• First chapter of my new novel

    Here’s the first chapter of my new novel, which will be published soon. If you’d like to be notified when it’s out, just send me an email and I’ll let you know.


    ‘Tedium: a weight that invades my soul and devours my willpower. With every minutes that passes, it’s turning into impatience. A gnawing anxiety that constricts my breath in direct proportion to my racing heartbeat. ‘What’s the matter with you?’ ‘Nothing.’ ‘Why are you sighing then?’ ‘Because I feel like it. Why? Can’t I do that either?’ Just as well he doesn’t answer. After fifteen years of living together, he’s finally understood there are times when it’s better to keep quiet. Why are you sighing, he asks. He’s got a nerve. He must be completely oblivious of everything that’s going on around him. He must be very self-centred. Maybe it’s because he’s a man. Is life really that much easier for men? Obviously they don’t have to worry about cellulite, broken fingernails, their hair. As if they weren’t lucky enough already, being able to take a piss wherever they want to, they also don’t have to worry about eyebrows, creams, makeup, laddered stockings, hiding their breasts so they don’t look flighty, but not so much as to look a prude. As long as he’s got that fresh-out-of-the-shower smell about him, a man with dishevelled hair and unshaven chin is still sexy. A woman with dishevelled hair and no time to wax her legs is a slattern who ought to be ashamed to show her face in public; even if she has that fresh-out-of-the-shower smell about her. So why can’t women start work an hour later than men, for example? That’s what I feel like asking my boss when he gives me that reproachful look whenever I arrive after nine thirty, with his ironic “Good afternoon! Thanks for coming.’ What’s the matter with me, he asks. Where do you want me start, doctor?’

    The psychiatrist looked at his wristwatch and all he said was:

    ‘Sorry, Vanessa, you’ll have to start at the next session. Our time’s up.’

    ‘But… I...’

    ‘Now, Vanessa, you know the rules. Write down everything you were going to tell me, arrange everything by topic and we’ll talk in our next session.’

    Furious, she grabbed her handbag and coat and stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her. After almost two months of therapy, she still didn’t understand why they always had to break off the sessions like this, just when she was beginning to open up. Because the first twenty minutes hardly counted. Does anyone manage to pick up a conversation exactly where they’d left it at the last session? What she felt last week and what she felt now were two different things. She had to think, organize her ideas, pick up her notepad and try to remember everything she’d said. And then she had to try and forget the bad appearance of her analyst. Sweat on his upper lip, fingernails that needed trimming, threadbare check blazer, yellow teeth. It wasn’t easy.

    Some help, he was. Over two hundred euros a month. Just thinking about all she could do with that money made her feel ill. If only they gave her the amount directly... She could chose a different doctor, a cheaper one, and spend the rest of the money as she pleased. But they didn’t. The judge had been very clear: forty psychotherapy sessions with a psychiatrist selected by the social services, after which she was to undergo a test – administered by an independent body – to determine whether she was fit to live in society again. And she’d only done eight sessions so far. There were days when Vanessa wondered whether the alternative wouldn’t have been better: four months behind bars. Four months is nothing, after all. The tedium would be the same, but with one advantage: she’d be alone. No one to pester her, no domestic chores, no need to wonder what to make for dinner, no need to look for other peoples’ spectacles, none of the bruteness of everyday life.

    Outside it was raining with a vengeance. Great, she thought. ‘So much for my shoes.’ She pressed close to the door of the building to avoid getting wet as she looked for her car key. Which would have been a good idea if it weren’t for the people coming and going through the door all the time. Shoving and elbowing, saying sorry, her hand rummaging in her bag, groping every object in the hope of feeling the metal of the key or the suede of the key fob. Mirror, purse, lipstick, tweezers, spectacle case, sunglasses, wallet, mobile phone, pills. The rain soaking through the chamois of her shoes. Not just a few splashes. Big, dark blotches she’d never be able to cover up. Another shove, another elbow in her ribs and it turns out the key was in her coat pocket.

    It’s funny how there aren’t more road accidents. In cities at least, our cars are becoming outlets for all the rage and anguish we accumulate over the course of the day. Our eyes glaze over as we accelerate away from traffic lights we thought would never change. We stamp on the brake with the same fury we’d like to stamp on the people who annoy us. We honk as if the noise that fills the street was the shout we have to suppress. We think we’re untouchable, invincible in our metal fortresses, where we don’t hear the insults or feel the smell of other people; where the urban grime can’t infect us.

    Vanessa gripped the steering wheel with the same strength she’d have liked to use on her psychiatrist’s neck. Or her husband’s. Or that stuck-up blonde who didn’t even say sorry when the bag she was carrying hit Vanessa’s leg at the entrance to the psychiatrist’s. As if she didn’t exist. Bitch! She was startled out of her anger by a knocking on her window. A homeless man. His filthy, bony hands outstretched. The joints of his fingers scarred. That was all she needed. She hated giving money to these people. It was much more convenient to give money to the institutions that give them a place to sleep or hand out blankets and food. But just then, she remembered her shoes. If the rain did so much damage to a piece of chamois, what would it do to the soul of a man who lived in the streets? She saw a black stain spreading over the man’s body. His coat drenched, rain dripping from his beard. Like her shoes, this guy was beyond repair. She gave him a euro and didn’t care when the car behind her started honking. The traffic light had been green for more than three seconds.

    She drove, not knowing where she was going. On and on, avoiding all familiar exits. After two hours she was running low on petrol and only then did she realize it wasn’t raining any more. She could turn the windscreen wipers off now. She stopped at the first service station she found, without wondering where she was. It wasn’t even a service station. It was just a petrol pump on a deserted back road. She had thirty-seven missed calls on her mobile phone. From her daughter, her daughter’s school, her husband, her psychiatrist, her lawyer, her mother; from Diana. 

    What the hell, she thought. What’s so bad about being out of reach for a couple of hours? What if she was just in the cinema? Somewhere with no signal or with her phone in silent mode? Was there no way for her just to disappear? Or make other people disappear? Her daughter, her husband… or Diana: especially Diana. As if they’d never existed. Not that she hated them, but sometimes just thinking about them and the routines they stood for left her feeling suffocated. She often thought about what life would be like as an orphan, single, with no kids. Being able to do what she wanted, whenever she wanted, with whomever she wanted. Like going to bed with that guy at the end of the bar. Or even with the ugly guy from the petrol pump. No family lunches, enormous Christmas gatherings, summer holidays with the whole house in the back of the car. Spending the money for her daughter’s brace on a holiday in Thailand. Staying in pyjamas all day, without even taking a shower. Eating chocolate biscuits on the sofa and not giving a shit about the crumbs. Dinner alone. No conversation. Just staring at the wall for minutes on end without someone saying ‘What’s the matter?’ What would it be like to be free? Absolutely free?

    The Strange Year of Vanessa M. by Filipa Fonseca Silva 

    Driving Rain by Tim Nichols

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