A piece of fiction about a girl. A battle. A party. An emotion. I have shown this story to several people and was told that it was kafkaesque. It switches perspectives and narrators to underline ambiguity. Read and see if it works for you.
„Are you gonna drink that?“
I looked up surprised at the guy with the dark voice.
„Are you going to drink that damn beer or just let it go to waste in your hand? It’s gonna be warm as piss soon if you keep gripping it like that.“
I stared at him. I wasn’t exactly sure if I was angry or slightly excited that at least somebody at this stupid party was talking to me. “It’s my fucking beer so I can hold it as long and as tight as I want.” It sounded a lot harsher than I had intended. The whole relaxed humor thing wasn’t working for me.
“I guess so”, he replied. His expression was blank. Had I seen the hint of a smile before he turned and walked away? I watched him stride away, shoulders slightly hunched. He was tall and slim with messy dark-blondish hair, dark jeans and an oversized checkered shirt. ‘Typical Swedish hipster’ I thought to myself.
I peered down at my plastic cup filled with my now pretty-close-to-piss-warm beer. Fuck it. I gulped down half of it in one big sip and tossed the cup onto the bar. Nobody seemed to notice.
Suddenly empty-handed, I had difficulties deciding what to do next. I scanned the club area for my friends – or at least what I called friends, which basically was just a term I used for a bunch of people I hung out with every now and then to seem social. I hadn’t made up my mind yet if I actually liked them. Probably I didn’t.
The area was getting more and more crowded. It was a rather strange ensemble of people:
middle-aged men in suits,
as well as some really young looking guys that probably had faked their IDs to get in.
There were some desperate looking women hanging on the bar waiting for somebody with a penis to get drunk enough to take them home. I didn’t pity them. They were trying to fulfill their desire for some affection and touch. Couldn’t blame them for that. Besides, this place certainly seemed to be appropriate for that kind of behavior.
I had noticed that one of the suited-up guys was already eying them, persistently sipping on his whiskey. I assumed that after two more glasses he would be able to see beauty where god had clearly been a little frugal with it. Three glasses of whiskey seemed to be a decent price for some human touch, considering Swedish alcoholic beverage prices.
I ain’t lookin’ for prayers or pity
I ain’t comin’ ’round searchin’ for a crutch
I just want someone to talk to
And a little of that human touch
One of my friends was in the smoking area, leaning on the fake-graffiti-sprayed wall, eyes closed, just puffing out smoke. He didn’t seem like he wanted to be disturbed and I didn’t feel like having a cigarette, so I decided to walk up to another group of people – including one friend – standing close to the DJ screaming at each other over the music. While I walked over to them I wondered why people would choose the most impossible place to have a conversation here for exactly that.
“Hej”, I mumbled, pinching my friend. She looked surprised to see me. I gave her a smile to reassure her that it was totally ok to include me into the conversation now. Maybe my friends knew me better than I thought when they actually felt surprised at the sight of me acting socially.
“Um,…so this is my friend.” I guess she tried her best. The others started weirdly greeting me by cheering their glasses. Without my beer, I couldn’t cheer back. Awkward. This whole being-social-thing was rough.
They were looking at me as if they expected me to say something.
“So…when are they going to open the dance floor?” I offered. They shrugged. I had done my part in contributing to the conversation so they could go on with their original topic now – which apparently was cool concerts of hipstery-bands I had never heard of before. But it was a good topic to just occasionally shrug to and pretend like I was involved. I was kind of missing my beer, though.
“How’s it going?” Another friend suddenly popped-up at my ear. I felt a certain relief to be rescued from this boring conversation and shrugged at him. It was obviously a conversation-starting metaphorical question, but I was done with all the talking stuff tonight.
“Should we dance?” I suggested. He nodded. I attempted at waving goodbye to the group of people I had spent the past half an hour of my life with and pointed to the dance floor to indicate where I was going. They didn’t even see me leave. Dancing was always the perfect excuse to be unsocial – at least in half-bad nightclubs like this one.
I felt a pinch of relief when I realized that the music was much better than I had expected. The DJ was a small geeky looking guy with tiny eyes behind huge glasses. He seemed so concentrated on what he was doing that he didn’t even seem to notice where he was and that there were people watching him. Good for him, I figured. There were only a handful of people attempting to dance. It was still too early, being only half past 11. But the place would become increasingly more popular within the next hours and somebody had to start.
Might as well be us.
We started moving to the music. One couldn’t really call it dancing with each other. It was more that we both zoned out and occasionally leaned towards each other like the sun and moon circling the earth. It felt good. Distant enough for me to enjoy it. Close enough for it to not seem desperate for viewers. I started letting go and losing focus with the music growing painfully loud in my ears.
After a few minutes, I decided I wasn’t drunk enough yet to be able to zone out completely. I motioned to my partner in crime that I was going to the bar. He probably didn’t even notice I was gone. He certainly was drunk enough. Or high enough? I wasn’t sure.
“A beer, please”, I said to the girl behind the bar. She slid the card reader towards me and filled another plastic cup with beer for me. I punched in my pin-code and then quickly grabbed my card and beer. The bar was definitely not my favorite place to hang out. I took a few quick sips. Maybe it was time for a cigarette now. You weren’t allowed in the smoking area with drinks though, so I decided against it. Instead, I just went straight back to the dance floor to find my friend, which by now was a harder task, since the place had significantly crowded up. I bumped into a few people on the way to find him. By now he had moved close to a corner in the far back, slowly moving to the music. His motions weren’t really matching the beat but he still seemed to blend into the scenery.
In my head, I decided to capture this moment. It somehow made me feel good. Seeing him so peacefully in this so not-peaceful place. If I wanted to remember something about tonight, this was it. I took a few more sips of my beer and then joined him, trying not to interrupt his momentum of harmony.
The night progressed slowly. Eventually, more friends joined us and the music got even louder. I had two or three more beers. I reached a good level of drunkenness. The kind that makes you forget worries and feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.
“Apparently you drank that beer after all?”, I looked up right into the face of that tall guy that had tried his luck with me earlier tonight. I smiled at him. Talking was overrated. He gave me a small reassuring smile back, then started moving to the music with us. He made sure not to come to close to me, which I actually found nice. For once a guy that was not trying to intrude a girl’s personal space when alcohol was involved.
Some minutes passed and I realized that the blur the beer had laid over my thoughts was starting to vanish. I started feeling again. I felt an unpleasant feeling of loneliness crawl up my spine. I looked at all the people around me. My friends, that guy – all people with their own lives and stories to tell. I didn’t feel like I shared anything with them. I didn’t even feel like I wanted to.
In that moment on that dance floor in the middle of the night with the morning creeping up behind me, I felt it.
All of it.
All the misunderstandings and bad experiences that had brought me here.
All the unkept promises and disappointments.
All the wrong decisions I had made and all the mistakes people around me had made.
All those small, painful cuts in my soul that had turned me into this being that was scared of deeper human connections, scared of sharing her feelings and scared of admitting that she really just wanted that: somebody to share all her worries, fears, and thoughts with. Somebody to trust.
Somebody that would not disappoint her.
“Are you ok?”, Matte looked at her, his expression indicating that he indeed felt worried. She quickly tried to catch herself, pulled down her dress and nodded, slightly faking a smile.
“I just need some fresh air”, she said and turned around to find her way out. She slowly walked up the stairs, still lost in thoughts. When she finally reached the top she realized that it was way too cold to be outside without her coat. She didn’t feel like going back, so she stepped out nevertheless. It was a gloomy February night. The streets were soaked in the muddy remains of last week’s snow. Everything looked uninviting and wet, yet the air was fresh and helped clear her mind.
She decided it was time to go. She climbed back down and got in line to get her coat. She stood there for a few minutes, listening to the people around her. By now the majority was drunk, so the conversations consisted of a lot of giggling and repeated screaming of the same words. When she got her coat she paused. She should probably say goodbye to her friends or at least tell some of them that she was heading out. She found her friend from the beginning, still with the same group of people, probably still talking about the same banal things.
“I’m leaving”, she said and waved a quick goodbye before someone got reply anything or try to convince her to stay.
She soaked in the fresh air on the street and took a moment to button up her coat and pull her scarf tightly around herself. The air smelled of winter. She enjoyed it. After checking her phone for the directions to the next subway stop, she started walking.
After a few blocks, she had this tickling feeling of being followed. She stopped to look over her shoulder but saw nothing so she continued walking. The feeling stayed. She had almost made it to the subway station when somebody approached her from the side in what seemed to be one swift motion. She stopped.
“Do you have fire?”, the woman asked. She was tall and wore a green, long coat made out of soft material that hugged her stick thin figure. Even though it was dark and they were standing exactly between two street lights, her eyes were of a piercing green that was hard not to get caught up in.
“Um, yeah sure”, she mumbled and searched her pockets for a lighter. She found a box of matches instead and handed it to the woman who then pulled a tin box out of her coat. Inside were seven messily rolled cigarettes. She lit one.
“You want one?”, she offered.
“Yeah, why not.”
The woman lit a second cigarette and handed it to her. They both took a deep puff at the same time. This was not normal tobacco, the girl realized quickly. It gave her an immediate feeling of calm. She quickly sucked in another breath.
“Heading home?”, the woman asked eying her from the side.
She nodded silently.
“A bit early, isn’t it? Having a bad night I suppose?”
“No that’s not it. I just didn’t feel like…being up all night today”, she replied.
The woman smiled. “I get that, not the best of nights. Wanna join me for a walk? “
The girl evaluated the idea for a moment. It was cold as hell and she didn’t know this person, dressed in strange clothes. It was the middle of the night.
“Sure.” Did she really just say that? It must have been the after-effects of the beer or whatever she was smoking. She felt that there was no other answer to this question. She felt like going for a walk suddenly was the best idea ever.
They started walking.
“Do you live in Söder?” the woman asked.
“No, I live further out. Would love to live here, though.”
“Do you know the cliffs over there” she pointed about 130° to the left. “There’s an amazing view.”
The girl nodded. “Yes, I know them, but I’ve only been there during the day. Do you want to walk there now?”
The woman smiled and winked at her. She didn’t seem like the talking kind. The company still felt oddly soothing to the girl. For a while they walked side by side in silence, finishing their cigarettes.
“Can I have one more?”, the girl asked. She was surprised by herself. The first cigarette had left an odd craving for more inside her throat and she asked for another the moment the thought even evoked in her head.
The woman fumbled the tin box from her jacket and handed it to the girl. “Take them all. I really should stop smoking anyway.” She continued walking at a brisker pace.
The girl studied the tin box. It was silver with a small logo of a whale in the upper right corner. She wanted to ask something about it but decided to let the thought go. They reached the steps at Zinkensdamm that lead up the cliffs. The stone was slippery and she had to halt and balance herself a few times. When she looked up, the woman had already climbed all the way and was standing on the highest rock, staring into the deep black sky. The girl suddenly felt as if time was moving slower for her. She had difficulties focusing on her feet and closed her eyes for a moment to regain consciousness.
“Need help?”, she was right in front of her, hand stretched out.
She took the hand and it felt as if moving was easy again. Within a glimpse, they were both standing on the top cliff. She noticed with surprise that despite the height it was not windy at all. The cold was bearable, even pleasant.
“This view…it’s incredibly beautiful”, she mumbled.
They stood there a while side by side, quiet, just existing. The girl could not define how much time had passed until she started speaking. She didn’t even notice at first that she was the one talking. It felt like it was all inside her, but from the look on the woman’s face, she could tell that she was speaking out loud.
“I feel lonely. When I was younger I had always assumed I would have figured life out by now. But here I am and I just get more confused every day. It’s not like I’m unlucky. I achieve things. I have this job that gives me money and I study stuff that kind of interests me in some way. I live a good life I guess.
But I’m not happy. I feel like there is so much more. I can’t define it. When I was a teenager I started meditating and reading up on religion and philosophy. Buddhism was the one thing that stuck with me. Their philosophy of emptiness and being responsible for your own good, letting things go to achieve peace…it makes sense. But it’s so damn hard to achieve when everyone around you is so focused on filling themselves up.
I have difficulties handling my emotions. There have been some major disappointments in my life. Starting in my childhood, piling up throughout all the years after. But nothing other people don’t also face. So why am I having such difficulties accepting things and moving on? It feels like I have become less human over time. I distance myself from people. I have all these friends, people to hang out with to have fun every now and then. But it doesn’t seem real. There’s no deeper connection. What am I even looking for? Should there even be something deeper? Why is it that I always strive for more.
I get upset easily. When I try to talk to people and they don’t understand, I become sad. It can’t be that hard to understand. Why do I feel so lost all the time? I don’t even have high hopes anymore when I meet someone. Of course, I try every now and then to build a relationship. It always suffers after a while. And it’s my fault. I am impossible to satisfy. I long for understanding and affection so much, that it sickens my heart and turns it into this ice-cold brick. I’d rather be alone than with someone who I don’t feel connected with. That’s the saddest part. You meet someone, you feel like this could be it, there could be something. And after a few more hours pass by, you realize that you were wrong. It’s so damn frustrating.
I focus on different things. I could have this big career or I could travel. I could do something good to the world or aim to change something important. Is that the ‘more’ I’m looking for? I concentrate on ten different projects all the time. Some days I actually try to be the best version of myself. I achieve goals, I receive admiration for it. Then I have days where I just feel like fucking myself up as hard as I can. I am good at that. I’m not sure if I actually like myself. I feel like I am a good person somewhere deep inside, but all these frustrations sicken me so much that I am not sure if I even see myself the way I am.
Sometimes I have an epiphany and try o explain all of this to someone. They just look at me worryingly and say I’m depressed. But if this is depression then I have been depressed from the moment I was born. It has always been like this. Maybe I have a strange disease or maybe I should just get over it. But I can’t.”
The woman hadn’t moved an inch throughout the whole monolog. This confused the girl even more. She was about to apologize for her rant when the woman finally turned to her.
Now there was wind. It blew through her reddish, strainy hair. Her green eyes again were the most prominent thing in this moment.
“Do you want me to take this away from you?”, she whispered.
I watched the girl closely. I could see the pain behind her eyes. Her brain was screaming with agony. All these little memories in her head that had lead to her being what she was. She could have been happy if she had wanted to. But she never had. She had fallen for melancholy and darkness. Living off it. And now it was too late.
I wanted to free her. I would have liked to say something comforting, but I wasn’t a liar and I knew very well that this girl was too smart to ever accept the superficial happiness most humans survive on.
She looked confused.
“Do you want me to take it away?”, I asked again. I made sure to add a tiny smile to my question to calm her down.
She didn’t say anything for a few seconds. I could see that she wasn’t thinking either. Her mind was an open window for me. I could see right through her. I knew her answer.
I closed the space between us, taking her into my arms. I put her hands on my back. She was careful with her touch, taking in all the details of my body in.
I sent her my idea.
She took it without hesitation.
I didn’t even feel the pain. My brain slowly disconnected from my body. I could see myself slowly gliding down onto the stone, my body turning cold and stiff within seconds. She just stood there, my black heart in her hand – the black liquid dripping from her left hand onto the rocks. Her eyes had lost focus. My heart grew cold. My head clouded up.
‘You aren’t done yet’, I thought. My thought hit her hard. It filled her mind like an explosion. She reacted quickly. It took her a few minutes to eat the whole thing. Her face was stained with black blood after she finished. She wiped it with the sleeve of her coat, then pulled her scarf up over her face.
She slowly started descending the stairs. I said goodbye.
He scanned through the newspaper, still hangover from last night. He had gotten home not long before 5 in the morning. Alone, since the only girl he had liked in the club had left early. It was 11 now and he was forcing himself to drink black coffee to wake up and not waste the whole day. On page two he stopped as he saw a picture of the cliffs at Zinkensdamm, just a few hundred meters away from where he lived. Next to it was a picture of a young woman. She seemed familiar. Something about this reminded him of something. He couldn’t pinpoint it. He lost the thought.
He turned the page.