#2 the lion roars

PART 1 – LIQUID PEACE

 

PART 2 – PATIENT PAPER 

The police station was accommodated in an old building, a school from the 19th century.

It took me three hours to get anywhere near Benny.

They had me fill out seven forms, both sides, all identical. The policeman in charge ripped two forms apart, and I had to start again. “Hand slipped.” His comment slapped my ears. This was nothing but mile high harassment. I knew it. The police man knew it, and I tried not to get too angry.

Then they had me write down what happened from the phone call on, till now.

Time delaying tactics. Maybe they searched and bugged my apartment right about now. They must have turned Benny’s upside down already.

 I tried to remember, if there was anything suspicious in my flat, something that could get me in jail.

Nothing to hide…

No political literature, beside what was permitted and encouraged. Some family photos, but I’m the only one left alive, so no danger on that end. No newspapers or magazines, no radio – lucky me. Only cigarettes, coffee and booze and dirty laundry.

Still, they told me to wait.

On the other side of the dirty window, the sky caught fire on the margins. The sun would be up in less then half an hour. Exhaustion burned under my eyelids, like sand. I attempted to close them, it stung like salt on an open wound. I feared my eyelids wouldn’t go all the way down. I pushed with with my fingertips against them. The burn eased a tiny bit, only to be replaced by headache. Benny mattered now most. As soon as I opened them, the artificial light made them water. I had to focus on Benny.

 From somewhere outside, they dragged Benny in, hands cuffed behind his back. He stumbled forward, face pale and bright and full with terror and relief. He was scared to death. From the stains on his clothes, I could tell he had wet his pants.

This was, what a man on death row looks like. Nausea greeted me. God! I had to push that thought out of my head fast.

At first glance there seemed nothing wrong with him, only a split lip. His wet hair stuck to his sweaty forehead. I was three feet away from him. I could reach out, but I knew better than that.

The uniform holding  his left elbow grunted. “He fell all by himself. Clumsy, like a child.” The other man at his right and the policeman, I gave my forms to, laughed. The smell of ethanol and urine hit me. It was a roaring filthy laugh, a laugh you laugh at a salt covered foaming snail, or at a cringing burning spider.

The man on his left pulled a lighter out of his pocket. Benny whined and jerked back as far as he could. I had to swallow hard, clench my teeth, so no reaction escaped me. The uniform at his right lifted his right elbow, forcing him down. His face got close enough to the flame that he could have breathed it out. He did nothing. He just trembled.

Behind me, the slick voice from the telephone harrumphed. The man put away his lighter, and the other uniforms straightened up. Everything went silent.

“So you are friends with Jews and Hungarians, doctor?” That man… The hair on my neck stood on end. Benny’s face fell, he winced. Slowly, I turned around. “Uncuff.” His voice is barely audible, but the uniforms obeyed. Clicks and a sigh could only mean, Benny was free now.

The man leaned with his elbow over a filing cabinet, posture most casual. He was bigger than me, wiry stature. He had broad forehead, a long crooked nose, broken once but healed well and bushy brows. His dark eyes seemed to sparkle with mischief.

From the edge of his lips hung a lit cigarette. Ash clung to the paper. His clothes were elegant, no uniform, coat and shoes handmade. He blew smoke through his nostrils right into my face. I didn’t breathe. Manicured hands, I noticed. Nothing cheap about this man, this was no foot soldier. This was someone, a big someone. This was an intelligent, well educated high ranking officer. He smiled a peaceable smile, perfect teeth hid behind his lips.

This man could only mean trouble.

I steadied my voice. “Only this one.” What a stupid thing to say! My head was empty, there was nothing witty to say.

“Your boss says, you are a capable man. A bit soft, but capable nevertheless. We’ll see about that.” He looks at his manicured nails with interest.

He noded a tiny bit, and the men shoved Benny into my back. I felt him bump into me, grab for my jacket and going down unto his knees.

The man chuckled and waved a hand. “So collect your garbage and go.”

#1 – the lion roars

PART 1  - LIQUID PEACE
Part 2 - PATIENT PAPER

The gutter dripped and the rain drops rapped hard on the kitchen window. My eyes were already open. The bedsheets felt cold and damp. The shutters in the living room rattled with the wind gusts.  I’ve been staring at the dark ceiling for nearly three hours. I sat up. Sleep was busy somewhere else.

Another rotten night.

My mind was stuck in ruminating mode. There was no point in trying to sleep. Heavy rainstorm washed over the town. So thirsty… I tried to breathe. The merry-go-round in my head kept me replaying the last two weeks, pining me to decisions, yanking me back and forth between faces and screams and tears. Decisions that were not my wisest… 

Wasn’t enough. 

I thought of the woman with begging eyes. She came into the ER, during my shift. She had fever, and severe abdominal pain. I guessed her secret right away. Her deep ocean green eyes betrayed her, I could read in them. Everyone could…  That she had attempted  abortion. Bleeding and in pain, she got down on her knees and pleaded. Immediately I got her a bed, and called a trustworthy gynecologist I knew. I trusted him to keep his mouth shut. I trusted that a human life was more important to him than law.

I was wrong.

Nevertheless, I started her on antibiotics and enough painkillers. I refused to make a blood test. If it was positive, she’d go to jail. Maybe she would anyway… If she’d survive, that is… I had Rose, the head nurse, look after her.

I cannot just watch and wait for her to die, that’s what I told her, and that’s what I told the head medic.

He stopped all medication. That bigoted windbag stopped ALL of her medication and I got sent home for a month. Rose tried to calm me down, but by God – I… I.

The oxygen left the room. Two days ago, Rose called. The woman with the begging eyes died. My skin felt dry and hot, like a heat blanket over a snowman.

There was this nagging icy feeling wrenching my guts, that I just couldn’t shrug off. I could use some peace for once – some sleep, or unconsciousness. I could use some liquid peace… I thought of the empty liquor bottles lined up in the kitchen. Vodka was sometimes your only friend. It was a reliable friend. Brushing over my  burning face, my forehead was sticky with sweat.

The phone rang. The sinking feeling sank deeper.

I got up. The cold floor burned  under my soles. I went to the hallway to pick it up, but my hand hovered above it.

Important? Work? Catastrophe? Which is it?

I asked myself. It did nothing to buffer the leaden dread sitting on my chest.

I grabbed the phone. “‘llo?”

“Comrade Hoia?” The stern voice on the end of the line felt like a brick wall I was about to smack into.

“Yes,” I swallowed. ”Who is this?” The man didn’t answer. Statics filled my head. This was a catastrophe, I decided. I heard a pen scratch on paper.

“I’ve got a young man here, a Hungarian Jew. He says, he knows you, comrade.”

Benny… What have you done this time?

Was this police or worse? Securitate? “His name is Benjamin Ekes,” yawned the man.

“Yes.” I croaked. “I know him.” My throat was stinging, I couldn’t suppress a cough. I heard a faint echo of myself coughing. They were recording the call. Securitate it was. My heart knotted.

A big drink, I rubbed my lips, a whole bottle.

“Do you, comrade Hoia?” He paused amused. “Then come and pick him up. Police station.” The man hung up.

“On my way.” I said, listening to the disconnected tone in the line. With every heartbeat it grew louder and louder. I stood in the darkness.

Pull yourself together.

I needed to get going. Who knows what they did to Benny. I grabbed some clothes and spares for Benny, gauze and disinfectant. On a second thought, I called the ER at the polyclinic I work, and had Rose on the phone. At least, some silver lining. She understood immediately what was going on. She said, she’d  had the scrubs ready, if needed. God bless good old Rose, the smartest nurse I ever worked with.

Two minutes later I was on the deserted main road, heading downtown. The rain came down in curtains. My car seemed to be the only one in the whole wide world. I lit a cigarette, and thought of all the peaceful people who could actually sleep. In their beds.

Benny needed me.

And I? I needed a drink, and a month worth of sleep.

 

nothing of value

Her expression is empty. It always is.

Holding that old crutch of hers, she walks slowly. She tries to look miserable too. But that isn’t really hard with those exposed and broken legs of hers.

“A cripple has nothing valuable to lose,” her father says, before burning her.  He says it, before  he  breaks her ankle and knee.  First on the right side, then the left.

    Her stretched out palm seems to be calmly begging. She avoids to look at the faces. People are easily annoyed. No eye contact, she has been told. That is important.

    „There is nothing to see,” she tells herself. Although… There is something worth looking at, maybe even staring at.

She has seen it so many times. It makes her want to puke, right on the shoes of everyone around. That something she refuses to acknowledge: disgust, mixed with pity. What a hateful thing to show her! The pang of regret she can handle, maybe the glow of relief in their eyes too.

Truly, she hates the naked gladness, she can recognize in their faces. The ease, that they do not have to share her fate; the ease, when she hobbles away.

„There is nothing important to see.“ She won’t bother. She won’t look. She breathes in, then out.

    After three seconds of waiting, she turns to the next person. Still begging with her free hand. Repeating, carefully pronounced „danke schön” and the pleading „bitte hilfe“ the best she can. She has to concentrate to pronounce the german words in the proper order. No slurring, no biting off syllables, no hastily spoken vocals. Anna, her best friend, has taught her those phrases, in the strange barking language.

    The Metro shakes violently, nearly throwing her off balance. A big hand grabs her under her armpit. It pulls her up. She doesn’t dare to move. She doesn’t dare to look. The grip tightens.

It is her guard, pulling her on her feet. He is an obese man, speaking her language, and strong enough to beat her to death. In fact, he is guarding the money, not her.

He keeps leaning on her other crutch. Naturally, he doesn’t need it, but uses it as  weapon and tool. He scratches his back with it, beats stray dogs and homeless people, beats her too. He reeks of sweat and onions. Disgusting. Her aversion grows each day. It is enough to observe him eat and drink, which he does, as often as he can. The guard keeps behaving like a pig, wasting her cripple money.

    The only good thing about being crippled is, that you have nothing of value to lose. She keeps telling herself, sometimes with her father’s voice.

    She is happy about one thing though, one thing her father freed her from. Men are disgusted by her look, and her burnt legs and back. Not one of them would touch her, not even drunk. No one would ever bother her in bed. She counts on that.

    From time to time she dreams of her home and family. She dreams, that she is back in their hut, near the abandoned dump, at the edge of an overgrown garden. Mother makes fire outside and smoke billows inside. She sits in her plastic chair, prepares potatoes and other vegetables for lunch. Her brothers play cards or sword fight, or chase each other in the one room they all have to share.

    This is where the dream takes a bad turn.

    Her father comes home, with two guests. One of them is her uncle, the other a stranger. A friendly man, with a pot belly and a big golden watch on his wrist. He is smiling a lot, winks at her. The men talk a bit before entering. The stranger is the only one sober. „You don’t need to clean those potatoes anymore,” he says warmly. „We are going on a journey now, an adventure!“ She hears her mother arguing outside. Her father screams at her, to know her place. She can hear a short loud slapping sound, then sobbing. How furious she was at her father… He was hitting mother again.

„You know.“ The man squats down beside her, looks at her knowingly. „You are a smart girl, I see that now. You are ten, aren’t you?“ She nods. „If you come with me, you will make money. A lot of money, more than you can imagine. You can do with it, what you want. Maybe send it home to your mother. So she doesn’t have to work so hard.“ The stranger’s eyes lock on hers.

    She nods again. Mother needs help, he is right about that. She knows it. So the best thing she can do in her state, is going with him. Earning money is a dream. He even helps her into his car, buckles her up. Then she turns around to look for her mother. She wants to wave her  good-bye. She’s nowhere. In the entrance of their hut, her father and uncle smile and wave at her. She wakes up sweating and crying.     

    Where was her mother? She doesn’t know.

    What became of her brothers? She doesn’t know.

    What happens with her, when she gets older?

That is not important. A cripple has nothing valuable to lose.

a record keeper

WHY I WRITE – a Chuck Wendig prompt

I fell in love with stories.

It hit me one day, without warning.

I remember it perfectly. I was about eight years old, and it was a rainy afternoon in November. Outside, everything was washed grey, silhouettes started dissolving into the murky atmosphere. Dust washed away with dirt water… Even the sunlight through the rain clouded more than it revealed.

Somehow, everything about my childhood seems grey, hollow and vague. I grew up in a socialistic land on the brink of revolution, and its aftermath. Nothing was like it ment to be…

That day, I stood at the balcony door and stared out into the rain. Below, people were busily running around, surviving the strains of everyday life. I thought of my everyday life, and I didn’t like the pictures forming in my mind. I hated my everyday life. The ink stains on my thumb fore- and middle finger itched. I saw no differences, no contrasts, just boundaries and limitations.

That cursed moment I felt my heart bursting with anger, fear and frustration. There was no way I could escape that grayness around me; in me… No matter how far I went, what I did, it won’t rub off. Ever. It was etched under my skin, in the tone of my words, it was the background noise of my dreams. That special kind of grey, it will always be part of me. It will always stay there, dulling my senses, my thoughts, my emotions.

I was lost.

The pain of swallowed glass shards and strung heart kept me company for a quite a few years after that day.

I started writing. That day, I started writing a little story. I don’t remember it any more, only the ruled paper and the unevenly scribbled sentences stretching from one end of the line to the other, in purplish ink.

Something happened. In that domineering conformity of grey, the paper seemed glowing snow white, although I soiled it with my pen. It was different. It was new. It was; I was dumbstruck.

I felt the lash of a whip over my head, a cracking thunder, or  maybe a sudden notion of meaning (though I never had the right words for that, just an overwhelming pull to the Inside-of-whatever-that-Was). I remember how desperate I was, not knowing what to do, or who to tell. What was going on? What happened to me? I kept wondering, how long this state would last. What should it mean to me? Wrecking my brain for a solution, for any solution, I got none…

Thinking back, I’m convinced that something important hid itself. Something that mattered and still matters to me, I guess. But like all (really) important things, it’s invisible, untouchable, not tastable, not audible… I know it’s there, it pulls me.

It still plays hide and seek with me. It makes me crazy! It is on the tip of my tongue, and I´m not able to reveal it to the world, nor to myself. I dubbed it my core, my everything, my love, my dream.

The struggle began: I wrote, it ran through my fingers like sand. I wrote, it changed shape. I wrote, it dissolved into thin air.

So I wrote…

With time, I´ve achieved tools of revelation : words, languages, pictures, stories. In that sensible time of my life, I fell for stories. I truly did, as soon, as I realized, they ment freedom, they were my escape route. I was so happy, that I could explore the infinite silhouette of That-which-refuses-to-show-Itself…

You know, the wonderful thing about stories is, that they manage to still my hunger, my anger, my anxiety. Which is pretty impressive, I can tell you that!

I´m not sure if I have a style, or talent of any kind. I´m not sure, if I´m even good at what I´m doing, nor that I´m ment to have success with it. But that is not the point. What I do, I need to do. I´ve got a regular job, which keeps my brain distracted from this obsession. It distracts me from my tracks and fakes my needs. It holds up my hunt. Frustrating that is, being caged up like this… I´m a physician. I have to help others.

Can´t wait that others will help me one day, cause that´s not happening. Never does. Writing is my own medicine. Storytelling is my doctor. It keeps me grounded. It keeps me happy and… sane. Yes, I know, it sounds pathetic – it’s therapy.

As it is, it helps me to observe ´n recognize, what I´m not able to see under my own power.

I don´t think, I´m a writer, or artist. There is no art in what I´m doing. I´m only recording, what´s happening inside… I may not be a good record keeper either, but I try. So my writing is more a documentary work. It is proof, that I exist… Somehow…

Does this make any sense? I don´t know.

thoughts on shuffle

IMG_3447There are places, which make me stop and think for a while. 

I’ll be more precise.

The feeling they give me, makes me stop. Suddenly I have not enough breath in my lungs and my feet stretch to touch the core of the planet. A weird kind of buzzing fills the space between my ears…

I’ve been here before, haven’t I?

And then I’m empty. It is some kind of blankness. A cold sensation in my stomach. I start to doubt that I’m hermetically locked into my skin. For a moment I’m sure there is a hole somewhere. Something ripped through me, and I didn’t notice. I’m leaking. Or maybe the world is seeping into me. I know it will squeeze me into my every pore, into every wrinkle of my being, pushing me to the outer rim of what uses to me be…

Movement stops.

I fall.

At least, I think it is some kind of falling sensation. A random plummeting to the ground. Downward sucking notion, but without the wet kissing thud at the end. Without hitting any surfaces, without the crashing and breaking, without the impact… Just falling. 

In those moment – I have hope. Hope to find my purpose, my place in the world I inhabit. The hunch I need to grasp the meaning behind all this…being-human thing. It is almost a fully formed thought, a nearly recognized feeling.

I have been here before, haven’t I? 

Isn’t it ironic? I can’t seem to realize it…

“That’s a lot of blood!”

Alec’s remark falls from my shoulder.

“Stop motivating the bleeding,” I tell him. “Be more helpful. Here, hold this. Stop shaking. Just hold it, with two fingers. Ok?” I guide his fingers around the sereffine. Luckily he has surgical gloves on.

We’re on the right track. I’m nearly done, only the skin suture left to be done. I did a rather good job. Nothing fancy, still enough left to do a patch-up.

I take the sereffine back,  and sling the suture material around it. Tightening it once, twice, just to be sure a third time too. The sereffine comes off. “There. See? No more blood.” I state and finish the work.

flashbacks

Why is it, that suddenly everything starts to gravitate towards the edge?
Those jagged edges of the you-shaped hole chew away my reality.

I let my fingers, thoughts and heart brush over it. Just to be sure, it is there. I’m not imagining it. Not imagining you.

Sharp. I cut myself remembering you. Missing you… Returning to the same spot. Hurting again.

Sometimes it’s a cracking sound, sometimes a wet ripping… Sometimes the gut twisting silence I’m forced to listen to.

And then… What a relief! There you are! Behind my eyelids. You move. Somewhere. Somewhere far away. You stir. The perfume of your skin, your lips and that wicked happy-to-deadly smile flash back, blind me.  Freeze me. Stop me. Stop my time. That smile…

It burns.

Why is it, that your pull influences my days and nights, my every dusk and dawn?

Why can’t I sleep? Not in our bed, only cramped on the sofa or at the dining table?

The emptiness beside me rips me into waking. Drags me back into the cold and the light… Another day…

Why is it, that I dream of the touch of your fingertips? That I phantasize your movements, next to me, under the sheets… Your breathing… Why can’t it be otherwise? My life… Only without you.

Still.

Your sweet humming and singing keeps me company. In my head, your voice comments and laughs, as if amused; points out the little details you used to notice…

Why must I …

Why can’t I move on?