A light cough. Then a heavy, throaty cough. I still go to class. Still do sport. Still have too much to drink. The pain starts. Itching and a scratching sensation inside my chest and throat. The cough syrup makes my throat explode in flames of pain. A morning with a throbbing headache; two or three weeks after the first cough. I am eating cereal rings. Another cough. Something liquid and the taste of iron in my mouth. Another cough. The red slowly mixes with the white of the milk. Two hours of plastic chairs and blood in my mouth. I open my mouth and he presses the wooden ladle so hard on my tongue that I gag. “Wow.” Doctors should never say “Wow.” Continue reading
“There might be some noise.”
That’s what she had said. A phrase that did not even begin to describe what we heard every night. Those agonized screams; nothing a human should ever make.
We had just signed the contract and wanted to go from house to house to introduce ourselves to the neighbors. Hers was the door to our right, the first door we knocked on. “J&K” was written on the doorbell in fancy letters.
She must have been around sixty but her pale skin and the large dark rings around her eyes made her look at least a decade older.
“I’m Kristina,” she said. “And I want to apologize in advance. My husband is not really well and sometimes there might be some noise.” Continue reading
A man. The hands tied behind his back, a piece of cloth stuffed in his mouth, his legs bent sidewards. He was placed in the wooden box while alive. It can take up to ten days to die from dehydration.
A white piece of paper stuck to the box with two blue pins.
That’s how you brought me here.
A woman. Her arms tied behind her back. Her lips torn off her face. Her tongue pierced with a fork. A knife in her shoulder. She died from loss of blood.
A white piece of paper, nailed to her chest.
That’s how you made me feel safe. How you fooled me with kind words.
I trusted you. You betrayed me.
The apartment seemed as if it was made just for me. I had a bed and two shelves. The apartment lacked bed and shelves but had everything else – tables, chairs, a sofa. My bed was exactly 1.6 meters in width – and the tiny bedroom a perfect match.
There were two things I didn’t like. The first, of course, was the lack of a dedicated bathroom. The shower cabin was in the kitchen and the toilet in a small room off the balcony. The second thing I didn’t like was the mirror in the bedroom.
It’s not that I don’t like mirrors. But in a room just barely big enough for the bed, with walls to all sides, there was something disturbing in having one of the walls as just one large mirror. It felt misplaced and odd like a lone, smiling stranger standing in the middle of a desert road.
The first night I was tired from the move, every muscle in my body seemed to be aching and my body was still sticky and sweating even after two showers and four hours since the last box. Still I first lay awake for two or three hours, rolling from one side to the other and hoping for the salvation of sleep. Continue reading
I spoke. She screamed. The bed too cold and too big for sleep. A breakfast without taste. A day without color. At home empty wardrobes. Ripped cards. A key on the kitchen table. No note.
This story is also available in Polish.
Since the breakup Melanie lived in two worlds. In the weeks with me she lived in zoos and museums and books, in the weeks with her mother she lived in bible classes and religious movies and churches.
It was confusing for her, the constant switch from reading books to believing books and back. Maybe that’s why we failed to protect her.
It was in the summer. Melanie had just turned 10. Her first summer week was spent in a bible camp. When her mother finally dropped her at my place she also brought a big bag of books.
I still remember how Hailey cocked her head.
“You always want her to read. Now she has good books. What more do you want?” Continue reading