Chapter 1:

What brings you here?

What brings you here?

May I?

Thank you. I can’t think straight without them.

Maybe that’s why I keep at it.

Please, don’t get up. I’ll open the window.

So, about that—Yesterday was more of the same.

It’s astonishing how much time you can waste with a smartphone and Wi-Fi. I spent the entire day in bed scrolling down. Waiting.

He came back. I hugged him. We ordered Italian.

He told me how bad his day was and showed me some videos his colleagues thought were funny. This time around, one of them was.

We didn’t make love. We cuddled. Everything’s fine. I just wanted to get that out of the way. I’m not comfortable talking about it.

Anyway, I took them before going to bed. A handful. They don’t work. They only make me feel very tired—nothing beyond that.

As every other night, at what is already too late, he was sound asleep while my brain was facing the darkness of my eyelids. The warmth of his back isn’t enough to calm me down anymore.

Almost a year has passed, and I’m still waiting for a complaint. He never does.

He won’t pry unless I fess up, so I won’t. I thought this feeling would have disappeared by now. I’m still expecting it to. I don’t want to shackle our relationship to that.

But I do wonder what he’d say if I told him.

He would ask what he could do to help. I would say that he can’t do anything. He wouldn’t let it go. He'd ask me if I had been coming here. I'd say yes. And he'd force me to come more often.

That’s just my theory.

Regardless, as I was saying, I did what I usually do since I couldn't sleep. He knows about it but pretends he doesn’t.

He trusts me.

He shouldn’t.

I don’t change my pants. I hope they pass for jogging trousers.

I took a shot of vodka. Or five. I honestly can’t remember. I took what I thought was the right amount to warm me up.

We bought it for a dinner with friends that keeps getting postponed. The bottle is nearly empty at this point. If the time ever comes, I’ll buy another.

And after the shots, a big mug of coffee.

I’ve been acting this way lately. Impulsively. Perhaps I forgot how to be rational. Or, instead, I’m overthinking.

At least yesterday was perfect to try out this new windbreaker. It’s very cozy. I ordered it a week ago.

And I bet you’ve been wondering what happened to my glasses.

I ditched them—also yesterday.

I don’t like to sense others looking at me. Even the measly I may cross paths with at those late hours. I feel they judge my every step.

You’ve seen how thick my lenses are. If you were a walrus right now, I couldn’t tell.

That’s how I left home.

And what I saw, or didn’t, was mesmerizing.

When you embrace the city that way—It’s as if you entered another realm. Flicking stars of different colors everywhere. A galaxy was jumping right in front of me.

The blurry aliens wandering around on the sidewalks or in their spaceships couldn’t bother me amid that overwhelming cosmos.

I let my eyes adjust before beginning my excursion. I expected it to be more challenging, but I managed to get around the neighborhood with ease.

First, I went to buy a pack of luckies from a vending machine. I needed them for the finish line.

Then, I found the nearest track and stretched until I felt ready to start running.

As I went on, the lights spread up and down. I focused on the green and red ones. The usual sense of meaninglessness crept over me along the way—even more powerful this time due to how entranced I was.

I find comfort in that feeling. It enables me to release all my deepest thoughts. At those times, I curse everything. Myself the most.

I’m well aware that I’m an awful person.

As I journeyed further and passed familiar places, I imagined alternate realities. One where he never proposed to me in that park. Another where I never quit my job at that firm. Even one where I hadn’t been born in that maternity.

I delved further into the darkness. The stars that guided me dwindled as I reached a low-traffic area, making it harder to orient myself.

That’s when I bumped into an alien. I indeed saw him as such. He reeked.

As I helped him get up, he pointed at me in sheer terror. I can’t explain how it happened but I could hear his thoughts telepathically.


I froze.

I tried to force through my panic, quickly apologizing and sprinting away.

Fastest I could.

Different voices yelled through my head. The same sentence over and over.




The rain barely covered my tears. I wanted it to stop. I was trembling. I couldn’t contain my fear.

I stopped running at the bridge.

I thought that was enough. If there was a time, that was it.

I turned to stare at the river for a while. The pretty lights were reflected in the water, being pierced by droplets.

I was about to take them from my pocket when I changed my mind.

I got down and tightened my sneakers’ laces.

I slapped both my cheeks.

And I kept running.

That wasn’t the finish line.

I knew you’d be waiting for me there.

Jon Spencer
Mario Nakano 64

What brings you here?