Monday, 9 March 2009

Comic Relief No 10 - For Gabi

He was still. Out of the patch of concrete on the wide grass verge and in between the banks of violet and yellow crocuses yawned a damp bench. Or was it? She wondered this because she needed to know how long he had been there. She didn't want to touch him, to wake him from his dreams and be responsible for jolting back into this miserable, cold and wet Sunday afternoon in March. Not for the first time, the monologue in her head switched to her native language because that's where she went in her head when she wanted to know what to do. In this case it happened to coincide with the place she had trained to be a nurse before she had transferred this skill and her body to this foreign country. She wondered whether one day, her mind would make the same journey. But some things were universal and here was a man lying on a bench, possibly dead. There was little of his face visible, his overgrown whiskers shielding the bottom half and the peak of a brownish hat covering the top. The bulbous end of his nose, a scaled-down version of his protruding belly was blue and veined like a map of the meandering Elbe. She really didn't want to do this, fearful of unleashing a torrent that she couldn't control. She wished that she was anywhere but here.

She leaned over, trying not to breathe in, to disturb the still and tense air between her body and his where this moment seemed to be contained in isolation, away from the disturbance of the passing cars and the weather. She reached into the space between the cuff of his brown jumper and his puffy, white hands and felt for a pulse. As she had feared, the pressure of another human's touch on his skin roused him and he jerked his arm towards the sky as if she were an irritating fly. The suddenness of this movement disturbed the hitherto hidden bundle underneath his coat and a bottle smashed onto the concrete below. She was grateful that the contents, cheap gin had had an antiseptic effect upon the air of their intimate, isolated world which was much needed because, eyes still closed, a foul-smelling chasm in his beard had opened and he had begun to sing. He slurred in a gravelly fashion but the tune was still recognisable; Kde domov můj? (Where Is My Home?). In that split second, she was all at once joined and separated from this man with whom ostensibly she shared her roots. But then their temporary world shattered as quickly as the bottle had done. She didn't want her memories of home ruined by his slurring, she wanted them kept as pristine as the sparkling cobbles of the Charles Bridge on a frosty morning.

She didn't know how he'd come to be here; she would never know. She would never know because she didn't want to so she she walked away, leaving him to drown in his own mess of gin and shattered dreams. He was alive and that was good enough for her. Her work here was done. She was alive too and that was how she wanted to keep her memories of her motherland. Pravda vítězí" (Truth prevails), she thought as she pulled the drawstring on the hood of her raincoat, put her chin down to her chest and headed on up the hill into the wind and rain. If the crocuses could survive this temporary doubt, then so could she.

1 comment:

Claudia Z said...

Thank you so much for the story. The shadow is really relevant. A life time companion!