By Eka Ghaghanidze
translated by me:)
We meet twice a week. Both of us own the key and can get there whenever we want. However this never happens. We meet in front of the wholesale drugstore, near the traffic lights post. As soon as a familiar gray car appears, I strain my attention in order to have time to open the door of the Opel, tuck up the edges of my coat and get into the cab as fast as possible not to be annoyed by deafening signals of drivers irritated by a minute traffic block and at the same time to deserve Nugzar’s contented smile.
We drive there together in the gray car that has quite convenient smooth leather seats. I would surely experience pleasure driving it for hours in the darkened but still beautiful night city that is drawn in sadness with shyly twinkling lights smiling here and there. And if the stars go mad too, the city would begin flirting just like a virgin scattering the sparkling sparks like flavoured flocks around the thick braid – Mtkvari. But I know the wish is called so to stay as it is and that getting used to circumstances in relation between a man and a woman is more favourable than coming down a peg. So sitting in the comfortable car, I try to enjoy the view that hasn’t been changing for the last two years just like a tape that is stuck on the window. So I am getting used to the view alike permanent impression that the city in the morning is as boring as making the same bad day after day and as used as the shoes worn for some seasons.
On the way, Nugzar buys either some pieces of cake, each kind in twos, or an ice cream and an orange juice. Drinks are in the refrigerator. Coffee is there too. Moreover they are always there. They never end: neither the stock of coffee nor of the drinks. He has an ill heart – Arrhythmia or something like that. We rarely sip: he drinks vodka, I drink beer; but slowly and forcedly at the same time because some secular or religious holiday necessarily coincides with the one of those two days we spend for two or three hours on the 6th floor in a separate room located in outlying district block’s building. So we sit and absorb the drinks with our mouths, the silence with our ears and our still faces with our eyes. This happens before the electricity comes. That’s how we relax – after an effort we have put into getting on foot to the 6th floor because of an inoperative elevator. During the time of our temporary calmness exonerated by the recreation, I think about the labyrinths of unsolved crossword puzzles, while Nugzar thinks about an engine oil or varying rate of exchange. I know it’s really like that and I have no doubt about my intuitive qualities. What else can we do? We sit and wait for the electricity to come. In the light of candles or a lamp, it’s impossible to play cards or watch TV. In most cases batteries of our tape-recorder are low, even crushing doesn’t help them because later it rattles as if it’s fallen into some kind of audio-coma. We sit and drink. Mostly it is tea. We smoke cigarettes. Nugzar doesn’t like talking. He prefers to listen. Auditory organs are indeed an advantage of men. That’s why it’s mostly me who talks all the time. I tell him stories about my work. Sometimes I cheat and inspire events in the stories I had read in comic books. I try to entertain him so that he doesn’t get bored because he might take away the key from me. But I like coming here twice a week rather than staying at home. Sometimes his phone rings. If his face strains or his cheek nerve twitches, it means that his wife is calling. Generally she entrusts him to buy a TV schedule or a dishwashing gel. Nugzar agrees and puts his disconnected mobile phone on the table that gives me a green wink and lets me continue the conversation.
It’s already nineteen and two more centuries and we’re still with an oil-stove. Fujik blazes. I rotate my reddened fingers like a spit trying to recall something about an oil-stove from my grandmother’s stories. That doesn’t work. The stories about kerosene and oil-stove are so old that even grandmothers can’t recall them.
Rarely do we get hungry. We go to the kitchen. I talk there, smoke a cigarette, sitting on a stool I don’t waste my time. I exercise crackling my neck and watch Nugzar slicing a sausage, beating up the eggs, flavouring a sauce. Then he grabs a handle of fervent frying pan with his sweater sleeves down, smartly moving his hand and avoiding getting burned, he puts an unusual omelette on the table, blows at his fingers and says “Put it out!” about my cigarette. We heartily eat. Thought a slow and enduring movement of our jaws and a slightest clink of sliding forks and knives at the plates doesn’t deviate from the moral regulations. We both flirt with each other… I’ve always liked watching men in kitchen. I eat and smile at my quick thought: we live here, rather than visit this apartment twice a week. “It’s so delicious” – I praise his creation and my wish simultaneously.
We enter the bathroom in turns. Lying in the hot water, I’m not able to enjoy the felicity for long because the knock on the door calls me. Forcedly removed from the bath, half-dried-up, muffled in a warm bed I’m waiting for his turn of splashing flavoured foam to end. “Safe sex” – says Nugzar tearing the wrapper, always in the same voice. Sex with a condom. It’s ridiculous. But I do what he wants me to. Before we meet, I usually buy some in the drugstore nearby and keep them in my bag. For a while. As soon as the saleswoman notices me, she silently begins to serve me. From the lower shelf of her desk she offers me exactly the quantity I need. I always have my money ready because I don’t want to see her bothered by looking for a change. I feel very shy. When I was a child I used to buy the things in the same squeaky wrapper, but they were chewing gums. Instead of at the drugstore I had to give change to an old seller at the grocer’s shop. These two sellers are as different as my imagination and life. These last two successfully manage to sting each other.
“I felt myself as a real woman with you” – this is a phrase that satisfies Nugzar’s self-content requirements. And I’m not ashamed of lying to him. Sometimes it’s necessary to lie to withdraw into yourself and not to be bothered by the stinging questions. So that not only he but you too become well settled. In an ashtray you say goodbye to the useless cigarette stub and sorrow at once. Just like a curved embryo they are lying in a transparent cut-glass bowl and when you notice them you feel very satisfied learning that you won’t be facing an old age without pension selling newspapers and 1001 necessary items. You’ve been feeling good so far. You don’t wake up in the middle of the night feeling your hands grown numb. Nor you wet the mattress with an involuntary slaver. Like a fox you slip away hiding your brain full of hopes under the hair-dress. These are not only courses of life but the newly ironed highways that are tickling your heels.
Twice a week, in the evenings, Nugzar leaves symmetrically arranged kisses on my body. With his head on my stomach he falls into a doze. I slip my fingers into his hair and listen to his half-hour sleep that could be told by the sniff and movement of his lips. Walls in this apartment are very thin, so the striking of a clock on the kitchen wall easily reaches us. Bang, bang… it strikes so firmly as if it was an old man gone through the centuries. But it’s only a tiny, white, plastic, and thin and light, one or two-year-old Chinese clock that it really is. The number of the strikes makes us know when we have to leave. I wish this apartment had thick walls or at least, this clock had stopped… We quickly put our clothes on, run downstairs, jump into the gray Opel and stop to talk on our way. Once again I get off the car in front of the drugstore, near the traffic lights’ post and go home.
Walking home with my hands in pockets and nose in my collar I sometimes think about not wanting to see Nugzar’s wife and wanting her to be more beautiful than me, because then the thought that he always goes back to her would torture me.
I walk and I think. I walk and I think.
Then I get tired of sadness.
I walk and I don’t think.
Pleased with today’s meeting I begin to hop playing hopscotch with moving tiles just like a third-form girl.
I go back home.
And the wish that truly has been returning to me for the last twenty years, at the beginning of each December, doesn’t lose its strength. In the frosty wintertime, when my nose or one of my ears – an incomparable candidate of being frozen – reddens and can easily fall down on the ground after any strong hit, I begin to feel a need for sleep just like a brown bear. I would certainly sleep for three months and in the springtime with a little more weight and my sides heated I would join in everyday life. However, to tell you the truth there’s neither ground nor unbearable frost in this city and I have a long evolutionary journey before me until I turn into a bear… I’m being offended by the winter in Tbilisi because it doesn’t support the fulfilment of my seasonal wishes. The weather in this city is sick with some kind of functional disorder with anteroretrograde amnesia. Impudent sun is throwing away twenty-degree rays, fooled by the Greeks it still thinks it is Helios. It’s warm. It’s the middle of January and restless housewives after being idle for some time are airing their blankets. Smoking a cigarette and with nudist shamelessness I’m standing in front of the kitchen window overcoming a fifteen-minute-long waiting. I don’t even forget to exercise my eyes. I don’t read at all because nobody writes anything valuable. This kind of books are already written and read but I can’t avoid eye-skew anyway. That’s how I train my eye pupil: First I look at a scratch on the window, later along the alley. Then I rotate the apples of my eyes from left to right and vice versa opening and closing. Opening and closing. It’s the best way to improve your eye sight.
If we don’t consider distant mountainside and a tiny alley, only some buildings can be seen through the window of our kitchen. The densely built buildings are filling up the whole frame of the window with their height; with their colour they remind me of dirty teeth. But looking through other people’s windows is not amusing – the strange figures have yet familiar to your movements…
Haaaa! – A continuous interjection and a sudden vision rush with 220 volts. Totally unexpectedly I notice his face. “A naked woman with a cigarette in her hand, winking with her mouth open – is very fascinating indeed.” I thought about that later flipping in my bed in the middle of the night. But before that, when I first saw him, I leaped aside so fast that I was about to drop an ashtray. Hidden behind the curtains I don’t dare to move. At first I feel my heartbeat in my throat and then my chin begins to tremble. Bent down crawling on the flooring I manage to draw myself up only at the other end of the window from where a young man is still smiling to me. That means it was not a dream. A stooped silhouette with a wrinkled up forehead is stuck at his window observing our kitchen. He’s looking for me. He smiles again and with an olive scarf around his neck he’s holding its edges at his stomach with one hand. Stunned I move backwards. Three more steps and I would probably find myself at the door. If I move along the wall and won’t stumble I would probably leave the room being unnoticed. So I start behaving exactly like that… Gone out from the kitchen just like tailless lizard I slip under a plaid covering a hurriedly made ottoman by Nugzar and I freeze. I’m waiting for Nugzar. I can’t calm down. No, I won’t tell anything to Nugzar. Men don’t like when someone is touching their property, even with their eyes. Who is he? Obviously he had seen me before. I have such a careless personality – I stand naked in front of the window and smoke a cigarette. Until now I thought that nobody was studying me. I lie on the ottoman and I can’t calm down.
- What’s wrong with you? – I seem to be over-agitated for Nugzar.
- Nothing, – I try to be patient and conscientiously do the duty that has been incumbent on me for the last two years.
Before we leave I dare to look out of the window. There’s no one at the opposite side. What if he’d never been there? Maybe I dreamt. But because of ghosts never get on with such boring people as me, the window-dates went on and on. While Nugzar is having a shower, I stand dressed in a bathrobe in front of the kitchen window with a cigarette in my hand. The man in the olive scarf is now raising his hand. I was standing, smoking, smiling, just a little more and I could have believed that he was the one. The only one whom I would have spent the sleepless nights creating a handmade bound jumper as a surprise for, I would have torn the pages of any cookery book for making the most delicious dinner ever made. And he, with the olive scarf around his neck, relaxing in the armchair would read a newspaper with the enigmatic smile he used to so unselfishly share.
In a week I already knew that there was a bed and a chair in his room. The chair overloaded with outfits looked like a successful piece of avant-garde work. I was able to see the edge of a table with a broken-shaded lamp, a teacup and a clay pot with motley pencils and pens on it. The part of the green curtains, unlike me, was shyly attached to the edge of the window giving the whole space to the thin day curtains. The lights in his room were never on. But I wanted to examine the room more thoroughly. Standing on my toes and smart movements of my neck didn’t help.
From 5:00 to 5:15 p.m. – the mysterious 15-minute-long period of time, when I was able to see him. Who was he? I wanted to… I wondered to know so badly. I was standing with an inner unrest that was unnoticeable for him, I was smiling in response… and in my thoughts I was sinking in a part of this young man’s world as fast as my curiosity was letting me. Nugzar didn’t know anything. He shouldn’t have known that. From 5:00 to 5:15 p.m.… My lover’s seclusion in the bathroom didn’t bother me anymore. I wish these 15 minutes lasted longer; for more than longer, even for some seconds… the creaking of the bathroom door was dividing my hope and the duty of my own free will that I shouldered. I already knew that I was not planning to go back… the happiness was waiting for me at the other end of the window. I was getting angry, simmering like a teakettle left without attention. I knew I had to wait a bit more. Just a little bit more and could have told Nugzar everything I was thinking about him and his bi-weekly sexual acts. Nugzar became a subject of my ironic smile. Suddenly I understood that he was a poor, ugly, paunchy, ridiculous and a bald man. I was wondering how I could have missed all these disadvantages he had, and were revealing day after day. With his paunch shaking he was cutting bread. As soon as he finished eating he used to clean his teeth with a matchstick, smack, swallow the food left in his mouth, unbecomingly for his age he used to caper up and down the stairs and in spite of having taken a bath his armpits were stinking. I couldn’t understand why I was with him for so long. Maybe I felt sorry for him. What else could it be? I had to wait just a little more. Before that I was enjoying myself. I believed that there, in the opposite building, was living the one, the one and only. I had a secret and I couldn’t think of sharing it with anyone.
In two weeks, a hanging demy out of his window had once again scared me… “Tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the Opera garden.” – Inch sized red letters said. I quickly nodded my approval. I didn’t want him to change his mind. He didn’t even notice that. He was rolling the paper. I made Nugzar laugh a lot this evening. I was telling and telling… the jokes that were just coming into my mind, God knows from where. The tears of joy were falling from my eyes; I was stamping my feet and memorizing – “Tomorrow at 7 p.m.”
That evening on my way home I was in a hurry like never before. I had many things to take care of. I had just 24 hours left for preparing myself. But this meant nothing to getting ready for an arrangement with a man of your dreams. The colour of the curtains in his room is green. This is his favourite colour, I suppose. That’s why I would rummage in my wardrobe. I must certainly have a green dress or at least a sweater of that colour. For sure. If not then I will borrow it from one of friends of mine. I’ve spent the night before rolling from one side to another. I think I’ve even slept for a while because I remember myself dreaming about our date: warm snow was falling down, we were sitting in the garden on the bench and unlike my feet my fingers were feeling warm. He was holding my hands at his mouth warming them with his hot breath. “Look, I’ve got a wart on my middle finger” – I laughed not coping with the warmth that had already slipped down to my feet like a tiny brook. Later I was playing with a sweet cherry jam stone, while climbing under the table he was playing with my friend’s daughter. Soon I was loudly laughing and couldn’t answer my friend’s mimic question about this stranger.
At 8:30 a.m. I called my work, saying that I was ill, I filled up the receiver with cough. They let me stay home. I didn’t have time to work! I had so little time left until 7 p.m. I discovered that I really had a green dress. Not actually new but it was all right. The main thing was its green colour – the first attribute that described the beauty of the dress. No other colour could be compared with it today. I could have put on a green lipstick too. But the eyes couldn’t have been hidden from wearing the green lenses. Today it had to be this way. Today I had to be beautiful. Beautiful like I’d never been before.
This is an episode for interested in the meeting of the two.
Scene: Tea house Vincent
Time: 7:15 PM.
Dramatic personae: Woman – around 26, green-eyed dressed in a green dress. Man – about the same age, in an olive scarf.
Action: Tea drinking.
A single scene.
A café with one waiter and two clients. Any quiet music could be heard.
Soft voice of a man is breaking the silence.
Man: I’m glad we met.
Woman: So am I.
Man: Do you mind if I order a cake?
Woman: Oh! Yes I do. I don’t eat after 6 o’clock.
Man: That’s why you look so fine.
They both smile.
Woman: Could you please talk in a simple language?
One more smile.
Man: What are you doing in that apartment?
Woman (noisily swallowing a tea gulp): This is a peculiar profession, you know… I’m being painted… I don’t know how to say that…
Man: I understand. I thought the same. Are there many of them there?
Woman: Not too many.
Man: Are they paying well?
Man: I need to ask you something.
Woman (putting the cup on a saucer, breathing deep and trying to calm down: God, what is he going to ask me for. If he invites me at his place, I would certainly go away with him. Will he be surprised if I agree to do that after the initial try? I don’t care!): I’m all ears.
Man: How to say that… I’ve wanted to know you since the day I first saw you. I know you can help me… I want to pose as well. Ask them whether they need a male or not. I’m a former water-polo player with a quite muscular body… I will also earn some money. During this time… do you understand what I’m talking about? This won’t harm me. What do you think? Will that work?
Woman: That will work. That will work. Of course!
Curtains are not necessary, especially the green ones.
I feel very lonely.
Rarely but I do want to cry.
I woke up. My room. The night darkness armed with the thick curtains.
As soon as the sun comes out, I will look for the cat. He must be hiding somewhere. I’m going to find him anyway and make him drink an insecticide mixed with milk… I will pet him and slowly he will die. My Flo (the cat would have been called so, if he had survived) has the stripes like a lion. I will count them all and cry as many ways as the number of stripes he has. So my heart will finally get tired. Tiredness keeps me away from the feeling of loneliness…
I feel better in the morning. I lightly feed my brain, weeded of unnecessary thoughts, with a hope that spring will soon come and thanks to that I don’t feel lonely anymore.
Recently, I walked across Mziuri. There was a music and torn, during the struggle against the microphone, voice coming out the heart of the park. I followed down the flow of young people. Round alike strained seats around the stage were filling up with mixed people. I sat next to a figure wrapped into the white sheet just like an Arab. I lighted up a cigarette. By the time I finished smoking it I already knew that some kind of open-air festival was holding there. In the lower part of the garden, painters were walking viewing their own paintings from time to time, while at the stage others were reading poetry. Anyone who happened to be there. A guy in shorts with crooked legs, chewing a gum was swinging the microphone and saying “if you don’t like my rhymes, you can kiss my…” pointing between his legs. I felt sorry for the people clapping hands. While they were replacing each other in poetry reading, cheerful girls were giving out condoms from the cardboard wrappers. I grabbed them with a cupped hand and went away. Until I threw them away, I was carrying them in my bag for two or three days. I’d rather buy them in the drugstore. Once again I check the small coins on a palm offering them to familiar girl.
We could have met at my place. At my house. Nugzar doesn’t want that. He says that meeting in the outlying district is more reliable. Let it be so. If he wants it to be like that… Twice a week I’m standing in front of the wholesale drugstore, near the traffic lights post waiting for a gray Opel. My heart is thumping… what if he doesn’t come?