This Is Not a Good Story (Poetry)

The first time I saw her, a few days after she moved in,
She was standing on the landing late at night,
Paralyzed in the middle of opening her door,
And staring up at the dark sky
As if she wanted to scream to the heavens above

For a few seconds I just stood motionless
While the rain came down upon my head;
She lowered her gaze at the person standing in front,
And her lips opened silently to say goodnight

It started when we talked and laughed once
As we leaned on the railing of the landing
In front of our apartment doors,
While the wind hit us with sudden gusts;
She wasn’t beautiful like the models in the media,
But she wasn’t at all like other girls

She was my next door neighbor,
And I would have been able to see into her room
If the wall between us were transparent

My neighbor’s hair was dark brown, like mine,
But her eyes were dry, hopeless,
As if she had been searching for a long time
Without any luck

When she learned I programmed websites,
She asked me how I’d been feeling,
Alone in my tiny apartment
With only the TV and PC for company

The loneliness I had kept bottled up inside
Suddenly erupted;
Inside of the cramped home I lived in,
It had been growing stronger every day

“It is lonely, but I have my own life,”
I answered honestly;
Although I wasn’t happy, the way I was living
Had been working out for me until then

My neighbor gave me a weary smile,
Which looked more natural
Than the smiles of the women on TV
“Your bed must be hard and cold,
Just like mine;
Do you also lie there
Staring at the wall?”

As I returned home from the office,
The wind was blowing hard,
And the air smelled like autumn;
When my neighbor looked down at me
From where she sat on the landing,
She seemed like a tiny thing

A different day, we sat on the grass
Of the nearby park we both used to visit;
I could tell we were both thinking
How to tell each other the whole truth,
But our lives were hard to explain
Even to ourselves

There was no way for me to comprehend
That look she gave me from time to time
(I felt that her heart, like those eyes
Had dried up and turned into stone)

“I’m just a regular, unimportant girl
Who is stuck with a dull, empty job,”
She said with her soft voice,
“And we are going through all of this
For no reason whatsoever;
What do we gain by tiring ourselves out
With so many silly endeavours?”
Her sad gaze looked straight at my face
“I can’t even begin to answer that,” I said

She had probably seen through the lies
And excuses that I made every day for my sake;
She knew everything that had gone on
For so long inside me

I tried telling her she wasn’t alone in this world,
But her body stiffened, and her face went pallid
“I miss many books on my shelf,
Which I haven’t read since elementary school”
Then she turned and shuffled toward her home,
While I followed her from far enough

After that time, we met almost every day,
And talked about anything that popped up
We went for walks or for a coffee,
And sometimes we watched videos online
We got so close, it scared the hell out of me

She showed me the old books on her shelf,
Which she had read dozens of times;
I borrowed some, and I found out
That those words had been made for us

My neighbor told me that many stories she liked
Back when she were a carefree child,
Those books she would have needed to share,
Most of them she lost along the way,
And many of the titles she forgot,
And a few of them won’t ever return in print

(So please, let these pages never be erased,
Let the memories in here
Never disappear)

We drank some beer and talked until late at night;
She told me that she had tried everything
To feel better, and it hadn’t worked yet,
At least not very well

She looked up at the night sky through the window
As she talked at length about her loneliness,
How it was just waiting inside all the time,
How there was no escape

I liked protecting her feelings from the world,
So she wouldn’t feel ashamed or isolated,
And I felt as if we could live as one
Even without words being exchanged between us

We held hands as friends and talked,
But that look kept showing on her face;
The look that said she couldn’t go on with it anymore,
Like the eyes of someone drowning at sea

We spent an afternoon in the park
Watching the autumn leaves fall
My neighbor spoke about her mother,
Who left her and went off to a distant country,
After which her father was never the same again
(He became depressed for months before disappearing)

She told me her story as tears rolled down her cheeks,
Although her eyes had dried up and turned to stone;
The loneliness and desperation she had bottled up
Was like a pressure cooker waiting for a match
(I think I could feel something inside me,
Getting bigger with time)

I admitted I didn’t understand this life either,
That like she repeated, it didn’t seem to make sense
We both agreed we had nowhere else to turn;
She gave me a hug, and I listened to the hard wind
As it hit her body

The walls of our cramped apartments were thin:
I often heard the sounds she made as she slept;
Even the slightest sigh, or breath she drew in
Felt loud inside me

We went out for karaoke, and we sang softly,
Or else we drank soda and ate our cheese sandwiches
We also laughed quite a bit;
It was a decent place to get to know each other more

We talked and we smiled
As if our minds were connected by wires;
We could spend hours together
Without ever getting tired

The next day my neighbor woke up hungover,
And when she exited her apartment,
I was already sitting on the landing
Reading one of the books she lent me

Instead of progressing in life, we were stuck,
Pushing the walls of our small world;
What awaited beyond was so big,
We lacked the strength to break out

We had our secret jokes
That we didn’t tell to anyone,
Not to our coworkers, or the strangers in the street,
Because they wouldn’t understand anyway

It felt more important for us to try to reach
Through the gaps in the books we shared;
We wouldn’t try to fill the emptiness with our words,
Because it was impossible

(To read her father’s books,
My neighbor sat on the floor,
And her eyes concentrated on the words
As if trying to find her way into their world)

That night, we hid together in my neighbor’s home;
Her back looked almost traslucent,
Naked and pale as the paper white sheets,
And I saw for the first time the words written on her skin:
‘This is not a good story’

(Every single morning I wake,
My heart is heavy, my mind foggy with despair)

I held her tight as we made love
While listening to some old record;
Afterward, we lay next to each other,
Looking at the cracked ceiling
Our breaths slowly grew shorter, quieter,
Then they seemed to stop entirely

She spoke of a black hole inside her,
That no matter how much I did for her,
Would not allow her to feel comfortable,
Or be filled with joy

I held my neighbor’s slender body
Like I had wished to do for months,
But I barely heard her whisper:
“Our lives will disappear some day
When the end finally comes for me,
Please let my thoughts continue
Through your hands, and your mind”

I was sure she was crying,
So I hugged her tightly;
Her shoulders shook while tears flowed
Across her pale cheeks

When morning came, the sky looked cold and grey,
Like when my dad used to drive me to school
It seemed so odd, lying beside this girl
While her face was turned towards mine
Instead of facing the wall or looking down,
Just being alone inside her own world

From then on, we slept together most nights,
Sometimes in the bed, and others on the couch;
We spent weekends watching television shows,
Listening to music we didn’t care for very much;
There were times when we had nothing to say
Except for anything related to the past, or work

We decided to move to a small apartment
With an office for my job,
And empty space for her parents’ things;
We found a cheap place in a town close by
(We couldn’t afford a larger apartment)
The landlord liked our faces; we didn’t need references
(And we were just too broke)

A Sunday evening, after the movie we went to see,
My neighbor talked about getting married some day

(Sometimes my body freezes;
It feels as if a black cloud descends upon me,
Which will consume me, suck out every breath;
The world spins so quickly then,
It’s difficult to hold on any longer,
And then I hear my next door neighbor whisper,
“Let us disappear, please”)

Her dark hair fluttered lightly behind us
While the rising sunlight reflected off the puddles;
I held on to her hand tightly while looking down
As the light of a new day spread its glow across us

(Some days she didn’t have the strength to get up;
She would lie in bed all day,
And kept whispering words over and over to no one;
Or wept silently until she fell asleep)

We both had lost something
Before finding the right thing again;
We could spend whole weeks or months
Holding each other like two children might;
I hadn’t felt such satisfaction for many years,
And now was a time to try all over again

I think my neighbor and I became happier
After getting engaged,
And with me as her witness,
We got married in the city hall
In front of ghost guests,
A large crowd

(The black hole in her chest
Had continued growing stronger, she said,
And she feared that one day it would swallow
Everything she had)

My head filled up with dreams to fulfill,
In this city that seemed too big,
In a place full of all sorts of new things I needed,
In a world in which I wanted to stay

I couldn’t take away her look of loneliness,
Of having spent her entire existence,
Since birth, in the world alone,
And knowing that it wasn’t just an inevitability,
But a natural law

I was scared by that feeling:
The same that overwhelmed me
Whenever I got a glimpse
Of the words written on her back

The words would surface and resurface
In the corners of my neighbor’s sight;
Whenever they would show themselves
In her weary eyes,
She would stare at me,
Or right through me,
As if asking,
“Why are we still this lonely?”

The only way for me to cope was with words,
Or by pretending not to notice
How she disappeared further inside herself;
To fill that blackness within her,
We tried to live our normal, boring lives,
Drifting along without any particular goal,
Just like the neighbors did

The world around us slowly moved on,
But I can’t describe what went on inside my head;
Maybe I was trying to hold onto the world
And everything that made sense

That day I watched her walk down our hallway,
And then beyond our apartment’s door;
The air smelled like the beginning of autumn,
And her footsteps didn’t sound like they belonged
To a young woman anymore

I put all the stories in my mind
Onto this page

‘This Is Not a Good Story’ by Jon Ureña

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