Once upon a time, on a summer by the sea, there were some children in a hot, sweaty apartment with thin walls. Any alcohol that came into the 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. In the night, black shadows would climb on the walls, yellow from the ugly lights. 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”.
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 were shocked although they had already made themselves known through sounds, scratches, or through that we found feces. 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 until they started throwing euro banknotes at him. When John got home, he discovered his wallet in his back pocket. Had it been there all along? Then it was John who had robbed the teenagers of 50 euros. He took us to a restaurant with their 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. 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. The 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. John had just entered the bathroom, the horror! But as I went to look later, they weren’t 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 unoccupied room which was dark and had the 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