THIS TIME,ABOUT PAIN
(based on Do¬sto¬yev¬sky)
translated from Serbian by Novica Petrović
M-hm, there’s something I must tell you. I know, I know, there are things that can’t be told, but this is not a case of can or can’t, it’s a case of must. When you have something unsaid inside yourself, you have to break the silence somewhere, even within the framework of a story.
Quite simply: her man is my friend. There are half a million stories like that around us, but everyone keeps quiet about it, everyone pretends not to notice them or that they aren’t happening.
They unfold in silence.
What can one conclude from this? If you think that something totally unbelievable is happening to you, bear in mind that at that very moment at least half a million people the world over, shall we say, an entire city of New Belgrade, have the same feeling, for the very same thing is happening to them.
So, her husband and I have known each other for years. A long, long time ago we went to the same grammar school. He was the most popular fellow at school, he shot free throws ten out of ten, he wrote the best essays on literature, he excelled at maths and logic. Especially logic, later on he became such a man, a very reasonable one. And he knew that which I’d always wanted to know but, somehow or other, had never managed to learn, so now I live with this feeling of having missed something important in life. Yes, yes, he knew the chords to all Dylan songs, even those Bob himself had forgotten. All of the above happened in the previous century, an era that will be remembered for the fact that, despite all the wars being waged, miracles being thought up and nasty acts being committed on an everyday basis, winged sanitary towels did not yet exist at the time.
I was not different from other people, except for one minor detail: I played both football and basketball and shot with both my left and right, be it hand or foot, whatever the situation required, which is a good starting point for developing schizophrenia. I wrote poems, too, trying to make them look like those by Dylan, but everybody else did that.
And what was it that I wanted to say? Ah, yes... I almost forgot. School obligations were never a strong point of mine, it was never completely clear to me why I should have to add and multiply decimal numbers, swot lessons about segmented worms and the critique of the power of judgement, and especially why I should have to guess other people’s thoughts within the framework of school papers. Oh, and I played truant when it came to logic classes, well, nothing particularly unusual about that.
And so, as I say, her husband and I have remained good acquaintances from school, almost friends, we see each other relatively often. Sometimes we go fishing together, and other times, on winter nights, we drop in at Boban’s raft for a glass of wine. Boban is a friend of ours from the same block, he used to play basketball too, and now has a raft on the Danube serving as a restaurant. In winter, when the river is shackled and chained by ice, it is particularly pleasant there, we nestle in its warmth, order hot wine, and if we’re in no mood for talking, we just sit there in silence, each one listening for his own pleasure to the sound of the wind howling through the deserted streets of New Belgrade …
Other than that, we most often meet in front of the school building, where we occasionally wait for our daughters after classes. Isi¬do¬ra and Mi¬le¬na are of the same age, not in the same class but they are friends, they visit each other and already have their own little confidential girl-to-girl talks, giggling while they whisper to each other and accuse their fathers of being old-fashioned. And their fathers would do anything for them. If only they knew just precisely what they are supposed to do, for the world-view of nine-year-olds is very complex and, I would modestly have to admit, unfathomable to my powers of reasoning. I don’t remember whether I’ve ever been nine years of age.
On one occasion, during the previous semester, instead of my friend, Marija, Milena’s mother, appeared in front of the school to collect her daughter, and I immediately committed a sin against my friend by wishing to have sex with her. Of course, I’d known her before, but it was only then that I first became aware of what Marija was really like: a pale complexion, spindly figure, all condensed, just like freshly boiled milk, and as for her small feet, more of them later. And her eyes, her eyes were of the kind you could sink into immediately. Petite and somehow giving the impression of being unprotected, she looked as if she had to be embraced at any moment. What a bout of sheer irrationality, what I liked about it was precisely the fact that it all seemed so impossible. I may be exaggerating, maybe my very first thought was only to be expected: you see someone and you desire that person right away, m-hm, all sorts of thoughts occur to us that we cannot control or know the reason for. I suppose that all that is OK up to a point, I mean, when some crazy image, something incredible, rushes through our disturbed heads. Compared to all that horror, the desire to have the wife of someone you know, someone who happens to be a friend of yours, is not such a terrible sin. That’s what I thought first, I tell you, it’s possible to think of at least half a million cases like that, but alas, the whole thing turns upside-down when it starts happening to you of all people and starts concerning you personally.
As was the case with me, now.
Moreover, what is horrible and incredible has a special way of becoming irresistibly attractive, especially when it doesn’t hurt much.
Yes, no one can penetrate himself completely, nor determine the flow of his thoughts, even if he is being trained to become Dalai Lama. And as for passion, it overcomes us. We spill over our own boundaries, for who can limit his own ego, we always wish to be someone else, for example, for example, for example… at that moment I wished I could be my friend, not because he’s perfect and knows all Dylan’s songs, but because he has a perfect wife, Marija. It seemed to me at first that merely looking at her was enough, and then, a second later, I wished for more, and more…
… I won’t dwell on memory, memory is arbitrary, we don’t choose what we’ll remember but that which wants to be preserved from oblivion chooses us. And it stays. Usually it’s something painful, the pain returns whenever we think about that which has remained inside us. Listen, this time I’d like to say something about pain, and it is, after all, somehow connected with memory. The things I remember! Jesus, my head is a repository of arbitrarily remembered, mainly painful scenes, who knows why that is so. For example, I remember that my logic teacher had short legs, that she never knew how to match colours, that she never looked the one she was talking to in the eye, that she explained to us how one of the supreme achievements of the science of logic was the conclusion that all white cats with blue eyes are deaf, and that she never liked me: You, Mi¬ha¬i¬lo Mi¬ha¬i¬lo¬vi¬č, are so confused, she would say. And as for all the things I’ve forgotten, how can I possibly know - I only assume, with a degree of certainty - that I have forgotten something that is the most important thing of all.
God, this is a dream I’d like to wake up from, but it keeps on and on. The things I do to myself, the things I do to others, and the things others do to me, why, that’s precisely what pain is, pure crystallised pain, there’s no way for it to abate... There is, actually, but whoever feels like dying...
... yes, life unfolds the way it wants to, in all directions, mainly monotonously on an everyday basis, full of stupid little things and pointless questions, full of emptiness, until one day you go to collect your nine-year-old daughter after school and some demon, some double of yours, some fallen angel inside you inspires you, or to put it more precisely, forces you to turn what you have just thought of into reality, into pain, which is occasionally, but only occasionally, a way of attaining pleasure. I’ll stop there: what I have to say, as if I were confessing, even though no one is forcing me to do so, and no one is listening to me either, could turn into a fantasy, say, about what Isi¬do¬ra and Mi¬le¬na will be doing in two or three years. My deepest urge is inarticulate and inexplicable... no, no, I’m not cen¬soring myself, I kindly ask the court stenographer to erase all the preceding paragraphs that could be used to bring charges against me. Forget everything else apart from the fact that in front of the school I met Ma¬ri¬ja, Milena’s mother, and wished her for myself. Well, that could have happened to anyone, and it does happen. This, however, was a special moment, firstly, because it happened to me, and secondly, because that wish just about destroyed me, so much so that I cannot consider that at all to have been mere chance, unless chance is just another word for inexorability.
Yes, for fate. There’s something funny about it, I’m not kidding at all. Those names, Ma¬ri¬ja and Mi¬ha¬i¬lo, my name, as you’ve heard already is, Mi¬ha¬i¬lo Mihailovič, pure pleonasm, uninventive symmetry. Speaking of names... before I tell you everything, not forgetting about my friend for a second – friends are something rare, especially after you turn forty, those you manage to get by then -, that’s it, I must tell you that I became aware of my name rather late in life, make of it what you will. Maybe it wasn’t my fault, maybe it was accidental, let me think about the reasons for a bit. First of all, no one calls me by my real name, and worst of all, it doesn’t bother me at all; long ago I became one with my worthless, uninventive nickname. And then I went on a trip somewhere, and on that trip my hosts decided to show me this church. All right, I said, in my boring life so far I’ve entered at least five thousand churches, I might as well enter this one too.
Anyway, God is the same everywhere, mute and unreachable.
I’d like to say a few things about God now, I don’t know why, perhaps because of Marija. It took me years to reconcile myself with the hurtful realisation that the world is meaningless and indifferent, but I still don’t understand why it is horrible on top of everything else... the daily pile-up of horrors, the madness of horror, pure pain... And it is also beautiful in its meaninglessness and deformity. That is why I can only speak of God as a metaphor, the crucial question is not whether He exists but whether we need Him. If we do, we’ll think Him up, and that is precisely what we’re doing. And what is also of importance is how that which we need announces itself to us, say, as... as love, as beauty, as embrace... It would appear to me that it most often announces itself to us as pain, and through pain. Those who claim to have seen God, as a rule they suffered pain, and touched Him at the rock bottom of pain, not high up there... Everyday life is full of meaning that is found lacking, indifference, horror, stupidity, baseness and hurting, God is nowhere to be found. Whatever we do mainly boils down to giving and receiving blows, and causing others pain, and we all know that we need something more than that, and that which we need may be called God, may be called love, may be called anything, say, Danube, say... a sunny day. On a sunny day, my friend and I like to sit at Boban’s on the raft and to watch the river flow without saying anything, lost in our own thoughts... where was I, ah, yes, we came in front of that church, I indifferent...
– Come on – they said to me – there’s something you must see. Absolutely. You’ll see why.
I make no bones about it, we enter. And the moment I came in, I understood what it was all about, if you can talk about understanding at all in this case. On one of the walls, towering over me, the first angel floated, wearing a red robe which burned like a conflagration.
– Hey, namesake! – I whispered. Elevated.
And that was that.
On that day when I met Marija, some of the miracle and the power of my encounter with my angel-namesake was manifested anew. It was raining, one of those slimy, dull New Belgrade rains, when you feel like a wet cloth and when you feel, with your skin rather than your thoughts, that perhaps the only truly important human issue, the one which resolves everything, is whether you’ll manage to find someone you can hug... I collected Isidora in front of the school, according to the arrangement I’d made with her mother, my ex-wife, the epitome of perfection. M-hm, that’s right. If you should think I’m being cynical, you’re wrong. My ex-wife is perfect in everything, in the sense that she did everything in life correctly and in a timely manner, no matter how big or small the matter was.
May I offer some proof? All right, you know the type of people with whom everything is so unbelievably normal and in its right place, that, with time, they become faceless and, even worse, entirely unerotic, as attractive as an ironing board. On top of everything else, it lasted too long, we grew so close that, over time, we got to be like brother and sister, and what we did at night occasionally started to resemble incest, except that there’s a certain amount of passion in incest, I suppose. Her entire life unfolded under full control, she always knew what she wanted and what she was aiming for when it came to her education, career... I am prepared to testify that even her falling in love was somehow planned – if the truth must be told, it was a mistake falling in love with this Spinoza, irrevocably convinced that logic was an invented science, derived from our desperate urge to invent God and to discern ourselves amidst chaos. This chaos tosses us about as it pleases, and we keep trying to impose some order upon it. And when we get the specious impression that, somehow or other, we’ve managed just that, when after premises A and B some sort of conclusion follows, then it all dries up...
Then come the wedding, children’s birthdays, relatives and friends, choosing a place for your summer holiday one year ahead: as soon as we arrive on Mt Zlatibor, she says, well, next year we’re going to Egypt, then it’s shopping for clothes on a regular basis, and decorating the home, going out with her female friends-marchionesses at five o’clock every second Tuesday in the month, everything so very orderly. Every day the same. A woman-ro¬bot: she walks, works, breathes, applies winged sanitary towels and thinks the point of living is that everything should be in its proper place. Until one morning, after a spell of bodily hygiene, her husband, a proven and passionate aficionado of logical syllogisms - that is to say, me - gets out of bed feeling that, until two minutes before, he had been making love to a cyborg. Even her orgasm was perfectly normal, ah, ah, plus the inevitable: it was wonderful. Of course, there was the final kiss, before both of us jumped to our feet and set off on our separate ways, determined to read Humiliated and Offended in its entirety that day and, needless to say, destroy Carthage.
And so it was raining, I collected Isidora, placed a jacket on her shoulders and sheltered her under my umbrella, and she said to me that we were to wait for Milena, they had arranged to play together that afternoon. When Milena finally got out of school, Marija appeared, and so the four of us made for their building. As it turned out, Isidora had forgotten to tell my perfect ex-wife that she would be having lunch at her friend’s and that she would stay there to play with her, so I took on the role of a conscientious father and, having been cordially invited upstairs by Marija, popped in to telephone my ex. And having gone in, good manners made it de rigeur to have a cup of tea; I only drink hot wine in the evenings. While our daughters were playing in Milena’s room, I wished, I don’t know why, that I could play with Marija a bit. We didn’t, though.
The first semester passed.
The drought started early, sometime in April. An attenuated voice of reason inside me warns me to watch what I’m saying, what do you mean – drought in April, April is the wettest month, cruelly so, but no, this time round it really was dry, a demonic period, not a drop of rain for days, weeks, months, right until the end of the school year. I woke up feeling as if I’d just been placed inside a crematorium, the heat well and truly scorched the earth. I interpret that as a sign from heaven, as a warning.
I saw Marija again at the school, when she came, just like me, to collect her daughter’s progress report booklet from the teacher. The girls were attending the so-called recreational classes, which was actually out-of-classroom teaching, conducted out of town as well, and as for my friend, with whom in the meantime I’d gone to football matches and fishing several times, he had been detained somewhere or other in town. Marija smiled at me, and then, in a quite relaxed manner, without any hesitation, without any false despair, as if she were telling me I don’t know what, as if joking, she said to me that she knew her good husband visited brothels (which, incidentally, was true, he’d invited me to join him), but so what, everyone is entitled to his little eccentricities. Then she made a dramatic pause, wondering whether to say anything else. And she said: I like your hands, and I particularly like the seriousness with which you do Isidora’s homework, I’ve looked at her notebooks to compare them with Milena’s, you don’t leave any ink stains. That’s true, I thought, noticing for the first time a characteristic of mine that I’ll talk about later. Yes, yes, God is implacable and, after just thirty years or so, I made up for all those gaps in my education left over from my school days, so that I finally mastered the intricacies of Milan Ra¬ki¬ć’s poem “The Water-wheel” and complex mathematical operations, including the division of decimal numbers.
It’s never too late.
I wanted to tell her, by way of reply, that I liked her feet. No, this has nothing to do with China, a small foot is considered to be a sign of divine harmony everywhere. I’ll explain why. If, four or five years ago, you read the following advertisement: I’m looking for a girl with small feet - well it was me, Mi¬ha¬i¬lo Mihailovič. I was getting divorced, and this thing with advertisements and feet was my little eccentricity, which may have had to do with the fact that my ex, the perfect wife wore size 41 shoes, whereas I wear size 43, she could wear my Chinese Nike trainers quite comfortably. Be that as it may, I only became aware of that after some while, when my desire for a change became quite unequivocal and was called – small feet. Marija fit the bill, her nine-year-old daughter already had bigger feet than her, she could no longer wear her mother’s trainers.
And the drought went on and on, as if it had no intention of ever stopping.
We entered their flat with our daughters’ report booklets full of top grades, suffused with those feelings of contentment with which a child who is an excellent pupil justly comes home expecting to be praised and rewarded. We felt like that with good reason, our efforts were a part of their success. As soon as she entered her flat, Marija took off her shoes, which left me breathless.
Forgive me, God, for taking Your name so shamelessly, she had the most exciting feet east of Greenwich. This is what I did: first I stared at those feet, enchanting and pure, close to the light the way Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Selatiel, Jegudiel, Barachiel and the arch-strategist whose name I bear had been close to. A great wave slowly swelled inside me... her leg, having got out of a small shoe, a child’s shoe, at that moment I thought of my daughter’s shoe, not her daughter’s, made its way towards... I’m choking as I say this. And then I grabbed that foot, took a white, child’s sock off it with trembling fingers, and then took Marija’s big toe, a millimetre or two shorter than her long toe, which, according to my grandmother’s belief, meant that she would outlive her husband, a thoroughly decent man whom I’d known for ages. I could even say, as I have already, that I consider him a friend, if a deeply hidden mutual aversion cultivated for years could be called that. And why not, friendship, just like love, has a thousand faces. I licked my friend’s wife from head to toe, not neglecting a single part of her skin, neither armpit, nothing, thus purifying her of all sins, preparing her to face an angel...
... afterwards we sat and talked. That can be interesting, provided that you’re listening to someone else’s, not your own voice.
– I’m getting old – she said.
– How come?
– I know it’s not noticeable, for now. But I get nervous, I no longer talk to my husband, I can’t remember when we looked at each other like lovers last, I shout at my daughter, I don’t have an orderly life. And everything hurts, nothing hurts specifically, but I feel some pain all the time.
I suppose that something of the sort occasionally happens to you, that someone utters your own sentences, and you just can’t believe it, as if that person were reading your mind. This is that holy identity which enlightened me when we were reading to each other homework papers on the coming of spring and on segmented worms, our distant ancestors... hey, wait, that’s precisely what I wanted to say...
– You know what – Ma¬ri¬ja continued uttering my own words, while outside the New Belgrade heat turned the city into a desert without people, its high-rise apartment blocks made up of thousands of godless monastic cells wherein TV screens shone instead of icons, spooky fortresses full of lonely souls like the two of us at that moment in time, never mind that a moment before we breathed together – you know, she said, nothing is clear to me any longer. A total, perfect, big nothing. Whatever I do, I run into pain, everything ends in pain. For example, love is just an introduction to pain, if we love someone, is it not, in the final analysis, just so that, once it’s all over, we can die from pain, so that...
– You’re exaggerating somewhat – I said in order to comfort her, even though (I’m repeating myself) I thought the very same thing.
– No, not at all. Listen, if anything was love, what I had with him was love, and then it disappeared, not immediately, it was a gradual process, a milligram on a daily basis, and so it went for years, you don’t have to believe me, but eventually tenderness disappeared from our lives for good and everything became a habit, quite literally everything, making love became a habit as well, neither he nor I made an effort at it, it was mostly taking, never giving, never surrendering to the other...
Yes, that’s precisely it, I confirmed to myself, the same with me. But I didn’t say anything. Never mind, she did:
– And then, quite madly, thinking that we make up for something by doing so, we rush headlong into affairs like this one. Nothing personal, I’m very fond of you, and you really turn in decent homework (she chuckled¬), but everything ends in pain eventually, pain is the only thing that grows inside us, which never stops and continues to increase, as long as we are aware of ourselves, and most likely even after that.
– And worst of all – I continued – the realisation that this is so does not diminish it at all. I can explain everything to myself, I can make everything meaningful, but it doesn’t mean that pain will then stop, on the contrary, it seems that pain tends to increase parallel with the depth of your insight, desperation deepens with our realisation that we were preordained for pain.
– And whatever we do are merely temporary solutions, putting out a fire by pouring petrol over it.
– That’s it, precisely, illusions. Nothing but illusions. Always pain anew, always some bad construction. It’s supposed to justify some act of ours that we commit in order to fool ourselves that everything is all right, it’s always some logical, allegedly rational invention through which we try to cheat chaos and not being able to manage, but in the end it’s always pain, regardless of the fact that now we have some experience in it. Everything always starts anew.
M-hm, that’s right, you can barely speak of pain, you mainly endure pain, so our conversation sagged a bit, before we found other topics and started talking about homework, giving head and a number of other things. And it immediately felt better, old age and pain await us anyway. On the way out, in the ante-room, we stopped in front of the mirror, Ma¬ri¬ja stood behind me and, petite as she was, could not be seen at all. For a moment it seemed to me that I was alone, and that all that, that scene, that conversation, even Ma¬ri¬ja’s foot, was just an illusion, that I was dreaming and would wake up at any moment.
All the same, I remembered whatever she’d said about homework, how it should be written so that teachers don’t realise that it was done by parents, and what mustn’t be left out at any cost. School is an assembly line for manufacturing future big zombies, and what she said about giving head wasn’t bad. Men are rather simple, she said, the easiest way of buying them is by giving them head. It’s not too much trouble, takes about five minutes of effort, is exciting, and afterwards men are corrupted by it forever. While they are being given head, they imagine they’re masters of the world. Each man thinks so, for, in fact, he is that at that particular moment. Yes, I concurred, accepting this piece of wisdom, but later on, outside, on the pavement, I wondered, sucked out as I was, while the air around me trembled from the heat, if that was so, whether almost all men were masters of the world, that same story was happening everywhere. Half a million masters of the world, at least half a million little slobbering Hitlers this very second, while women are giving them head, imagine that the world is theirs for the taking. Perhaps the solution resides in the fact that it seems to each one of them that it is happening to him alone and no one else, and everyone thinks that he is dreaming a dream from which he’ll wake up at any moment...
We said good-bye and I left Marija’s flat, firmly resolved never to go there again, even at the risk that there would be no one to check my daughter’s homework – mine, that is. I felt like someone who had betrayed a friend, and with good reason, guilty conscience is also a form of pain that we inflict upon ourselves. I really hate having to console someone, just as much as I hate being consoled by someone, for if the truth be told, we are all deeply inconsolable and should stay that way, that comes from our very existence, what is there to explain? Even divine creatures like Marija live their tiny, burdensome lives, full of everyday stupid little things and meaningless questions. And they all feel sorry for themselves, everybody else is better off than them, but no, I’m sick of this constant endurance of life, endless waiting for bad news. It’s easier for me to deal with others than with myself. I want to wait for some good news, no matter whether it’ll ever come, the important thing for me is that I’m waiting for something...
... and now I hardly know how I’ll go on from there. It’s best to do it in an orderly fashion. If there is any order to it whatsoever, if it’s not just chaos and pain in one hundred disconnected episodes. It became unbearably hypocritical, yes, yes, I stopped going to Marija’s flat, I decided to put a stop to it, it’s never OK to have an affair with your friend’s wife. I did so, without any explanation, but I kept thinking about her, constantly and inevitably. The drought raged in the months that followed; not even the oldest inhabitants of New Belgrade remembered such a catastrophe, the asphalt became deformed, the thin earth became as hard as concrete, the parks were burning. It was a strange time, as if a heavy fog had fallen on us all and closed us into a hopeless, dismal loneliness, loneliness amidst a crowd. Life unfolded as a desert mirage, full of burning air, which shimmered in the distance over the city’s main boulevard.
I couldn’t live with Marija, I couldn’t live without Marija.
And another thing. I decided to tell her husband everything. In the meantime, we’d met several times, we went to see a derby that decided the championship, then attended the Fe¬sti¬val of Rock Ve¬te¬ra¬ns, where some of our acquaintances played Dylan’s songs; prophets announce themselves in very diverse ways even today. We went fishing as well, without any success, for hours we’d sit over the river, keeping mum and waiting, in vain, although there is nothing vain about this passion. And then, once when we went together to the river, my good friend beat me to it.
We arrived at our usual place at the crack of dawn. A hot day was in the offing, one of those that await us in hell.
– Well, Mi¬ha¬i¬lo Mi¬ha¬i¬lo¬vi¬č, my friend – my friend said – we’re slowly getting older.
– What do you mean – getting older? – I asked. – Look at this water, death is far away.
– It is, I don’t deny it, but it’s getting closer. The turtle catches up with Achilles sooner or later, you remember what our logic teacher used to say.
– Whoever gives a toss about that?
– Me, for one.
– Come on, change the topic.
– All right, I will. Tell me, how serious is this thing between you and Marija?
The silence lasted three and a half seconds, I timed it, I have an inner clock. Flustered, I wanted to gain some time. I didn’t know what to say. Or what one says in such situations. I only stammered:
– I suppose you know...
– I know, she told me...
... a few weeks after that conversation Ma¬ri¬ja phoned me and asked where I had been, why I never called. And so I went to her flat again. A decision is a decision, and small feet are small feet, small feet are a million times better reason than any decision, they take precedence over anything, they can even make us forget about pain for a moment, the pain that never stops, that is beneath everything, in everything, above everything, inside us and around us.
Later on, things always unfolded the same way. After leaving Marija’a flat, I always decided it was the last time, and every time she called again I rushed to meet her, it was quite simply something I couldn’t resist. Moreover, when I think about it afterwards, I see that, with time, you start developing your worst characteristics, say, recklessness and selfishness, which you once believed you didn’t have. Still, they manifest themselves sooner or later, first you try to suppress them and do everything in your power to smother them, but as that is impossible, for your worst characteristics are the devil’s invention and are very efficient, then you slowly succumb to them, and even worse, you start enjoying them, the way I enjoyed Marija, not caring whether I was causing my friend pain. I couldn’t prove it logically (I don’t know how), but I’m convinced that it is so: pain is non-transferrable and unpronounceable... he never said anything to me except that he knew... what the hell could he say to me at all, pain requires us to dedicate ourselves to it completely... And while he, on the days that Marija called me to her place, wandered around somewhere, I sank into his wife feeling great pangs of conscience on account of that sin. It was a sin worthy of being redeemed by my namesake, the archangel. Only he could do it, he knows that passion is stronger than sin.
And I think that God understands it, that’s why he places pain somewhere close to passion.
It meant nothing to me that my friend was probably doing to someone else the very same thing I was doing to him or that someone had done to me once, so I kept on doing it out of deepest desperation and deepest passion, overstepping myself, succumbing to the embrace that outgrew me. While we lose ourselves in that holy act, at least for a moment we free ourselves from the thought that we are mortal; I hastened to see her feet and, m-hm, her breasts, they’re something special. Yes, as I’ve told you, at this very moment it is happening to hundreds of thousands of men, this desire to see breasts as soon as possible, and each and every one of them thinks that he has seen something special, but do I need to swear on this, Marija’s breasts were something special precisely because I looked at them... milky¬ Ma¬ri¬ja.
And now, after everything.
I sit here in my room, uncalled, still unaccustomed to my future life. The day is hot and stuffy, it’s been like that for months, white-hot concrete, the air saturated with fumes. All of a sudden, pain disappeared somewhere, as if it had sunk into some voiceless, unreachable depth, and inside me I feel joy on account of the fact that life is unfolding, that I’m breathing and thinking, thinking of anything, even of the fact that I’ve had my friend’s wife. Sounds of thunder are heard from somewhere. Little by little, clouds gather and the wind rises, I watch the air-sucker scattering dust and garbage in front of my building. Large, heavy raindrops fall onto the ground, and then the entire sky opens and a terrible downpour descends upon New Belgrade as if it were Judgement Day.
Not for nothing did Bob Dylan say: The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.
I know how this story of mine that I had to tell will end. In about half an hour, when the sun shines again, for it’s always like that in this suicidal city, I’ll open the windows wide and start to breathe in fresh air greedily with my congested lungs.