This is out of context unless the blog has been read in a chronological order.
”Can we have another cassette tape, please?” Some of Eric’s father’s music cassette’s are so worn they’ve broken and now he’s throwing them away.
”Remember to throw the cassette in the bin, I can’t have you littering the neighborhood.”
”We promise Daddy!” Camilla swears solemnly. And off we go!
”Wait!” Eric’s father hollers. ”You’re taking Eric with you. I have to run an errand and I don’t want him to be left alone at home.” Eric’s father enters a bedroom. I hear him urging Eric to get up in a cheery voice: ”You need some sunshine! Up, up! You’ve slept all day! Bianca, be a good girl, come in here and help me!” I peek into the bedroom. Eric’s father is opening the curtains but Eric has put his pillow over his head.
”Eric?” I try to peek underneath the pillow. All I get in reply is a heavy sigh. He’s been like this for weeks now – barely eating, sleeping all the time. Not speaking. I hug him as hard as I can.
”I want to go out and play with you!” Eric sighs, sits up and goes to the closet to find some clothes. He walks slowly, because his legs wobble.
”I’ll fetch a belt for you”. Eric’s father finds a belt which he fastens in Eric’s jeans. The jeans wouldn’t stay up: Eric has become too skinny.
”We are going out today, hooray!” I’m so glad Eric is coming along. Lately he hasn’t played with me at all – he’s been silent and grave, crying for no apparent reason. I hold his hand and drag him out to his siblings. We have a new favorite game but we need to find a secluded spot to play in. It’s super fun but Lucio says we need to be careful, it’s forbidden. Close to the suburban area where they live is a glade, and there’s where we go to play cassette tape fight.
Cassette tape fight has different roles we take turns with: at least two people wrestle on the ground, one smacks them with a stick and another one aims pebbles at them. All the while the fighters call each other silly names, get snared up in the tape, stumble around, make fart noises and act as stupidly as possible. I love this game! Every time we play it we end up laughing so much our stomachs hurt.
”But you saw the first cassette fight”, Victoria insists. ”You don’t remember?”
”No, I don’t. It must have been the other girl. The Guinevere girl, she who looks like me.” I have a secret twin who also lives in this neighborhood. Her name is Guinevere and Lucio says she’s his best friend. But sometimes he’s in a bad mood because she’s stolen his toys or she’s been teasing him too much. Lucio scares me a little – I wouldn’t want to fight with him, ever. Guinevere must be brave. I want to meet her, but she’s never there when I am. I keep hoping I’ll run into her. Today we’re gonna show Eric our new favorite game, maybe he’ll even laugh!
Eric is crying. We played the cassette fight as silly as we could, but he started crying. Now we’re hugging him, all the four of us: Camilla, Lucio, Victoria and me. Eric pats our heads and tries to smile.
”Enough! Enough!” Eric’s father stapes into the clearing and he’s fuming. It seems he’s been watching us for some time, without us knowing. ”I told you not to think of it, never to do anything that could remind him…or you…! Is this what you’ve been using the cassette tapes for?” I don’t understand why he’s angry. Nobody got hurt.
”Lucio didn’t bite me”, I interject.
”He didn’t bite me. Nobody is hurt.” Fighting games are forbidden and the adults always get upset if we leave bruises or bite marks on each other.
”I want to speak with you”, Eric’s father points at Lucio, Victoria and Camilla, ”alone”. Eric and I stand to the side, we can’t hear what the other’s are talking about.
”Don’t cry I’m fine”, I tell him. He hugs me but the tears keep on falling.
I’m afraid Eric will die again. Grandmother says he’s ’all skin and bones’ and he looks ill. Is he sick? They won’t leave him and me alone together. I can’t ask him how he is. I want to find out if he’ll talk to me when nobody hears.
Eric and I snuck away from the playground. We’re hiding behind some bushes. Grandmother and Grandfather are occupied socializing with some elderly people who wanted to chat with them. Eric whispered I should follow him! He hasn’t spoken for so long, I was delighted! He kneels in front of me so we’re eye to eye.
”We don’t have much time! I need to talk with you before they find us.”
”Do you remember when I died?”
”You died?” Is he trying to fool me? Nobody can be dead and alive in the same time. Eric sighs.
”Am I going mad? Did I imagine it?” He’s close to tears now. ”What’s your name?”
”I need to speak with Guinevere”. He knocks my back, carefully.
”Hello, hello”, I say, thinking it’s a new game. Then I feel sleepy and tell him so.
”Come”, he says. I sit in his lap and fall asleep instantly.
”Eric!” I hug him and he hugs me back, hard.
”I’ve waited so long to thank you! They wouldn’t let me be alone with you! Thank you for saving my life!” Eric looks happy and sad at the same time.
”Did I save your life?”
”Yes, you did”, he smiles.
”But it was you who came back to your body.”
”I wouldn’t have come back if it wasn’t for you! My Bianca. My Guinevere. I’ll protect you!”
”From what?” Do I need protection?
”Do you remember when I died?” His face is serious now.
”What is died?”
”Dying is…do you remember when I stopped breathing?” Eric appears worried.
”Yes”. I feel I’m starting to cry. I can see it like a dream, I don’t want it to be real but it feels so sad.
”You mustn’t tell anyone”, he implores me. ”You know why?”
”You’re the perfect witness.” Another difficult word, but Eric is patient when I ask:
”What is a witness?”
”A witness is…somebody who sees something. Bianca, you were the only child who wasn’t drugged. They drugged Philip in the end and Vincent was put to sleep. I know because I saw them carry Vincent out of the barn afterwards and he was sleeping. That’s why Philip was so stupid, wanting to fight even though he was already hurt.”
”What is drugged?”
”Eating goodies. When someone eats goodies.”
”And you never had any goodies and you saw me close up when I wasn’t breathing.”
”What does that mean?”
”It means they could kill you, if they think you remember. So you have to forget.”
”I don’t know how to forget.”
”I’ll teach you. Remember when Mickey Mouse went camping?”
There is an old short film called ”Mickey’s Trailer”. Mickey pulls a lever and the beautiful setting behind his trailer is revealed to be a large fan. The fan – all the trees, the grass and the hills – all is folded up, disappearing into the trailer. I remember it.
”Imagine you have a box instead of a trailer. Imagine you fold up the memory of me not breathing and put it in the box. One day, when it is safe, you can open the box again and you’ll know all that happened.”
”Grandma says I should picture a memory like a large painting. And then wash away all the paint so it becomes white. Or erase it with a rubber.”
”That is what they teach girls, to wipe their memories. But boys are taught to store their memories in boxes, so that they can find them later. Don’t tell anyone I told you this. It is very secret.”
In the future, whenever Grandmother instructs me to wash away a memory, I put it in a box instead. Ugly boxes for ugly memories. Treasure chests for things I love.