A step forward on the circle/ A full turn on the circle 

Chapter 1

Selber was waiting for a sign from him. He could have sent anything, a picture, a joke, a little text, a vocal, a thought, anything would have done. Selber checked their device, just to make sure Ander hadn’t sent something that had been missed, just to check that the connection with the implant was still good, that there wasn’t another explanation for the silence and emptiness. They sighed. Did Ander even think about them at all? Just now Selber was agonizing over whether or not to send a nice little text about looking forward to seeing each other tonight. Their finger hovered over the send button of their phone for a while. Reciprocity was important, they thought, and decided against it. They pocketed the device and tried to get on with the day until the joyful reunion at eight o’clock. The dance group was meeting as usual, and Selber was always looking forward to that time of the week.

When Selber got out of his little blockhouse the wind had picked up quite a bit. They felt a slight uneasiness, as if they knew they had forgotten something inside but couldn’t remember what it was. They checked their pockets for their devices, but the e-key was there and the phone in their hand, so nothing was missing. They had a light coat on and wore the dancing shoes already, so they were all set even if the evening went on after the dance lesson. Dancing had not been a primary passion of Selber’s. Their whole life had revolved around making music rather than moving to it, until recently. Music had been a family thing, with mom and dad both being very proficient musicians and expecting Selber to be the same. Those hopes had been difficult to keep up with, but Selber really had tried, and they were, after all, professionally active as a musician. They still felt like a disappointment because nothing came easy, nor did their performances sparkle with brio like mommy’s and daddy’s had, in their time, before their decided to retire from the long evenings and endless touring of the country to dedicate themselves to helping young talents of the classical music world.

Sometimes someone said Selber was good, and that their music inspired them. Sometimes even they got the feeling that the music was wonderful and fulfilling, and that they could really make the dream happen. When Selber got sucked into the flow of the melodies and lost themselves in it, they could briefly touch beauty and perfection.

But mostly it was paid gigs, where Selber had to stick to uninteresting pieces and play them soullessly, get what little cash that earned them and go home. Selber was just an obscure performer, living off fixed term contracts with various mildly successful shows, plays and the occasional wedding. They were probably just not good enough, but tried they had. They couldn’t even train on the piano at home because of the neighbours, and had to find odd places where to practice for new pieces, as they were not talented enough to not have to study. At the height of her career, Mommy had been able to just practice during concerts; as a child Selber had thought the talent would be hereditary, had then felt sick with envy at one point, and now they just endured the feeling of being a hard-working failure. Many people live with that kind of disappointment after all, they reflected once again.

After a brisk walk Selber arrived at the old building where the dance group met; they were a little early. They looked around in a way they hoped looked inconspicuous and unconcerned, even though they were wishing hard that Ander would suddenly appear around the corner, so that they had a few minutes to reunite on their own before everyone else arrived. It was actually Flynn who arrived first. He was an attractive man in his thirties, with dark hair and a breathtaking smile reaching to his sparkling eyes. They exchanged a few pleasantries about their respective day while the other people were arriving one by one. There was Marjo and Davil and then came Siby. The teacher arrived soon after, but there was no trace of Ander. They all went inside and started forming pairs. Flynn took Selber’s hand for the first exercise; today it would be lindy hop. Immediately afterwards Ander came in and paired with Marjo. The music started and Selber was able to concentrate on the steps and lose themselves in the moment. Flynn was a very good dancer, with a firm grip but a flexible arm, and dancing with him was a real pleasure. It felt like the movements and the flow of getting close and taking a step back came naturally. It allowed a feeling of complicity to develop and Selber relaxed. They looked up to Flynn, and were surprised by his dazzling smile, and thought that it might have been easier to be romantically involved with someone like him, who always seemed to show their best colours. The lazy bounciness of the dance and Flynn’s silent appreciation made Selber feel less anxious. The next dance was a salsa, and Flynn took it for granted that they would do it together. Selber hesitated to steal a look at Ander, but self-consciousness stopped them, and the music started. The spinning came naturally, and a soft sensuality took over. It was so easy to let their body sway and their shoulders roll in Flynn’s gentle and energetic hold. In fact, it felt like they were taking the dance to a next level of fluidity and pleasure, following the hot Latin vibe, and Selber almost felt like they were flirting. The music came to a crescendo ending with loud trumpets and the pair stopped moving abruptly, cheek against cheek. They were both panting slightly from the many turns and whirls and rapid steps. They exchanged a gaze and held each other a moment longer than necessary. Selber felt strangely dizzy, like their mind was grabbing at something or there was something they wanted to say but couldn’t quite find the words. The teacher announced the first break and they separated. The rest of the lesson was uneventful but coated in a pleasing sensation. The students learnt new steps individually and Selber enjoyed themselves more than usual, a slight smile playing on their lips for no particular reason. At the end of the class, Selber was changing into their street shoes when Ander came behind them and put a hand lightly on their shoulder.

‘Nice salsa,’ Ander said.

‘Oh thank you.’ Selber answered.

‘It looked like you’d been doing this with Flynn your whole life.’

‘There was a sort of connection, it’s true, I would never have thought.’

Flynn passed by and winked at Selber, his usual easy smile on his face.

They all got out of the building and Ander suggested they go for a drink at the neighbouring dance club where the group often went to dance some more and talk over a beer or cocktail. They had a nice time and Ander even invited Selber for a Bachata, which made them happy and mildly hopeful, but then Ander seemed distracted, was looking at his phone and said he had to leave early to get some sleep. Everyone ended up going home after that.

The way home was bittersweet when it was a lonely one. Selber always hoped Ander would offer to take them back, like he used to during the first few weeks of their acquaintance, but it very rarely happened. Sometimes Selber asked themselves if they were the only one really wanting anything from this relationship; Ander’s ways were so solitary. Of course Ander would call it independence, but how could you evolve together if you were never together?

Selber felt melancholy settle over them as they looked out at the night sky. The moon was fairly bright. Reminiscences of how they’d first got together were coming to the surface again. It had been late at night, on a cruise boat that a trendy nightclub used for special events; or had it been a high rise building? Selber knew it had been a cruiseboat but his imagination kept on wanting to place the scene on a rooftop for some mysterious reason. Suddenly Selber saw themselves there again, even though the memory was slightly blurry. It had been windy, with their body against the hard railing of the deck and a dizziness probably brought on by the alcohol. Had they been having a mojito? Ander had been nearby, talking to some dudes and laughing in an artificial way. Selber had somehow found the nerve to go to him and say they wanted a word. Ander had been surprised but intrigued. Selber had felt foolish, first talking about the emptiness of the night and the waves and the music and nothing in particular, just filling the silence. They hadn’t had the courage to look at Ander in the eye. Slowly letting their body slide closer to his, Selber had said there was something they’d been wanting to do for quite some time and they’d slowly turned to boldly put their arms around Ander’s neck in an ambiguous embrace. They were the same height.  ‘I want to steal something from you’ they had said. Ander had looked surprised as Selber slowly came closer, suddenly acutely aware they had no idea about Ander’s romantic and sexual inclinations. But the moment was light like a feather and the night was inviting them to the dance of lips. With one last glance into Ander’s strangely vulnerable gaze Selber had brushed his mouth slowly and felt the shiver there, so he had stolen some more.

Selber felt themselves smile at their audacity of that remembered night. They’d usually always been very cautious about seduction and dating, especially since coming out as non-binary. But this time had just felt right. The feelings of wrongness had come later.

It hadn’t bothered Ander that Selber was non-binary[1]. It hadn’t bothered Ander that Selber didn’t want to have sex on their first night, and it hadn’t bothered him that Selber had wanted to keep on doing all the things they’d been doing when single, which meant quite a busy schedule. There wasn’t much that really bothered Ander, it seemed. Selber had found that very agreeable in the beginning. Now the freedom Ander gave them felt more like the behavior of someone who didn’t care. Selber always tried to get rid of those negative thoughts, it was just their own anxiousness coming out. They started to ask themselves if they’d danced with Flynn in such a close way just to make Ander react. Were they being slightly toxic? But proneness to autoanalysis had always been one of Selber’s faults; they decided to stop overthinking it and just do what they felt like, and send a brief thought to Ander. Selber activated their brain implant and formed an impression roughly in the shape of “Too bad you had to leave early, I would have enjoyed more time with you.” It felt bittersweet but tender, which Selber liked. Before sending it Selber pictured Ander receiving it and decided the clingy tone might annoy him, so they changed it to “Looking forward to seeing you soon.” Thoughts were never completely reliable as to the message being delivered, they created a sort of impression that was more or less clear depending on the strength of the bond between the sender and receiver, and it implied a certain level of intimacy and practice. Selber had only recently started sharing thoughts with Ander and was still trying to find a style that felt natural. Ander himself very rarely used thoughts; he preferred old-fashioned text messages, not even bothering to do vocals. But Selber found thoughts interesting; they offered you a different perception of the person together with a meaning, and potentially a deeper way of communicating, even deeper than talking face to face in a way. Selber got home and had a spare thought for the file on their old laptop that they knew they could open if they felt like their life was going nowhere. But it wasn’t that bad yet. Selber went to sleep without waiting for an answer from Ander, they knew it wouldn’t come.


Chapter 2

The next day Selber was scheduled for a sort of audition with a new producer. They didn’t feel like anything would come out of it but still tried to dress appropriately in the casual chic expected of solo musicians over thirty. Selber had trouble at defining their own style. They didn’t have any tattoos, any piercings, or any iconic style. Other than being and definitely looking non-binary, they didn’t have any defining traits. They didn’t know how someone would try to describe them: regular facial features, hair to the shoulder with a light curl to it, tall and slender; not much to get identified by. But they also knew they possessed a kind of charm or magnetism that made people stare at them on the streets.


Selber met up with Marjo, one of the girls from the dance class, at the address she’d given them. She was the one who’d organised the audition for them. A few weeks ago, Selber had been contracted to play the piano and sing at one of the dance team’s regular haunts, and Marjo had said they should absolutely meet her good friend the producer Marcus. Selber had little hope of it working out, but an opportunity should never be turned down, their father had always said, so they’d accepted. A memory of their first serious audition, more than fifteen years ago, turned up. It had been a small recording studio, looking for new talents, and Selber had felt immensely excited. They’d thought their music couldn’t fail to convince, they’d been proud and fearless. After the audition, the studio had just sent a little message saying that other candidates had been selected, without giving any hint as to what the criteria had been. It had come as a blow. Maybe this had been Selber’s first real disappointment. They’d then gone on doing auditions for the better part of the next five years, never getting selected, so the hope and the passion had slowly burnt down to embers, that Selber was reluctant to reignite right now, lest the fire burn them again.


Marjo was waiting for them in front of the building with a big smile on her face. She was wearing her usual bohemian chic attire, which she could pull in any situation, being a successful professional comedian. They went through the doors chatting about how Marjo had got to know the producer during a casting. The building was grand, the exterior was made of these new seamless glass panels that didn’t need any framework to hold onto. It was supposed to feel like you were still outside even though you were actually inside. The living trees growing there also added to that impression. All in all, it looked like a place for successful people.

Marcus the producer was a handsome man in his forties, with big hands, a happy handshake, and a tattoo going down from under his right ear. Selber was offered a coffee and then quickly ushered inside the recording room where a beautiful Steinway piano was standing. Mainstream show-off, they thought, and took a seat in front of the shiny black beast. Without waiting too much lest their anxiousness would take over, they started playing some easy finger-warming ear-charming tunes to get to know the instrument. They were thankful for the air conditioning, otherwise their fingers would have been sweaty with nervousness by now, and slipping on the piano keys always made matters worse. They paused after the warm up to see what Marcus had to say, and he immediately praised Selber and said he would like to hear some of the songs Marjo had told him about. He and Marjo got out of the box so that the take could be recorded. Selber took a deep breath but tried to look unconcerned; you had to look like you were on top of your game to make people hire you. If what you did looked difficult or stressful people would feel unsure about your talent. You could choose to look thoughtful, tortured, or casual, Selber had determined. Thoughtful was the easiest to fake, so they went for it and played three songs in a row without really giving Marcus time to interrupt. After that they paused and waited for the expected “Thank you, we’ll keep in touch and contact you shortly” on the microphone. But Marcus came in with Marjo, who was beaming. They had loved the songs and wanted to hear some more, he was saying, but first get to know you, Selber, you’re such a great artist, come to the little coffee room we have right there, we’ll see what we can offer you.


Stepping out of the huge and glassy building, Selber glanced back, admiring it with new eyes. On their phone was a contract for recording a demo, they just had to read it through and sign it. Marcus even wanted to organise a small concert soon with a few new and upcoming talents and had asked Selber to participate. It seemed too good to be true. Marjo left after a heart-warming hug. The sun seemed brighter outside. Selber felt like celebrating and spontaneously boarded a bus that would take them to one of their favorite coffee shops. Nearby was a jewelry store that usually seemed too expensive, but today the nice necklace with beads and a feather lovingly displayed at the front looked just like something Selber should own and feel against their skin as their career took off towards new horizons in a hot-air balloon. They chuckled at those thoughts and wondered at their suddenly inflated ego. Arriving at the coffee shop Selber met a few old acquaintances vaping at the front. They asked about their whereabouts and Selber answered casually that they would be recording a demo soon, which made their heart swell with pride. Waiting for an Americano ―Central American style― to be made, Selber sent a thought to Ander without even overthinking it one bit. They just transmitted a sort of happiness and good news to share. Nothing could go wrong today.

Sitting at the window with the hot drink in their hands they watched as the leaves of the global-warming resistant trees were turning red, orange and yellow. The native tree species had long ago stopped surviving in overheated cities like Los Sueños. Selber bit into their favorite brownie and enjoyed the lightly sandy sensation of the gluten-free dough on their tongue. That was the one thing they liked about living here: it was big enough that you could get your hands on anything you wanted, if you had the financial means. Anything but love, maybe. Selber’s thoughts wandered to Ander, like they often did when they stopped in coffee shops or on public benches. Selber often spent time in imaginary conversation with Ander, telling him about their life, hopes and expectations. They needed that alter-ego to whom they could reveal their self; and the real Ander didn’t have the time for that much interaction. He was very charming, had a deep and warm voice and that kind of aura that made people want to listen to him. But Ander was also rather solitary and seemed like he didn’t need or want anyone’s help, or even anyone’s company.

Selber, on the contrary, was the type to get enthusiastic about people easily. If they hadn’t fallen so hard for Ander, they might even have moved away from Los Sueños. But they were stuck in this heavy and suffocating city to follow the sighs of their partially requited love. After all, they thought, who were they to ask for more? Many people lived alone; at least they did receive a sliver of what they were longing for, flashes of pure tenderness, once in a while. Selber told themselves they could live for those moments of unadulterated union, wait out the gaps in between, and keep their soul together somehow. Especially on a day like today, with the blooming colours of autumn all around and some nice perspectives opening up ahead, life with Ander seemed like it could be enough.




Chapter 3


Selber was at the recording studio again, discussing the arrangements for the concert. The outfit was the subject of discussion now. Selber didn’t really care about the clothes or the image they were supposed to give of themselves. These parameters were of utmost importance for the producer though, and Selber tried to look interested. As long as they could keep the new feathered necklace around their neck, they would feel safe. They still had not received any answer whatsoever from Ander, but it didn’t seem to take up as much space in Selber’s mind as usual. Things were finally moving forward, and life in Los Sueños felt less like a self-inflicted sentence and more like a gift Ander had given them unknowingly.

The make-up artist was applying some light shading on Selber’s eyes. It had been some years since they’d worn any makeup, and they had to get used to the ensuing slight darkening of their peripheral gaze again. The face looking at them in the mirror was them but also someone new. The outfit was less loose-fitting than what they were used to, but Selber didn’t want to object to anything. Marcus seemed pleased with the result, and that was amply sufficient for Selber. Then they did sing a few songs, but the whole thing seemed to have been more about looks and less about sounds. The producer ended the session with a rather intimate hug and reminded his artist of the next rehearsals to come. On the way out of the building, Selber was still wondering at how smoothly things were running.


Just outside the door, another surprise was waiting: Ander was standing cross-armed, looking up at the huge building with his forehead slightly wrinkled. He was wearing ample linen clothes and his shirt was slightly open to reveal a muscular torso and a surfer’s necklace. His short hair was ruffled. Today was his day off, Selber remembered. Ander only worked sixty percent as a dentist, the rest of the time he invested in his body. His passions in life seemed to be money, extreme sports, and looking good. Fortunately he was also active as an ecological militant, otherwise he might have had a thing for race cars.

He suddenly spotted Selber and smiled, coming towards them with open arms. That seemed kind of unlike him, but Selber was pleased and their heart swelled.

‘Sel! How did it go? You look dashing in those clothes!’ Ander said. He hugged and kissed them enthusiastically.

‘I’m drained’ Selber answered, smiling widely, ‘Would you like to go have a cup of coffee? I want to sit down and tell you all about it. They even want me to play at their next event’.

‘Let’s go to Maisy’s, it’s nearby.’ Ander was smiling in a gentle way and put his arm around Selber to turn them in the right direction.

They started along the sidewalk, arms still linked and talking good-humoredly. Ander’s conversation had always been the best trick against Selber’s moods or tiredness. They almost tripped over a stroller, which earned them a black stare from the dad who was pushing it. Selber peeked inside and saw a cute little round-faced baby. They felt the familiar pang of longing that they’d felt the last five years when looking at a tiny human, but Ander was already pulling them forward.

At the coffee shop the couple found a small table in a corner with lots of plush cushions. They knew the music was better than the coffee there, and ordered two ginger smashes. Ander was stubborn and still ordered his regular cappuccino afterwards, but complained about the taste for the next hour. Selber was laughing and enjoyed telling the whole adventure of the audition and contract signing. They felt a genuine interest coming from Ander, which turned into a glowing sensation inside their chest.

Later that day they went to Ander’s place, which was much nicer than Selber’s, him being a dentist and earning a regular and predictable income. Of course the risk of mechanisation in medicine over the next ten years was a real one, but most people would probably still like being treated by a human being better than by a robot, so Ander was not overly anxious about it. At the trendy apartment Ander kissed Selber passionately as soon as the door was closed. His lips had the taste of cappuccino and his tongue a hint of chocolate. They drifted to the sofa in a tangle of limbs and falling clothes, and in no time they were slowly stroking each other in a delicious embrace under a romantic painting of sunflowers. Everything else was forgotten and the brain implants, phones and e-watches were turned off, no need to send anything when you could communicate skin to skin.


As the evening came along Selber woke up from their nap on the sofa with the last shreds of a dream on their mind. It was a sunny picture of a puffy tiny face emitting a bubbly laugh and gripping their finger with a ridiculously small hand. Selber had had that dream before and had often indulged in that lingering mental image over the last few months. It was soothing, and even if things didn’t work out with Ander or anyone else, they could still hold onto the thought that nowadays a person could conceive a baby on their own with no difficulties. Just imagining having by their side a special someone that would never let them down made Selber feel more peaceful. Picturing that little angel who would love them no matter what gave renewed meaning to their life. This person would be the one that Selber could dedicate their life to. It would be someone that they couldn’t love too much, couldn’t bother with their attentions and affections, someone who would actually value their endless well of love. When picturing that future, Selber felt like gears were clicking, coming together to make sense of the mess of their life up until then. They moved Ander’s arm aside gently and got up. It was probably time to go home, Ander didn’t like lounging and doing nothing, so Selber might as well make themselves scarce before the first bored stare appeared.




Chapter 4


Selber was waiting backstage for their turn to come. They felt slightly nervous and were wet under the arms. Their fingers were slick with sweat and they were searching through the audience for familiar faces. They hoped Ander was attending, but hadn’t dared ask him if he would, fearing it would annoy him to be asked, either because it was obvious he would attend or because it was obvious he didn’t have time. Selber berated themselves for always trying to double-guess everything, but they couldn’t stop their brain from doing that. At least it distracted them from their nervousness.


The last singer before Selber was just finishing their solo with a very high note; the clapping and enthusiastic shouts took over. Marcus went on stage to congratulate the performer and announce Selber, who took the cue. The piano was there, waiting for them with its shiny black surface and gaping mouth full of strings and hammers. The concert hall was rather small and intimate, with a cosy atmosphere. Selber played the first song that had been rehearsed for the occasion ―High on a rise― with no difficulty, but they felt like they were not completely into it. Before starting the second one they smiled at the public shyly and started feeling out of place. Should they address the audience? The second song ―Dark curls― went smoothly but Selber somehow was more and more insecure. They looked at the public again and spotted Flynn beaming at them, which made them suddenly feel the tension release somewhat. They also felt their necklace against their skin and touched it briefly, they breathed deeply and felt new energy coursing through them as they intoned their favourite of the three, Moonlight. Their hands got freer; they took more risks with their voice and felt the shivers climb up their back as they reached the chorus. They closed their eyes and finally felt the music coursing through their nerves. They were not afraid anymore, they were one with themselves. As they ended the song in perfect octaves between their voice and the piano, they smiled contentedly. Marcus came to congratulate them and bring them forward for an ovation from the public. Selber spotted Marjo and Flynn, who were standing up and whooping enthusiastically.



Moonlight lyrics


I felt your hand on mine

A ray of moonlight shine

Opened my sight into the night

And just felt the tingling

Why do you keep me waiting

I want to taste your touch again

Never mind the pain, the chain

I want to taste your touch again




Ander appeared in the dressing room as Selber was changing into more comfortable clothes.

‘Oh! You were there!’ Selber beamed. ‘How was I?’

‘Of course I’d be there. How could I miss something my darling is so involved in? Even Flynn is here!’ Ander said good-humoredly.

‘Did you like the third song?’ Selber asked.

‘Of course! It was the best. We all got lost into your music, it was fabulous. I got goosebumps.’


After the concert, Selber, Ander, Flynn, Marjo and the others from the dance group went to have a bite to eat. Everyone was praising Selber endlessly and talking joyously about the other performers and the venue and the public. Marjo was telling funny anecdotes about Marcus the producer, whom they learnt she’d briefly dated at one point.


Their friends left one by one, until only Selber and Ander were left at their table. Ander had been particularly attentive and had spent the whole evening commenting on how talented Selber was, pulling them close and kissing them endlessly. Selber almost felt like they were in heaven, but some nagging thoughts lingered at the back of their head; in the end they couldn’t hold them in any longer and said:

 ‘Ander, you know, sometimes it feels like you’ve changed your behaviour since the music stuff started working out. You show me more attention. I’m not complaining, I like it, but it feels strange.’

Selber felt Ander’s stare harden and regretted speaking up immediately. Of course they should never have brought the subject up. Ander sighed and tried to touch their cheek, and Selber felt the familiar dizziness or emptiness come over them; they always got strange when the touch felt wrong. They recoiled and Ander got even more frustrated.

‘Whenever you get upset you don’t want me to touch your cheek, you never want me to touch your hand, and yet you keep on repeating you want me to be more affectionate. What am I doing wrong?’

‘These days you’ve been so tender and warm that I’m just scared it’ll stop suddenly. I feel like it’s too good to be true and you’ll reject me any moment. But instead of understanding that those are my insecurities and reassuring me, you get angry at me.’ Selber felt like a whining wreck. They hated the world who’d made them that way. They hated themselves most of all.

‘Selber, sometimes it all seems so complicated, and I feel like I don’t get you, like I don’t know you.’

‘No you don’t. But you might if you bothered asking. If you tried to understand my deepest wishes, my dreams. You never ask. You don’t care.’

‘What are you even talking about Selber?’

‘For example the fact that I desperately want to have a baby!’

‘You want to have a baby?’ Ander was frowning. ‘I thought you only cared about your music. And you went around brooding about not getting anywhere.’

‘I never even dared talk about it,’ Selber interrupted, ‘I was so afraid of your rejection. See, you make me cry again. Do I have to feel miserable for you to notice me and my feelings?’

‘What are you talking about? You never even mentioned you wanted to have a family before. Have you even asked me? You always think I’m going to be the bad guy. Do you know how that makes me feel? Do you think I’m heartless?’

‘So, do you want to have a baby with me?’

‘Yes!’ Ander shouted, getting up and hitting the table in front of him with both hands.

Selber could only open and close their eyes stupidly.

‘Yes Selber, I’d like nothing more’ said Ander, and started laughing. Selber started laughing as well, but felt tears coming to their eyes again. ‘Are you serious?’ Ander just hugged them gently. The heat from his body was soothing. Melting inside and out, nothing could feel better than that moment. What had they even been scared of? They should strangle that negative imagination of theirs.




Chapter 5


Since the concert, Selber felt like they hadn’t had a single moment for themselves. Marcus had immediately spotted that Selber was not really a singer, more like an instrumentalist who sang because instruments are not very good at words. Selber’s time was being gobbled up by rehearsals, training with vocal coaches and movement artists; on Marcus’ insistence they had even got a personal trainer meant to keep them in good shape. Selber quickly managed to go deeper into their singing, to feel the vibration of their vocal chords like never before, and learn how to play with them just like they did with their instruments. They could feel the powerful contraction of their belly muscles and reach powerful emotional intensities, as well as a newfound pleasure in singing.

They were also suddenly receiving text messages, vocals and thoughts from all their friends, even those they hadn’t had much contact with in recent years. Everyone had heard the news of their performing at the concert hall or seen a video extract on social media. Selber felt overwhelmed but happy.

Yesterday they’d gone to the dance class and enjoyed their time there as if nothing had changed. Meeting with the familiar faces, getting a stunning smile from Flynn and ending the day with some drinks in a relaxed atmosphere was the best.


Presently Selber had a cup of tea in their hands and was reminiscing about the last few weeks, and couldn’t quite make sense of everything that was happening to them. Even their relationship with Ander had changed completely. This very morning Ander had sent a thought to them, wishing them a good day; he was presently away at a dentistry congress for two days; his absence didn’t cause Selber any anguish, which felt almost unnatural to them. Everything seemed to come easier. Suddenly Selber’s phone rang, and they saw the name “Mom” appear on the screen. They felt a wave of panic and froze, spilling some tea on the floor. They didn’t want to answer, but it wouldn’t be very nice of them, would it, so they did after hastily drying the tea with the sock they were wearing on their right foot. Mom couldn’t see that.

‘Selber! What a pleasure to hear your voice!’ Mommy’s stunningly beautiful contralto rang. ‘I’m happy to see it has stayed the same since the last time we saw each other! When was that? Christmas?’

‘Hi Mom, nice to hear from you as well.’ Selber answered with a tone they wanted cheerful. ‘What’s up? How’s dad?’

‘Same old same old, he’s still having those dreadful attacks of gout. As for myself, thanks for asking, I have been rather preoccupied with my agency. Some of our artists are not the committing type, and one of my pianists just decided to move to Mexico because of someone they met there. It is quite dreadful, I’ve had to find a replacement overnight, good thing so many musicians are unemployed. But I know my stories bore you, don’t let me ramble. How have things been going between you and that charming doctor, Adrian, was it? I like him much better than that last one, the painter or whatnot. I hope you’re not seeing him anymore.’

‘I think you must be mixing things up mom, I never dated a painter.’ Selber started to feel ill at ease and almost kind of nauseous. It always started within two or three minutes of dealing with their mother.

‘Sorry dear, that must have been someone else then’ she laughed, ‘let’s talk about something else.’

‘So, mom, what did you want to talk about?’

‘Oh, nothing in particular. But maybe someone told me about some recent successes of my one and only child’s and I was wondering when said child might inform their one and only mother,’ she said in ironic tones.

‘Sorry mom, I’ve been very busy, it’s been hectic these days’

‘I know I know, you never reacted very well under stress my dear. That’s why I got worried and wanted to check on you. So, tell me about it. I heard you were going to record some demos with some shady producer?’

‘Marcus is not shady mom, he’s the director of a growing label!’

‘Well I never heard of him so he cannot be someone with any influence.’

‘The company is relatively new and is not into the same kind of music as you. He doesn’t produce opera.’

‘We do all sorts of music, you should know. Anyways, I just wanted to make sure you weren’t getting ahead of yourself just to get disappointed later on. I’ll remind you that my first album was a complete disaster, so don’t get your hopes up too high, lest you fall back all the way down or lower still. I’ll remind you that you don’t deal with failure in the healthiest way. Maybe you should concentrate on that Adrian person first and foremost and stay a bit laid-back about this recording business, lower the stakes; see what comes out of it, mmh?’

‘Yes, mom’ Selber said curtly.

After advising each other to take care of themselves some more, they ended the call.


The recording of the demo was scheduled to happen the day after the phone call with Mom. On the due date Marcus sent a hurried vocal to Selber telling them how they had to postpone it a week from now due to “unforeseen events”. Selber was disappointed. The timing was bad because that also meant they didn’t have any gigs planned that week and would have to go without for another week when the demo would actually get recorded. Money was getting low on their account and they wondered about the pay for the first concert with Marcus’ label. Asking about money was never very comfortable, but when you made a living from small contracts you learnt to get over your misgivings. They called Marcus back to ask about it.

‘Oh Selber,’ Marcus replied, ‘I am so sorry, the concert is actually part of the contract you signed with us, it counts as a “promotional event” and is not specifically compensated. You will only get royalties once the demo is out and selling, but that will be sooner than you think. Sorry to disappoint. I have to run, hear from you soon.’


Selber felt lost, they had nothing planned the whole week. Their whole mind had been on the recording of the demo and it had been as if nothing could be discerned in the future after that event.

Scrolling through their list of contacts, Selber tried to find someone that they’d want to talk to. Near the end the name of their friend Valia popped. They were a very nice non-binary person they’d met at a queer congress, who was active as an event manager and very good at conversation. They decided to meet in the afternoon, at an expensive and trendy café with wooden stools and hanging plants.


Selber looked up from their cup of afternoon green tea. Valia was coming their way; they looked androgynous as usual. They were wearing a tie-dye ripped t-shirt and wore their hair in a complicated half-short half-long haircut with the tips dyed in blue; their style had always been a bit much for Selber’s taste.

After the usual news-sharing about the state of their professional and love lives, Selber proudly showed Valia the video of the concert. Valia wasn’t enthusiastic at all and said: ‘I feel like as a friend, I have to tell you something. It doesn’t really feel like you, this new identity you are displaying.’ Valia paused. ‘And since when do you have a nose ring?’

‘It’s a fake one! They didn’t make me do a real one don’t worry,’ Selber laughed.

‘It’s even worse, Selber!’ Valia insisted. ‘Are you going to let them change who you are? Don’t you think you have a duty to all non-binary people to show your true colours and not let the industry define who you are for you? Don’t you see you are being manipulated as part of their branding strategy?’

‘Look, maybe I’m not like you,’ Selber answered apologetically. ‘I don’t feel the need to invest time in defending who I am. I don’t feel the need to fight against society about my identity. As long as I feel free enough to act the way I want without feeling nasty eyes on my back, I can go on. And if Marcus wants me to adapt my style a little so that I fit his vision, and lets me do my music the way I want, then I’m happy. I’m satisfied. I’d never ask for more.’

‘You are being naïve.’

Selber was starting to feel annoyed.

‘What are you trying to prove anyway?’ Selber started. ‘What do you want people to think? That you are more authentic because you don’t fit the norm? Do you really think you are not being manipulated as well? Look, something good is finally happening to me, I need your support, not your scorn or your judgment.’

Selber went to the toilet and looked at themselves in the mirror. With the idiotic septum nose-ring and the makeup that Selber had to apply to go out  ―as-per the contract with Marcus― Selber looked like someone who wanted to make a statement, which was uncharacteristic of them; they were usually quite reserved style-wise, it matched their uninteresting body, which felt like a thin and long rod with arms and legs. Thanks to that, it hadn’t been a complicated process to adopt the androgynous look that they liked and felt comfortable with. Valia had had to have surgery to get some of their gendered attributes removed, maybe that was what made them more combative. When Selber came back Valia said they had to go to an important meeting so they excused themselves and left.


After that Selber couldn’t really find the motivation to meet other friends during the next days. Their mood got murky and the world seemed to slow down again. Walking along the usual busy streets to pass the time, Selber was reflecting on the last few years of their life.

Since school had come to an end, time had changed. With no milestones to mark its passage, and nothing grand to look forward to, it had become vague. Aging no longer rhymed with new experiences. Everything had already been done: first smile, first tooth, first step, first word, first friend, first love, first song written, first grade, first concert, first failure, first death (of someone else), first time drunk, first kiss, first diploma, first caress, first time feeling adult, first flat, first salary, first time discussing financial long term planning, and then the emptiness of days similar and repetitive. Then came that strange gap filled with foggy memories of performing at obscure venues, finally being able to use all the skills they had trained for for so long, but feeling little or less. The energy had gone. Funny how when they had reached what they’d been aiming for they’d just felt that something had gone wrong and they had just ended up lost somewhere along the path, in a blur, although everything had gone as planned. Success would have been a bonus of course, but Selber hadn’t counted on it and had always thought that just being able to live off their art would be enough to feel fulfilled. They wanted to live from their music and they did. What more could they ask for? It wasn’t as exciting as they’d expected, was all. The only thing that seemed to keep its importance throughout time was love, but it came with its endless disappointments.

Just a few days ago everything had been running smoothly. Selber had slept well, Ander had been nice, their career had finally been going forward. All of a sudden everything felt like it was at a standstill again. Ander was absent, the demo might never even get recorded, Valia thought they were a monster, money was low. Selber felt like crying, but didn’t have the energy to. Maybe everything would get better when they got a baby and Ander was finally more committed to the relationship. It felt sick to think that way. But filial love seemed more reliable than romantic love; with a baby, Selber could use their energies on something else than fretting about Ander and their shortcomings as a musician. They tried to focus on that thought and think positively.

Where had all the booming vitality of the last week gone to? Sometimes Selber felt like they were doomed with emotions that were too bright and too contrasted. The swings between the highs and the lows of their moods were their curse. They’d always had the impression that their emotional amplitude was larger than that of other people; that they could get excited and exalted to an extent that people rarely displayed, but would then plunge to unknown depths of loneliness and negativity that no-one else cared to experience. Maybe it was the price to be paid to be allowed to sometimes visit the skies and stars.


Three days later Ander was back and finally found time; they arranged to meet at Selber’s place. After sharing a meal they were sitting on the couch and talking softly.

‘You look worried, Selber, is something the matter?’ their boyfriend asked in gentle tones. Selber hadn’t told him about the demo being postponement, they didn’t want to look like a loser.

Ander stroked Selber’s cheek softly, their eyes searching. Selber felt nauseous and had the distinct impression that they had something really important they needed to remember and tell them right this moment, but it escaped again. Were they having these blanks more often? Was it a foretaste pf old age?

‘I just felt something pop into my mind, like when you’re looking for a specific word but it then escapes you somehow. It’s very strange.’ Ander stroked them again, saying ‘Don’t worry.’

‘I’m sorry, but could you stop touching me, it makes me feel awkward.’ Selber got up. ‘I’ll make you a cup of tea if you like.’ They should tell Ander about the postponing of the demo, but couldn’t bring themselves to it. They went into the kitchen. Ander got up and started to pile up their belongings and stuff them into their bag. ‘I think it’s time for me to go,’ he said. ‘No, don’t!’ Selber spilled some of the tea leaves but ran back to the living room. ‘I wanted to sing you my new song. Can you stay a few minutes longer?’ Ander sat back down.

‘Ander, do you think I am being manipulated by the label?’

‘How can you say such a thing? They loved you! They wanted more of you! Why would you think this?’

‘Sorry, I don’t know what I’m thinking. And Ander, well, I was kind of waiting for you to talk about it, because I was the one to ask you in the first place, but you never did, you know, about the baby and all after the other day,’ Selber mumbled.

‘I hadn’t realized you were in such a hurry. What timeline are we discussing exactly? I thought you wanted to focus on your musical career at the moment. After all, we’ve only been together what, one year?’

‘Honestly, I feel like I don’t really want to wait any longer. I know the procedures take some time so I’d like to, well, start now.’ Selber looked shyly away. Ander didn’t answer for some time.

‘Let me think about it. Sing me your new song, okay?’

The next day they had an appointment at the psychologist’s, Ander had used his contacts in the medical word to get a last minute slot.




Chapter 6


‘He asked me if I thought others should help me solve my problems. I said yes and he wrote something onto his bloody pad. I think they have this set of test questions that they record and then use to make up your profile, like a bloody online personality test. Then he asked if being in love with someone gave me any rights over them. I felt it was a trick question and just couldn’t answer.’

‘Don’t worry Selber’, Marjo said, ‘you really have to be a psycho for them to fail you on the psy test for the baby application. I’m sure it’ll be fine.’

Selber was frantic on the phone. Ander had gone out to make some work-related phone calls, and they’d had to call Marjo to let some steam out.

‘They even put some strange electrodes on my head and made me look at moving balls and turning cubes and flashing pictures while whispering words into my headphones. Is that standard?’

 ‘No idea Selber, I never did the baby application myself, but I find it strange. You should ask them why they did all this. Did Ander get it too?’

‘No idea, he’s gone outside.’

Selber hung up after a few more minutes and continued pacing nervously.


Soon afterwards the state psychologist called the couple in for the results.

‘Don’t worry, your results turned out okay,’ they said reassuringly. ’From what I could test, the discarding  of memories three years ago went just fine. I would estimate you have a 95% internal coherence after Recollection Removal. If I’m not wrong, you would notice a light dizziness or light-headedness only in specific situations, which is quite a nice result. Would you say you’ve been experiencing this kind of symptoms?’

Something heavy settled inside Selber’s chest.

Ander cut in: ‘What are you talking about exactly?’

‘The memory removal your partner went through three years ago. Oh, I’m sorry, were you not aware?’ The psychologist hastily checked something on their pad. ‘You didn’t mention anything about it being something you wanted kept private. It is in the medical file after all.’ They turned to Selber: ‘Do you give your consent that we continue this conversation in front of your partner?’ Selber only nodded vaguely and they continued: ‘I analysed brain function and thought coherence to see if any rewriting or specific neural stimulation was needed to facilitate smooth train of thoughts and ease new memory fixation but honestly your brain tissue seems to be doing fine. There probably was a good compliance to the procedure at the time and the neural networks accepted the changes swiftly, which made their plasticity all the better. You did really well, Selber, I can congratulate you on that. Of course if you feel like the threads of yourself are a little loose we could toggle some things here and there. Make things smoother by getting rid of a few remaining connections to some elements; in the semi-guided test we took together I detected wind as being a trigger of your gaps; it must have had a strong connection to one of the memories that got erased,’ they turned to Ander. ‘That means when Selber experiences wind, their brain tries to make a connection to that memory, but the link being broken, it either shuts down or enters a sort of loop, trying to recall the information but not managing to.’

Selber stayed silent, thinking about the wind and picturing that familiar blank settling like a cotton world of white over their thoughts.

‘Really, I want to emphasise that you did a good job’, the shrink was rambling. ‘I mean, thanks to these new technologies we can always help people that are in distress by taking the edge off things through the process of erasing some painful memories, but we cannot really take the suffering away, which means to say you had to do the job yourself, and I think seeing as you are now in a healthy relationship that is going forward you managed that admirably.‘

The psychologist had been looking at their pad most of the time, theorising without looking up much, except for an occasional benevolent smile.

‘On a finishing note, I think that means I can give you the green light for your family projects. I will fill the necessary forms. And let me apologise once more for coming up with the memory procedure out of the blue, you should get your medical file adapted so that it appears as a non-disclosure element. Please let me know if you need anything else.’

Ander got up first, shook the shrink’s hand and went to the door. Selber followed in a daze.


Selber paused just outside. The wind was getting stronger and stronger, and Selber felt a familiar light-headedness come over them. They tried to concentrate on the conversation, but were losing their grip on their thoughts, and felt close to freaking out. They realized Ander had been talking. What were they talking about? Where were they?

‘What were you saying again?’ they asked. Ander looked at them.

‘Never mind.’ A minute later, Ander shook his head angrily and said ‘This shrink was the least perceptive human being I’ve ever met.’ Selber wondered if they should laugh, but Ander was dead serious. Then he disappeared into the crowd hastily. Selber just stood there. ‘Are you coming?’ Ander shouted from further down the road.




Chapter 7


‘You hadn’t known, I know. But how can it be possible? Don’t you remember? Never mind.’

Ander was pacing in his flat. The couple hadn’t exchanged a word on the way there. Ander had opened a beer on arrival, taken a swig, and gone out onto the balcony for a while before coming in and starting the questioning.

‘Isn’t there a hole about that period? Don’t you feel like something is missing?’

‘I always thought I had less memories of that year because it had been a boring one or something. Maybe there wasn’t much to remember about it.’

‘And that dizziness the shrink talked about?’

‘I thought it was low pressure.’

‘And you never mentioned it?’

‘Would that have interested you?’

Ander was pacing, frowning, moving his arms around aimlessly. He was out on the balcony again.

Selber tried tentatively: ‘They said I was pretty stable, right? That sounded encouraging.’

‘Yes they said your brain wouldn’t unravel at once, very reassuring. I mean, you have to put yourself in my shoes. I thought it was only crazy people who went for that sort of thing. It’s like you’re not the person I thought you were.’

‘Which shoes? the dancing shoes, the dentist shoes, or the asshole shoes? I mean, I’m not the person I thought I was either, maybe you could spend half a second putting yourself in my shoes for a change and ask me how I feel about it all.’

Ander stopped abruptly and Selber regretted their words immediately. No amount of excuses was able to brighten the mood afterwards, and Selber left on a sour note.


When Selber got home, they went to find their old laptop slowly. They turned it on and looked for the directory named “do not open except in case of emergency”. They had known something vital but terrifying was hidden inside, and had done their best to ignore it over the last three years, which had worked quite well. But now was the time to be brave and face the past. The directory opened onto another one titled “2043”. A text file was there too, called “open if you want to dive back”. Selber almost smiled, Dive Back was one of their songs, with quite an enigmatic text that Selber didn’t even remember writing. Inside 2043 were the copies of the contracts concerning the Recollection Removal procedure and, of course, the address of the company that had done it, Socrates SA, and the way to contact them. Selber closed it all and went to bed. The night was agitated.


The next day they phoned at the center for Recollection Removal and gave the ID they’d found in the file. They were invited to come as soon as they wished. Ander hadn’t called, hadn’t texted, hadn’t voiced, hadn’t sent a thought. They were alone. They decided to take the bus to go there. It was an average modern building. Inside, the place looked like a sort of high-end clinic, with themes of white and a feeling of cleanliness and professionalism. From the flyers Selber could see, the firm seemed to also be involved in drug problems and other mental issues. They were also behind the new serotonin brain pump apparently. Selber had probably already been there, but just didn’t remember about it. An attendant was called.

The wait wasn’t long and Selber was ushered into a nice looking room with couches, snacks and refreshments. The attendant introduced themselves as being a tech representative, specialising in the Recollection Removal procedure.


‘If you want to watch your memories I guess you would also be interested in getting them back,’ the tech expert was saying, ‘but unfortunately, as you were already informed, this is not possible. We can only give you access to the videos that we recorded. You are not allowed to take them out of this facility, but you can come and watch them as many times as you want.’ The representative was a tall man in his forties. He had an overly amicable smile and was wearing a lab coat over his suit. The lab coat was probably a kind of prop, just like Selber’s nose ring.

Selber listened carefully to what the expert was saying. It was difficult to imagine that they’d known of all this before but completely forgotten about it. Was it possible? Were they still the same person if part of them had been erased? Was just like a photo album that you could throw away and forget about?  Did it mean you could start over? Even forget about your whole life? Selber just nodded absent-mindedly. They were trying not to think about what would come next.

‘Would you like to come to the viewing salon now?’


Behind a curtain was a hidden door to a blind room with a screen and some large plush velvety seats. ‘First we will have you view the standard video that you also watched before getting the procedure. It will remind you of what we do here and maybe answer some of the questions you might still have. We never do everything on the same day, to let people process through the new information and avoid certain unwanted reactions that can sometimes get triggered by an overload of data and emotion, but it’s very rare so don’t worry. You will have to come back tomorrow if you wish to view your memories.’

The video started, it was dated to the 13th of April 2043. Selber saw themselves get into a room, most probably the same one they were currently in, take place and start watching the explanatory clip. The clinic’s logo came on, and then an older expert in a white coat started talking on the screen.


‘Welcome to our Recollection Removal facility. You wish to forget about undesirable events or people, and we are here to help you. Sitting in this very room, we will invite you to give us a very precise account of the memories you want gone. Meanwhile, your brain waves will be recorded, and our own next-generation functional MRI will work on analyzing your brain processes so that our experts can calibrate our top-notch memory removing device.

When our clients tell of the memories they want removed, our wireless and captorless electrode systems combined with the MRI are able to detect the areas of the brain most linked to them with utmost accuracy, and the recording of the brain waves allows us to then code a pattern of precise electroshocks that will permanently reassign this brain area to new data storage. It is analogous to you would do with hard drives. The memory slots are then ready to get written over by new recollections and the brain areas are reused with no net loss of storage capacity.

As you have been informed beforehand, we only need to erase few memories related to what you wish to forget for the brain to then annihilate all the related ones. We call those anchoring memories; they are usually births, the meeting of meaningful people, select memories of holidays, first kisses, weddings, meaningful conversations, deaths, fights sometimes. Once those are gone, the rest unravels easily and the less poignant memories start fading. You can picture it as a series of bridges in your mind, connected to one another in a row, and once the first one collapses, the rest slowly goes under with it.

Let me explain this with an example: try and think about a person you love. What memories come to you, presently? There are probably just a couple of them that are distinct, then you’ll have access to impressions of that person or of your relationship, like smiles, an atmosphere, the way you feel or felt when you’re with them, something you like to do together. To find more specific memories, associated with a unique time and place, you’ll have to search more. That’s how you realise that those memories are buried deeper in the maze of your neurons, and need more cues to come out. And that’s what we do with our revolutionary technique: we cut the cues, we cut the strings. Our staff will help you pinpoint which ones of your memories are the anchoring ones.

We will of course remind you to get rid of photographs, messages, and all traces of things linked with the person, persons, objects or events that are being removed. After all the memories have been removed you will come to test for successful completion of the reassigning; we will ask you for some biographical information, and again one week afterwards. We will then assess if a second session is needed. Often it depends on how many sensory clues are attached to the said memories or the said persons, because these are all gateways to the memories that we have to break down. The more of them there are, the more bonds have to be broken down.

The procedure is painless, and you can also choose to have the memory of the procedure being done removed, so that there are no traces of that difficult experience.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask our staff.

We wish you the best with the Recollection Removal procedure, and hope to be able to help you live a fuller and freer life, with more headspace.

Socrates SA, know yourself.’ 

The video finished on the logo and the screen turned off.


The man outside opened the door, letting the light in. Selber got up and went back to the first room.

‘Am I allowed to know what my memories were about before watching them?’ Selber asked.

‘Unfortunately this information is classified. I am not allowed to look at your memories, this is our privacy guarantee. But if you want a hint, mostly people want to forget about other people. We had, interestingly, one occasion of a lady wanting to forget about her old house having been demolished. She told me about it herself in this very room, how thinking about it made her so distressed that she would prefer never have had such a strong attachment to that place. In a way the house had been a family member to her, and the loss comparable to their death. She chose to come to us and we helped her get rid of her pain. I found that fascinating. Probably your memories will be about a special someone.’ Selber was listening absent-mindedly. The man seemed inspired and continued:

‘Of course we are also working on a way to capture the memories through technology so that we could work on them, but the complexity of the association of thought, feeling and sensation is presently still out of reach. As in all of Science, we are first able to destroy the work of Nature before we understand it enough to make building it anew possible. If we managed to capture memories we could reinject them. We even think we could enhance well-being by changing some slight details to memories without having to erase them completely. It would be much more subtle. For example, imagine you take a memory about any kind of rejection, but you just change the emotions associated to that rejection and make it less painful, less meaningful. The person will remember getting rejected and still be sad about it, but it wouldn’t be the soul-crushing and self-defining moment it had been, and would make processing it much easier for people who have trouble overcoming trauma. Often the memory of the way it felt and all that is built on top emotionally is what becomes pathological, not the event itself. It’s a kind of reinterpretation if you want. Do you know the painter Caravaggio? His paintings are very dark and dramatic and often depict scenes that have an undertone of violence. Imagine you could turn on the light on those moments: the frowns would vanish, the victims wouldn’t look so spectral, and the emotional tone would change completely. That’s what we would like to be able to do about those dark memories that make it difficult for us to move forward: take the paralysing effect away without changing the fact recollection. A new way of healing. And in the future, we might even be able to deliver specific electroshocks to the hippocampus at the very time of the distressing event to dampen its atrocity so that the trauma doesn’t even come to be! It is a sort of disconnection, or uncoupling, that we create. We could get rid of the need for healing altogether! But this is still an area for research only.’ The man was beaming again. Selber nodded some more.

‘Of course, if you would like to try something else, we also have the new serotonin pumps you might have heard about. They can be added to almost all newer versions of brain implants with a very small procedure. It is a different approach, very promising, and we are getting extremely good results!’

Selber nodded some more.

‘But let’s stay on tracks, sorry if I’m getting ahead of myself,’ the specialist continued, ‘if you want to proceed with the memory recollection we can give you an appointment for tomorrow anytime of the day. We suggest you then spend the rest of the day with someone who can provide emotional support, just in case. Oh and one last thing, you said on the phone that a psychologist was responsible for letting you know about the procedure against your express wishes. Just for you to be informed, we will be filing charges against them for violation of medical secrets, and we will let you know of the outcome in time. Have a nice day and don’t hesitate to contact us.’




Chapter 8


The next day, which was a Saturday, Selber went to Ander’s place full of courage, wanting to dedramatise the whole situation. They’d found a video online about the up and coming technology of memory erasing, and wanted to watch it with Ander to try and make the discussion go forward. Things would go back to the way they were before, Selber was determined.


Ander opened the door sternly. He had a blank stare and looked like he hadn’t slept very well. He was wearing his sports clothes and had obviously planned to go out to exercise, but he said nothing and let Selber in. Selber tried a bright smile and said they’d brought some breakfast. The atmosphere was tense. Selber would have wished for Ander to either make small talk or directly address the subject that was weighing them down, but he did nothing and just stared straight ahead with a frown on his face. Selber decided to have a seat and dive right in:

‘Ander, about yesterday, I swear I didn’t know anything about it. Look, I don’t even know what memory erasing is, so I looked it up and found that video, it’s a sort of TED-Talk, maybe we can watch it together?’

Ander didn’t react much but turned his eyes to the screen Selber was offering. They started the clip.


The video finished after ten minutes of excited talk about the wonders of technology, the end of the depression pandemic and empowerment for all people. The speaker hadn’t been that bad, Selber reflected. They looked in Ander’s direction, but his face was an undecipherable mask, staring straight ahead.

‘So you don’t remember anything,’ he said.

‘I don’t know Ander. Now that I know that something is missing I keep trying to grasp at it, but it’s like trying to remember a lost word. One second you knew what you were thinking about, and the next you feel like you are floating in a big blank. You can scrape at the edges all you want, your train of thought doesn’t come back. It scares me to think that I decided to erase part of myself. Now I’m wondering if I should really try and remember that part that I wished to delete. What if it was a wise choice? What could be so bad that I couldn’t get over it?’

‘You should. You cannot be complete without it.’

‘Imagine if I’m a murderer or something.’

‘Don’t be dramatic. From what this guy said on the video, it’s most probably about love. It cannot be so bad.’

‘Well obviously it was quite bad at the time. Are you saying that love is just something you can work your way around if need be? That love is just a little problem that can be solved with a little bit of will?’

Ander changed the subject and started talking about his plans for the day. Selber was hurt.


Selber hadn’t gone to the studio to rehearse during the whole week. They had missed calls and many vocals from Marcus but couldn’t bring themselves to call back. They had to clear the situation before their mind could concentrate on music again. The next day, Selber went to the clinic again. They hadn’t been able to tell Ander about the appointment. The building was becoming familiar, and they went to the waiting area of the projecting room without difficulty. There were pictures of smiles on the walls, and abstract art. They took a seat and waited. An unknown person in a lab coat opened the door shortly afterwards and asked:

‘Mx Selber Lopez?’ Selber nodded, ‘Here to watch your memory videos? Great, please follow me.’

Selber took place in the same seat as the day before.

‘Mx Lopez, we will presently start the viewing. I need to inform you that, as of now, you are being filmed for legal reasons. If anything inconveniences you too much, you can press the button that is situated just under your armrest, the clip will stop and someone will come and attend to you. As you’ve already been told, today you will only be allowed to watch the last of the three clips that were recorded. Tomorrow you may return for the second one, and the day after for the first one. Can you please confirm that you will be able to receive emotional support  after this if needed? Otherwise we will appoint someone to come and check on you later today.’

‘I am all set, thank you,’ Selber lied.

The screen turned on and Selber saw their own impassive face on screen, three years younger and with no makeup on.


Video extract number III. ID 416433622 16th April 2043


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[1] Throughout the story , Selber will be described using the pronouns they/them, as part as their non-binary identity