from Uncharted Love

Roc Casagran i Casañas

Artwork by Sukutangan

Clàudia, I remember the day we met so clearly. It was by chance, thanks to a death. It was your grandma’s funeral that day and I went to the funeral parlour to pick you, Eldar, up, because we were going to meet our old classmates from secondary school, one of those traditions that has always made me feel uncomfortable but the type I never know how to say “no” to, because I like them to think I’m a normal, sociable person, someone who has things to talk about and who, most of all, is interested in how life is going for those teenagers he shared a classroom and acne spots with for four years.

Outside, Clàudia, you were hugging your sister, while you were waiting on other family members to go to the cemetery. You were both crying, and your eyes were all red. You weren’t talking, just looking into space every now and then, towards the horizon, you were probably thinking about your grandma. I watched you from a distance: you were both wearing skirts with flowery patterns, which to me, seemed as if you were making a statement, a way like any other to say that life goes on, that mourning is a hardship that belongs in the past, that you had to look ahead. I thought it was sweet.

You came out, Eldar, and were walking in that haphazard way you’ve always walked in and you came to find me. We gave each other a manly hug—a couple of pats on the back, without letting our chests touch—and you lit up a cigarette that you wanted to smoke right there and then.

And that’s when you, Clàudia, came over to congratulate Eldar on his piano performance of Ave Maria by Schubert. You said your grandma would have loved to have heard it, and that it sounded really good, and thanked him. Eldar looked down at the ground and I tried to help him out of that shy moment of silence and play down the situation.

He’s been working at the funeral parlour for two months and he’s already speechless, poor guy. Just like the rest of them in here.

You, Clàudia, broke out into a fitting smile considering the circumstances—you weren’t in the mood for joking around—and you, Eldar, mumbled a “thank you,” which was just the permission Clàudia needed to be able to leave us and go back to comforting her younger sister.


Three days later, nobody needed to be comforted anymore and we bumped into each other again, on the street in front of the funeral parlour. I was waiting for Eldar again, and you, Clàudia, appeared, having just got out of your aunt’s car. You recognised me straight away, and without stopping where you were going, you said:

—You’re here every day. Are you coming to get measured up or what?

—I come to feel alive . . . It’s all about the contrast.

You followed your Aunt Concepció into the building. I kept my eye on you until you disappeared out of sight, or until you, Eldar, my soul mate, my saviour when no one else would save me, cut my observation short.

She’s got some good ankles that girl, hey?

Uff . . . Eldar, you’ve always had a weird obsession with women’s ankles! You reckon they show what a girl will be like in a few years’ time, and that there is nothing like a good pair of ankles to predict a good future.

You had an amazing future ahead of you, Clàudia. And I didn’t even know I wanted to share it with you yet.


The future had us bumping into each other a third time, which, just like a kid’s fairy tale, turned out to be the defining moment. It didn’t take place at the funeral parlour, like the other two had, but in the cemetery itself. We’d organised a poetry recital on the topic of death. Five tongue-in-cheek, young, unpublished poets, including myself, gathered to recite poems about death, from the distance that being young allows you to have. Actual death, or so we thought, didn’t surround us, and that allowed us a carefree distance. We felt bold and groundbreaking, but in reality, we were just sad copies of the other poets and rhapsodists we admired.

The audience, barely twenty people, most of them friends and family, were listening to us with forced interest, and clapping after each performance, without really letting us know if our poetry had left them feeling fulfilled or if it had left them feeling rather emotionless.

And suddenly, I saw you. You were holding a bouquet of flowers and had your hair tied up in a ponytail. You slowed down a bit to listen to me. I couldn’t work you out, whether you approved or not. When I finished reciting my poem, you took off again until you got lost amongst the rows of crypts; afterwards I guessed that you were heading towards your grandma’s grave—she’d have turned eighty that very day.

When the recital finished, having turned up from God-knows-where, due to some hidden power, you were there again. I came over to you.

—Funeral parlours and cemeteries. I think our relationship is starting off . . . a bit dead.

You found my daringness funny, because I’d called three sentences a “relationship”, and you played the game too. Because it was only a game, wasn’t it? It was just a game that ended up lasting for years, who knows if it would last for all eternity, a game with no written rules where it was easy to cheat or rip up the pack of cards halfway through.

A game, and we were still ignoring it back then, that would go much further than the bed.


Eldar, when I told you about Clàudia and how we’d talked for hours before it ended between the sheets, you listened to me with that peace that you’ve always emanated. I told you that I was strangely attracted to those very Clàudia-like silences and to the sparkling darkness in those eyes of hers that observe everything so passionately. I would have told you how we’d found out that when we were making love, that without saying a word, I’d known exactly what she wanted me to do, and how she’d listen to the noises I was making to make me have a full-on orgasm, but those topics, with you, my brother from another mother, we only ever touched on lightly, so I just told you that there was a slim body hiding behind those baggy clothes that this new love of mine liked to dress in.

—She’s called Clàudia, what did you expect? All Clàudias are good-looking—you decided.

And we got another round of beers in.

—I’m going to be a dad by the way.

And, Eldar, I, who saw you like a stray bullet, didn’t know what to say to you. You’d never been one for long-term relationships, you were always here and there, a musician with a natural talent, a proper artist, bold but with a thoughtful side, slow to react, but full of life, extremely full of life, you’d be the first one to find any excuse to grab the car and go and spend the weekend at a concert at the other end of the country, with a long line of girls ready to spend the night with you, free from obligation, with no expectation for it to go any further than that, because you told them that clearly from the outset that you’re a free spirit, a serial procrastinator, and that you don’t believe in romance, that the poet is this guy here (and here you would point at me). You, Eldar, travel buddy from the first day of secondary school, a cloudy Monday in a grey classroom, able to pass with minimal effort, more concerned about your musical projects, happy to move flats every year, as if moving wasn’t a big deal to you, because in the end you never brought anything with you from the old houses, just your mattress, laptop, and a mysterious tin, a tin whose contents I didn’t discover until a long, long time later.

You, this Eldar, who was no longer that Eldar, would be a dad. And I realised I was getting old and I needed to find my place in the world in which people were getting older, to accept that Peter Pan ended up with grey hair and a beer belly.

And I let out a “Bloody hell! Congrats!” even though I could just as well have hit you with a “I’m really sorry about that, mate”.


I felt bad about not getting you two to meet. It took me a couple of weeks to introduce you to each other, even though you’d already met at the funeral parlour. At first, I wanted to enjoy and keep you, Clàudia, to myself. We’d meet in the evenings, when we’d both finished work, and we’d look for bars that were away from the centre. You’d drink a tea and I’d have a beer, and we’d explain how we’d ended up where we were: other partners, the trips we’d still not gone on, the adventures we’d had as youngsters, our dreams. You’d always tell me that you wanted to travel the world, discover exotic cultures, to feel free and complete. I’d answer that by telling you that you could get all that, with a little bit of imagination, from literature, and that I was quite happy with a structured and routine kind of life.

—You’re a conformist.

Maybe. Maybe I am—or was—, maybe it was all the giving up, that had brought me to this point, but what you were saying was pretty much just words. As a matter of fact, you were working as a florist from ten to about quarter to two, and from about quarter to five to about quarter to nine, from Monday to Friday and on Saturday mornings. You wanted to travel the world, but you never left Sabadell. You spent your time making bouquets to commemorate retirements or because people had to celebrate anniversaries in their boring-as-hell marriages. I took refuge with poems, and you with plants. We drew.

But despite that, you thought I was a conformist and you were an adventurer.

—I write. Wanting to write has nothing to do with conforming, do you not think?

No, you didn’t think it was. If I were ambitious I would have written novels, you said, not poems, which are a dead art, on self-consumerism, Jesus creepers, and about four losers doing whatever they can to keep a tiny house at risk of being repossessed. If I wrote novels I’d earn cash, and we could travel together, get to discover unknown lands, you’d make jams and sell them at the markets, and take photographs, tons of photographs, and you’d have thousands of Instagram followers. Because a novelist aims to tell the truth, and to find out the truth you have to travel, you can’t stay shut in a post‑industrial city that has nothing on the vastness of Barcelona. You were trying to convince me.

You had theories about everything. And a will to live your best life that both overwhelmed and dazzled me. That is what made me fall head over heels in love with you. After our tea and beer, we headed back to my place, to some glorious days, because it was still early days and our desire for each other was intense, so intense that our buttons and earrings would fall off, and from this desire a tower arose that wasn’t made of ivory.

We slept cuddled together.


I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t dreaming, it was completely true, touchable, reality. Both of you at the same table. I’d dreamt of it quite a few times and finally you were both there, confronting each other, like a duel in a Western but with no guns or gunpowder in sight. I don’t know what I was expecting; I guess that you both gave each other the mutual go‑ahead.

We went and got some tapas in La Barceloneta, anonymous among low-cost tourists, and we acted as if this weren’t an official introduction. We avoided the typical questions you ask when you first meet someone. Instead, we dove straight into talking about our daily lives, the Crisis, the latest evictions, our confusion with society, and Eldar’s son, who was already well on the way—he would be born in November. It was a nice evening watered down with chilled wine and unapologetic Eldar vs. Clàudia, Clàudia vs. Eldar analyses, with me in the middle, terrified about the final verdict.

You didn’t like each other but you both came up to tell me—independently, in the days that followed—that you’d put up with each other, that you didn’t want to be any sort of obstacle, that you’d make it easy for me. That if I were happy with Clàudia, even if it meant a future filled with flowers and utopias, you were fine with that. And that if Eldar was my friend, even if he were too worldly and pragmatic, you wouldn’t get in the way of that.

That wasn’t great, not exactly what I’d hoped for. After so many years without having anyone kind of continuously by my side, now I’d found you, Clàudia, I’d pictured doing all those things that stable couples do when they’re friends with people from other pseudo‑marriages: meet up to go and spend the weekend together, talk about the food processors and household appliances that make your lives easier, make plans for the summer holidays, come to some sort of an agreement about when to have kids, so that they could grow up among “friends”—the word “friends” in quotation marks here– and decide which playgroup they’d go to, etcetera, etcetera. Maybe we could do it too, but it wouldn’t be the same, if you two didn’t get along.

Whatever it was going to be like, we dropped Eldar off at his place and you wanted to come over and stay at my flat. We didn’t talk too much: you pushed me up against the wall in the hallway and we had sex right there for a good while like a right pair of animals.

translated from the Catalan by Nikki White