Blesok no. 103-104, December, 2015
Remnants of a Sky
Remnants of a Sky
Translated by: Kalina Maleska
At the end of the year I finished with excellent grades. The rector said that the Archbishop gave his consent for me to go to the university. I, therefore, returned to Mala Bogorodica in the summer. To wait for the autumn in prayers and fasting. I felt as a drifted sheep among my brethren, a bit said for I did not have the support of Father Aleksej. My days passed by somehow with the hymns and psalms, and I began, though it was indeed difficult, to find meaning in the monastic life. Father Aleksej went where the sun rises, and it seemed to me that he took forever with himself the former Naum Furnadziev, and, as a substitute, he left to Inokentie the toll of the bells and the love towards the serenity with which he will defeat (he must defeat!) the shrewdest lusts of earthly life (the first one was already defeated in front of the iron gate of the seminary – “Share the bed with a woman!”). A bud of happiness, sensed long ago, grew inside me. It was, in the same time, a sign that I found the meaning of my monastic life.
But one day…
… It was Sunday, a Sunday in August. With beads in my hands, on whose ambers I counted my prayers (a present from Aleksej), I would go with my older brethren to a liturgy. On the other side of the monastery gate, belching of the bells of a carriage horse was heard. Abbot Irinej ordered to me:
“Brother Inokentie, open the gate!”
I opened the two large iron gates with difficulty and I made way for the carriage. I saw inside (of course I saw, it passed right in front of my nose!) three children, three children and one woman, and another woman in yellow linen dress with black dots. She seemed to look at me in surprise, smiled at me and I heard, as the carriage passed:
“Thank you, Father.”
Her voice enthralled me:
“Oh, Krisula, what a young monk!”
And I heard the merry laughter of the one called Krisula:
“Well, Marika, there are young and old.”
“Lord, absolve us of our sins…” I murmured and ran towards my room. But Abbot Irinej stopped me.
“Take the ladies to our supporters and donors, the Mitracevi brothers, in the room next to the Bishop’s…” And accelerated his step, and stoked his curly beard (maybe in order to curl it?).
Igno the servant and I carried the suitcases and the boxes and the two young women admired the beauties of the monastery in the midst of the oak trees. We left the things, so I felt better to be able to disappear from the room next to the Bishop’s, but as I was leaving I heard again the voice of the one called Marika:
“Really, how old are you?”
I was watching at yellow and black somewhere around the knees. I said:
“This is your room, ladies,” and the fear broke my will. And: what I called the bud of happiness was smoldered by a hot wind that blew inside me.
During those days, I felt the fever. I lay in bed and did not go to the morning nor to the evening prayer. Only the bells sent through the window support for me to endure in the torture that suddenly overwhelmed me. Surprised and frightened, however, I noticed: without Father Aleksej, their toll is quiet and quieter still. I twisted in my bed for several days and nights, I repeated the prayers silently, then half audibly, then loudly, then, I think, I yelled and shouted, begging for mercy: to purify the sinful thoughts inside me. Nothing soothed me. On the contrary, I had the feeling that, the same flames that were burning inside me on the Bitola promenade among the oak trees, fortified now with double, triple force, and convinced me that I shall be unable to overcome them, turn them to ashes.
The monks were withdrawn, everyone in his own room, the sun outside was tossing afternoon light over the greenery, all things did hold their peace: the brethren and the oak trees around the monastery and the acacia in the yard. The silence forcefully expelled me from my room. I stepped silently on the loggia, measuring with my look the length of the steps, the cassock flapped in a dignified manner around my bare feet, and I felt well walking along the loggia with the wooden pillars, with no thoughts, with unhealed fever. But I heard steps behind the church. I heard those steps for the first time and I knew they were hers… I tried to run away in my room and throw myself on the bed and shudder inside my cassock… I did not manage to. I stopped behind a wooden pillar, dreading, trembling, waiting for the moment when my eyes would seize the woman Marika.
The yellow and the black peeked from behind the corner. Then I saw her complete figure (in the carriage I only saw a smiling lip; in the room next to the Bishop’s I saw yellow-black linen around her knees). She carried two ceramic pitchers. She walked slowly and, as she walked, her breasts were moving in a regular rhythm under the dress that was not fully tied. Her face, tanned by the sun rays, was adorned with thin eyebrows and eyes – unripe olives. Her hair, black-black and curly and short, was tranquil in the light without wind. Marika appeared to me more beautiful than the most beautiful eighteen years that I have lived. She stopped before the fountain, somewhere below the pillar behind which I trembled in dread, and bent forward to fill the pitchers. My eyes – sinful, too sinful! – entered between the two big breasts that have never been kissed by the sun or hurt by winds or softened by rain. Her breasts were two bowls deprived of their stems, deprived deliberately of their stems so that you have to permanently hold them in your hands. I yielded to the two cups and passionately desired to receive communion from them… but they soon concealed themselves in the yellow and the black and I was back in my room, alone, crucified on a cross of burning flames.
Crucified, I saw Marika again, the wife of one of the donors of this monastery, now even more clearly than before behind the wooden pillar of the loggia. I sank into her, lascivious as never before – “Господи, очисти грехи нашја”, I am receiving communion gluttonously from the two cups beneath yellow and black – “Владико, опрости безаконија нашја”, I will turn into ashes in the burning flames… I got up, walked through the room with a cross and with Christ on a smoky wall, I am tilling as a maddened horse in the field… All of a sudden, an idea overwhelmed my mind:
She must have gotten pregnant as a result of my sinful thoughts!
Barefoot, without my belt on, with messy hair, I ran down the stairs, I thrust through the semidarkness of the church and I stopped before Marija from the icon. The lantern was splashing bright drops round her.
“Пресвјатују, пречистују, преблагословенују, славнују владичицу нашу Богородицу и приснадјеву Марију…” I whispered in my trance, but I stopped astounded: on her clothes I saw yellow and black. I approached closer, I made the sign of the cross three times, I stood on my tiptoes and kissed her. It was the first time I felt how lips burn when they meet other lips. I was blissful, as never before and… I succumbed to it obediently. I don’t know how long I stayed like that – lips on lips – but, when I removed mine from the icon, I yelled for I realised what I had done, I yelled just like my mother Dosta before the iron gate of the seminary.
“Blasphemer…” I reiterated endlessly, dragging barely myself through the darkness unpenetrated by candle fire, I entered the room with dilated pupils and I stood. I stood for a long time, my arms hanging over my cassock and my head fallen over my chest. Then I finally realised that there is no strength in me sufficient for being Inokentie!
When the night fell – I threw my belt, I took of my cassock, the kamilavka had previously been tossed on my bed, I gathered my things in a small bag and silently went out through the back door through which Igno, the servant, was taking the sheep to the pasture, through which I reentered as Denko’s shadow.
In Bitola, I mounted the train, and I came before my mother Dosta. She cried when she saw me, she was touching me to make sure it’s me, and she cried, she cried for a whole day turning around me – before me, behind me, repeating over and over again:
“Naum, my dear son, I did not curse you, you know. I did not curse you, my dear boy!”
For I was no longer Inokentie, but Naum Furnadziev again.
(Part of the English translation of Vlado Maleski’s novel Remnants of a Sky, published within the project “One Hundred and Twenty Books of Macedonian Literature”, printed by Mikena (Bitola) in 2008)
1. Lord, absolve us of our sins.
2. Bishop, forgive our unlawful deeds.