end up contradicting. I’m paralyzed.
“You… know this Irene as well, Asier,” Alazne says, disheartened. “And yet you clearly don’t want to tell me about her, or other stuff you have withheld. I don’t understand why.”
I simply can’t tell her the truth, and I’m coming up blank on a good lie. I feel like a beast caught in the headlights of the truck that’s about to wipe it out.
“I… Alazne, there are some things I can’t…” I say in a thin voice.
Alazne squeezes my hand. She tries to get me to look at her, but I don’t.
“You can’t say? Ever since I moved into your beautiful house you have been high-strung, particularly when I’m interacting with Kateryna. You are a very honest person, Asier, so I do believe that there is some information, maybe a memory of yours, or a bunch of them, that you truly believe you can’t share with me. I have no idea why.”
She stops talking as if she intended for me to confirm her conclusion. She’s right about how on edge I’ve been recently. Back when I visited Alazne’s apartment, I felt in control. Now I keep running around plugging holes. The lies I’ve created are endless, and I’m sure some contradict each other, but I still can’t see any way out of this. Not when I want to keep Alazne in my life.
We remain silent as we distance ourselves from the overlapped conversations, and the clatter of forks and spoons and knives, from the dozens occupying the restaurants of this street. Whatever relief I would have felt from heading towards calmer areas of the city gets suffocated by this panic that’s gripping my heart.
I swallow and try to come up with something.
“I… love you, Alazne. This might feel like a barrier in our relationship, but–“
She doesn’t let me finish.
“I love you too, Asier,” she says in a teary voice. I don’t want to check if her eyes are welling up with tears. “But I fear that there’s some hole in this new life we are living that I will end up falling into, and that will be that. You will leave me, and I will have to return to a hopeless existence with which I already wanted nothing to do.”
My throat closes. I stop, I put my arm around Alazne’s waist and I guide her to a nearby small plaza lodged between two three-story buildings. We end up standing next to a series of parked bicycles, in the shade of a large treetop. When I look at my girlfriend’s face, I regret it, because her eyes are already red and she’s wiping a tear.
I cup the back of her head and kiss her light brown hair, then I speak in a voice as calming as I can.
“I admit it, Alazne, I’m hiding things about my past of which Kateryna is aware, and because she likes me, she simply doesn’t want to reveal them. But I’m not… ready to tell those things to someone who is alive, even to the love of my life.”
“I feel such dread when I can tell you are hiding something…” she mutters pitifully.
“No! I don’t want to break your heart. I just… I’m scared, and there’s so much at stake here.”
“I don’t understand. Truly, I don’t. What could possibly be so bad that I wouldn’t accept it?” She holds my gaze with her watery eyes, as if to glean the truth from my expression. “Have you murdered someone?”
“What? No! That’s the first thing that comes to mind? Nothing like that.”
“Are you a… terrorist?”
“Jesus Christ, Alazne.”
“Are you actually a cactus? An older woman? A goat? Tell me, please.”
She was so close with one of those wild possibilities she was throwing, which she had intended to be so ridiculous that they would be inconceivable, that I want to sit on the floor and hug my knees.
“I’m… probably none of those things.”
“Then, what could it possibly be? Asier, even if you were cheating on me with this Irene, or any other woman, I would still want to be with you,” she says as if she considers it a weakness, but also undeniably true. “Do you understand that? Even if you betrayed me to my face, and you brought home another girlfriend and had her living there, my life with you would still be miles ahead of the nightmare out of which you dragged me.”
My nostrils get dilated, and I find myself clenching my teeth. I take Alazne’s hand and move her to a nearby bench. After I sit, I gesture for her to sit on top of me. She climbs onto my lap and wraps her arms around my shoulders. As she presses her head against mine, moistening my skin with her teary eyes, I can feel her relaxing a bit. She’s so warm, and I need this contact right now.
“Alazne…” I say in a low voice, but sternly. “You need to respect yourself more. Don’t ever accept being cheated on, even if you believe that the alternative is preferable. You can’t get by in this world when you have sacrificed your dignity.”
“Please,” she begs. “Just tell me it isn’t what I think it is.”
“Were you thinking that I was cheating on you and hiding it, then?”
I hold her head gently between my palms, so I can stare straight into her glossy eyes. If she tries to find any trace of dishonesty there, there won’t be.
“I am not, in any way or form, cheating on you.”
I stop for a moment, and I imagine the previous, and original, owner of my current body saying those words to Ainhoa and Kateryna, and sounding exactly as I have. But I continue.
“I want to be with you forever. That’s the whole truth as far as this particular issue is concerned.”
“… I’m sorry for getting angry and accusing you of something so horrible,” she says softly.
“You have a right to be upset. This whole situation is pretty fucked up, and it’s okay to react to it emotionally sometimes. Also, being accused of cheating is horrible, because cheaters are the worst scum of this planet. To go behind the back of the person who loves you so you can fuck someone else, only to return to your partner and kiss her and tell her you love her as if you weren’t plunging a knife into their heart every single day of your life… Those people need to be lined up and shot. They don’t need to exist.”
I see red. My heart is pounding on my chest. I feel Alazne’s loving touch as she puts her hand on my cheek. It’s like I had forgotten she was sitting on top of me. My breath begins to slow down.
“I’m sorry,” I say, embarrassed. “It seems I hold very strong feelings on the subject.”
“It’s okay. I’m glad to know that you would never do such a thing.”
Alazne hugs me tightly. By how she’s letting her body rest against mine, she likely wishes we could remain like that for a long time, but we’ll have to walk all the way back home. Maybe I’ll call a taxi. I’m not in the mood for a stroll anymore.
My brain keeps replaying that moment when I got off that bus to Donostia and walked up to the totalled Škoda that the original owner of my current body had used to kill himself, inconveniencing random people in the process. Couldn’t he have jumped off a bridge, or gotten ahold of a gun and shot himself? I should have known that this Asier bastard wasn’t any good. Maybe I should have haunted some hospital until I found my chance to possess any other body.
I get a clear image of an unclear subject: the blurry shadow of Asier’s ghost, back when he stood next to me and asked whether I was an angel. His own guardian angel, he might have asked, but I have forgotten. I pretty much am, aren’t I? I have been in charge of putting your life together after you fucked everything up.
I hate to hurt Alazne with my lies. I need to move forward towards being as clear with my beloved as any other person can be. Maybe she will never get to learn that I’m a woman, but surely I can push her closer to that secret.
I pull away from our warm embrace. After I kiss Alazne on the lips, which she welcomes, I take out my wallet from my shirt pocket and I open it. When I find myself holding the note that doctor wrote about the aftermath of Asier’s accident on my body, I hesitate. I suspect that revealing the fact that I don’t hold Asier’s memories is going to contradict other stuff I’ve said, but it needs to be done anyway. I pull out the printout.
“Please, sweetie, read this,” I say in the thinnest voice. “Maybe you will understand part of why I kept quiet.”
She reads it twice, and then looks at me with puppy dog eyes as she parts her lips.
“M-memory loss caused either by head trauma or not enough oxygen getting to the brain when your heart stopped for too long?”
I take a deep breath. I can tell myself whatever I want, but this is just pasting a lie on top of worse lies. I have always been honest with myself, even in those times I wish I wouldn’t.
“I’m not the Asier that existed before that car accident. That’s the… most succinct way of putting it, I guess.”
Alazne takes a while to mull over this information, looking at me intently as she does so. The longer she stares at me like that, the more I wonder what’s going on in her head. Is she disappointed? Scared? After she shakes her head slowly, she puts the paper with the doctor’s note back into my hands and cups my face.
“Asier, I love you for whom I know you to be.”
Wait, it doesn’t make sense, does it? I told Alazne that I had been travelling throughout Europe for years. Those are my own memories as a ghost. If we ever find out more about this body’s past, it may be that there is proof that I didn’t live abroad for years. Thankfully the doctor’s note is unclear, and only uses the term ‘memory loss’ in a general way, maybe hoping that I would eventually regain many memories. But this sudden worry is just another reminder that I have a bomb attached to my body that might go off at any time, and I fear it will get so bad that every time Alazne opens her mouth I will feel an upsurge of anxiety.
“I retain… some memories. Images, a few sequences. I’m not entirely sure for how long I was travelling abroad, even though I did tell you exact years. I couldn’t speak at length about my experiences in other countries because I simply remember very little of them.”
Alazne nods in a way that reassures me she understands.
“I’m sure you lived a good life. You’re a kind person, and you make me happy.”
“T-that’s… part of why I kept quiet. I don’t think I was a very good person at all, Alazne.”
“How would you be sure?” she asks me with curiosity, her face mere centimeters away from mine. With a trembling finger, I wipe an errant strand of hair to behind her ear.
“Get this, I had no idea who Ainhoa, this body’s… ex-fiancée was. She appeared in the hospital because apparently I had her as my emergency contact, and she was pissed because of that. As far as I knew, I hadn’t seen that woman in my life.”
Alazne has one of those light bulb moments, because her face brightens and she raises her eyebrows.
“That’s right. I was so puzzled about your ex-fiancée’s words back at the aquarium. They hadn’t made any sense!”
“She said that she knew you weren’t yourself. That you weren’t Asier. That what happened to you was a miracle, proof that people can start over. So she wasn’t mad at you, because it would be like hating you for what someone else did.”
“… Are you sure she said that?”
“I must have blacked out back then or something…”
Damn it, Alazne retains far too many details. I barely recall anything of the conversation we had with Ainhoa in the aquarium. In my memory I only see her elegant, self-assured self standing there and looking into my eyes with a conflicted intimacy that shouldn’t have been aimed at me.
Alazne shakes her head and gives me a look of pity. It feels wrong. I don’t want my girlfriend, who likely needs to see me as an immovable rock, to consider me broken and weak. Not to mention that her fetishes demand me to be unrelenting and dominant.
I clear my throat.
“So in general I feel that this isn’t my body, that I’m not Asier Izcoa. You know what I mean…?”
It isn’t a lie, I tell myself, if she lacks the full context of a truth I tell.
“Of course I do,” Alazne says, and after a final look of relief, she throws her arms around me.
I want it to hurt, to punish myself. Maybe she shouldn’t know what’s coming out of my mouth.
“Alazne, Ainhoa told me that her relationship with me ended because I cheated on her,” I say gravely.
I feel how Alazne holds her breath, then turns her face slightly towards mine, even though our cheeks were already touching.
“… That’s right,” I say. “I have no memory of it happening, and just her word to go by, but… Ainhoa likely told the truth. So that’s the situation I find myself since the accident. I’m a new person inhabiting a body with which I’m unfamiliar, and I’m bogged down by a past, including the actions of the previous owner of this body, that feels disconnected with who I know myself to be now. Do… you understand?”
I learn an important lesson: the best lies are mostly made out of truths.
The next time I open my eyes, Alazne is staring at me from up close. Her eyes are glistening with emotion, but it seems that they will remain dry. She nods at me.
“Kiss me,” she whispers. “Prove to me that it’s you in there.”
I only need the faintest excuse to taste that tongue of hers. She shuts her eyes. She caresses my greying hair with one hand while her other hand rests on my chest.
“I love you. You’ll always be you no matter what form you have,” she says.
I don’t know how to respond back to her, and I know that her own resolve would crumble away if she knew she just made out with a woman who wears a man’s corpse to date her, so I hold my girlfriend close and feel sad in the knowledge that I can’t hold on to this bliss forever.
As soon as we got up from that bench, both of us wanted to head home. I call a taxi. It barely takes a couple of minutes to reach us in this popular area. The whole ride through, as Alazne and I sat next to each other in the back, we held each other’s hand and stroke it lovingly, as if we were playing a private game that the rest of the world failed to notice.
When we return to the safety of our gated community, Alazne hurries to the front door of our house. Once inside she crosses her arms behind my neck and won’t pull away from my tongue. I fondle the length of her naked back under her berry blue chiffon blouse. Although I need to pee, I am tempted to unfasten her bra and power through it, but Alazne ends up breaking the kiss. She stands there looking up at me with glistening eyes and a warm smile.
“I’m going to grab the guitar, head to that room on the second floor and play until we need to prepare dinner,” she says. “Thank you for everything today, Asier, and for admitting something so difficult.”
“You are an angel. Don’t worry about stopping to prepare dinner with me. Play as much as you want, then come down to eat.”
Alazne grins, then turns around and skips to the hallway. She disappears out of sight. I lower my head and sigh. When I walk into the hallway, I catch my girlfriend leaving our bedroom as she holds her guitar bag. She rushes up the stairs.
I get into the kitchen and pour myself a full glass of grape juice, which I then down in one gulp. I want someone to punch me hard. I sit on a stool at the free-standing counter, close to a ouija board and another call bell. I stare into the void while something foul churns in my guts.
As if I had forgotten about Alazne wanting to play the guitar, I’m startled by how a string rings out throughout the otherwise silent house as she starts tuning, and after she tries that note a few times, it’s followed by others.
I find myself leaning on the counter with my forearms crossed to hide my face.
“I hate myself,” I grumble. “I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself.”
I’m getting dizzier. As I lean back, I slip off the stool. My butt lands on the cold tile floor with a thud. I want to groan.
“No, I deserve this. I deserve this pain in my ass. I’m nothing but garbage who lies to the sweetest woman in the world.”
I rub the bridge of my nose while I close my eyes tight. I consider taking a nap right here. Suddenly, the call bell sounds as softly as if Kat attempted to gain only my attention, even though I doubt that Alazne would have noticed a truck crashing into our house given how passionately she’s playing her personal version of Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘In The Aeroplane Over The Sea’. She sings as if we were the only inhabitants of this gated community, but to be fair I have only gotten glimpses of the living ghosts who own the other houses.
Kat insists on ringing the bell. I had already forgotten she had. Is something wrong with my brain today? I drag myself to my feet, then approach the ouija board.
The planchette spells out WHATS WRONG IRENE.
My left eye twitches.
“No ‘Irene’, my dear Kateryna. There are no Irenes in this house. Only Asier and Alazne and Kateryna. No other names matter, nor exist, as far as anyone in this household is concerned.”
THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE.
My ears are ringing. Hating myself can easily translate into hating everyone around me.
“Yes, I know that the name Irene is out there. We can’t take that back. It’s firmly lodged in my beloved’s brain, which led to her interrogating you about who that person was, as she explained to me this afternoon. Do you understand my predicament?”
I’m raising my voice at an inanimate object. This is my life now.
The planchette glides to spell out SICK OF LYING.
I rub my hands over my face.
“You think I’m not? I feel like I’m rotting. Back when I was alive for the first time I hated people like me, building their lives on lies, faking all the way! I’m nothing but a phony wearing a disgusting man-body!”
CONFESSION IS GOOD FOR THE SOUL.
I slam my palms against the ouija board, making the planchette jump. My heart is beating quickly.
“No! This can’t be good for my fucking soul, because I won’t have one if I keep this up! I wanna… I wanna tell her, but that’s not an option!” I point towards the ceiling in the direction of the room where Alazne is playing. “For a long time I just wished for Alazne to realize that I exist, and now she lives with me. I managed to get her a bare room in which she can sit on a stool in front of a wide window, so she can play the guitar as freely as she wants. That’s the love of my life right there. I should be melting of joy, and yet I feel as I’m sitting on a plastic chair and some bastard is going to run at me from behind and shatter the two back legs with a mighty kick!”
The planchette jumps in an arc back to the center of the board, and then it spells out SHES IN LOVE WITH A GHOST.
“Yes, yes, yes!” My voice is becoming hoarse. “Of course she is! I know that, and that’s the whole problem!”
I grab the edge of the counter and I bend over as I try to calm myself. It’s not working. Hearing Alazne playing joyfully only makes it worse.
“Maybe I’m a horrible person,” I mutter in a hollow voice. “I guess I always was. Back when I was alive, I didn’t care much about people nor about their well-being. After twenty years as a ghost I have little reason to lie to myself: I want what I want, and I’ll do what I can to get it. That’s just how it is.”
I feel my lips quivering.
“Alazne couldn’t see me. Of all the people I care about anymore, only you would have been able to both hear me and see me. I wanted to be seen. It’s not wrong to take other people’s bodies if they aren’t using them any longer. That’s why I have these powers to possess people, right? They must exist for a reason. In Asier’s body, I can touch Alazne as much as I want.”
The bell rings three times in a row. I know Kat will insist if I ignore her, so I raise my head towards the ouija board.
YOU ARE LOSING IT, the planchette spells out.
“Maybe I am! This isn’t easy for me! You can’t possibly understand my feelings! This is the only body Alazne can have sex with! I’m not going to abandon this life plan!”
YOU ARE NOT HAPPY.
“I don’t need to be happy! I just need to be near Alazne!”
The planchette remains still. I breathe hard through my mouth as I glare at the stupid board. Seconds later I wipe the spit from my mouth.
“Are you going to rat me out, Kateryna?” I say, fear peeking through my voice.
The planchette moves swiftly to the word NO.
“Then I guess we’re done here. You keep this between us. I don’t want my plans ruined.”
I only took a step towards the door when the bell rings again. I take a deep breath.
DONT WORRY ABOUT ME BUT YOU HAVE TO TELL SOME DAY.
I hang my head low. I close my eyes, and I get to listen closely to Alazne’s guitar playing as she stretches out the last part of Joanna Newsom’s ‘Kingfisher’. Her voice is mournful.
“Is it not better that we can be together, even if I have to lie about who I am?” I say as if tearing out a piece of my chest. “Is it better for her to know the truth, when otherwise I can give her what she needs? I will love her, you know, to the end. If I hadn’t stalked her and intruded upon her life, she would be rotting alone, and one day she would have found the strength to hang herself.”
I open my eyes, although I don’t want to. I feel a tear rolling down my cheek.
“I will save her,” I say. “And if I have to lie to do so, then that’s what I’ll do.”
YOU ARE NOT A MAN IRENE.
“I am what I need to be. It doesn’t matter to me.”
SOME DAY YOU WILL BE ALONE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.
I clench my teeth and turn to the board, ready to tear it to pieces.
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” I growl.
SHE DESERVES TO KNOW.
“I know what’s best for her.”
WHAT WILL ALAZNE THINK ABOUT YOU IF SHE FINDS OUT BY HERSELF.
I stare without blinking at the quivering planchette. Talking my problems out with Kateryna always makes the world much clearer.
“Then she would be disgusted by me and hate me like I deserve. So she can never know.”