Three from Banalities
(Translated by Elizabeta Zargi and Timothy Liu)
I listen to people around me and stare. They have so
much to say, so well-versed, eloquent, wise.
The one in ripped pants goes on about complications
with the town’s water supply, the chubby girl next to me about
the constant exploitation of Africa, a third goes into detail about
a new role of I don’t know which actor in I don’t know which film
now showing. I haven’t seen it
which means that all I can do is sink in
shame. An acquaintance sitting next to me suddenly demands
to know what my take is on the crisis in the Middle
East. I go numb. I could have guessed, though, that he’d
want to talk. With great difficulty, I mumble
a couple of sentences and spoil his mood.
Instead of getting into a splendid exchange of
standpoints and views, I stupidly stare, wishing that
he’d stop asking me questions. I open a magazine
to look for classifieds. As though it were the most urgent thing.
In such a lonely state I could put out an ad I say to myself, although
I’m immediately worried about how it would go
and what it would be. I look over the form I
would have to fill out and am immediately covered in goose-flesh.
My favorite film, favorite book, five things I’d
take with me to a desert island, what kind of partner I’d like, and, oh
goodness, why I’d be worth meeting. I don’t know how to answer
any of these things as though I’ve never thought about it or about
anything. My favourite food, my favourite drink.
No one has ever asked me these things. Never.
Embarrassed, completely incompetent, I close the magazine.
I sadly look at the acquaintance beside me, how bored he is,
and hope he’ll leave soon and that no one will expect
anything of me. I don’t know where I got the idea
they taught me on how to be silent. Everyone around me, especially grandfather,
constantly worked, words rarely spoken,
only when absolutely necessary. I don’t remember anyone ever
debating anything, at least not in my presence. And
no one ever asked me about my favorite food. Or
what I wanted. Even the neighbour boy and I were silent
as we embraced.
I watch all these thin boys, posing in the corners,
Chinese, Arabs, Blacks, Latinos, Bosnians, how
they laugh, spit while grabbing their dicks.
I undress them with my eyes, over their chests,
their flat stomachs, their dark muscles, about their
bodies to and fro. How they hurl themselves at the ball,
take their shirts off in the heat until beads of sweat
glitter, whistle at girls, and I imagine how they’d
go after me if they knew I was watching them.
Their eyes curiously leap into the world,
and it is clear that the worst is behind me, I can
observe them with ease, for what on earth
would they do in my bedroom, where things are
in order, no need to look out for the police, no need
to get excited about fights, or run from gunshots.
What ever would they tell their friends, what would
they brag about, what would lend them glamour, the heroes
of the next block. I find smoothness at the gym
where muscles are on display. Or at the
bars, or on the beaches, where thousands of gay men
race against time. Yet how would they
train in my bedroom, how would they compete, when
time stopped, how would they comprehend tiny
kisses, enjoy silence or a whisper.
The unknown would frighten them, as it did you, who,
smiling, proudly stepped through the door, then
became smaller and smaller until you
vanished in the morning haze.
Grandfather was the first who realized that I’m not worthy
of life. My bawling got on his nerves so much
that he locked me in the pig-sty. Perhaps the pigs
would have crushed me, an infant, had I not been
saved. I was saved the second time when I
tumbled into the stream, face down in the mud and
suddenly no air. They pulled me out by the
legs. The third time, grandfather again from the top of the house
where he was repairing the trellis, supposedly by accident dropped
a sharp stick on my head while I was looking out
the window. I stepped back into the room and
watched the blood flow from my head while standing. I didn’t
feel a thing. The puddle on the floor grew larger and
larger until someone came by chance.
Then the memory becomes foggy, the only thing that remains is
that I told the doctor that I’d banged my head
against a wall. I should have died. At least three times,
if not more. Then they murdered me, slowly, year
after year, so I got used to it, and waited
apathetically for them to succeed just once. You made
the most effort. You strangled me, stopped me from breathing, broke
my bones, ravaged my brain. More than a thousand times
we had sex, and each time you watched to see whether or not
I’d overstep the boundaries and never return.
No one saved me any more. And it was so
difficult. What killed me even more was when you
fucked others beside me, breathing heavily and screaming
you could never get enough, like you had thrown
me into a pig-sty. You killed me the most when you brought
in your arms the dog that had been run over, slowly, like in
a movie, like the last sequence, then darkness.