sábado, 13 de mayo de 2017


I have chosen to write my own queer retelling of Othello set in the present day. Replacing "Moor" with "woman" and taking, for instance, a few extra clues from the 1001 Nights tale of the Three Apples:
"These ones will do perfectly, Christelle. With the petals on and all; worth spending five euros on indeed." And indeed, they were glittering and scarlet like rubies, each one with a few petals still attached to the calyx, the strawberry's green "hat", like an Elizabethan collar. "Luna will surely love them." 
Strawberries in winter... it felt that placing a jewelled sign of my right to have Luna on her left ring finger (like a flag placed on conquered country) was not enough. It felt that confronting Luna's mum about the fact that her daughter was free to choose whoever she pleased as her partner, even another girl, and that she put all her weaponry of pluck on display to call the old lady out and make her surrender to reality, was not enough. Now one year later in mid-February, in between her birthday and Valentine's, I wanted to surprise Luna with her favourite berries, even if acquiring them out of season would come at great expense. 
Then it all went wrong, more or less. 
It all began with my fall-out with Killian; the three of us were roomies in the best of ways three attractive, learned young people can be; and he was perfectly fine with our relationship, supporting all kinds of free love, even joking that he would be the best man (though Luna and I never meant to get married). 
Then came the day when Killian was late for home after class, right the afternoon after I bought the strawberries... "Surely cramming for our Terminology exam," I thought while Luna and I were having a date over a cup of star anise tea. At least he had said that he would cram some more as usual. The sun set and he didn't come home until half past ten (as Luna and I would commonly stand on the balcony and remark on how wonderful the stars were and how wonderful was the power of love), reeling and flushed with liquor, with a black left eye, surely from a drunken fight he had got into. 
Maybe I was a bit too harsh when I told him that he'd stay in our room but never help us at class or with our projects (including the task of chaperoning us in certain places by posing as my sweetheart). 
The next day, the day I noticed the strawberries were somehow missing, Luna told me I maybe had been a little too harsh with Killian. "Anyone can get drunk and have a row, Christelle; and maybe it wasn't a lie in the first place, just a little invitation for a drink as he came home in the evening..." What would Luna herself, given her proper lady personality, know about this? So I honestly told her I would give it some time to think. 
It was after Luna's intercession that I remembered the strawberries and looked for them all over the place. Missing, as if vanished into thin air. Which made me think: "Have I actually spent five euros on these out-of-season berries which decay rapidly in the long run? You're a fool, Christelle. Should have bought assorted chocolates, or a hairpin to pin her golden braid, instead!" 
The next day, strawberries still on my mind, making me even miss the last pre-exam test of Terminology class, I had my appointment. With my personal headshrink, Dr. Jakobsson. Maybe her homophobic comments of so-called "better judgement" played a part in the grand scheme of things as well. 
So "How has this month been, Christelle?" and I gave my whole account of the strawberries, my worries about five euros' worth of fruit covered in mold and maggots, Luna's intercession and Killian's black eye. 
"Have you ever stopped to wonder..." Idun Jakobsson told me, her hazel eyes scrying my whole person like the Terminator, "...if what you two felt was actually love? What if this were all a trick of Luna's to appear less conservative, tricking her mother and that circle of high society into believing that she was more open-minded?" I was also told to watch Luna closely and to give it time to think as well... 
Little did I know that my own habit of jumping to conclusions would play an even more sinister trick on me. 
It came to light, as Valentine's was about to dawn, that Luna and Killian were rather close to each other; she would often put an ice pack on his left eye and give it a peck of a kiss afterwards, and that's how his black eye got better. At least then I thought that I would have done the same in the first place if I hadn't been so disappointed... well, maybe he had got tempted to have a drink on his way home that evening after all! 
The killing blow, however, came in between classes on Valentine's. Right as Luna and I sat down to cram on our usual bench, keeping this time a slight distance between us, in sauntered Killian (his black eye now dwindled to a beauty mark on his left cheek) with a box of fresh strawberries, some of which kept their soft white petals attached to the calyces. 
"A gift from my sweetheart," he confidently told us. "Must have been really expensive to get them out of season... and have a look; this one's still got the petals!" 
In response, I stormed out of their presence, my eyes swimming in tears. I spent about an hour kicking and punching a linden trunk in a fit of rage, without drying up those tears. It felt like a gunshot to the heart, a gunshot that furthermore had come from behind, and only cowards and traitors get to strike their victims in the back... 
The next day... I don't remember exactly what I did to Luna, which insults I called her, where my fists and feet landed on her lilywhite skin... I didn't even care about her pleas. My head and my heart were so clouded that everything else paled away in the shade of the strawberries. 
The next day, on the 15th, the light dawned upon everything, and my life and Luna's would never be the same. That night, we slept in separate beds, and I could hear her sobbing all night long, keeping me awake and racked with remorse. 
First of all, upon taking the yoghurt out of the fridge for breakfast (while Luna was still in her own bed, having locked herself in her room), I discovered the strawberries right behind it, where they had been all along... 
The next reveal concerned the procedence of Killian's strawberries; as I pondered after class how my own impulsivity could have led to this debacle ("What have you done, Christelle?"), I spotted him next to another young man, this one with a ponytail, who seemed to be elated about the black eye having finally healed. 
"Merci, Étienne!" Killian told the other boy before cheerfully explaining that not many valentines receive fresh strawberries in winter, and that the petals were the nicest touch of them all. Étienne said he was glad his chou-chou had liked it before giving Killian a kiss, a really long kiss, and I just stood there, in the shade of a column, all eyes and ears, the blood freezing in my veins. 
I really wanted to ask Luna for forgiveness, but when I came home I found every room empty and two handwritten notes fixed with magnets on the fridge; Killian had moved into Étienne's flat, while Luna had returned to her mother's estate. She had written it was a mistake to fall in love with me, but the pain had made her wiser and hardened her heart, nevermore to give her heart to anyone else. 
So now that both my friends are gone, I (an orphan, an only child, a lesbian with Asperger syndrome) am Napoleon at St. Helena; the great warrior past her prime, living on memories and regrets. 
My greatest concern right now is passing this last exam. Also, I hate strawberries, especially those with the petals on... but the sight of even those without the petals makes my heart race and my blood turn to ice.

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