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miércoles, 3 de febrero de 2016

Secrets & Nightmares

   I woke up suddenly in the middle of the night. I had no idea what time of night it was but I remember the first thing I felt was his breath on my hair. It was warm and soft. He never snored. I knew that because I was very sensitive to sounds and I would have woken up if he was. When I felt his breathing I was relieved, because I wasn’t in the world of the nightmare anymore but on the real one, the one that recently had been very nice to me in many aspects.

 Some people say that if you are successful or happy is because you deserve it or because you have worked hard for it. I think it’s a combination of the two., mainly because I don’t believe in the concept of fighting for everything in life. People who believe that are the type of people that are very competitive and that don’t stop at nothing to get what they want, they believe everything in life is a competition and that’s simply not the way it is or at least not my life.

 Anyhow, I was glad right then that I didn’t woke him up, because I knew he had problems sleeping and didn’t wanted to be the one to disrupt his night. I decided to try and close my eyes again and slip away into a deep slumber, hopefully without dreams. But, again, I fell right into a nightmare, a horrible world filled with the worst creatures I have ever seen, with all my fears parading around, rubbing past mistakes or their simple existence in my face. I had to wake up once again, this time really drenched in sweat.

 Thankfully, he had moved a bit away from me so I just separated my body from his slowly and went to the bathroom, to wash my face with cold water and try to relax a bit. I tried sitting on the toilet, pissing, even going to the kitchen and grab a bite. I also did some simple exercises in the living room and saw possibly five minutes of a TV show I didn’t even like. When I was back into bed, he woke up and asked me, between asleep and angry, where I had been?

 I kissed him in the lips, which made us both very happy and laid there with him. He fell asleep very fast and I stayed up for a long while, in fact not sleeping again for the rest of the morning. At that moment I did check my cellphone and saw it was five in the morning. We had to wake up in three hours and I couldn’t do one more of sleeping. I just used that time to think about it all, checking in my mind if everything was ready and found myself shaking a bit and my stomach growling.

 I grabbed his hand, which he had put over my chest, and squeezed it softly. He tightened his grip on me and I liked that. I felt safe and I guess that’s what I needed to feel.  If the alarm hadn’t gone off in that moment, I think I would’ve slept a bit. But I didn’t.

 The first thing he did when he woke up was kissing me, and then we showered together, hugging a lot and almost dancing beneath the water, When we were finished, we dressed up in silence and went to the kitchen to have breakfast. We both had cereal and talked a bit over it. He noticed I hadn’t sleep and I had to convince him I was ok, only a bit anxious about our day and that he shouldn’t worry. It was clear he was already worried but he didn’t go on with the subject, he just said he had to be at his sister’s in an hour.

 When he left, I cleaned up the place, changing the sheets of the bed to new ones I had bought secretly. I also pulled out some scented candles from a shopping bag I’d hidden beneath the sink, as well as other products that we would use for other purposes. When it was all ready I grabbed my kiss, gave the place one last look and went out the door. I had no car so I decided to walk to my mother’s house, which was an hour away by walking but I had the time.

 He had left before me because he said his sister could handle everything and that we shouldn’t do anything else than just show up at the right time. He was going to her place because that was the closest relative he had alive. His parents had died several years ago and since then his sister had been everything. She was a very organized person and had proposed to help us because she knew that the event needed a woman’s touch to be just perfect.

  As I walked to my former home, I thought about it all. I was nervous, obviously, but I knew the nightmares had been produced by something else. It wasn’t fear that had put them in my mind; it was something else that I didn’t quite understand. I mean, as everyone in the world, I have secrets and thing I wouldn’t like every single person to know, but that had never given me nightmares so what was this all about?

 I used my walk home to think about everything that would happen that day and I realized I was entitled to feel worried and maybe being a little bit scared. Marriage was not someone that I did everyday and it had been a question of “When?” for a long time and that time had finally come. I was sure about my affirmative response to it because I loved him dearly, beyond anything I had ever dreamed of. He was my prince charming and my bad boy, all in one. How corny does that sound?

 Thinking about him made me smile and many people on the street smiled me back. I didn’t noticed for a while but when I did I just laughed and thought that being in love was not as people described it but that it was good if you were ready for the long haul.

 In my mom’s house, my parents were dressing up, as well as my sister and her husband who had just arrived from abroad with their baby. She would have loved to have him carry the rings but he was still too young for that. Instead, my future husband’s youngest cousin was up for the job. She was a very nice girl and a bit mad for a seven year old, so she was right up our alley.  I also changed in a matter of minutes and decided to just wait in the living room for everyone to be ready.

 I dozed off and entered, once again, the dark territory of my nightmares. I recognized the feeling and the images and I could even feel my body sweat. I was in darkness, only able to see a light very far in the distance and the only thing I could do was walk towards it. Trying to grab it. But every single step I took was filled with pain, as if spines or small knives entered my every limb. Besides, and this was the most awful part, I felt hands in the darkness touching me, grabbing me to a place below that seemed liquid in nature. I knew that if I were pulled down there, I would die. And then, as always, I woke up before my head was submerged.

 My dad noticed when I woke up, because apparently I had let out a scream. He said that the best way not to dream bad things was either not to sleep or trying to make sense of whatever the dreams were about. I know my father wasn’t into Freud or anything, he just thought that if something was bothering it would translate into annoying nightmares and it was. I knew that was the case. Bu t it wasn’t just easy, it wasn’t just about letting the air out. It was harder than that.

 When everyone was finally ready, we jumped into the family car and drove towards the venue, a small banquet hall not far from there. When we arrived, every single guest was already there and I could notice he had already arrived too. So I was the one who had to go second, as per the rules. They started right away with the music. Then his sister escorted him to the altar, then me by my mother. I when I see him, my body let out one single tear. I say that because I had no control over it.

 The notary started talking about the law and citing many aspects of marriage that he found funny but also very important, so that the audience and us took it into account. He told us it was a very important thing to sign a paper and say “I choose to live my life with this person”, and that he personally admired those who did. We signed, me crying more and more, and finally kissed to the cheering and joy of our families and friends. As we kissed, I realized it was time, so covered by the wall of sound I whispered in his ear, took him by the hand and walk the carpet back into the main hall were food was being served.

 We didn’t discuss it until after the party, that went on for quite a while. He liked the candles in our room and the new sheets but he went straight to my confession as we sat down in the bed. I started crying and he held me, in love with me. He told me that he would do whatever I wanted, whatever made me happy. I smiled at him and then told him, clumsily, that I really needed to know where my only son was and what he was like. He grabbed my hand and kissed me.

lunes, 1 de febrero de 2016


   As the doors of the club opened, Hosni stumbled out flanked by two other guys, not one looking as lost as he was. He had to lean against a wall next to the club and just wait there. The two guys that had come out with him did not ask him if he was ok or if he wants some kind of help. Actually, they only looked at him glaringly and started talking on their phones almost immediately. His head felt very dizzy, he felt it turn and turn and not stopping but his body had no reaction further than that. He wasn’t going to vomit, so he just stayed there, looking wasted.

 The guys finally asked him if he was going with them. Hosni shook his head. He didn’t feel up to any task right now and just wanted to get home as soon as possible. As the guys left, he put his hands on the pockets of his jacket and checked everything that needed to be there was indeed there: the wallet, home keys, his socks and a candy. He even opened up the wallet to see how much money he had and realized he was obliged to walk back home, as he hadn’t enough money for a bus or the subway. And even if he had, he wasn’t in the best state to know where to walk to take any of those transportation options.

 So he started walking, at seven in the morning on a Sunday, through a neighborhood that he knew well as he had identified it as a go-to place since he had arrived in town five years ago. He remembered his excitement when seeing the order and the cleanliness and the coldness of people. It was very different from his home country, in both good and bad ways. The nice thing here is that his parents became a bit less religious and were not as tough with rules as hey had been before. The proof was that he was there, stumbling around corners at that time of day.

 Then he realized he hadn’t felt his cellphone in his jacket. He stopped right in front of a disco and people smoking outside watched as he furiously looked all over himself for the cellphone, only to find it in pocket close to the knee. He was wearing the cargo pants that his dad had felt would make a great worker, being able to carry all sorts of things everywhere. Even as he had studied to be a psychologist, his parents were still looking forward for Hosni to come to the family business, which was fixing all sorts of things, like a plumber.

 The walk was resumed, with Hosni checking out a map on the phone and rectifying his route. The small scare of not finding his cellphone had helped him being a little less wasted, he could see things little bit clearer. Yet, he wasn’t walking faster at all. He thought it would have been funny to go back to the club and make the owner or some guy turn on the lights to look for the cellphone. But then he remembered that couldn’t have been possible because electronic devices were not allowed in. He laughed stupidly, alone.

 After stumbling around for around thirty minutes, he finally got home safe and sound. It took him a while to open the main door of the building and he helped himself by holding the cellphone towards the door when opening the door of the apartment, in order not to wake up his family. He was very silent and when he got into his room he took every single piece of clothe of and just entered the cold bed stark naked, falling fast asleep in a matter of seconds.

 The following morning, the voice of his mother woke him up. She wasn’t calling for him but he could hear her in the kitchen, talking to his sister and father. They were probably having breakfast. He could smell the eggs and his stomach practically belched at the presence of the aroma. He would have wanted to eat but, again, his head was spinning. He was not wasted anymore, sleeping had taken care of most of the damage, but his head hurt and he just tried to fall asleep again but couldn’t.

 Besides, as he closed his eyes, he remembered various scenes from the previous night including many that he thought were not real. So he stayed with his eyes wide open looking at the ceiling, deciding which memories were real and which ones were fake. He knew he had a lot of beer and also some drugs, which weren’t allowed in the club but people still had them inside, when employees weren’t around and that was pretty often. The scent of the eggs felt stronger, so he got up.

 His family celebrated that he joined them and he was served a plate. Then, minutes later, he had to unfold the lie that he had been preparing since the day before. He said he had been in a friend’s house, drinking and having a small party with some of his friends that had recently arrived from his home country. All his parents could ask was what news they brought from home and how they were adapting to the city. They didn’t really care for anything else. It was his sister that asked at what time he had arrived and he had planned to lie about that too: he said he arrived around four in the morning, after helping a couple of his friends get home.

 The truth was he had arrived much later than that, even remembering seeing a bit of sunlight as he entered the building. He wasn’t asked much else, and he was thankful because remembering every single lie that he had planned before that night was difficult and made his head hurt even more. He just ate and enjoyed a time with his family and then went back to his room and tried to sleep some more but couldn’t. Again, he stared at the ceiling and just wandered about every single aspect of last night and how everyone had no idea of his real night.

 Later that Sunday, he took something for his headache and by night he was feeling better. He helped his dad around at the hardware store the family owned, as it opened every day, and just tried not to think about that night anymore. Now that he was better, he felt guilty and kind of scared that someone would be able to really now what he had been doing that night and so many other nights, because that one had not certainly being the only night he had gone out in order to be closer to what he thought was being his own real self.

 Since arriving to the city, he had been going out to places his parents had no idea he went and the thought of them knowing was enough to make the headache come back. He was afraid of the response, not only from his father but from his mother too. Even his sister’s response would be very hard to take in. He loved his family and wouldn’t want them to disappoint them or make them feel like he had betrayed them. But the fact was that he couldn’t tell any of them the truth. Because he knew how they would respond and he wasn’t ready for that yet.

 As if his thoughts had been heard in heaven, his father rolled out his prayer mat and felt in one very specific part of the store. Hosni did the same, just next to his father and prayed for a while with him. The amount of guilt that was piling up in his mind was too great and he seriously thought that his mind would explode one day. But it didn’t, because he was much stronger than he realized. After all, he had kept them out of the truth for many years and was ready to do it for many more.

 A couple of friends told him to be real, to live a more honest life and to lift that weight from his shoulders. But they didn’t understand how his family worked, how his religion and traditions really set a standard in which he didn’t fit in at all. Sometimes he had to go to his room when his parents had discussions over news in the TV that were “immoral” to them. He just couldn’t bear to hear them argue over something he felt they didn’t understand. He was just trapped between the life he had while a kid and the life he had now, after being able to go to college and have a real education.

 So, as always, for the following week, he was the Hosni everyone knew. He worked in the store and then he applied for jobs, some very far away, trying to get into the work world and into his profession, which he actually loved. He was charming with people all around him and loving with his parents and friends. He was just a young man full of dreams as anyone else, ready to take on life and just try to get the best out of it. He really wanted to be happy and thought that lying was part of that idea. It was unavoidable and he didn’t really mind.

 H was back in the club the following Saturday night. He had bought a year pass many months before so they knew him well. They gave him a token for a complimentary beverage and then he moved on the locker area, where he proceeded to strip down and only keep on his sneakers and his underwear. Then, he crossed a curtain to the bar where he drank vodka straight. Five minutes afterwards, Hosni was walking downstairs, to the dark room below, where his dreams did not live and he could be as close as he thought he could to the person he thought he was.

lunes, 24 de agosto de 2015

The ring

   Linda Fox loved to imagine what had happened in the places she cleaned up in the mornings. She usually did ball rooms and other big places but sometimes even big country houses or big rooms in huge apartments. She had learned pretty soon that some people have too much money and also too much time on their hands. She was never there once the music was playing or the guests were arriving but she could picture everything with only cleaning the places. She had learned through her senses the differences between an expensive wine and a cheap wine and between a good perfume and a bad one. Of course, she was no definitive professional on the matter but she felt she kind of knew the people that had been there by only staying in a room for a while.

 She had stumbled into that job after looking for many months. She had been laid off as a secretary on a big firm and, since then, no one would hire her. Linda knew this was because of her age. Not many companies wanted to hire women over forty and she was really lucky to have found that cleaning job. At least she didn’t have to do it on the street or every single day in a house where they would probably not even look at her. In this job, she was called two or three times a week, never more than that and it would always be to clean up places were the rich and famous went. No frat parties or middle class parties with alcohol all over the floor. No, this people were the elite but the elite had no idea how to clean a place up and that’s when they came in.

 Linda would come in with two other women, also aged over forty. And they would just start to clean up: first they would pick up the garbage from the floor, they would put away tables, cutlery and other things might slow down the mopping of the floors. Depending on the surface, they would clean it again with products that left everything smelling just perfect. Normally, they would spend at least three hours there. The three women were very thorough and checked every corner until the venue was even cleaner than before the party or event had taken place. No one would congratulate or anything after that. Their boss would pay them cash and that was it.

 It wasn’t the best job in the world but Linda knew it was the only job she could have gotten at her age. And even young people had trouble getting work so she had to be grateful. Besides, it paid well to service all those rich people. She never saw one of them but she knew they would pay through the nose just for someone to do something they would never do. When cleaning. Linda always loved to imagine she was one of the guests. Of course none of them would have to pick up the trash or mop the floors but her imagination was not going to limit itself because of that. The other women, she knew, did the same thing. After all, they knew they would never have something like that.

 One day, when cleaning a beautiful room in a country house about an hour away from the city, Linda found something very special. It was a ring and it had fell beneath the floorboards. She could see it there, shining beneath her feet as she picked up several papers and plastic plates. She looked at the other too, who were cleaning other points of the room, and tried to imagine a way to get the ring out. There was a small whole on one of the boards and she supposed the small object had fallen through there. She looked around to see if someone was looking at her and then pulled the small board, which was loose. She saw the beautiful shine of the ring and then took it. She looked at it as she had been hypnotized by it.

 It had a big diamond surrounded by smaller emeralds and rubies. They were all there; none had fallen to the ground when whoever had been wearing it had dropped it. One of the women asked Linda for the mop, and she almost dropped the ring to her surprise. She put it fast in her pants pocket and then behaved as normally as she could. Linda didn’t know why she had done that. She had found several other things in the past and had always given them to her boss in order for him to find its true owners. But this time, she wanted the ring for herself. She didn’t really know why, as he had no real chance to wear that ring anywhere and anyone that had any idea about her would know that she didn’t have the money to buy such a beautiful piece of jewelry.

 When work was over, the company sent a car to take them back to the city and she felt the trip lasted several hours but it was only one. She was the first one to exit the car when they arrived and to leave the place as soon as possible. Her work mates didn’t really think that was strange because she had always been like that, a little too private. They actually thought she was too good to even talk to them, or at least she thought that was the case. And both women had decided that they didn’t care about what she did. After all, they paid them when they all showed up for work and id what they had to do. That was it. They didn’t need more than that.

 Linda almost ran home. Once she was inside, she locked the door and closed her bedroom door behind her. She decided to change clothes first and then she would take the ring from her coat and watch it in all its glory. It was not as beautiful now as it had been before with the beautiful sunlight, but it was obvious the piece had an immense value, at least economically speaking. Linda then wondered who would drop such a beautiful ring to the ground and wouldn’t even mind to pick it up? Had it fallen from the finger of a very distracted or drunk woman? It was kind of fun to imagine all the stories behind the ring, as if it was a big adventure that she could imagining easily.

 She felt asleep wearing the ring and, at any moment, felt the urge to return it to the house where she had been cleaning or to her boss. The next day, she chose to take it to a professional jeweler to ask him how much he thought that ring was worth. He lied by telling him that she had just inherited from a dying aunt. The men checked it with various instruments for some time but finally stated that all the pieces were very high quality: the diamond was very clean and pure, probably African. The rubies and emeralds, although smaller, were also of a very high quality. Even the ring as such was made from very light titanium, which wasn’t used very frequently on rings. Linda left as soon as she knew more and also because she realized the man didn’t believe the story of her old aunt.

 Beside, she told her something she had not seen before. Inside the ring there was an inscription. It was a full name: John William Hammond. The men looked at Linda as if he wanted to know who that person was but she just lied again and said it was her aunt’s husband. Then she took the ring, gave the man some bills and left in haste. She returned home and looked at the inscription closer. It had to be looked in a certain way but there it was. The name of a man in woman’s ring. So maybe this was a ring someone had used to propose marriage. Linda couldn’t believe how romantic her story turned out to be.

 She decided to find out about every detail she could about the owners of the house she had cleaned that day. Apparently the family that owned it also owned several vineyards and other types of crops and plantations around the country. But their most well known product was wine. She also found out that the eldest daughter had recently married to a man that owned half of the biggest retail company in the city. She found a gossip magazine with every picture of the vent. Surprisingly, it had taken place very recently, only a couple of days after she had cleaned up the country house and found the ring. Then, she looked for the name that was inscribed in the ring but that proved to be a bit harder. She had to go through various gossip pages on the Internet to finally find the name.

 Once she did, however, she gasped. John William Hammond was not who she thought it was going to be. Linda was already making him a banker or a renowned tennis player or even a movie actor. But no. John William Hammond was nothing more than junior lawyer in a firm that had helped of the vineyards through a rough time. Apparently, it was his team that had stopped a very large company from securing that particular vineyard. Apparently there was a huge problem with the land. But the man was just a lawyer and they only mentioned him in one article of an economic journal.

 His name was on a ring and then, again, Linda invented a wonderful story about him been an underdog in love with the lady of society. She thought that maybe they had had an affair but she had finally effused him in favor of an even better position and money. She had been the one that had chosen the easier road. Linda slept thinking of them without ever finding out the truth, which was a lot sadder but more real. But sometimes reality is not as important as the realities we can invent with it, even more when things have already happened and no one can change them.