“The reason I talk to myself is because I’m the only one whose answers I accept.”
HE SOON LEARNED THAT BY CRACKING THE WINDOW AT EIGHT he could dim a little the unwanted light, while allowing a subtle breeze in. At the Ward 3A, increasing the opening of your window was a hard to earn privilege - an inch per month, for good behavior. That was your prize - that and two brownie squares, but only if you were lucky at the dinner line competing with the elders who often behave erratically, for the lack of energy, not will. Last week was his eight birthday. He knew beforehand that no one would come to greet him, no one will show up with presents; so he planned ahead. One inch per month, he said to himself. And so, for the amusement of everyone, he began being good.
He began taking baths regularly, as it was expected at the ward, three times a week. He even ate his daily vegetables and read the bible. The truth was that he used to hide folded pages from the few comic books available at the library inside the holy book. In the end, no one seemed to care that much. He was the only one allowed to walk free through the ward; after all he was the youngest. Nobody knew his real name, so he just went by Boy 1904, perhaps with the sole intention of stating his gender and his birth year. The only one who knew him best was Eustace - the kid who refused to shower, but they all called him “stain”. He was the boy on the room next to his. He got the nickname on the same day “Boy” arrived. He was so thrilled to see that he wouldn’t be alone anymore at the ward that he peed himself and, considering that a shower was only allowed after three days, there he was, somehow dignified, with his smelly and stained shorts. Soon after Boy arrived and it was his time, he agreed to take a cold shower, but not to change his clothes. They became friends instantly and most nights they stayed awake playing "pretend" against the wall, from room to room. An orphan since he was two, “Boy 1904” had no one, so the ward took him in. He had dreams to become a composer. There were times when he walked the ward corridor up and down for hours with two plastic spoons, one on each hand, pretending to be an orchestra director of some sort, whistling Bach or Debussy - he always had something to amuse us all.
The thing about Boy was that he seemed to never grow old. He must have had some sort of sickness, some kind of condition that prevented him from growing. And so the years passed. Most of the elders passed away and new patients arrived. There were new nurses and doctors. Everybody was gone. Even Eustace, I mean, "stain". Everyone that was once there when Boy arrived was no longer there, just him.
Nicholas Simmons was a patient at Ward 3A, and before that, a nurse. He lost his son while swimming at Coney Island in 1904. He still refuses to reveal his son’s name or the date of the accident, it all remains a mystery. There are no records that Nicholas Simmons had a son or a wife. There are no family records of him. Not known family members or friends; no records that he exists at all. His appearance says about 90, but no one is certain. He has spent about 80 years between asylums, but he always manages to return to the Ward 3A, and still does. Boy 1904 remains his only friend at the hospital and, for seniority or just out of mercy, they keep the room next to him empty. At the door there's a sign that read: Eustace Simmons 1896 - 1904. The room remains empty, but “Boy” still have the daily conversations with whoever lurks in the room next to his. To this day, the doctors hasn't assigned anyone to the empty room, for little Eustace wouldn’t like to have a roommate.
THROUGH THE FRAYED COURTAIN, a wan glow heralds the break of day. The morning breaks across a foggy vinyl window and the snow crystals melt in a symphony of soundless cymbals. The wind lacerates my tent for a moment and then, it does is again. In these inhospitable latitudes where the sordidness and the occasional aurora serve me as the background music and scenery inside a tent, I strive to find quietness; I plea for an iron curtain. My task, one that never came in any shape or order, is to write once again about the motionless travel notes from a castaway on the shore of loneliness, as it is has been for quite some time, ignoring the audiences.
Even in my adult life, I’ve never been able to understand quite well the real meaning of remoteness, never grasped the idea of alienation. I have shared until now -like almost every living soul in our planet- the notion that solitude equals withdrawal and that remoteness equals silence. It is fascinating and enchanting to discover that everyone was wrong, even myself. Outside my tent, the clouds are still dense and in distress and their relentless struggle to unite make an epic spectacle. Days are long and darkness remains apprehensive, there are still remnants of volcanic ashes in the air, of Nordic winds and oblivion. In Iceland, like their inhabitants say, we are all on our own, in our individual and intoxicating intimacy.
Landing in Reykjavík brought distant yet endless memories of childhood. Its gray domain and pure air unified with its discreet but violent winds shipped me back to my point of origin, to my mainspring. Iceland’s first face turned me rigid and mute and upon arrival, I celebrated the drift-away ambition which was my first great leap out of a crippled spirit. Everything here comes in slow and unnoticed waves; the song of a lone puffin, the sound of light rain over my tent, a shy trace of warm breeze they all come and go a moment before stillness takes on and reign most part of the day.
Following the same steps of a close friend from Mexico, who talked to me about the “Icelandic ethereal captivation”, I decided to embrace the remote land in the most intimate way: outside. Upon arrival, I spent 3 nights in Reykjavík getting ready for the rest of my journey and then left for the small city of Keflavík where I spent one night in the open. From there I continued to Grindavík, Selfoss whre I made a few brief stops and, with great luck and effort, three nights ago I arrived at the southern coastal town of Vík, where I had planned to spend the night on my tent for the night. Due to the harsh climate I had to swallow my pride and chose to stay at an old hostel, where a hot bath, fish soup and a warm bed welcomed me. Even with all the arrangements in advance, it turned into a subtle hassle to flight out of Vík and into the island of Vestmannaeyjar.
-notes from the travel journal
A few nights ago, I received an email from a friend (who happens to enjoy astronomy as I do) where he attached a photograph from our planet, taken from the Voyager, from outer space decades ago. In the photograph our planet looks like a single unrecognizable pale-blue-dot of light in the infinity of space. A tiny dot of light...
A few hours ago, when it was dark enough to look up to the sky, familiarity tackled me. I walked a little longer until I reached the shore. From there, an everlasting, calm, robust and reassuring black ocean reflected the universe above. I have never felt so much peace.
A few hours ago, when it was dark enough to look up to the sky, familiarity tackled me. I walked a little longer until I reached the shore. From there, an everlasting, calm, robust and reassuring black ocean reflected the universe above. I have never felt so much peace.
<<Had I been blind or deaf, or did the harsh light of disaster make me find my true nature?>>
From there -paralyzed-, I allowed my imagination and my memory to live out once again all my boyhood fantasies and turned them into the night's ambition. Tonight, for a moment, my life feel like a string of near misses. I thought about the moments of happiness I let drift away, the opportunities I failed to seize and the moments where I was unable to love... A race whose result I knew beforehand but failed to pick the winner.
<<Tonight I am not here with me. >>
I bent down and picked a flat rock from the ground. I looked above for a moment and in a single motion, I threw the rock out to the peaceful dark sea like a wingless bird attempting to escape the weight of darkness. I threw it as hard and far as I could and, as it skipped several times and then sank, silent circular waves formed and slowly expanded gently in unison, taking me with them away from the shore, away from everything, and blending me with the reflection of the stars above.
At last... I’m heading home.
La verdad es algo tan difícil que alguien te diga a la cara… completamente imposible decírnosla a la cara nosotros mismos.
Para M; por su flor y por la primera vez…
NO HAY MEJOR ANTÍDOTO que unos días a solas frente al mar. Y no hay mayor premio para un hombre que la medalla a la indiferencia, o el peor debo decir; lo que a fin de cuentas es lo mismo. Se me hizo relativamente fácil, luego de haber caminado seis kilómetros en una densa selva, encontrar la costa; la costa de un mar que aun se las arreglaba para mantenerse virgen, o sea, no toqueteada por el hombre. Encontré la costa porque aquel mar rugía; no como las bestias, sino como los truenos. Nunca he sido amante del mar, aunque nunca he vivido a más de diez kilómetros de él en mis cuarenta años de vida. Solía disfrutar de un chapuzón cuando las cosas se hacían duras, o cuando me sobrecargaba la confusión. Las olas del mar, si logras que una atraviese tu cuerpo entrando por la cabeza y desapareciendo en los pies, limpian el espíritu y sanan las viejas heridas; así me decía la abuela. Pero el transcurso de los años lo cambia todo, al más sabio de los hombres; y al cabo de unos años comencé a pensar que todo lo que decía la abuela eran pamplinas. Han pasado treinta y cinco años desde la primera vez que escuché a la abuela decir eso. Y no ha pasado un momento en el que no recurra al mar con el único fin de sacarme uno que otro demonio, o a alguna mujer; lo que al fin de cuentas es lo mismo.
Seguramente pensarán que no soy más que otro hombre despechado y, para no comenzar sembrando dudas les diré que sí; que sí es despecho. ¿Es que acaso creen ustedes que nosotros, los hombres, no sentimos? El problema con ustedes, las mujeres, es que creen que un hombre no tiene la astucia o el corazón para desenmascararlas, o para decirles la verdad a la cara. Bueno, en realidad sus problemas son muchos, y serán más aun cuando les cuente la historia de la única mujer de la que… Bueno, mejor les hablo de Isabel. Sus problemas, cuando finalice la historia de Isabel, serán más porque a nadie le gusta que le digan la verdad a la cara, y hay mucho de Isabel en cada una de ustedes. ¿Acaso no es por eso que leen?
El verano del 93’ terminaba. Y con él también terminaba –como se dice comúnmente– otro capítulo de mi vida. De un tiempo para acá he optado por asignarle un número a cada capítulo de mi vida, lo he hecho por seguridad; después de todo a nadie le gusta que le recuerden la verdad. Pero para entonces –y hablo del verano del 93’– me complacía con personalizar cada capítulo con un nombre. El problema surgió cuando realicé que tenía dos nombres para el capítulo, al cual hoy le he cambiado el nombre por el número 22, pero al que entonces opté por titular: Mariana e Isabel. Ambos nombres merecían un lugar al tope, eso creí, hasta que se armó la guerra por el control. En el capítulo 20 de mi vida, al cual entonces titulé: La Universidad, escribí sobre mi primer año de formación académica en la Universidad de las Américas, pero sobre todo escribí acerca de Mariana. Y no fue para menos, Mariana fue la primera costa virgen, o sea, no toqueteada por el hombre, por la que caminé. Algo es muy cierto; los años de universidad son los mejores por solo dos cosas: la libertad de pensamiento y por el sexo; precisamente en ese orden. Y con el transcurso de los primeros años, cuando nuestros ojos comienzan a ver el mundo tal y como es y no como nos han contado, entendemos claramente el sentido de nuestra existencia como hombres: tener sexo. Claro está que un hombre hará lo que sea necesario para meterse en los pantalones de una mujer; y esto incluye, con mucha pena lo admito, mentirles diciéndole a cara cuanto la amas. Pero por alguna razón siempre funciona como un amuleto para la buena suerte. Solo dile cuanto la quieres y en poco tiempo alcanzarás el paraíso.
La ambición me llevó, unos años después, a los confines de la gloria y la estupidez. Mis ojos y mis pensamientos eran otros, y no faltó mucho para que viera claramente que las curvas de Isabel eran más peligrosas que las de Mariana. Y como siempre he sido amante del peligro…
Isabel y yo nos conocimos en un bar cercano a la facultad, y desde aquella tarde nos hicimos inseparables. Para zafarme de cualquier interrogatorio de Mariana, le había dicho que comenzaría a trabajar en la biblioteca durante las tardes; lo que no fue del todo falso. Luego de ocho copas, las que luego se redujeron a dos, encontrábamos, Isabel y yo, refugio en la sección de religión en la biblioteca; la cual nadie visitaba. Y fue allí, entre manuales de teología apilados por todos lados donde nos derretíamos casi a diario sobre la alfombra. Más que peligrosa, Isabel resultó ser muy aventurera, lo que admito me llevo de los confines de la gloria –como dije– y posteriormente a los de la estupidez en picada. Isabel ya no disfrutaba la sección de teología en la biblioteca, ni el baño de caballeros en el bar, o el abandonado laboratorio en la facultad de astronomía. Isabel quería más, necesitaba más; y así fue como terminamos desnudos en el confesionario de la Catedral de San Ignacio.
Mientras nos revolcábamos dentro del confesionario me las arreglaba con gran esfuerzo para no gritar. Ella sin duda sabía lo que hacía, hablaba en lenguas y todo mientras aplastaba mi cuerpo con sus grandes pechos. Por un momento me pareció escucharla gemir como un perro y me dije: “Soy una maquina…” Pero no era ella quien gemía. A mis pies, los cuales no podía mover por la falta de circulación en las piernas, había un perrito. Me pregunté: “¿Qué ostias hace un perro acá?” Isabel se bajó de mis piernas para acariciar el perrito, y por un momento sentí la gloria cuando mis piernas recobraron la sensibilidad.
–Un momento… Yo conozco este perro, dije.
–¿Cómo que conoces a este perro?, respondió Isabel.
Pero las palabras no salieron de mi boca. Y mis rodillas se hicieron débiles. Y casi me orino encima cuando Mariana abrió la cortina del confesionario y nos encontró desnudos intentando sofocar el jodido perro. Una amiga de Mariana le había regalado, semanas antes, un perro salchicha para que le hiciera compañía en los largos periodos de abandono a los que la sometía. Y fue el mismísimo perro el que me alertó de su presencia; lamentablemente desnudo, acalambrado, y con una rubia despampanante. Fue claro que Mariana me venía persiguiendo, por unos días incluso, me atrevería a decir. De seguro que esperó pacientemente por el “momento adecuado” para hacer su entrada triunfal. Y así fue. Allí me haló por los pelos, me pateó los huevos, me escupió más de diez veces, se cagó en mi puta madre y concluyó:
– ¿Ves como el perro es el mejor amigo del hombre?
<<Y yo que pensaba que el mejor amigo del hombre era su pene…>>
Mariana me mandó a la mierda. Yo no entiendo a las mujeres. Si un hombre se acuesta con una mujer en algún antro de pueblo, o en su propia casa, es malo. Y si lo hace en una catedral bajo la misericordia y el perdón automático de Dios, también. Mariana me mandó a la mismísima mierda. Sí, a ese lugar que bien pudiera ser cualquiera pero que en mi caso se refería al lugar llamado “mierda” que me dejó en la calle, sin techo, con lo que traía puesto y nada más.
Llevaba tres meses viviendo con Isabel. Me había rescatado de las calles porque me amaba, me dijo. Regresé a la universidad poco después y me conseguí un empleo. Intentaba volver a la normalidad. No tenía otro remedio que tragarme la mierda con Isabel, y al poco tiempo se me hizo fácil decirle alguno que otro “te amo” pensando en Mariana. No sé. Es como si todo lo que me atrajo de Isabel una vez, se había desvanecido. Vivíamos juntos y la pasábamos muy bien. No recuerdo ningún encontronazo con ella. Éramos perfectos estando juntos. Pero eso no fue lo que me atrajo de ella. Me había enamorado de su cuerpo, y de que fuera tan puta. Y ahora todo había cambiado. Con mayor frecuencia, en las noches comenzaba a platicarme de cualquier tontería; de las artes o de literatura, y yo solo quería que se callara la boca y me diera una mamada. No sé si me entiendan: me enamoré de Mariana, pero del cuerpo de Isabel. Y ahora que Isabel se había tornado en una Mariana, hice lo que tenía que hacer. No sé si me entienden.
Era el verano del 96’ y durante aquellos días me dediqué a escribir el capítulo 25, al cual entonces había titulado, muy oportunamente: El fin de Isabel. Cobraba auge para entonces una invención que revolucionaba el mundo: el internet. En poco tiempo terminé de escribir mi plan para abandonar a Isabel, y me sobraba la mitad del día para perder el tiempo, y para alejarla poco a poco. La indiferencia, ¿recuerdan? – bueno, pues, yo me gané la medalla. Me pasaba incontables horas metido en un mundo virtual, no porque lo disfrutara, sino porque quería hacerle sutilmente claro a ella que ya no me importaba. Poco a poco y constantemente ganaba más terrero mí magnifico plan: lograr que fuera Isabel quien me dejara, para no tener que confesarle que me aburría, y que odiaba su proximidad. En ese proceso, mientras esperaba lo inminente, también dedicaba cada día más tiempo a mi obsesiva relación con el internet. Poco después, conocí a una misteriosa chica italiana en un sitio virtual, la cual se hacía llamar Mia Conti. Una noche, luego de repetidas invitaciones de acompañarla a la cama que rechacé, Isabel entendió que algo sucedía; pero no dijo nada, me lo dijeron sus ojos. Aquella noche Isabel durmió con la tranquilidad de un bebé, y yo recibí el primer rayo de luz del siguiente día diciéndole a Mia que era mía.
Aquella mañana Isabel se levantó envuelta en un aire que no reconocí. Se duchó y se tomo un café con gran reserva. Y antes de cerrar la puerta me dijo desde el recibidor:
“Estaré unos días en la casa de una amiga. Creo que necesitamos un tiempo a solas; para pensar en lo que ambos queremos…” Y se marchó. Y yo sonreí.
Los siguientes días transcurrieron de maravilla. Por primera vez todo mi tiempo y mi espacio eran para mí, y yo era el único rey de aquel palacio de cartón. Cada tarde regresaba con más ansias de meterme al ordenador para platicar con Mia, la misteriosa italiana que desde el otro lado del mundo, y tan solo con sus palabras, me traía como perro faldero. No sé; creo que me tomó mucho tiempo enamorarme de Mia Conti; lo que es aceptable tomando en consideración que no la conocía personalmente. Fue muy difícil que me conquistara esa mujer: me tomó poco más de tres días confesarle mi amor, y dos días más en hacerme de un boleto de avión para Milán. Terminaba el verano y decidí dejar la universidad, dejar a Isabel, dejarlo todo y emprender la aventura de viajar a Italia para conocer a mi nuevo “amor de toda la vida”. Era Agosto del 96’, y había adquirido un boleto sin regreso a Milán para el 24 de ese mes.
Aquella mañana, luego de la ducha, decidí ir de paseo por el centro y visitar mi restaurante favorito, Gayola. Después de todo, pensé, aquella sería la última vez que caminaría esas calles, las mismas que caminé junto a Isabel y Mariana, y la última vez que almorzaría en mi restaurante favorito. Caminé por un rato y no sé; había algo extraño en el cielo, las nubes colapsaban entre sí sin producir sonido alguno. Nubes grises y luego negras, dándole un aura de premonición al encogido cielo sobre mi cabeza. Pero como hombre al fin, continúe la marcha hasta el restaurante creyendo que se trataba de una señal divina o de un buen augurio. Me pedí mi plato favorito: asado de carne en salsa de vino tinto, setas y patatas. Una pena que ni Isabel ni Mariana nunca aprendieron a prepararlo correctamente. Isabel sobre-cocinaba la carne y Mariana quemaba las patatas. Almorcé con un gusto triunfal. Mia Conti me había asegurado que era experta con las carnes, y en poco menos de un día, me dije, podría saborear la suya. Me tomé tres cervezas y un Jerez. Llamé un taxi con la mano para regresar a la casa, para recoger mi equipaje y dirigirme al aeropuerto.
–Espere aquí –le dije al taxista– solo iré por mis maletas y regreso en unos minutos.
Al bajarme del taxi noté que el Fiat de Isabel estaba aparcado frente a la casa, encendido; y casi me orino en los pantalones. Pero había algo a mi favor, pensé. Isabel no sabía que me marchaba para Italia, en todo caso pensaría que me marchaba por la simple razón de que ella me había abandonado primero. Así que me armé de valor, como hombre que soy, y caminé hacia la puerta. Por un momento sentí la necesidad de mirar hacia arriba. No habían nubes en el cielo, ahora azulísimo y despejado; y me dije: “soy una maquina.” Frente a la puerta alcancé a escuchar la radio a todo volumen, pero no recuerdo que canción era. Me detuve frente a ésta por un momento, intentando descifrar lo que sucedía. ¿Qué habrá hecho Isabel con mis maletas?, me pregunté. Pero allí permanecí por unos minutos, pensando que decir. Murmuré:
–Soy un hombre, soy una maquina...
Y de un empujón derribé la puerta; debo decir, la abrí, ya que estaba entreabierta.
Si una mujer es el demonio, dos mujeres son el infierno. Cuando abrí la puerta, Isabel le introducía su lengua, sus dedos, y un cohete tamaño miniatura por la flor a Mariana. La música se hizo más ruidosa, pero confieso que le otorgó un aire de victoria a aquel evento. Sobre la cama, Isabel amarraba el cuerpo desnudo de Mariana contra el suyo como una mismísima tarántula, y yo no salía de mi asombro. Bajo sus cuerpos, en lugar de sabanas, la cama estaba cubierta por decenas de hojas de papel, y yo no lograba salir de mi asombro. De un momento a otro la música se detuvo, y con el silencio también llegaron sus ojos, clavados en los míos.
–Nos alegró mucho que hayas empacado, por eso decidimos celebrar. Es más sencillo así, ¿no crees?
–¿Pero qué es esto?, pregunté.
–Como dije: nos alegra mucho que te largues, y nos alegraría más que no regreses. Tus maletas están hechas, y sobre una de ellas te dejamos un sobre. El contenido de éste, el cual te sugiero le pongas mucha atención, contestará todas tus preguntas. Ahora lárgate. ¡Váyase a la mismísima mierda!
–¡Muy bien, hijas de puta!, les grité. Pero ellas regresaron a su juego de arañas y pulpos, y no contuvieron la risa.
La corta distancia entre mi antiguo palacio de cartón y el aeropuerto se hizo interminable. Dentro del sobre había exactamente 448 páginas, fechadas al tope y enumeradas cada una de ellas. Aquellas páginas recogían todas las conversaciones que tuve con Mia Conti en el sitio virtual en donde nos conocimos. Cada palabra, cada cuentecito lujurioso que le hice y que ella correspondió, cada “te quiero” que le escribí estaba allí escrito, con hora y fecha. La última página fue la que me trajo la cruda realidad de que Mia Conti, la misteriosa italiana, no era otra cosa que un virtual invento planificado por ambas para darme una lección; según se desprendía de la carta. Mariana se había hecho pasar por otra con el fin de desenmascárame. Hacia unos meses que Isabel y Mariana se veían, y caí en su trampa, como hombre al fin, siempre cayendo. No tuve más remedio que cambiar de plan y pedirle al taxista que me llevara a un hotel; pero de todos los que fuimos ninguno tenía vacantes. Y así fue como terminé en el mar, en un mar que rugía como los truenos, no como las bestias.
No hay mejor antídoto, o remedio debo decir, que unos días a solas frente al mar. Le pedí al taxista, mientras buscaba un lugar donde pasar la noche, una parada para comprarme unos cigarrillos. Pero cuando regresé, el muy hijo de puta se había ido a la fuga con mi billetera y con mi equipaje. Así fue como terminé en la costa, luego de haber caminado varios kilómetros en busca de refugio, en busca de limpiarme con el agua del mar la mierda y las viejas derrotas.
Pero aquel mar rugía. Y una vez más recordé las palabras de la abuela. Y me lancé al mar para sacarme a Isabel de la piel, para sacarme a Mariana del corazón. Me lancé al mar para borrar a Mia de mi mente y el demonio de mi entrepierna. Me lancé en aquel mar virgen, o sea, no toqueteado por el hombre, para olvidar, para llorar y para reír, y para entender que no somos más que madera cortada del mismo árbol. Fue allí, rodeado de soledad y de escombros, bajo un cielo negrisimo y sin luna donde también descubrí que el diablo y el hombre, a fin de cuentas, son lo mismo…
Para la dama sin nombre que me ha visitado por años,
y a quien amaría si tan solo viviera fuera de mis sueños…
Mariana Cascada, te soñé pero no existes.
Y en carretera acantilada, que fue testigo de mi espera,
Entre años regresaste, pero igual te fuiste.
En los tejados polvorientos, de las ciudades sin nombre,
Me parece verte; pero escondes tu rostro,
Como siempre entre espadas, tan filosas como dientes.
Mariana Cascada, a quien solo el agua de lluvia baña,
Con quien sueño cada otoño, y a quien cada año pierdo
A la falda al pie de una montaña.
Y te persigo. Y corro. Y por ti vuelo; y luego despierto.
Y me parece verte atada en telarañas.
Y te libero, y una vez más te me escapas,
En el castillo de mi cuerpo, donde habitas como herida
Que no sangra, que no sangra.
Ya no me mires así, Mariana Cascada;
Que lo nuestro ha sido abstracto como el viento mismo.
Pero cambiaria hoy lo que no tengo,
Por un instante en las garras de tu abismo.
Y cuando caiga, sobre una flor, al pie de tu montaña;
Ahí me quedaré, y no despertaré.
Y ermitaño pasaré los años en tu sueño,
Donde habitas como herida;
Que no me daña. Que no me daña.
For Albert and Diego. And for all of his amazing “others”…
IF YOU PROMISE TO KEEP A SECRET, I might tell you one. And, if after you hear my story you prove to be trustworthy, I might tell you another. But if you really want to know everything you will have to earn that privilege. Come ‘on now, let’s face it: after all, nothing in this world comes cheap, and nevertheless free. Perhaps, as in those silly game-shows where the winner gets all, I might even give you a bonus prize at the end, how’s that? But I won’t tell you what it is; not now, and not like this. We wouldn’t want to ruin your little surprise; plus, it wouldn’t be fun then, right? Let’s say it will only depend on how lucky your day has been so far; so just make sure not to screw what’s left of it by reading the rest of this.
Oh well… I see that you’re still here. I guess you must be either incredibly stupid for not listening or just plain brave. I vote for the second, hoping that you realize soon enough that you have made a terrible mistake for allowing your child-like curiosity to interfere in men’s affairs. You are ambitious, I can tell; but I tell you this: there’s nothing you can do to get me to confess everything. But I’m a man of my word, and I do as I say; so I will tell you my first secret. And we’ll see what you think after I’m done. Who knows, you might get lucky after all. Oh, and one last thing: if for any reason you end up falling short to your own expectations and, as a consequence, you fail on earning the privilege of having it all; or, if you do get everything you are here for but then you don’t like the “bonus prize”, don’t come after me; believe me, I will be long gone. So, now, I did warn you, right? And taking in consideration that after all you might be flat stupid, I am warning you again.
Very well then; where shall we begin?
The first thing you should know about me is that despite my actual appearance, I am woman. I know… I know… I tricked you with my previous statement; you thought I was a man, didn’t you? But don’t be so tough on yourself; most people can’t see what’s laid in front of their eyes even if you force them. People just see what they want to see and, in addition, I admit that it gives me great comfort knowing how easy it is for me to get what I want with only a trick or two. I tell you this because it’s important, not because is relevant; as neither is relevant my place of birth or the day I was born. By now, just by listening to my voice, you might be having ideas –you know– things in your head. That’s why I said it was important to establish that I am a woman; well, let me clarify that: almost a woman. Testosterones and hormones are a motherfucker, as unpredictable as any living organism. Talking about testosterones and hormones and living organisms: trust me; they’re even worst when they all hide in your head. And even though my body resembles the body of a woman, there are still a few-tiny things to work with: like my voice for example. Some friends tell me it gives me an edge, that it makes me unique; but I hate it anyhow. Well, enough with this nonsense. I’m not here to discuss what is hanging between my legs, or how round my tits are; I’m here to tell you a secret. And that’s the only reason you’re here; well, and to see how lucky you are as well.
My mother named me Icarus against my father’s will. She had promised him to name me Boris after my late grandfather, but then, out of nowhere and without a warning, she named me Icarus. “Who told him to waste such a special day at the bar?” – I remember her saying once. Unfortunately, my father turned out to be stupid enough to believe her when she claimed to have named me after the young character in a Greek mythology story. But the truth is far simpler; and yet, incomprehensibly alarming: I was named after Icarus Samaos, my mother’s Greek and hairy lover. You see? What I just said is relevant to my story, but not important. Trust me. My real name is not important at this moment and, to tell you the truth, sometimes I even go by other names, it all depends on my mood; or so Dr. Beck mildly explained it to me the first time we met.
As I was saying; the first thing you should know about me is that despite my actual appearance, I am a man. Once again I fooled you, didn’t I? But hey; all this is far simpler, like I previously said, than you might think. I am a woman and I am also a man. In fact, if you get close enough and take a closer look and stop rolling your eyes from wherever you are now and, if you do the math with your fingers, you will understand that inside of me, there’s more of a man than a woman, and the other way around. Of course I wasn’t born like this, nor was I turned or forced to be what I am now. Let’s say it happened; it just had to happen. So, what gives you the right to judge me? Go on and roll your eyes somewhere else.
For the sake of courtesy and in case you didn’t notice, that was my first secret. And I’m sure that by now, once again, you might be having ideas –you know– “things” in your head. So before I go any further, I think I should clarify one or two things, considering that you are still here, handling yourself so admirably, so confidently; believing that I will go on and on, rambling, talking my guts out and giving away what I have protected so well for the last five years. And I must admit that you might be right, but just this once. Alright; I will go on now with my second secret. Now, I highly encourage you to pay close attention to what I’m about to say; because it’ll draw the line between you and your prize. In exactly 33 minutes I will kill three people: I will kill two men and a woman. Now I really think I went way ahead; so, let me get a grip on myself, go back a little, and begin by telling you how I ended up in this fucking mess…
I’m not completely sure but I think it all began on the following months after my graduation from N.Y.U, when my life took an unexpected turn to my favor, and after which I couldn’t be any happier considering the good fortune. The long-dragged and asphyxiating heaviness on my shoulders and the excruciating restlessness caused by a lifetime living at the mercy of the others, none of which belonged to me but to hell, was a story of the past; or so I forced myself to believe. There was only one remaining thing to mend, one last important decision to be made; and I knew it would be nearly impossible to fight them on my own. That was the only reason why I allowed Diane Lebintos, once again, to step one inch closer into my life that night at “The Ward”. Against my doctor’s recommendations, I chose to abandon treatment and stopped taking the medications during the first semester at Law School. It was an act of rebellion against the odds, against everyone; and the consequences didn’t matter much to me. But something incredible happened: for the first time since I was around six or seven years old the parasites had ran away, they vanished. And this time it seemed they were gone for good. The last time I spoke to Dr. Beck, the gray-haired man couldn’t believe me at first; and it wasn’t until a full year without incidents had passed that he dared to claim the credit for “fixing” me. As for myself; well, been able to finally live a normal life was no small miracle. But miracles don’t happen very often, if they ever happened at all; I knew that very well. It wouldn’t be the first time since the diagnosis that I had experienced short and fragmented periods of lucidity; but this time I was strongly set on the belief that I had freed myself from the other two, from the “parasites”, as I often refer to “Dee-Dee” and Boris: the abstract inhabitants with whom I have shared the same skin, and the same two who found hospice and refuge inside my head for the most part of my life.
Dr. Beck died a happy man, a month or so before Diane’s path and mine crossed. He died believing that in fact he had reached his goal, which was to assure a permanent and honorable resting place on the books for his name as a leading authority in psychotherapy. He wanted nothing more for him than to clear his family name, which had been tainted with blood during the Second Great War. Not long after Dr. Beck’s funeral, life took me back to my hometown in Omaha, Nebraska. Having sworn to never go back, I handled better than what I anticipated the initial fears of returning, and even managed to put at rest the mixed-emotions when Omaha International, a very successful and lucrative law firm at Vinton Street hired me for a big chunk of money, right after graduation. <<I guess that some people are luckier than others, even with their condemnations>>. I also got the key to one of their corporate-properties, which was exclusively reserved for their greatest investments. After graduating top of my class and becoming one of the youngest to ever graduate from the New York University School of Law with honors; a high-ceiling and nicely decorated apartment, not far from the decaying walls where I grew up, was well deserved. During the initial days in Omaha I struggled avoiding the recurrent memories from childhood, memories from the very same old structure I was then looking from the terrace, and also trying to forget. But even around all the accomplishments, I still enjoyed amusing myself with the confirmation that I had also succeeded on erasing the shameful remaining bits and pieces of my miserable childhood. Instead of tormenting myself remembering the piteous days at the orphanage, I adopted a more suitable past; a better life in which I have successfully replaced with harmony all my resentments, a life that had served, in same proportion, my torments and my ambitions.
It was at the funeral where Icarus met Dr. Beck’s son, Boris: a rather handsome, well-mannered young man with a funny mustache. His sole presence bothered Icarus, but he couldn’t understand why, or in fact he did but refused to. His eyes were familiar, yet foreign. Perhaps, it was the cold and piercing stare from between the trees what finally moved Icarus to walk towards him, introducing himself, almost crushing Boris’s fingers when they shook hands.
“I couldn’t help noticing the way you stared at me during the whole ceremony… I’m sorry, where are my manners? - I’m Mr. Samaos, I was a friend of your father”.
“I know you”, he replied. “You are Icarus, right? I’ve heard so much about you, you poor thing. I truly admire your spirit”, he glanced at his wristwatch, fixed his tie and continued: “But is never too late to find success, right? Or defeat. So, I guess we both should be more careful from now on…,” he paused for a moment and exhaled, clearly ignoring Icarus’ extended hand. “I’ll be seeing you around, young man. I suppose we don’t have a better alternative; not yet, not just yet...”
There’s a nice place on Vinton Street not far from Icarus’ building, a disco-pub of some sort conveniently called “The Ward”. Are you listening to me now? Could I sound more foreign than that? – Disco-pub? Well, as I was saying; The Ward is a disco-pub on Vinton, and the only place around here where you can actually meet another human being away from the mirror. And, after a long and tedious afternoon under a burning Sun at the funeral, nothing could beat the pleasure of an evening spent next to the white piano at The Ward better than a few glasses of red wine; especially if they were free, and they usually were. Talking about mirrors: It takes me a great deal of time to look this beautiful. I would say –without a doubt– that it takes me about two hours in front of it to get the results I want. And ever since I cut my hair, right before college, it takes me even longer. I go by Diane Parish, but my real name is Diane Lebintos; but don’t worry, you may call me “Dee-Dee”. Of course no one knows my real name around these parts; such foreign name would only bring shame and misery in small towns like this. Plus, it suits me better, it brings strength and distinction. But tonight I refuse to be so proper and, I will not come back home empty handed. All I need is someone real, a face next to mine whose reflection in the mirror is not another trick of my perverse imagination.
From the opposite side of the bar at The Ward, Boris buried his eyes on Icarus’ reflection through his glass of red wine. He had been watching him from a close distance since his father’s funeral in New York City, and ever since he secretly arrived at Omaha a month before. But they both knew they were also been watched from someone else, someone far more dangerous and deceiving: a woman. Ever since Icarus decided to get rid of Diane and Boris once and for all, things turned somehow edgy. Icarus loved moving in the most distinguished circles, at least for the last two or three years and, their ever-close presence was becoming no less of a burden. His long relationship with Diane had come abruptly to an end, when he finally chose to believe Dr. Beck and accepted that she wasn’t real. After their separation, a few months after his admission to Law School, there was no one with whom Icarus could be in friendly terms, and Boris knew it. Being alone was his weakness and, just like Diane, Boris also remained in the shadows; planning his return and his vengeance against Icarus for stealing the one and only love of his life. He was about to make a move to expose him at all costs, to destroy him; and it would most definitely happen during that night.
A moment later, under the neon lights, a woman’s figure appeared from nowhere and disappeared again in the crowd. Several minutes later, she reappeared and greeted Icarus; whispering something to his ear, and then sat next to him. That woman was Diane Levintos, his childhood friend, his teenage-years lover, and for the last month: his accomplice. Boris continued looking at them from a corner for quite some time, waiting patiently for the signal.
No one could blame Diane for playing both sides, with God and the Devil simultaneously. If you see how it is, it’s a matter of self preservation and anyone would do the same thing; like they say: “if it comes to you or them, send flowers.” Boris and Diane, they grew up nearby. They all lived just a few blocks from each other –you know, them and the others– not far from the orphanage where Icarus spent most of his youth; although he never dared to escape, not even for a few hours at night when everyone was sleeping to feed his increasing curiosity in life outside those walls. Outside the orphanage walls, Icarus knew, they all had parents, pets, beautiful houses, a warm bed, a bedtime story and a kiss on their foreheads every night, and he didn’t. Icarus grew up with 46 other strangers, all orphans with whom he shared the same reality: no one loved them. So one day, it was a Sunday I’m sure, while the other kids were playing outside, at a birthday party, Icarus walked to the back fence. He hated the feeling of being alone, among the unloved, and that’s when he met them. He was six years old, I remember now. Back then, little Diane had freckles below her eyes, and that made her look even prettier than she already was. Boris was tall, thick-haired, and he looked surprisingly strong for an eight year old. Every Sunday –faithfully– during mandatory religious service, Icarus would sneak out and jumped out the kitchen window and ran to the back fence, climbing over it and daring his way outside; spending the entire morning playing with Boris and Dee-Dee in the forest.
<<How powerful is the mind of a young boy in captivity?>>
Diane and Icarus liked each other instantly, and Boris, like any other kid his age, didn’t like the idea of being rejected. They could spend countless hours, “Dee Dee” and Icarus, throwing rocks to the trees and guessing about how their lives would be; growing and all, under the ever-close and watchful eyes of Boris. Time passed, and their friendship got stronger, and eventually became inseparable. Sometimes, they even played pretending that they were someone else, somewhere else: Icarus would dress like her and she would wear his baseball cap and act like him; and again, Boris wouldn’t like the idea of been neglected. Every Sunday, she would tell him about how her life was at the other side of the fence, Boris would add a few dignified stories about weekends spent with his family at the lake, and Icarus would remain silent, ignoring him, simply admiring “Dee-Dee’s” freckles. One afternoon Boris didn’t show up at their usual meeting place, a small recess at the center of the forest, and for the first time they spent the evening together, alone and unbothered. That same night, under a mid-June starry sky, they kissed; and then they kissed again. The stars were falling everywhere around them. But it wasn’t too long until some of those “falling stars” turned into levitating pairs of red-dots-of-lights, dancing slowly and quietly, stalking them from behind the trees.
That evening Boris and Icarus got into an intense brawl. One of them defended his love and the other his pride. They fought like wild beasts, with sticks and stones. Diane ran screaming for help, but it turned useless: no once could hear them from their location in the forest. Later that night, when Icarus opened his eyes and tried to explain what had happened to the orphanage nursing team who found him, lying barely conscious on the dirt, still bleeding and not far from the south fence; the team began an intense search that extended for several days. The nearest town was almost two kilometers away from the orphanage, and even though the authorities conducted a door to door search for a young boy named Boris and a girl named Diane; the search ended unsuccessfully, without any evidence of the alleged attack or the existence of any of them. During Icarus’ recovery process at the orphanage clinic, the findings of the medical team who treated him were far more disturbing than what they initially anticipated: Icarus had hurt himself beyond comprehension. But life had another plan for him and the others; they lost contact for a long time, visiting occasionally when least expected. After the diagnosis shortly after that incident he began treatment, but the complexity of his condition made it harder for the orphanage to find a family for him; so he ended up growing up inside those walls, alone; watching the other kids moving out, and others moving in. And then, the days turned into months and the months into years and Icarus’ life took an unprecedented turn: he won a full scholarship from New York University and moved away in the summer of 94’. He didn’t see her or Boris for a long period of time, and not until a few weeks after Dr. Beck’s death.
Back at The Ward, Boris’s increasing anxiety was taking the best of him. He had remained hidden at the far corner of the bar for over an hour, watching; waiting for Diane’s signal to engage. The plan was no less than extreme; and it consisted on following her to Icarus’ flat. She would sedate him with a drink and trick him to bed. Once Icarus was finally defenseless, they both would tie him up to his bed, burn the place down and disappear into the night not to be seen ever again. But Diane and her first love had under their sleeves a plan of their own.
Once again I have gone way ahead, or way back, haven’t I? I wanted to tell you about my secrets and I ended up telling you about my whole life. But if you’ve paid attention to what I have said, you will agree with me on the fact that I’m a man of my word, or a woman; who cares now. I have given you two secrets, like I said I would, and a little-extra frosting on top of it. But I see that you are still here, looking for more, I admire that; so, this is your chance to win it all and to finally get your hands around the bonus prize.
In exactly 13 minutes I will kill three people: two men and a woman. And two of them have no idea of the fate that awaits them. In 13 minutes I will finally get rid, once and for all, of the other two, of the parasites: Diane Levintos and Boris Beck; the abstract inhabitants who had lived inside my head for the most part of my life. <<What did you say? Who’s the third victim, you asked?>> Well, that my friend is the third and final secret, the one secret that if you prove to be trustworthy will get you the biggest and most incredible bonus prize of them all.
But let him be the one who tells you the last secret. Let the other victim, the other parasite tell you about the events that have taken place on the last twenty minutes; which were decisive for my mission. Let’s give him one last chance to redeem himself before I fucking kill him too.
Just as planned, Diane Levintos got up and walked towards the bar and ordered two drinks. I knew I was being watched, but he didn’t know I was also watching him: that ugly and insignificant twisted fucker. When the bartender served our drinks, Diane scratched her nose twice – that was the signal. How creative, I thought. From her purse, she took a small bottle containing a bluish liquid and poured it on one of the drinks. Even from my position and through the crowd, I noticed that Boris was getting ready to leave, and I lowered my head until Diane arrived with the drinks. When Diane sat in front of me she gave me the drink that contained the bluish liquid, the sedative; and I drank it rapidly as I noticed that Boris was walking out the front door. The mission was going on well, precisely as it was planned. There was only one little twist… Boris wanted me dead, and I knew it. Diane wanted him dead, but she managed well to make him believe the contrary. Here’s the twist: I wanted them both out of the picture, out of my life, out of my head. After finishing my drink, I began acting sleepy, just in case Boris was still watching. Diane helped me getting up and escorted me outside.
Boris had told Diane that in order for the sedative to work faster, she had to make me walk the short distance from The Ward to my building. He would be walking at a safe distance behind us. But there was no sedative on my body, and it was time to make him sweat a little. I raised my arms, waved and called for a taxi. I needed a few extra minutes to set everything for the surprise I had back at my flat. When the taxi began moving forward, I could only imagine Boris’s face full of anger. It only took us a few minutes to arrive and we rapidly headed for the elevator. We laughed like little kids, just like the old days on our way up.
“Are you sure that you want to do this, Icarus?”
“There is no trace of doubt in my mind, Dee-Dee”
“I know… I just can’t believe that we will finally be left alone. At last we will be together.”
“Just like I dreamed…”
What Dee-Dee ignored was that once inside my flat, everything that we had planned in order to get rid of Boris would no longer be necessary. The purification ritual which I had carefully designed for the last year will finally put an end to my misery and to her life as well. Once inside my flat, I asked Dee-Dee for my cigarettes. She headed to my room and I walked to the balcony. From there, in the darkness, I took one last look at the decaying walls of the orphanage. A moment passed and she joined me and handed me a cigarette.
“Would you please light it for me?” I asked. She looked at me as if trying to read my thoughts and then she answered: “Of course. That’s the least I can do for the man I love.”
Well, to be honest; that would’ve been what she probably had said if I hadn’t pushed her. No one light my cigarettes; that’s the truth. I turned around, walked back inside and sat down at the sofa on the living-room, waiting for a knock on the door. I checked for the gun hidden under the pillow and waited patiently. But Boris never came. I waited for several hours. The morning was coming fast and that fucking bastard never came.
A loud beeping sound woke me up in a state of confusion. With my eyelids as heavy as bricks, still closed; my first thought was that while I waiting for Boris to come, I had fell asleep at the sofa while smoking.
<<Is that the fire alarm?>>
I tried to move, to get up; but my arms and legs were also heavy. I tried to scream, but my mouth was dry and felt like someone had knotted my tongue. There was pressure on my chest. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t move.
<<What is happening to me?>>
The touch of soft hands followed by a female voice tried to calm me whispering something to my ear. And then, a sharp pull and the pain on my eyelids an instant before the sunlight burned my eyes brought me back from the darkness, as abruptly and painful as the most diabolical of all confirmations. The familiar face of nurse Darien, with her gentle features tried to calm me down. I stopped moving, screaming. I couldn’t believe my eyes. She was trying to say something while pointing desperately to a corner of the room.
“Calm down, Angela, and look; please look…” I slowly moved my head and followed her finger to the wall where she was pointing:
“You need to calm down, Angela. Don’t let them take control of you. They’re not real. Calm down and look.”
At the far corner, near an open window, there was a large white sign with a message written on it. There was also a young man with a cigarette in one hand, smiling; sitting on a chair next to it. I recognized my handwriting. It read:
MY NAME IS ANGELA REINHART. I AM 35 YEARS OLD. I AM AT THE WARD 3A AT THE KARL HENX HOSPITAL IN NEBRASKA. I AM SICK. I SEE THINGS THAT ARE NOT THERE. MY NAME IS ANGELA REINHART! I HAVE EARNED MY FREEDOM. I’M NOT BORIS OR DIANE. AND I’M NOT ICARUS OR THE OTHERS…