Once upon a time, a summer by the sea, there were some children in a hot, sweaty apartment. Any alcohol that came into this apartment would soon be gone again, except this one bottle of Veuve Clicquot which Laura had bought. The unopened bottle of Veuve stood there collecting dust in the living room while we drank every day, wearing second-hand clothes with designer labels on the tags which we didn’t know if they were real or fake, with a backdrop of shadows climbing on thin yellow walls in LED-lighting. It’s not as fun to drink with people who always want to drink. Every morning Laura would say “I forgot everything that happened last night”. And John would say she lied, that she was using that as an alibi.
A few years later, a terrorist drove a van over Las Ramblas and mowed down the crowd. No one in the full use of his mind can see people rocking along Las Ramblas and not think that they are vermin. But vermin usually have a different character, less obvious. They emerge from nowhere; oh, have they been there all along? Like when John opened the cupboard under the sink and there was a family of cockroaches. We made a big fuss out of this to our parents when we called home, although we had sort of already known along the were there. They had made themselves known through that we’d heard sounds, scratches, and found feces. Anyway, I heard this story from a girl who lived in Hawaii, where there were so many insects that no insect spray, fire or agent could secure the room where she slept. Every night she mashed five bananas and put them in the other corner of her bedroom. It was her offering to them, and they let her sink down among her blankets and sleep peacefully.
It was also the case with the thieves in El Raval that they came out of nowhere. Suddenly one night a man was pulling on my bag. I had it over my shoulder, so I stood and howled, trapped within the strap of my bag until he released it. Another time, some teenage boys tried to rob John and take his wallet. He chased after them in the rain, ruining his black pointy shoes that he’d bought for prom the year before, until they started throwing euro banknotes at him. As John was bending down to stuff the wet banknotes into his back pocket, he felt something was already there. It was his wallet! Had it been there all along? So then it was John who had robbed the teenagers of 50 euros. He took us to a restaurant with that money, one of the outdoor cafes by the harbor. Fields of white parasols and tablecloths, divided into grids that arbitrarily separated the restaurants. But they were all the same kind of place, where you could sit still and wait.
There is this picture of me with weed bags stuffed in my mouth and in my bra. The dealers would write the name of the strain on the baggies. CHANEL, was one for example, written with a black marker pen. Once when John came home, he picked up my weed bags and said: who has bought such a snot-ton of weed? He didn’t get the aesthetic. This weed had me a bit paranoid, jiggly, and there were black horrific holes, deceptively deep like the surface of a black pond, but actually more like the slight fall you experience before going to sleep. I’d fall into them for a second, for example, walking from the shower along the dark corridor to my room. Before me I saw my used underwear lying on the wet floor, among the grains of sand from the beach. John had just entered the bathroom, the horror! But as I went to look later, neither John or the panties were there.
There were several uninhabited apartments in our house and several uninhabited rooms in our apartment. In one of the empty rooms was the hamster Fifa. A girl had left several small cages with hamsters at my school and I, heroically, took one of them home. I walked across Las Ramblas with the terrified hamster in the little cage and thought, now, little hamster, don’t be scared no more. But as it turned out, I was scared of the hamster’s small teeth, and the fact that the hamster didn’t seem to care about people, or about anything. I bought it a larger cage and set it up in the dark, unoccupied room which always had its curtains drawn. I have no real memory of Fifa in daylight after me and Laura went to buy a bigger cage, and I asked her, have you thought about quitting drinking? Her reaction surprised me, which was to turn around and run away. I had thought I was her saviour.
Somehow I had become a perpetrator and animal abuser by taking on the task of saving Fifa. If I had not done this, I would not be responsible for Fifas whole hamster predicament, ending up alone in a cage in a dark room. You risk becoming a perpetrator as soon as you take on the role of the saviour. When you feel responsible for everything, you soon become eager to deprive them of their agency. What are you going to do about Fifa? John asked on the day I was leaving the apartment. I was going to go drink two small beers and smoke a joint, was what I was going to do.
Image: Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, 1490-1510
Text: Fredrika Flinta