Prose Header

Erika’s Story

by Filip Šimunović

part 2 of 3

ME (ERIKA): Here, they went inside. That was a relief because I could hear them better and write more rhythmically, without rewinding the tape back and forth. They took seats and continued talking. Already then I had a bad feeling about the Spaniard. Later you will see that I was right.

ULISES BELANO: I liked her a lot. She was... how should I put it? Helpless. At first I thought it was because of her youth and because she was not used to living alone.

PROF. ACKERMAN: In which way was she helpless?

ULISES BELANO: In many ways. Here’s an example... You know the T-Mobil store in the old town? She couldn’t go there and get a contract for her mobile phone by herself.

PROF. ACKERMAN: Of course.

ME (ERIKA): The Professor knows everything!

ULISES BELANO: She could not go there alone. ‘They would ask me all these questions’, she said. She did it in a cute way, cuddly, you know the way women get? So I took an hour off work and went to get a mobile phone for her. She just stood there and paid for it when it came to paying. I did all the talking.

PROF. ACKERMAN: Very interesting.

ULISES BELANO: And there were other things. She was... I guess one could say she was unfit for living. And I thought it was cute.

PROF. ACKERMAN: Of course. Unfit for living... I like the way you said that. It is exactly right. Hits the nail on the head.

ULISES BELANO: And then her mother ended up in a hospital. Her family is from Hamburg. Paranoid schizophrenia.

PROF. ACKERMAN: Yes, it was known to us that she had a family history of mental disease. So that is when her mother’s got worse... When was this exactly?

ULISES BELANO: This was... wait a second. Last year March. A yearan a half ago.

PROF. ACKERMAN: I see. Go on please.

ULISES BELANO: That’s when she told me, crying, about her family, about the crazy mother, the father who ran away, the brother who lives with their grandparents in Lübeck... And I felt even more responsible. The need to take care of her and protect her was even stronger than before.

PROF. ACKERMAN: I see. How did it go on between the two of you?

ULISES BELANO: Nina moved in, that’s how. I was living with roommates but we had a big place. My room was big and I was out most of the time. I invited her to move in one night. Next day she appeared with two suitcases and that was it.

PROF. ACKERMAN: How did it work?

ULISES BELANO: In the beginning it was great. I really liked her, somehow, you know? I liked... I liked the way she combed her hair before going to bed in the evening. Watching her do that every night made me happy. During the time she was still going to classes, talking to me, going out, cooking... while she was functioning like this it was great.

PROF. ACKERMAN: What happened then?

ULISES BELANO: Some switch was turned inside her. That’s exactly how it was — like a switch was turned. She would not get out of bed. Some days she would stay in bed until the afternoon, until I would get back from work, and some days she would not get out of bed at all.

I would pretend to be reading or doing stuff on the computer, but I could not help watching her. She was just lying there, doing nothing. Not sleeping, not thinking, not even looking. She was just there. I would need to shout and shake her to get a response.

She did not even get up to go to the toilet. She didn’t do it in bed, not at that time least, but she also did not go to the bathroom. All she did was drink Coke from the bottle and eat cookies.

ME (ERIKA): I don’t understand why this is unusual. I spend most of my free days like that, because I get tired from working as hard as I do. I don’t find this strange in any way. It could be that Nina was also tired from working or studying. However, I have a feeling that the Professor also thinks her behavior was strange, and he is the expert.

ULISES BELANO: The whole room started to feel peculiar, like a sick person’s room. I tried reasoning with her, talking, and when that did not work, I shouted. I shouted so hard that my roommates came to see what was happening. They thought I was beating her. But I never was. I could never do that. All the bruises she had, she did them to herself.

PROF. ACKERMAN: I know that.

ULISES BELANO: I never touched her. I yelled at her when I was frustrated, I pulled blankets off her, pillows from under her... Things like that. That was it.

PROF. ACKERMAN: Of course, Ulises. I know that. I have worked with these people my whole life. I know how frustrating it can get.

ULISES BELANO: She was my girl. I did not see her as a patient.

PROF. ACKERMAN: What about the good days?

ULISES BELANO: There were good days, sure. She would wake up, and everything would be in good shape. I would ask her what the problem was and she would say it was her sick mother, her delinquent brother... things like that. I thought I could understand that. I offered to drive her up to Hamburg and check out the situation. She refused.

PROF. ACKERMAN: Why do you think she refused?

ULISES BELANO: Said we could not possibly do it, it was too far, too complicated, that we should just stay here ‘lie low’ and that things would be better. ‘Lie low’ is what she always said. It was driving me nuts. Like there was something hunting us so that we had to lie low!

PROF. ACKERMAN: In her head, Ulises... Things you and I cannot even imagine in our wildest dreams! The most marvelous things...

ULISES BELANO: Anyway. I wasn’t particularly delighted. Once her whispers woke me up in the middle of the night. I opened my eyes and saw her, curled together like a child, naked and covered by her long hair, rocking to and fro and murmuring stuff. Words.

I touched her but again I needed to shake her to have her come to. Her face was... her expression was... I do not know how to describe it. Gazing out. That’s what she was doing. I don’t know — she was absent, to say the least. But it was more than that. I left the room and sat in the kitchen, waiting for dawn, smoking. It was a few days before you met her.

PROF. ACKERMAN: In September?


PROF. ACKERMAN: Can you tell me what she was talking about that night?

ULISES BELANO: Not really. I don’t think I could recall a single coherent sentence. She talked about conspiracies, people who threaten her, all of us, secret societies, sacred fools, prophets, demons, masters of worlds and the universe...

PROF. ACKERMAN: I see. We’ll get back to this. Will you tell me about the night before she came here? Please.

ULISES BELANO: What can I say? I guess I had better nights in my life.


ULISES BELANO: That evening I stayed out, drinking with some friends. I used to do this often at the time, postponing the moment I had to go home. I unlocked the door and realized I was alone in the place. That we were alone in the place.

It felt strange, maybe because the TV was on, really loud. I can still remember — some ridiculous real-life courtroom drama was on. Maybe it was that, maybe it was the light that came from somewhere through the darkness... Maybe it was the smell. I don’t know what it was but I could tell right away that something was wrong.

I approached our room and nearly fainted. As I was moving through the living room I had come up with a few rational explanations for the smell, but none of them came close to what I saw. She was not in the room. Doctor, it was everywhere — on the walls, on the floor, on the damned ceiling! On the fan, and the fan was running. Imagine that. On the books, computer, windows... everywhere!


ULISES BELANO: Blood came later. Shit. In the room it was shit. Smeared everywhere. You cannot even imagine the scene I had before me. Then I heard a noise in the bathroom. A splash, a splutter, something. I was scared, but grateful that a necessity to leave the room was presented, you know?

And there she was — in the bathtub, like that painting from David: Death of Marat. Pale, in a bath of red water. I called the ambulance, they took her to surgery, stitched her up and brought her here. The cuts were not bad. Her tendons and nerves were not damaged. But you know that from the reports. Here is where you and I first met.

PROF. ACKERMAN: You did well. Not many boyfriends would do the same. Most would run without looking back. You did well.

ME (ERIKA): This is where the tape ended, and I had to look for part two. I remember it wasn’t in my goodie-basket, so I went to the Professor’s office to ask for it. I was too interested in what happened to let it go. In this line of work you need creativity as well.

While I stood there in front of his desk I thought that what I was doing (asking for the tape) was impudent. But he didn’t say a thing, he took the small tape from his recorder and handed it over his massive oak desk. As I turned to leave he told me he failed to notice the tape had run out during the interview, and that there would be an interruption in the conversation. I should mark that in the transcript, he said.

“Jawohl, Herr Professor,” I responded and resumed working on my story. I felt good that day.

Proceed to part 3...

Copyright © 2010 by Filip Šimunović

Home Page