Amor. Yogures. Muerte. Azúcar.
It’s not blood on the floor.
It’s red wine.
And I have something to tell you about something. When we lived in that place in Copenhagen. That tiny apartment on the sixth floor with the narrow stairs that felt like forever to climb up. The sparseness of it all. Those high ceilings and the bare wooden floors unvarnished. We used to walk around scared to touch anything, in case we left a smudge. And here I am, my glass spilling out. Pour yourself one, your hands are steadier.
Remember the window in the bedroom? I used to keep it open all the time. I would read on the bed and listen out in the city. One night you were away and I could hear One Direction playing a concert in the stadium which we never found. It was at the same time as the Olympics and I wondered if maybe it was a neighbour with the television on too loud, but what sporting event has two hours of a boy band, and who cheers that loudly but teenaged girls? No. I heard what I heard.
And it was different to every other night. Because it was usually so quiet. Maybe a passing siren or a bicycle bell. A dog barking, a flock of geese. Nobody shouts here, not in that space. With its perfectly square courtyard lawn. The tidy pile of buggies under the stairs. The immaculate red bricks and wide white shutters stretching up from house to house until reaching our rental space.
Hey, remember when I sat up suddenly and the window came off the hinges? And the corner dug into my head and then the pane fell on me. You came home that time after work, and that time it was blood. But I was more worried if it had fallen out. We called the woman who owned the place and she just laughed. Those things don’t happen in Denmark she said, clip clip clip with that accent that felt in tune to my beating heart.
I moved to the kitchen instead, to read. The windowpanes went up and down instead of in and out and from here I could even smell the jasmine blooming. So I was warm and perfect in my Scandi aesthetic, with everything open and just one lamp on and the streetlight below and whatever neighbours were in. Just me and some tea and a book in the haze of a summer evening where it doesn’t get too hot. Yet still so quiet. No spoons banging on pots. No radio or evening news. Not even a chirp of crickets. Everything intermittent and transient in its interruption as I turned pages and got up to make another cup. The click of the hob. The whistle of the kettle. The scrape of the mug against the spotless countertop. So quiet I could hear my arteries squeezing.
Remember the night I left you? You came back from work and I was gone. All the windows were open. The bookmark stuck between the pages neatly of whatever it is I was reading. Tolkien maybe? No, it was a biography of Prince. My cup of tea half-drunk and cold on the little table we put a t-shirt over because it was so pristine we didn’t want to ruin it in any way. And then you probably stepped into our room and all the drawers were thrown open and my clothes were gone. My little suitcase with all the stickers on it was gone, and maybe I even left the door unlocked. I don’t know. I told you it was about space and independence and I hated it there. You stayed for another month and you let me simmer it out and then you came home and we worked it out. Some minor freakout, a hiccup. Like when my friend Sally came back that one time from seeing her parents and she walked into her house and her boyfriend Joe was sitting there in the dark with clumps of hair missing and pair of scissors in his hand. She says he had Twilight on mute and on a loop for six days. Sitting there watching sparkling vampires in his own excrement while he tried to cut his own hair. Mine didn’t feel so bad, in perspective.
But what you don’t know is that you left the house that night and I went to my regular spot. I opened the windows and I brewed the tea and I sat there with my book. Then the noise came in. It had been a week of it and I never told you. I don’t know why. Maybe because I was always asleep when you got home and I forgot in the morning. Maybe I just wanted something that was mine, in that little apartment with the high ceilings and the untouchable furniture. And it had been so quiet. Then the noise. A man’s voice, the reverberation of it outside, across the square. Nobody else came to look out. I peered and found it was definitely coming from the apartment above ours.
It sounded like an old instructional video for something. That old Hollywood type boom of masculinity with a slight twang. But it was in Spanish. Just word, random words. Separated with a breath.
I left my book. I tried the bedroom again but I was too scared to open the window and the house felt hot now, suffocating. We used to say it was something like gliding through Heaven if God was some kind of interior designer with an eye for minimalism, but now it was small, cramped. I hated it. I hated the house and I didn’t want to be here and I hated the noise of the man with his random words and the crackle between them, but I couldn’t close the window either. I tried to stay in the bathroom. I locked the door. It vibrated through the walls then, more nonsense words. And then I’d wake up in bed and I it was gone, you were beside me and it was morning and I don’t know, maybe I forgot all this up to now.
I went up there, it was like day eight or nine of it. Maybe six. I don’t know. I opened the front door and I walked up those narrow, polished steps to the next floor. It was dark in the landing and I couldn’t find the switch for the light. I walked to the end of the hallway. I put one hand along the wall. I just wanted to knock on the door and tell them to keep it down. I thought I could bang on the ceiling with a broom, but I couldn’t find a broom. Where was the broom, the mop, the cleaning spray? How was our house so clean? Did you ever think that?
I knocked on the door and a sliver of red brightness poured out into the hallway. I pushed the door open until it hit something. I looked through and saw a body on the floor. And another one beside it. All laid out neat in rows. No furniture. Just bodies on the floor covered in purple sheets. Identical white trainers popping out of them. A single lamp on. A record player in the middle of the room and more words.