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My Requiem

He loves receiving mail. He likes to think that a letter someday will change his life. Checking his mailbox is practically the only reason why he leaves his apartment. He works at home as a software developer. His preferred way to communicate with the outside world is chatting over the internet. Online meetings involving audio are a necessity imposed by his business, but he never turns his webcam on; he keeps it cautiously covered with a nerdy sticker. He does his shopping online. The only goods he is not able to get delivered to his doorstep are his medications, but the pharmacy is just across the street from his apartment building.

He lives on the sixth and highest storey. When he needs a renewed prescription, he just has to text his psychiatrist, who will gladfully send him a copy via email. On those days when he has to go to the pharmacy, however, no matter how many drops of bromazepam he ingests, anxiety haunts him like a ghost.

He needs to reach the ground, and by no means he is going to enter the elevator. He has to cross the road: easy enough as long as no vehicle is driving through. Once his storage is replenished with his favorite antidepressant, anxiolytics, and mood stabilizers, he will not need to cross that road for the next month at least.

Today, the newest issue of his favorite heavy-metal magazine awaits him in the mailbox. It is not that life-changing letter he likes to think one day he will receive, but it is more than enough to change his mood. While he climbs the stairs back up, he unwraps the magazine and quickly browses through it until he reaches the album reviews section. He skips the body of the reviews themselves and focuses on the "for fans of" suggestions: if at least one of the three, four mentioned bands is of interest to him, then he will listen to the album via some streaming service, and, if he likes it, he will eventually order the CD online.

She looks him in the eyes from the third page of the album reviews section: green-yellow eyes penetrating his defenses, blood-red lips on snow-white skin leaving him unarmed. A picture emanating an aura he cannot do anything but be fatally attracted to. He cannot care less about the "for fans of" suggestions.

The review is about an album that her partner published posthumously: she had died of a tumor a few years before.

She had a partner.

It takes him what seems to be a lifetime to process this piece of information: the thought seems to trigger some sort of reaction – jealousy? – deep down in his belly. How can he possibly feel something for her?!

Through Google to Wikipedia, it is a matter of keystrokes and he knows everything about the album, and most of all, about her. She and he were born on the same year. They would be the same age, if she were not gone.

The album is love at first listening! The tracks exist between two opposites: the wall of sound produced by the distorted guitars, and her almost whispered singing. This is heavy-metal at its best according to his taste: power and harmony, distortion and lyricism, anger and acceptance.

He resumes working while playing the songs at impossible volume – fuck the neighbors! He soon realizes he cannot focus on the code he is trying to write, although the algorithm is pretty simple. It is the music. He is distracted by it. The sound breaks through his barricades.

A chat message notification catches his attention: the project manager is requesting his opinion. The message goes Where the hell are you?! He switches from the code, which still consists of two lines only, to the chat application, and he realizes the PM had sent him the first message almost three hours before, and since then, he had repeatedly tried to get an answer. This cannot be! I mean I have just... I went downstairs to collect the mail like five minutes ago... No: more than three hours have passed since he went down. And the album is still playing on repeat. What the fuck?! He calls his PM apologizing.

1:00 AM: time to go to bed. He is currently reading four or five books. He does so until one gets the grip on him, and then he focuses on that one only. He picks one of them: a horror novella most likely candidate to be completed in this round. He picks up his phone too and his Bluetooth headphones. He lies on his bed with his back raised to an almost upright position by a bunch of pillows. He presses the play button on his phone and starts reading. The album restarts playing from the beginning. He soon forgets about anything outside his body. His mind is filled by the words he slowly picks from the book. The music is stealing his focus. Hours pass while he tries to process one paragraph, but he does not realize it. He eventually falls asleep. It is 4:00 AM.

He wakes up feeling a compelling need to piss. He had left the nightlight on. He sits on the foot of the bed for he does not know how long. Then he slowly starts walking to the bathroom. He empties his bladder and flushes the toilet. Then moves to the sink to wash his hands and looks at himself in the mirror, the bedroom in the background. She is sitting on the foot of the bed, her green-yellow eyes set on him. He suddenly turns around. No one is there of course. He turns back to the mirror: the bedroom is empty, or at least the foot of the bed is, which is what he can see from the bathroom.

He washes his hands in a hurry and walks back into the bedroom. She is lying on his bed, a lovely smile wrinkles her blood-red lips, dense with empathy. He glances the harmonious curves of her slim naked body through the one layer of bedsheets.

Are you mine?

The question bounces ear to ear in his skull.

He wakes up – this time for real. The bedsheets are soaked in sweat. What the fuck?! He picks up the phone: dead. Light is pushing its way through the shades. What time is it?! He gets up and frantically walks to his office and wakes up the computer: 11:00 AM.

He logs in, sends a message to his PM and takes the day off. He does not have to provide a reason: this is one of the perks of being a freelance. Then he connects to the website of a record store in town. This place is amazing! He wishes he could find the strength to visit it in person one day. If an album is in stock and you place an order before 1:00 PM, they guarantee the delivery within the same day. He looks up the title: available both on vinyl and CD. He immediately orders a copy of the CD.

He decides he will spend the rest of day, while waiting for the CD, lying on the sofa reading the horror novella on top of his to-be-read list. Leaving the studio toward the living room, he has to turn left in the corridor. At the opposite end, a full-size mirror is hanging on the wall. He looks right into it. He would love and hate and long and fear to see her reflection in the mirror. There is nothing but himself, the corridor, the door leading to his bedroom, the bookshelves aligned along the wall, the light entering from the large window in the living room. He retrieves the book from the bedroom and goes straight to the sofa, too afraid to look back at the mirror.

Time goes by. It is around 5:00 PM when the doorbell rings and startles him. He finds himself in a limbo between wake and sleep. He knows what has just awaken him, but he is confused. He barely knows where he is. He looks at his phone to understand at least what time it is. He is about to close his eyes again when the doorbell shakes him even more violently than before. He suddenly stands up and automatically walks toward the door. He unlocks it and meets the gaze of the small, thin delivery guy, so shy he cannot even say hello.

After locking himself in, he leaves the door behind, gets rid of all the packaging stuff and looks at the CD, still wrapped in its protective coating. He knows that if he breaks the seal, there will be no going back. He is aware of the price he will have to pay if he accepts the rules of this game, although this is barely believable. He has always known what he would do in this situation anyway: he unwraps the CD, presses the open/close button on his stereo, carefully lays the CD on the tray, presses the close/open button once more, and eventually presses the play button.

He is still kneeling in front of his stereo when he feels her hand on his right shoulder, among the sound wall of the distorted guitars and the whispers of her singing. He closes his eyes and focuses on whatever real he can rely on: the wooden floor under his knees, the volume responding to him rotating the knob, her hand undeniably resting on his shoulder.

He accepts reality or whatever he is perceiving.

Too many times during the evening, while she is talking, he cannot focus on anything else but those splendid eyes, moving too fast to be intercepted, animated by a contagious joy. Two luminous spheres rotating surrounded by a world rotating around them. So many times, too many not to feel embarrassed, he has had the feeling that whatever question she asked him, he could only reply: Fuck! You're beautiful!

He introduces the question pretty straightforwardly: What are your plans for the night?

She responds triggering in him that extremely rare feeling that things are going where you would like them to go.

I don't have plans for the night; I would gladly spend it with you.

The concept she expresses is simple, the communication direct, no workarounds, one neat sentence pronounced in a self-conscious and serene manner, not even slightly impudent, indeed tinged with a very gracious sense of decency.

He gets up from the table and walks toward the stereo. He skips a few songs, her songs, searching for the one he dreams of listening to when the dream comes true, the one that is yelling from deep inside of him: Where are you? Now that I am looking for you. Now that I want you. Now that I need you.

Then, trying to hide the effort to act natural, he turns toward her and starts walking slowly, savoring each step. He does not know what awaits him at the end of those few steps that separate him from her.

He knows what he wishes for and hopes she shares his wishes. He has not caught any signal that makes him feel the opposite, but he cannot hold on to any certainty. He can only hold on to his courage and his power to dream.

One more step and the fear creates a void in his chest. For an instant he feels the discomfort he would feel if she rejected him. He hears the noise of a glass plate detaching from the window frame through which he is watching his dreams unraveling. The plate shatters at his feet, scattering shards all around, leaving wounds on him. He is not afraid of the pain caused by the shards penetrating his flesh: this is very bearable if compared to the pain caused by the desire that gnaws you from the inside and consumes you forever.

He finds the strength to take one more step. While he walks around the table his heart is thumping, not only fast but also intensely, in a rhythm synchronized with his steps: three beats, one step; four beats, one step; seven beats, one step.

She is beautiful, in that graceful pose, like a model giving herself to her artist. He dares rest his hands on her hips. He feels her delicate, light, slender body moving within his hands while she turns toward him.

He cannot look into her eyes. Not yet, but he knows that he will hold her gaze and will bask in it, when he will have gained some more confidence. Now he needs confirmations. He needs to feel that he is not about to crash into a wall, that he is not falling into the void; he needs to ensure that a dependable hand will hold his, and welcoming arms will hold him tight. He needs to feel that he is not alone anymore.

He gets his confirmation when their lips touch.

An instant of complete confusion: smells, tastes, visions of lights invade his mind.

He loves to indulge on the details, kissing the whole surface of her mouth and its shape, touching every bit of skin, their tongues exploring every possible corner.

He would like to move slowly, but she overwhelms him and he cannot do anything but second her movements.

Her legs are suddenly all around him. He perceives them everywhere.

Slim legs, incredibly long, preternaturally graceful, whose velvety skin he would never caress and kiss enough.

They wrap him, surround him, swirl all around him.

They erect like columns to build a temple dedicated to his muse.

The temple and the muse are the same thing, and he dwells in there; he is the priest of that Venus to whom he dedicates his existence in this instant, which he wishes will never end.

She calls his name, moaning sweetly. She whispers his name.

He has never recognized himself in his name like when she pronounces it.

His name now only exists for her to pronounce it.

He himself only exists to adore his muse, giving her the pleasure that belongs to her.

He does not feel the impulses of his own body, but of hers. He cannot take pleasure without giving pleasure to her. He is hers.

He moves as she wishes; he cannot resist.

Waves originate from her and incarnate in him. He feels his abdominal muscles contracting according to her will, not his.

She possesses him. She makes him move as she pleases.

She begs him not to stop, whispering his name. He could not stop even if he wished so: his body, as well as his name, belong to her.

He is left with his emotions only, but those revolve around her too, collapsing and expanding rhythmically, like dust produced by explosions repeating at regular intervals, while, between an explosion and the next one, the dust is sucked in by the explosive core.

The rhythm increases. She breathes his name. The shockwaves shake him. His muscles contract. She draws him inside of her with the air she breathes in, inside that temple of beauty erected around him.

The temple collapses, smaller and smaller, the columns constricting him from every side in a composed and graceful fashion.

Everything around him becomes smaller and smaller until he cannot be contained anymore, until everything stops.

And then, slowly, the temple expands, thins, vanishes.

He is not sure he can hear her words, but a harmony of sounds conveys sensations from her to him.

He has not wished to possess her, but to give himself to her, and, although he has not come, he has never been so satisfied. She has come, and her pleased smile shows she could not wish anything else.

In that moment a vague concern seizes him.

While they lie abandoned, breathing heavily, their bodies covered with sweat, for the first time he realizes his status: she possesses him. He is hers. However, if this is the way it has to be, so be it! He could not prevent it anyway. He has got neither the strength nor the will to fight it.

When he wakes up, the sun penetrates the fissures in the shades, permeating the room with a suffused light. She is sleeping, lying on her breasts, without any pillow, the right arm gracefully bent under her head. The bedsheets have slipped aside to allow his world to admire her.

The tattoo on the back of her shoulder, framed by waves of black hair, depicts the profile of the naked body of a winged woman. The curve of the breasts harmonically opposing the curve of the hips. She floats with grace, adorned, not supported, by light wings; inertly abandoned to the flow; drawn into a never-ending dance.

He rests his lips on her skin, being extremely careful not to wake her up. He closes his eyes and delicately kisses the fairy and her tattoo. He would like to hold her tight in his arms, keep her with him, never let her go away, but he knows that she will soon spread her wings and fly far, far away. So, he inhales deeply, filling his heart with her perfume, trying to separate from her. You cannot prevent a fairy from flying.

He picks up his phone and remotely connects to the stereo. He presses the stop button. Her body vanishes instantly, the bedsheets delicately falling on the mattress like a deflating balloon.

After a frugal breakfast he unsuccessfully tries to focus on his work, and soon decides to allow himself another day off, the reason of the lack of concentration being the state of pleasant numbness in which he has basked since he woke up clinging to a beautiful woman who has so naturally disappeared when he had stopped her music.

In this state, his mind is crossed by questions like a summer sky is crossed by shooting stars. He struggles to grasp them, but he cannot pretend he does not see their trails. The fact they shoot without him being able to assess them might mean that the time is not ripe. However, honoring his impatient and impulsive nature, he tries to catch some of these meteors and imprison them in order to share them with her when he will be ready to play the CD once again, because these celestial bodies originate from her and around her revolve.

***

It is hard to accept as real something that your mind has been trained to reject as even possible. He wonders if this is a subjective perception or if anyone else can at least see her. The more time they spend together, the weaker he feels, although he burns with passion and pleasure during that very time. It feels like she knows what he likes and uses his passions as if they were nourishment to her.

He tries to show her the door and leave her out of his world. For a few days he hardly succeeds. But when she knocks from inside of him, then he cannot resist: he plays the CD and opens his arms wide to let her in.

During the time he spends with her, she is an endless source of inspiration to him, a creative drive, a productive force: his fantasy runs at full power, he dreams, he writes.

On the contrary, during the days he pushes her away, he feels dull, he even falls sick, but, as soon as he plays her music and welcomes her back to his world, the sore throat and the cold abandon him and the will to create, to produce, to write is suddenly back.

***

He wakes up. He has completely lost the sense of time. Based on the supposed position of the sun, deduced by the light penetrating the shades' fissures, he believes it is early afternoon. He walks into the bathroom and turns on the light. It's blinding. He protects his eyes by raising a hand. The man in the mirror does not do that. Once his eyes adapt to the brightness, he can see the man in the mirror shaking his head in disapproval. The man in the mirror starts the conversation:

– You are losing your grip on reality!

– I am going to play the CD!

– She is not real!

– I have to tell her how I feel!

– You have already told her! If she were real, she would have understood!

– I feel this constant impulse to share my whole world with her!

– She is suffocating! You have to allow yourself time! Space! See what you have done? You have spent too much time with her and now you are addicted to her!

– I have done nothing but being earnest to myself!

– Right, and what have you got? You fell for a byproduct of your sick imagination!

– She is real!

– As much as you need your medications!

– This is the best thing that happened to me since I was born!

– Ok, let us pretend she is real. Do you realize she is testing you?! She is trying to persuade you that this is not just a flash in the pan, a flame dying a couple of weeks after it sparked for the first time. Do not let her fool you: you are just a one-night stand to her! She likes you, but she does not mean to go anywhere with you!

– It might be so...

– She is as free as a bird! Do you really think you are the only one who ever listened to her album?! This is how it works: she does not feel like being alone, and she materializes in one of her listeners' life, like she has done with you, and then thank you and goodbye!

– She is not that kind of woman! And there would be nothing wrong anyway! She certainly knows what she wants!

– If she knows what she wants, why does not she tell you?

– What do you expect her to tell me?

– That she is just having some fun with you!

– What makes you think this is the case? Maybe she is just as scared as I am.

– Yeah, right! Except you talk too much and she barely talks at all!

– We are just different: she is shy; I am the kind of person who throws up on everyone his emotions and sensations!

– You said so: you are throwing up on her, and she does not like it!

– I do not know... This thing transcends me...

– There is more!

– What?

– What if she had someone else. Someone like you, who started listening to her music, in whose life she has materialized, and whom she is currently playing with, just like she is doing with you?

– .....

At dusk the light penetrating the fissures in the shades permeates the room with a suffused orange red light. Those shades have never been opened since he moved in.

The music is playing and so she is: she is playing with him like a cat plays with a mouse before putting an end to its meaningless life.

He has given her everything, she has given nothing in return: she has been feeding on him.

She might not exist in the real world, but, in his world, she is very much real, and she rules it.

It is time for him to open those shades and look out at the real world. He turns his back on her and walks toward the large window. He presses a button and the burning orange red light progressively pervades the room. He looks back at her just to be sure she is still there.

Once the shades are completely gone, he drags one of the window panes open and, for the first time, steps out on the terrace. The sky is burning, orange, red. He wishes the sunlight burned his body before it touches the ground.

The sun goes down on his corpse. The sun is up on half the world, and half the world is waiting for someone they can hold. Every time she leaves, one life goes too. And half the world is still waiting for her.

 

Fabio Scagliola,