Me, shivering and sitting on my hands, clenching my butt cheecks together, and staring past my grandma, who smiles at me, towards the window. There is a storm outside and I’m watching the dark clouds and the lightning and the rain hammering against the window and I would rather be outside.
Grandma smiles. She says „It’s okay, we can call the police soon.“ When she finishes speaking her lips are just flat, dry, gray pancakes pressed on one another and I look away from her, back down to the wet, black, moving mass on the ground.
A heap of dirty laundry, but moving every few seconds.
I was 3 when dad went to the shelter with me. Some of it I remember, some of it he told me afterwards. Dad tried to get me to pick a cat, but I walked right by the cats towards the dogs. Some were pushing against the metal bars, others just sat in the corners of their kennels and then there was that dog, some pitbull breed, and I put my hand through the metal bars and before dad could pull me away the dog had his head pressed against my hand and I must have giggled like rarely before or after.
They kicked the front door in, screaming for me to get down.
Only when one of the officers turned me over and pulled my arms behind my back, only then, with my face shoved into the pillow, did I feel the massive headache.
They were pulling me out of our studio and when we were on the stairs I finally woke up enough to turn and shout for Reana to wait, that I would come back, that it must all be some mistake. In about the same moment an officer said that it was no mistake while I realized that Reana wasn’t in the room.
I’m trying to reconstruct it all, I tried in those four hours of questioning, and I’m still trying. But there’s nothing to reconstruct. But there’s nothing in my mind to reconstruct. We were on the couch, watching TV and waiting for the fireworks shows. She was cuddled up against my chest and had a blanket wrapped over her feet. We were speaking the countdown together with the announcer on TV. There were the first fireworks. We raised our champagne glasses – and then all is just blank. Or maybe rather black. It’s a black curtain that’s blocking me from my own memories.
I didn’t drink any alcohol before midnight. I don’t even remember drinking the champagne, but they still found a blood alcohol level of 0.2 % – in my body, not in hers. Continue reading →
Everyone I ever talked to about it, they all knew the Barnam House. Most don’t remember where or when, but they heard talk about it or saw the pictures or watched the documentary. And when I describe it, the large white doors, the high walls, the walls with flaking blue paint and the yard outside, always immaculate except for that one, longish patch of dead plants – then they remember. They see the picture again.
I bet right now you can see it. The old trees slowly moving with the wind, the wind whistling and howling past, and of course that one top window shutter that keeps opening and closing, opening and closing, but not in the same pattern as the trees move or the wind whistles.
The Barnam House. There are different stories about it. Some say the Barnams simply left, from one day to the other. There was something they feared and so they left without ever telling anyone. That’s why, if you look through the shutters and you’re lucky enough to have enough light, you can see that there are still plates on the dinner table. Continue reading →
My father said he chose Suraiya for me because she was blind. He said she would understand my fears and worries. Maybe that’s why I, too, understand her so well.
She was twelve years older than me and even as I was her master she always called me her little brother.
In just fifteen years my father had transformed his father’s fruit shop into a wholesale franchise that served most of south India. My grandfather chose a good bride for him. They held a festival when she got pregnant. I was meant to be the completion of their happiness. Two days they were the happiest pepole on the planet. It took them two days to notice my flaw and two years to travel the world’s hospitals to find there was no cure.
I was two when they hired Suraiya. I was six when Suraiya told me that her parents repaired and sold second hand sandals and that they could not afford a dowry big enough to find her a husband.
I was eight when she shook me awake in the dead of the night.
They made me swear by their lives. I have sworn never to tell – or else. Now it’s too late. It’s all too late.
I was married. We were happy. We had two children. I think we still do, but I’m not so sure.
The bank I worked at was just a small branch. An Italian name, if you must know. I worked first at the counter, then they promoted me. Back office. Deputy manager. Manager. All that within a year.
And then the men came. There were four of them and they opened an account for a small company. I don’t know why i had the account number written on my notebook. I must have told it to them or maybe they asked me to write it down. I wish I’d remember.
I checked just out of curiosity. It’s something I did – not often, but once or twice a day. When a customer looks interesting and you are curious who they are – nothing is more enlightening to check their account.
The account was not even a day open. 700 million. Seven Zero Zero Million Dollar.
The money came from different accounts, not just one or two – hundreds of them. Continue reading →
“There’s a wolf inside you,” that’s what Steve always said.
He had an animal for all of us. The small kid with the bad vision, he had a secret badger at his core. The blonde that never wore anything but a ponytail was secretly a snake. Steve himself, with his quick and snappy punches was a scorpion. And I, I was a wolf.
There was something true about his animals, I can’t deny that. The more hours I spent in his lessons the more I saw the animal in each of us. The way the blonde moved quickly from side to side; the way the bespeckled kid was slow to attack but vicious and unstoppable when he was close – it was all there.
I liked being a wolf. Steve said it was a bad animal to be.
“Wolves need their pack,” he always said. “You should never hunt alone.”
First my parents had signed me up for wing chun classes. They said that they wanted me to exercise more. In reality they wanted me to gain self-confidence, but that’s not something you tell your child. Continue reading →