Karla with Candle, Kreuzberg, Berlin, Samantha Metzner
It is the worst at nights when everything is still and silent and when everything that is left
is the whisper. In the darkness Harold cannot see my face; I feel the warmth of his body lying
next to mine, and I am waiting for his whisper. It goes: Alma, Alma, Alma, Alma, Alma. Then it
stops, and it is silent again, and this is when I can hate her. I lay still, waiting for whatever is next,
and then he starts whispering again. It goes: Alma, Alma, Alma, Alma. I lay in bed next to
Harold, listening to him calling for my dead sister. My name is Kat.
My sister’s face looks exactly like my face and my sister’s body looks exactly like my
body. I know everything: there is a gap between our front teeth, we have wide bones in our
fingers, and our feet arch too much so we always get blisters. There is a small birthmark on our
left breast next to the nipple. I picture maggots eating our body that is now just mine and then I
continue listening to my husband calling for her when everything is silent, and this is when I
promise that I am going to last. It goes: Alma, Alma, Alma, Alma.
You just need to get through this one more time, I tell myself, go through this night and
after that you will be able to forget again for the whole day. I crack my knuckles. I want to make
noise because I want the whisper to stop: I want Harold to wake up; I want it silent, I whisper,
silent. But I know that if he wakes up he is going to roll over to my part of our bed and he is
going to put his hands and his tongue and his legs on me and he is going to start searching
through and though my body looking for her. Harold wants to taste her. Harold is going to smell
my skin and search and lick and this is why I do not make noise. This is Harold’s way of praying
to his own God. It goes: Alma, Alma, Alma, Alma. His God was my twin sister; now I am the
only one left for him.
This is how he took me: Harold took whatever that remained and it was me and my
birthmark on my left breast that he stared at for ten minutes the first night he took me because
Alma was my twin sister. He stared at it and then he closed his eyes and started touching me. He
took Alma before me and then he married her and then they had a child and then her body was
killed by the child and eaten by maggots. Alma was good enough to be mourned and Harold is
still mourning and this how and why he took me. I am his way of mourning. He invited me to live
in his house. He stared at my left breast for ten minutes. My name is Kat. My name becomes hard
to remember at nights and this is when I can hate her.
In the mornings it is the best because we remember that she does not exist. It is the best
because we forget that she has ever existed and then I am the only one who has ever been alive
and I don’t have to make an effort to be good enough. Harold kisses my neck and I know that he
knows that my name is Kat even though he never says my name out loud. Harold is my husband.
Harold is my husband now, I whisper to myself again and again when he is not home. We are all
going to hell.
It is the worst at nights.
It goes: Alma, Alma Alma Alma alma almaalmaalma.
The child that she did not want looks like me because it looks like her because his father
is Ben. The child that has sucked life out of Alma is not hers anymore because he is mine because
Harold took me because I am good enough to be taken. Alma was my twin sister and now it
doesn’t matter that she was at all because Harold and the child have me and I am good enough to
take care of them and I promise that I am going to last. I say: Harold is my husband now. Then he
eats an omelet that I cooked for him for breakfast. He says: thank you. He says: I love you. He
does not say my name out loud.
It is the worst at nights.
When I look at the child sleeping in his crib with his mouth wide open and covered with saliva I
think about my mother and how she told Alma and me that we were both beautiful girls. She said:
you are both lucky to be beautiful. She said: make sure to keep your skin clean all the time. She
said: if you stay beautiful enough you will go places. My mother presented us to her friends as a
fleshy justification of her being good enough and then they drank wine and giggled and discussed
which one of us was prettier. My mother gave a birth to us to justify to herself that she was good
enough to be married to that she was good enough to have children with that she was good
enough to be worshipped by her family and by her friends and by random people on the street.
She wanted people to look at her. Alma and I were living justifications of our mother’s beauty
and she giggled and whispered to her friends small tips on how not to gain weight after pregnancy
like it was a secret that no one knew. She said: eat a lot of vegetables. She said: anything you eat
after 6 PM is unhealthy. She said: if you want to have healthy hair like Alma does wash it with
eggs. My mother told Alma and me that we were both beautiful girls. Then Alma became the
prettier one. Then she died while giving a birth to a child that she did not want. Then I started
sleeping next to her husband who is now my husband and in the mornings it is easy to remember
that Alma has never existed because we crave oblivion because Harold craves oblivion because I
crave my husband. Harold stared at my left breast for ten minutes and then he took me. My name
We are all going to hell.
On the day that I kissed a boy for the first time I was laying in my bed next to Alma and I
was thinking. I was thinking about how having Ben Riley’s lips on my lips was a sin and about
how having his hand on my hip was even more of a sin and how the worst of the sins was not to
remove it. Then I whispered to Alma’s ear everything about how it made my stomach feel heavy
and sacred. Alma told me that she knows, Alma kissed a boy before me and it made her stomach
feel heavy and sacred too. Eleven years later her stomach was full of blood and then the child that
she did not want killed her.
Then we all sat around the table and it smelled like washed dishes and early coffee in the
mornings before school. Our mother asked, do you like anyone, girls? She asked, who was the
first one to be kissed by a boy? Alma was the first one. Alma had always been the first one. But
now Alma is gone and her husband is now mine and he stared at my birthmark on my left breast
for ten minutes in search for her. I am his way of mourning. Then he took me and it is the worst at
nights when he cannot see me in the darkness and when it is the worst I can picture maggots
eating her body and hate her and in the mornings we can forget and it is the best in the mornings
and Harold stops mourning and goes to work. I stay at home because I am his wife because I am a
mother of his child because I am the love of his life because I am good enough to please him and
Alma is not the first one anymore. I watch my child sleeping with his mouth wide open and
covered with saliva and think about my mother’s gaze at Alma that was full of approval and then
I think about how our nanny told me that they love me but with a different kind of love with the
love that is different from the love that they love Alma with. She said: it is just colder. She said: it
is just hard not to adore her. She said: you are just less alive. I whispered to Alma’s ear how
kissing Ben Riley made my stomach feel heavy and sacred and then it all became about being
good enough and then Alma got Harold and then she was gone and stopped being the first one
and this is how Harold took me. He does not say my name out loud but it is easy to forget about it
if I try hard enough and everything I have to live though is the nights. It goes: Alma Alma alma
My name is Kat.
I think about Alma’s wedding while I cook dinner for my husband Harold who took Alma first
and then planted a child in her that she did not want. My mother asked me about when I was
going to get married while Harold was putting the ring on Alma’s finger. Bones on Alma’s
fingers are a little bit less wide than mines are. Alma turns and stares right into our mother’s eyes
and then she puts her hand on her chest so our mother can see her ring Alma presents her ring as a
justification of being good enough as a justification of being good enough to be our mother’s
daughter as a justification of being good enough to be married to someone as a justification of
being good enough to be better than me. My mother asked me about when I was going to get
married and I said that I did not know. Then Harold took me because I was good enough to live
with him and to help him mourn and in the mornings it is easy to forget that he is mourning Alma
that we all are mourning Alma and then I am his wife and I am good enough to be his wife and I
am good enough to please him. I am Harold’s wife. My duty is to please my husband. Harold
wants to mourn so I mourn with him. It goes: Alma Alma alma alma almaalmaalma.
During the day it is all mellow and pastel and I try to teach my child how to say “mom” and
“dad” and then I sing him to sleep and then I go around our house and I whisper to every corner:
Harold is my husband Harold is my husband Harold is my husband. This is my way of praying.
We are all going to hell.
When Harold comes back home it is raining and the first thing that he does is pull me
very close to his wet body and then turn me around and pull my dress up and this is what I call
searching for Alma. He does not say anything he just moves and I just wait because this is not the
worst that it can get I am still good enough to be in this house I am still good enough to be a wife.
I promised that I am going to last. When it is done we sit around our table in our house eating our
food and our child is sleeping upstairs. I rub my neck because I still feel Harold’s breath on it
Harold breath is musty and it smells like something is decomposing inside of him something is
dead something is being eaten by maggots. We are all mourning Alma. We are all starting to lose
it as soon as it gets darker.
My husband says: thank you. My husband says: this salad is very good. I smile and then
my husband calls me by my name. He says: Alma. He says: do you want to go to bed? He takes
my hand in his hand and I feel how rough his skin is and how it still smells like rain and the
outside I have not been outside for weeks because I am Harold’s wife I have my duties my duty is
our house my duty is our child my duty is to help him mourn.
My name is Kat.
I think about my mother’s eyes staring at Alma staring at Alma in an approving way loving
Alma craving Alma saying: when are you going to get married? I am married now mother I am
married I have a child who was Alma’s before but before doesn’t matter because we are all going
to hell we are all going to hell it is the worst at nights it goes: Alma Alma Alma almaalmaalma.
My Husband says: Alma, do you want to go to bed? I think about Ben Riley and how it was a sin
not to remove his hands from my hip but then I think about how it was more of a sin to be the
second one who was kissed by a boy to be the one who was not good enough to be looked at as a
justification of my mother’s beauty Alma’s body is dead and rotten and I hope she knows that I
sleep next to her Husband I hope she knows that her Husband eats my food I hope she knows that
her Husband is my Husband now. When Harold is not home I go around the house whispering:
Harold is my Husband Harold is my Husband Harold is my Husband look at me mother I am
married look at me I am not the dead one I was taken I was chosen I do not care what my name is
because whatever it is I am good enough now because Alma has never existed because I am on
her place because I am her because now you can look at me the way you looked at her and I am
going to hell and we are all going to hell and my way of praying is to please my Husband because
I am his wife and I have duties. I am on her place now mother look at me look at me I have a
child I have a family and my Husband asks: Alma, do you want to go to bed?
I say: Yes, let me clean the table first.
At nights it is not the worst anymore and no one whispers.
* (PAPUA NEW GUINEA) the truth that we all know but agree not to talk about.