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All The Wrong Rooms

"I ended up falling into this eternal but discontinuous frustration, only interrupted now and then by little adrenaline pats on the back and endless nights that meet their death at shameful sunrises..."

an AWE Short Story
by Urbano Blanes Moreno

Constantly looking for stimuli I ended up mistaking their absence for a complete lack of feeling, to which I had previously attributed (also mistakenly, for a change) the state of happiness.  

Jumping violently from short term remedies to remedies with great but unaccomplished prospects of becoming long term solutions, I ended up falling into this eternal but discontinuous frustration, only interrupted now and then by little adrenaline pats on the back and endless nights that meet their death at shameful sunrises. Ecstatic dark nights which lead to sad days and sour breakfasts at unknown tables, in all the wrong rooms. Clichés are not enough to feed the soul, but can be used as appetizers between semi-transcendental experiences, mortadella sandwiches and post-modernism classes; they can even help digest and catabolically simplify some more complex contents. 

Right after my class, having had a heated conversation with the indecipherable and sometimes exasperating Derrida himself, reincarnated in the flesh of my hunchbacked anthropology professor, I made my way home along the canals, jumping over, I believe, a hundred bikes and twice as many tourists. As I turned the last corner, finally facing the street that had carefully witnessed my final steps home on many other days, I wondered what I was doing with my life in this rainy place. This question seems to arrive punctually every Wednesday between 15.00 and 16:45, and, as every other Wednesday, it has taken me to the same complicated and excessively open conclusion which gives too much weight to my tomorrows, but provides some breathing space to my todays.

After this weekly existential failure, I arrived home, where fate and my own lousiness gave me the marvellous opportunity to catch the mice squatting the bathroom of my flat in the midst of their first community meeting.

As a result of the city's efforts in moving the squatters (or any other activity or group that does not report immediate economic benefit) to the outskirts, these creatures were pushed inevitably to my street. Realizing my theoretical superiority over the mice, I felt the pressure to lead the conversation falling heavily on my shoulders. I confidently stated that they have been displaced to areas where they don’t bother with the construction of five star hotels, Argentinian steak houses and other unnecessary projects. Given my clear new role as the intellectual leader of the pack, I said: 

“Hotels are buildings made to host the owners of those machines that never stop clicking, to satisfy their ever-so-inexistent needs.”

The most outspoken one of them clearly agreed with what I said and nodded, I must admit I had never thought I would feel this accomplished after getting a mouse´s approval. They conveniently added that the increase in rental prices was forcing them to move further away gradually. Interestingly enough, this movement happened gradually and at the same rate as bars opened in the very streets where they were born. These bars, they said, were frequented by young men with beards wearing vintage clothing. The furry greyish creatures communicated to me, in perfect Dutch (the suffering of the sound of Dutch is a necessary price one must pay for being an insignificant student living in Amsterdam, a city I love profoundly, and whose streets I shall one day learn how to pronounce) that they are planning to make an offer to rent the part of the house they intend to use.  In a very polite manner, they said that they do not intend to cause any kind of inconveniences, and that they will control the desire, intrinsic to them, of eating at my things. Seeing the imperative need and the dire situation these little individuals were in, I had no choice but to close the deal. I must admit I am extremely bad at saying no, but given the difficulties, even the hygienic challenges that one almost inevitably faces as a young man living alone, renting out a part of my bedroom in exchange for some company did not sound like a completely bad idea.

 Sometimes I even wonder if my life is really mine.

 Sometimes I even wonder if my life is really mine.

As these mice were truly Dutch, they dined around 18.00 p.m, and after a short conversation (the concept of endless table talk is very Spanish, and some northerners choke on their own words as they finish their after-dinner coffee) they went to sleep, leaving me alone to face that uncomfortable period known as ´free time´, when I usually lay and think aimlessly, always a little too much. I laid down facing up, like Kafka’s bug, paralyzed partly by the accumulation of loose thoughts, and started to deconstruct myself (or rather tried to understand what deconstructing meant). I tried, as I do every night, to extract something from my days that would allow me to build up a significant and enriching tomorrow. I searched through the pillow and the bed sheets for a small, easy but inspiring answer to the importance of the problems that grew beneath my skin. I took one last shot at trying to understand the importance of decolonizing education, a thought which then drifted shortly into the field of my daily doubt: whether I would ever feel at home within that boring and rigid field they call science. Sometimes, the desire to live other people's’ lives invades me, and mine never seems meaningful enough to write a story about it.

Sometimes I even wonder if my life is really mine.

I must admit I can't quite trace back this thought, but a yellow breeze brought to mind the unpleasant image of Geert Wilders. I tried to dismiss his blonde hair considering the imminent nightmare this path was bound to lead me to. But I couldn’t help asking myself if that curious bleached hair bozo would like eating kebabs, if he would use any service that wasn’t exclusively Dutch-operated, or whether he would eat chocolate from Colombia, or drink Moroccan coffee (it seemed impossible to me that a man of his kind would feed himself exclusively on suikerbrood and beenham). 

Then I immediately remembered the fact that this enigmatic creature of amphibian features has his origins in Indonesia, and I couldn’t help laughing at this irony, invaded by a considerable amount of guilt. I ended up concluding (and this conclusion might not even be as wrong and incomplete as the others I keep on arriving to) that his feeling of “displacedness” for not fitting his own definition of Dutchness might be precisely what makes him so openly anti-everything-but-himself. I caught myself thinking that this feeling might be somehow shared by those (such as the mice, or even myself) who can never fully manage to feel at home at the place where they live in. For a moment, I identified with him, though I am ashamed to admit this publicly.  

Little by little, the synaptic connections that took towards ever-remote, not-so-great conclusions started switching off, and I fell deeply into I dream I didn't remember.

I never do.

This is the first in our AWE Short Story series. We invite you to think about your own identity, and perhaps even Europe, in a different way. Like what you've read? Let us know!