As much as I didn’t want to, here I am introducing a novel someone I don’t know wrote about me. In fact, it’s the second one he put me in, as I recently found out. Let me tell you, being fictionized (ed: sic) is strange. Just hope it never happens to you, because you’ll have a lot of explaining to do if anyone ever finds out. So let me tell you what it feels like.
BTW, I’m Anna, Anna Burmeister, but some of you might know me by another name. We’ll get to that.
There was a time that’s hard for me to talk about when I could have prevented a foolish act that led to a tragedy. More than one of them, actually. But after living with it for five years I moved on, or so I thought until my Vatti wrote from Basel telling me about an eBook he read, a political thriller, set right here in Piraeus back in 2015. He billed it as a bunch of young radicals carry out a harebrained plot to dispatch a head of state. It was pretty far-fetched, he said, but there was this radical Swiss expat character calling herself Katrina who really reminded him of me, not that his only daughter would ever get involved in anything like that.
I had to see what Daddy meant. So I bought the eBook and opened it after putting my son to bed. Good night! Right there in the first chapter, that woman in the middle of that big protest demo had to be me. The next one says how Mahmoud got here, same as he told me, and chapter three told how I met him in the café saying hi to Andreas. It prickled my flesh. Most everything I read was true, down to my neighborhood, flat, appearance, assumed name, and how I talked my way into Andreas’s secret team.
I thumbed to the end to see if it told what happened in Turkey and freaked. Put it down and never read the rest. Couldn’t bear to relive all that tension and grief. But I’d seen enough to resurrect my paranoia and kickstart Gizzard-Brain. That’s what I call the nagging voice in my head who loves to pop up to tell me what a fool I am. Get a grip, it said. It’s only a novel. Only a novel! Give me a break. Were you on holiday when all that was happening?
The ending drove home what I already knew—that nine-tenths of my misery is due to a man, but not in the way you’re probably thinking. It isn’t what he did to me; it’s what I did to him that eats at me. That brave, kind, and handsome father of my child who loved and protected me, the man who would be raising him with me if not for my stupidity. He would graciously call what befell him kismet. I call it criminal negligence, and the bitter finality of it keeps me under his spell. See if you can fix that, Ms Gizzard-Brain.
But it boils my blood to think I was under surveillance the whole time we were hatching our plot. All my intimate secrets—even my freaking diary—are in there. Who could have come up with all that? I had to know, so I tracked down the book’s website. It’s full of enticing details about our ill-fated operation but doesn’t say how the author came to know all that.
The site had a contact form. I tried to hold back but just had to know what was going on. So I wrote This is your Katrina. Who are you and why did you invade my privacy? Next day someone named Max responded. We get this all the time. Prove it. What’s your real name? Where did you grow up? How old are you?
So I told him it’s Anna Burmeister from Piraeus, late of Basel, and if you must know, I’m more or less 29, so now you come clean. And he did. Said he worked at the publisher and had edited the book. We must have exchanged a dozen messages that got stranger and stranger. Max said the writer swore he’d made everything up. No way it was all some big coincidence I insisted, and he had to agree. Thought the writer must have been channeling me somehow—remote viewing and all that. Said he never believed in clairvoyance but since the writer didn’t know me and had never been to Greece, what else could it have been?
My sixth sense tingled too. And my seventh (a.k.a. B.S. detector) kicked in when he said the writer wanted me to “participate” in another book. Forget it, I almost auto-replied before that voice in my head said Think about it. Wouldn’t you like him to shadow you for a while and write it up? Wouldn’t cost anything and might enhance your brand. Brand? No soap, I said. Notoriety from some freaking tell-all is the last thing I want, even if I got paid for it.
Gizzard-Brain didn’t buy it. Suit yourself, but who wouldn’t like an unobtrusive, non-judgmental Boswell to chronicle their life and times in a book of life lessons to pass on?
Sounds a lot like a memoir. Why would I want to outsource anything so intimate? Like I said, you’ll get to know yourself from a fresh perspective. Free therapeutic insights.
Seemed like one of those offers you can’t refuse. Look, this writer shadowed me behind my back once and could channel me again whether I want it or not. So I told Max I’d do it as long as I had editorial control. He wrote back telling me it doesn’t work that way. As a character, I don’t get to edit text, but I can use what it says to edit my life.
He made it sound like self-help. Do I really want a life coach I’ll never meet? Even for free?
Max thought so. In his humble opinion, I’m good at hatching big plans but don’t always think through consequences and end up jumping to conclusions without a parachute.
Before I could ask what that’s supposed to mean, he said, and I quote, “Any time you feel misunderstood or mistreated, tell me and we can dump the project. But that would be a shame because you are an inspiring woman with greatness in you.”
Imagine my surprise that anyone could think that of me. But like he said, all my adult life I’ve been throwing myself into situations without thinking twice and coming out tearful, bitter, and bruised from kicking myself. It’s time I ejected myself from that, and maybe this project is the parachute.
Let’s see what happens. I gotta go.