I woke up. When I looked to my right Roxana was just climbing out of bed.
“What are you doing?”
She didn’t respond. Her movements were slow but directed.
She started walking. Her hand pressed the door handle down.
My childhood wasn’t easy. First there was no father, then there was one, then my mother was gone.
They arrested her partner. I remember sitting in a large room with brown walls. Many people were staring at me. I sat at a small table. The old man that sat higher to my right scared me. An old woman kept asking me questions.
“Did you hear a fight?”
“What did you see that night?”
“Did he hurt you?”
At some point I started talking. I remember wondering what answers the old lady was looking for. Sometimes, when she seemed unhappy with my answer, I said I remembered something else.
All I remember are the things i said. I don’t remember which of it was true and which one was not. I remember that the woman got excited when I sat that he often talked loudly. She said “Thank you” a lot of times. She was even more excited when I said that he sometimes held me too tightly and that his hand once hit my head when he was throwing a frisbee. I don’t remember whether I mentioned the frisbee.
When I turned sixteen they finally allowed me to see the case files. I thought that it would help me understand or that it would somehow make me feel better. It only made me sick, thinking about how much I missed her and how everybody told me that he was at fault.
I once stood in front of the prison, wondering whether to go in. The high gray walls made my knees shiver. I didn’t go in.
Six years ago I stopped at a petrol station not far from our old home. The cashier stared at me for a moment, then she asked me for my name.
“My god, you’ve grown!”
“I’m sorry, I don’t remember…”
“Oh, it’s okay. My, you are big now. I was so sad when he kill…” She looked at me and paused. “When your mother disappeared.”
“You lived with me for three days? Don’t you remember?”
“I don’t remember much from that time.”
She nodded and forced a smile.
“It’s okay,” she said. “We were all so shocked. You must have been too. She was such a nice woman. And then the rumors about her having another man…”
“You don’t know?”
“I never heard of that.”
She shook her head.
“Anyway, just rumors. She was a good woman, I’m sure. She would be proud of seeing you like this.”
I opened my mouth and closed it again.
The smile faded from her face.
“Oh, and did you hear?”
“He died. They refused to pardon him and he killed himself. I think he cut his wrists open on the cement of the window sill.”
It was hard to feel anything. I tried to remember his face. I only remembered seeing a man in a far too wide shirt. His hands were shackled and tears were running down his face.
I think he was screaming something. In that room, he was screaming something at me and then someone else made him stop screaming. When Roxana walked out of the room I didn’t think of that memory. I only connect them now and only now it makes sense that he was screaming.
I heard her steps moving down the hallway and towards the back of the house.
I sat stunned in bed. I’m always slow to wake up, but particularly if its still in the middle of the night.
But the creaking of the back door woke me straight up.
By the time I had reached the back door Roxana was already out of sight. She was wearing only her white nightie and the temperature was still not even close to summer – especially not at night.
I found my pants and ran after her. But the path was already empty and so was the street. I even ran through the small forest but she was nowhere to be seen.
I screamed her name until my throat felt like a cold cheese grater was pressed against it every time I spoke a word.
They questioned me but in the end they let me go. No motif. No hints of a struggle. No body.
The day that Roxana walked out of the house and disappeared, after about eight hours of frantic running and screaming and searching, at some point my mind just turned blank.
I only saw darkness. My legs refused to move. I felt a pain as if from needles shooting into my spine. I remembered seeing my mother on a white table.
When I woke up I was lying on the ground and my hands and feet were cold. My memory was of Roxana on a white table. A white table with round edges and no feet.
For two years I drank. I lost first my job, then, when I didn’t pay back the loans, also lost my friends. At some point the police came and made me leave the house.
I slept in somebody’s garden, in some child’s tree house. In the morning, when I climbed out, I saw a little boy looking at me from behind a window. He said something, loudly, and I ran.
That’s the precise moment in which I realized I needed help.
Humans can be kind. So many helping hands. So many that want to listen and understand. And still, so often you fail them.
Every time I stopped drinking there was first the shivering hand, then the shivering arm, then the anger – and then the image of Roxana on a white table. Nothing can stop you from drinking if drinking is the one thing that remind you of the love you have lost.
Nothing except new love.
It took me half a year to finally stick to the program. Without Nicoleta it probably would have been a year or two or maybe I would still be poisoning my liver. But one day, when I made a new attempt to go to the recovery center, she was just there. She brushed past me when I waited for my turn at the reception. She turned around, smiled at me and apologized. She apologized to the dirty man with the ripped close and a smell of cheap alcohol and old sweat. And in that moment, when I saw her smile, I knew that I had to work hard and I knew that there were things worth working hard for.
It took another few months before she talked to me for the second time. After a year, just when I got my new job, I asked her on a date. She said yes.
We were just preparing the wedding. She was so stressed about the room that for a few days she forgot to take her pill. Then her period was late. We were scared at first, then we accepted it.
“A wedding gift.” That’s what she called it.
And then, three months ago, I woke up and her side of the bed was empty.
A frog lodged itself in my throat.
Her pillow was cold.
The bedroom door was open.
The apartment door was open.
I ran through the night and screamed and cried. And then, at some point, I was on the ground again and the world turned black. There was pain and some light suddenly reached my eyes.
It was morning when I woke up. I was in the middle of a patch of grass ten miles out of town. My back was aching. My limbs were cold.
All I remembered was darkness and pain.
I stumbled out of the grass and then I stumbled back onto it.
Just next to where I woke up was a fresh patch of turned soil.
I dug my hands into the ground and threw soil to both sides. My finger got sticky and dirty. Then the soil got soft and moist and I reached something very soft and smooth. My fingers were covered in blood.
I ran to the street and jumped up and down and waved until a car stopped. The driver saw me coming closer and she must have noticed the blood and she drove off quickly. Ten minutes later I heard the sirens and another five minutes later my face was pressed into the ground and my hands tied behind my back.
They found Nicoleta. Her stomach was cut open. Some of her organs had been cut into pieces. Her uterus had been removed.
Then they found a second body. A woman. The body was already rotten and the face unrecognisable. A large chunk of her abdomen was missing.
I knew who it was even before they mentioned Roxana’s white nightie.
And then, right next to Roxana, they found the skeleton. Her hair was still there and some chunks of rotting tissue were still attached, but most were gone. There were cut marks on the spine and all the bones around the abdominal cavity.
They wanted to make sure that it was really my mother. They took a sample from her bones and they took some of my blood.
Then, just a week later, the nurse came again and took more blood.
“Sorry,” she said. “There was some sort of contamination.”
Last week they came a third time. But it wasn’t the normal nurse, it was a different one and there were two men with her. They watched as she took the blood and then the men examined the needle hole.
“Okay,” said one of them. “Definitely not contaminated this time.”
Today I was told that I will be moved to “a better facility.”