• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 12
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I like how from the stairs you can look though the windows and see a blur and not know how high up we are. I remember climbing the Clerecía in Salamanca, how scared I was, and think, this is the same. But different.

As I slink up the spiral staircase, my hand gliding along the wood, that warm, surprisingly warm wood, I feel the trembling begin. Love and fear. Not both. It. Love is a synonym for fear; I learnt that. Focus on the feeling. It's the same. The same fluttering, swallowing. The same wanting to scream and sob and throw yourself down. Identical. When I learnt that love and fear are the same it made my life a lot easier. But also, I guess, a lot harder.

I'd see her sometimes, in her shawl, the same amber as the draping on her chair. She would smile, and you could really believe that in her life of sadness she was, in that instant, happy. Maybe she felt the love-fear too. Maybe I wasn't alone. We spoke little, but I can remember most words we said. Not every word, that would be clichéd and ridiculous, but most. I remember her eyes: light blue, like a winter sky - winter is the best time. You can breathe, then - and her laugh, so croaky from smoking. And full of love-fear, like her soul had been scratched and this was her bleeding.

She didn't die in the hurricane. For her to die though something natural, something unavoidable, would almost have been bearable. But no. They found her days before, lying, smiling. Full of pills. I always wondered. Not why. More, was it me. Did I make any difference in her life, either way. I have no idea. As I said, her words to me were few.

I remember walking from the nice, lit museum room of the Clerecía into the skinny, dusty tower. Up the steps, my hand clenching that banister, so cold. Up and up, alone, the only person in the world, the only person left - and I felt it. Not some holy rush of wind and flame.



Just something. And I gasped as it consumed me, as it lifted me to some place beyond. And I stood there, water flowing down my face though I wasn't crying. My heart was full: of love and fear and something else. That other thing that makes it worth it, all this pain.

I look at her chair. I hesitate, then sit down. I expect to hear her laugh, see her eyes dancing ahead of me, but nothing. I feel sad. If she did come I would be scared, of course, so scared and that amount of fear is surely not good for anyone. But that amount of love could maybe take me back there, to find that other thing, that third thing, the only thing as powerful. To bring her back. But nothing, of course. I just lie back and think of Salamanca.