Elisabeta Isanos - Prose
   
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ONLY A STEP AWAY FROM YOU...




(fragments of novel AMUR)

Only a step away from you, I was calling and you did not hear me. Eyes wide open, nostrils swollen, I was calling, mouth overpowered my inside, rejected by the wooden face, like a bud forced to open the other way, inside itself. But I couldnít utter a sound. In fact, I was not calling but throwing to you only cores of words, like pebbles in an unlit window. The unspoken words were scattering meanwhile, falling inside me, you remained like a dark pane. And how I wished to see the light in your eyes growing! I was calling in my mind, you should have heard, but you didnít. Deaf to my call, it was not your fault. One should not call in oneís mind like that, but with pulsing beams, steadily like the lights in the night or with the despair of the lights in the light. I cried in my mind, my tears were shedding inside like a mask that makes you sweat. You asked me why my eyes were red and I said I didnít know.

*

I feel how I die, something leafy sheds its leaves, something else lasts, and the living thrill springs. The leafy things in me shed their leaves, rousing buds. Iím dying all the time and I feel good. Under each wave of fragility I am reborn, the quicker the ends, the more alive I am. Constant rustle, leafing with the wind, my leafies unleaf rustling. Iím getting young again under the murmurs, someone counts me by the seeds, by the threads, murmurs my body, counts me, murmurs me. Iím murmured by my flesh. For you, Iím getting younger under the quick deaths, murmured murmuring: I am in your power, as you are good from God, as you exist.

*

Do you remember where you told me once that the heart of the city breaks and you can see the heaven? After you cross the passage with an echoing vault, with walls that you can pinch like the bread with your fingers, you should go out from the shadow, have only sun all around. But Iím afraid, even in the light, my back to the wall, as if waiting for the bullet, as if I had to die. As if in the hours to come something unknown like death is waiting for me and I donít know how to run away, these are my last moments and escape is impossible: soon Iíll be on the stake and the whole city will watch me die from the windows armchairs. Iíd rather have the wild variant of everything, outside I donít choose the garden, but the edge reached by no one, the smell of the dry grass; Iíd like to stay in such places as if I were part of the world scum. I like to hide, as if you were watching me. Only now I understand why I keep aside: for you to look for me. But not when anyone would find me, in the fierce light, but only when, seen by no one, I keep myself only for you to come across me. You are the fear in my heart. Iím afraid you wonít find me. I canít hear you banging all the doors to the wall (where is she?), you donít ask about me, you donít ransack the place to find me, you donít come up gasping as after a long and hasty search, you donít breathe relieved when you see me, like someone who reached home. You look beyond me as I were not there, your chemistry doesnít change. If I were a needle in a haystack, the day before yesterday, you still should see me better. Iím your incognito lover, disguised in your carelessness long to the ground, clandestine (why else should I hide?), secret (of course I keep quiet!), a conjurer (I donít confess!), Iím hiding, keeping out, staying in shadows and I want you to give me away. I want you to say:
- I found her, after long fumblings, I want everybody to know that itís her. I roused for her horizons of temptations, to buy her secret for money, I pursued her through the mask of torpor, I used betrayals, I blindly groped, I ransacked the world. It should be so, but I canít hear you coming. Iím waiting to be given away, the sooner the better, a trifle, a gesture, a look, a word to betray me. And I imagine that meanwhile you miss me, you strive for me unwillingly. I keep waiting and it seems to me that I hear you. And you grab my hand and take me out in the daylight.

*

There are so many species and sub-species of loveÖ The act of love began commonly, from a mere spark, as it was Sunday and spring was in the air. He, proud like the hooked letters naming him in the passports was hiding under juniper scent his reek soaked in sweat. She, flimsy like thin paper, embracing the whole of him, delicately abandoning herself, blurring in his ardour, a shy but sweet spice.
The love between paper and tobacco ended quickly. They burnt together some ten minutes. They did not part, strangers, in the end, separating their remains: my embers, your embers, they stayed together in the frail but honest ash-making.
Produced by the quick consuming of the wedding, dried up to the bottom of his parents, their diminutive would have stayed longer in the embraced heat. But he had no choice: the parents were ashes, a huge finger shook them in the dust, among husks and coloured labels.
The diminutive was coming dizzy down the alley, as tall as the knees, a smuggled orphan, pretending to know where he was going, that he had an appointment and was late. It was an excessively sunny day, the wind pushed them down the alley straight as the ruler, where the lake feels like winter. It was an excessively sunny day, the wind pushed them down the alley straight as the ruler, where the lake feels like winter. The world was limping on old soles, sliding, dancing on high heels, not seeming to see him. Some cigarette smoke was coming down the alley, with no name given by the parents. He could hardly pull himself together, come to his senses.
After a few minutes he was pulled apart by the throb of an umbrella.

*

A crazy thought crossed my mind: of all of us, to be just me to fall in love with you! You deserved something else, more beautiful, more special, Iím not what is right for you. In return, I expect wonders from you. I was thinking: why is it that I cannot have the whole of you?Why does it seem to me that I can only touch your hand at times, as if you were a saint working miracles, with crowds waiting to see you on the windings of the hills?
I cannot at least see the whole of you. Whenever you feel my eyes behind you, you turn around.
ĖDonít turn your back on people, itís rude!
But why? Have you ever seen a statue turning the back? The nape, the neck, the back, they are not meant for peopleís eyes, because they might find out that the great, brave rider has a childís nape, a shy way of keeping head between his ears that are blushing.
ĖDonít turn your back on the guests, you are told, turn aroundÖ
Learn to show your mask nicely, turn around. Because the back cannot pretend. Faces lie, about anything, about the most simple facts, about things subjected to fatality, for instance a glass placed by mistake on the edge of the table surely falls down and breaks. It has been proved, but our faces, like those of the statues, seem convinced that for them there is no fatal physics, itís sure that water does not freeze, that blood does not flow or decompose, that things do not fall or ever break. The brave rider in the statue keeps up and strongly an imponderable sword. But his back knows that it is heavy, that it may fall at any time, with a haste translated into figures. It knows that everything breaks, sooner or later; while its forehead wears the mask of victory, the nape knows that the statue is dying.
This is why I cannot have the whole of you, because you hide from me the secrets that you donít wear in your forehead. You try all the time to turn your pretence on me. And one more thing: nothing gathers in our relationships. I cannot gather fondness overnight, I cannot put smiles aside. When we meet the next day, we donít start from the smile saved in ourselves or from a couple of common words, all the time I have to resume from nothing, as if we had just met:
ĖHow do you do?
ĖVery well, thank you.
ĖWhat a dull weather.
ĖIt will rain tonight.

*

I was the only one to blame, but Iím not sorry, itís better that you didnít receive the postcardÖ? At the stationery I found only one kind with a reindeer sledge and I signed ďYour colleague, DagmarĒ. The moment I posted it, I had regrets. You may not know at least that this is my name.I could figure you asking everybody who is Dagmar and my name sounded ridiculous. I should have signed only ďA colleagueĒ and you, while thanking every one, would have come to me, and then I would have asked you about reindeers and you would have figured it was me.
But I couldnít help it anymore. I had already posted it I watched your face when weíd meet in the corridor, to guess if you had found it. After a while, I realized that I was watching you too closely and I gave up. Then I would pass by you quietly, looking down, so you asked me what was the matter, if I was sick. And I was trying to find out from your voice if my stupid reindeers were on your desk, covered by snow in front of a sweet isba, like in the tales, with small reddish windows. But neither your voice told me anything about the postcardÖ
I had sent it ďregistered-expressĒ, I would have sent it ďby air-mailĒ if I could. Even the clerk was surprised (ďA registered postcard?Ē) mainly after she saw the address and said: ďItís across the roadĒ. But I wanted it to reach you as from far away, to be handed to you and then you should wonder:
Ė Who could have sent me this?
You should be excited, your heart jumping, you should read it and wonder:
ĖWho could be Dagmar?
You surely donít know that this is my name.
Two days later I asked the secretary if the mail had come. It had. I took heart and I asked, as if you had sent me, if there was anything for you, a registered letter. Instead, what do I hear? The courier who had to take them from the post-office had stopped on her way back to queue at a store (you know, in that long street with old houses, in Vitan), she wanted to buy meat for Christmas. Pissed off that she didnít get any (some persons in front had bought the last pieces), that she had wet her feet in the heavy snow, that a gipsy carrying faggots of wood had called her names, she stopped at the pub round the corner to warm up and the others stole the bag full of envelopes.
Things could be OK (Iím glad now that you didnít receive it), but the secretary figured to tell you that I had asked her in your name about the letter, I heard her and saw her pointing at me and in that moment your eyes froze worse than outside.
We quarreled without being friends, not even for one day.
And now there is nothing between us, not even a war.
Your are angry, cold, you donít say a word. But Iím thinking: a quarrel means, anyway, a possible reconciliation, it might bode well. Maybe you are now thinking, somehow, of me.
Whereabout are my reindeers running?

*

There are thousands of forms of love, I find it difficult to name them, but I would love you in every one. I would call you Senior of Mara (a land unseen by me), then I would despise you royally, only to rise you again from your knees. I would love you like the princesses following their men in exile.
I would keep silent next to you a whole day and in the evening I would burst out talking, I would come to words with you only to forgive you and most of all to find myself forgiven. Other times I would miss for a while, to make you ask around about me, to see if you miss me (feeling me at least like that, as an absence). Two days later I would come back to see your eyes quivering, to hear you say where have you been (but you could say nothing, as if you hadnít noticed that I had been away and I shall not know what this means: is it good or bad?
Do you see that I can love you with vanished loves, with bustards, unicorns and wild horses? I donít love you two days in the same way, I am anxious to wake up loving you differently: joyful love, a love jealous even of my shadow, quiet love, blind love. I will sew on a cloth ďBless us, Virgin MaryĒ in blue thread and I will put it on the wall, above the table, to make us sip from our spoons eating angels with our eyes.
There are days when I donít love you: I feel pointless, free, but sad. On other days I sit and count my loves for you. But I donít need thousand of loves, I want what happens to the wood when it is raining, I want to ooze with you.
In a room next door it rained from the ceiling; they pushed the door, it seemed locked inside (why, by whom?). They forced it and they saw: from the uprisen floor, the slats would grow more, raise and go down in woody waves. They had formed sharp angles like the ice when it breaks, they had reached the middle of the walls. The floor was lifting, remembering the move, the thrills, the seasons, the moon calling blood in the wood and commanding it to swell. Among the four walls, the floor was lifting towards the ceiling stained by rain, the timber was growing musty of love. The neighbours rooted it out, bone by bone, burnt it in the iron stove, it was a ferocious winter.

*

The Great Peacock is a butterfly in the Mediterranean zone. A scholar had once the idea to make an experiment. When, on a morning of May, a female got out of the cocoon, still wet, it was put under an iron bell. The scholar left the windows open and in the evening the laboratory was invaded by male-butterflies. With soft wing flaps, they circled around the light, set on the walls, on the ceiling, fluttering and swarming everywhere.
The scholar wanted to know out what systems of information they had, how do they find out that miles away, under an iron bell, their mate is waiting for them? He amputated their antennas, he spread mothballs all over the lab, he put the female under other different bells: in cardboard or wire, hazy or clear, a bit free or sealed, stuck by mastic. In the end, he put it in a hatbox and hid it in the back of a closet. Yet, he did not manage to find out if the butterflies have wireless telegraphy, electric, magnetic or other kinds of waves. He kept watching, with a single candle burning, not to mislead them with the electric light and the butterflies kept rushing in, burning up and blowing the candle out with their wings flaps. At dawn, after they banged the bell all night long, they would fall exhausted and die.
Without love, the Great Peacock had no point in living anymore. And how beautiful it was, as if it was to live fore ever! As big as a swallow, with large and soft, velvet-like wings. Fake drops of dew or of rain, polished inside, ready to drip out, were rippling on their wings. The Great Peacock was made with care to the least detail. But it has no mouth. It does not know the meaning of eating, its mouth is just a line, drawn like on masks. It does not eat and it does not drink. It does not need to, as it lives only while it is in love. That is, a few nights. Its creator thought that its body resources would be enough and did not let it waste time looking for food or water. Yet, he formally drew its lips,
A few days, with no water, no food, just loving. Loving, without wasting any second for anything else. In fact, it consumes its whole life looking for the creature it would love and after it finds it, it dies. Three quarters of its life is the search and love itself lasts for one night.
I wonder: how long could I live only to be in love with you? How long do my resources last? How long can I live just loving you, without wasting any second for anything else? About as long as the butterfly.

*

Yesterday I wanted to come into your office, the door was ajar, you were not sitting at your desk. I thought you lay down and indeed you were on the couch, one could see only your feet with no shoes on, quiet, like a childís, in socks. Your feet with no shoes were cold, and the whole of you was in them, with your entire life, with long winters and very much cold, with fear soothed only in your sleep. I wanted to rush in, but I imagined what you would have said and I stopped. And I was wrong, Iíll feel sorry all my life that I left and did not warm your feet.

*

Itís a nasty, grey winter. I looked from the tramway at an abandoned tower, where time ago there was a water tower and now itís nothing. Iím trembling.
The room smells of dolls. Donít you see that all my motions are only mechanical? I put the bread on the table, I slice it, I break a bit, I take it to my mouth, I cannot bite, my mouth is only drawn, like that of the butterfly. I mimic eating.
Only you can pull me out from the teeth of the clock, only you can warm me up, when the mechanics of the time whirls me in the room with jerky steps.

*

Sometimes I fancy you as the others see you and Iím nettled that they see you like that. Iím nettled because they saw you with your collar bent or stumbling over the doorstep.
Iím nettled because they looked down on you. Iíd like to take upon me the ridicule that covers you after a sleepless night or on bad days, when nothing works for you, when the barber cut your hair too short, too different and you look desperately around waiting for the others to laugh.
Last night I couldnít sleep, I thought about my life, about mamanís lessons, her dictionaries, how she made me discover (latin-franÁais, franÁais-latin) and I cried.

*

At once I understood that if you loved me, I could be anyway. You wouldnít love me because Iím one way or another, but because I am, just like that, all in all: with unbalanced shoulders (someone put on one of the scales a feather as a tare), with my eyes washed out by the wind and all sorts of waters, with my grizzleness breaking out through my skin, with my confusions and forgets, with my too large shoes, with my voice that you may not like.
Because I too, with extensions to everything you touch, see and hear, I love you. I love your around, I love what you see out of the window when you look in the street sipping from your glass, the gypsyís voice calling ju-unks collect, the silence between two and five which makes us feel closer, as if we were in the same room.

*

Do you recall that Saturday when you were on duty at the institute? You came in my office, I was working alone, I had something to finish (it was warmer than in the other rooms, my radiator was on) and you asked me if you might sit, if you didnít disturb me. You sat down at a table and started to read. And I donít know how, instead of doing my job, I could hear what you were reading in your mind, I was watching the lines together with you. I never praised the winter, I hate the cold, but then I did: at about four oíclock it started to get dark.
Slowly, winter was wrapping us up in the same dark. It was almost like a cuddle, I felt it and I know that you did too. You were no longer away from me, we were together and the fact that we both knew made useless the few steps between us, as we touched each other means of the dark, a good conductor of love.
Both of us with our heads down, buried in our papers that we could not make out anymore, we started with burning eyes when suddenly the door opened. The janitor wondered why we were sitting in the dark; he pressed the button and everything fell down.
Then he looked at us for a long moment, said he was sorry, you stood up and went out with him, talking and I found myself alone, after something ravishing that didnít even happen.




(English version by Mihaela Paladi)