Blesok no. 31, March-April, 2003
Prose


I Turned towards the Wall and I Continued Sleeping
(Leoncibitaljio)

Mihajlo Pantić


Because dreams have no power
over the man who, if he wants, forgets even real events
easily and quickly, and he does not even remember his dreams at all

Ivo Andrić

Her arms were stronger than mine…
Vlada Divljan

     Unlike me, my wife remembers her dreams. And her dreams are deeper. When she was thirteen, a middle-aged man who looked like I do now, appeared in her dream and told her “You’d marry the one whom you beat at arm wrestling.” And just as the unknown man told her that, she woke up and decided, once and for all, with a clear mind, as if she had not just awaken from a deep sleep, that that was how it was going to be. She knew what she was supposed to do, a thirteen year old girl, still flat chested. She rolled the few pieces of clothing she had in a bundle, just like in a story, bid good-bye to her surprised parents and went to another city. Her mother told her at farewell never to sleep with her mouth open again, in order not to breed a bird inside herself, and she also remembered that advice.
     Unfortunately, the city she arrived to wasn’t hers. She realized that immediately, the week after she had arrived, just as she entered her new class. It doesn’t matter, but let’s mention it anyway; she had a sore wound on her knee and her older brother’s shoes on her feet. The children at school laughed at her, because she spoke a bit through her nose and not many people understood her, except for some crazy teacher who tried to seduce her, bragging that he could read backwards, that is, more fluently than from left to right, too little for a thirteen year old who was used to remembering her dreams, just like that. Still, she managed to finish the last two classes of primary school, grumbling all the time, and then she went to some aunt in an even bigger city, do I really need to mention its name. For a while, a month or two, during the summer holiday, she worked in a shoe store, to make some money for new shoes (her brother’s ones had already fallen apart) and now I could swear that it was the first time I saw her, passing by the shop window, I, the guy who had less years than my fingers and toes together, but, it was a long time ago, in the last century and I am still not that sure. Even if it wasn’t her (probably it wasn’t, and maybe it was), I can still imagine her packing the shoe boxes staring at buyers’ eyes (then she had the same penetrating look that most of the people could not sustain) in order to see the one she knew, although she had never seen him, the one whom she could beat in arm wrestling.
     The question is unnecessary, but unavoidable: what would have happened then if I’d entered the shop? I don’t know. This story would not have been written, for sure. But I still had not appeared then. Not yet. Love was supposed to be found some place, and that’s not so easy. At least not for us. I don’t know about others. Yes, the question is unnecessary, just as the question what would have happened if Earth would suddenly start moving in the opposite direction? God presses a button, everything stops all of a sudden, just as when the bus driver suddenly breaks in the middle of the rush hour and then, enter, suddenly it starts turning us the other way round. In the begging, day on one hemisphere would last twice longer, just as night on the other. But, it would not be so awful, somebody would sleep over, and somebody would have two lunches. In the meantime, the winds would change direction and earth would get a new face. Yesterday’s deserts would become rain forests, big cities would be deserted, and the unpopulated areas would take all of those billions of people (the more numerous they are in the multitude, the lonelier they are), and the water running down the sewage would turn around, but love would continue just as it was now, mainly just as it wants, and not as we want it.
     Yes, that’s how it was. One night with full moon while she was almost a child, her hair cut short to the skin because of the school lice epidemics, she had a dream of a virgin who does not understand why her breasts blossom, in her dreams, some possible I came to her from somewhere (I really don’t know from where) and told her: be patient, look and wait. When he shows up, you’ll know that it’s him. He’ll have weak arms. And, I will also tell you this: many men will love you, and you shall love but one. But don’t look for him as if you want to find him, let him come by, for the one who searches too much, rarely finds. If that’s how it is, you’ll find somebody who will once know you better than he knows himself. (Correct, I add, while I’m talking about it). Do you understand?
     She wanted to say that she understood, at that moment she remembered that her grandmother, her mother’s mother, once had told her: do good and hope not for good, and that’s how it all connected, but before she could say a word, the unknown man disappeared and she woke up. She felt strange warmth down there between her legs, she touched it with her hand and her fingers encountered thick, sticky blood. Next morning she traveled to the other city, the one where the next two years she would speak through her nose and where she’d refuse the crazy professor who bragged that he could read backwards. For example: The day outside is sunny and the bumblebees joyfully buzz – zzub yllufyoj seebelbmub eth dna ynnus si edistuo yad eth. She had a round head. She still has it. At the times of the lice epidemics, when we were kids, no matter whether the kids were boys or girls, their hair was cut short to the skin, and her head that August, at the end of the summer when she got her first period, had a perfect full moon shape.
     We met a dozen of years later, but we didn’t recognize each other. We stood side by side, we said good morning, we attended the same university, and everything went very, very usual, for her I was just one of the many, she was the same for me, I looked for love where it couldn’t be found. I don’t know about her, I’ve never asked her, curiosity in those things is just a second name for insecurity in yourself and in the other, much later she’d tell me that she tried for couple of times unsuccessfully, and then, as years passed by, she started becoming aware that her acquaintance, one of the many (yes, yes, me!) looked more and more like that man from her old dream. And once we were in a lecture, in the classroom, the professor Mihajlo Pantik spoke about the romantic notion of love, for romantics the realization cancels love, love is not possible in this world, it is a state of constant yearning that is overcome in death only, the ideal beloved is not from this world, love exists only in memory, or in death, never now, never at this moment, all romantics wrote about that, and I could not open my fountain pen, I wrote with a fountain pen then, the inc had obviously dried. Give it to me, colleague, she said, she took the fountain pen, she tried to open it and broke the cover. She smiled and gave me her pen, it had an inscription Factory of Molds or something, in any case, it was too late to remember those sentences that I thought were interesting, they had evaporated. I looked at her and at that moment with some unknown part of myself, I remembered that I had known her from somewhere, probably from that dream I had not remembered. Yes, her arms were always stronger than mine. They still are. When she gets something between her fingers, she easily breaks it, on purpose or not, when she wants and when she doesn’t want. Sometimes I have the impression that many things in this world have been created only to be broken in my wife’s hands.
     I was scared then, I admit. I thought that it was some kind of a misunderstanding, it had happened before that lecture on the romantic notion of love, some sweet misunderstanding, that I mistook someone’s or my own clumsiness for love. And I suffered for that, it’s easy for me to admit it today, but then I would not admit it for anything in the world. As a matter of fact, just as I listened that love in this world was not possible, that everything denies it (at least that’s what Goethe and Laza Kostik thought, and can a man, if he has even a bit of sanity, think differently than these gentlemen), and my future wife and I recognized something that could, eventually, not be called misunderstanding. Yes, it could happen, it is really possible to turn the world on the other side.
     Then we separated for two months, to meet again at the end of August, when the Danube changes its color getting the shade that is close to rust or a diluted menstrual blood, as you like it, when we were to pass the exam in romanticism. One August evening we sat at the river bank. I blabbered as usual, that was the only way to sustain her look, she was quiet, half smiling, with her lips tight, as if she hid a bird or ladybird in her mouth. I tried to kiss her. She slightly moved aside and said, just like that, then I still didn’t know why: Let’s arm-wrestle.
     I smiled, my future wife was no body-builder, no, nothing like that. OK, I said, accepting the joke, already thinking that I’d allow her to push down my arm. Sure! When she grabbed my hand that otherwise can fit two of hers in a punch, I felt as if I was grabbed by a demon, her fingers’ squeeze was firm like iron. Huh, you want to get kissed, she said, looking at my eyes, you want to get kissed, well, OK, just to see what material you are made of, then she pushed my arm without any effort like that of a young boy who still does not understand why his peers’ breast pop at night. Hey, I screamed, I felt that I dreamt all of that, let’s try seriously, I said that although the first time I did not pretend, simply, even if I wanted, I could not, she had grabbed me. The next time she did it more easily, giggling, the third time – her palms became gentle…
     Sometimes the one who presents himself as a possible I, some double of mine, comes to her dreams, except that he never grows old, he’s always the same, unchanged, and he tells her something. Once this, once that. I never asked myself who that guy is, maybe because I’ve always felt like someone else. Once, in the street, while I was still a young man, an unknown young woman (by the way, a 747 Boing), hugged me all of a sudden, glad to see me, she wanted to surprise me, probably she had mixed me up with someone. After she had realized that I did not react, because I had never met her before, yes, that was a misunderstanding, she looked at my face and told me: “That’s not you.” “Well, maybe I am not” I responded, “depends on who you think I am.”
     Unlike myself, my wife always knows who she is, in her dreams or at daylight, it doesn’t matter. In the morning, still heavy from her dreams, she tells me in detail what my double told her, I listen to all of that, I’m all ears, shivering, as someone whose arms are stronger than mine talks to me. Sometimes she dreams in a language that’s not hers, but while she dreams, she understands it perfectly. When she wakes up, she still has some words, as if someone speaks backwards in her dreams. Yesterday she told me: leoncibitaqio, she uttered that word that does not sound clearer even read backwards, once you’ll find out what it means, but don’t look too much, the one who looks too much, finds a scorpion under the stone. And it’s quite different with me, as you can see. I don’t remember anything of the things I dream. I only know that I’m full with dreams, like some movie theatre from the front. I have to dream them all, even if I can’t say a word on them afterwards, even that leoncibitaqio, yes, I have to dream them all before leaving somewhere for good. And therefore, because I’ve told you all of this about her dreams, and not my own, I’ll turn towards the wall and continue sleeping.

Translated to English by: Elizabeta Bakovska




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