среда, февраля 16, 2005

At School (II and last)

Dima did not answer. He looked at the floor, at the rectangular, smooth faces of the centuries-old parallelepipeds. Then he looked once again at the narrow lane leading to the street, with the doorman’s house to the left and the white lamplights flashing like a beacon above the city, beyond the brick pavement. And then he looked to the other side, at the pink building of the ancient orphanage where he had classes. Behind it the chapel tower ostensibly showed its slow-paced clock, as it loomed in the star-spotted darkness, bereft of the city and its damp lights outside.

And from there he looked at the winged hybrid standing in the garden, alone. But then his mother showed up, hugging him and explaining that she had had a last-hour meeting at work, and Dad did not know that she could not pick him up at school. She thanked the doorman for keeping an eye on her son and, as Dima listened to the doorman’s humble reply (the kid had been behaving well, if she would not show up one of the nuns would have called his parents anyway), he started crying, and begged his mother to go home. She deduced that he was hungry, he had not had food since the mid-afternoon snack, and he said good-bye to the doorman and they left. On the way home he pictured in his mind the simple dinner the doorman’s family would have, he pictured the daughter with the limp running around the house at night, and he felt compassion for them (maybe he did not know yet what compassion was in theoretical terms, but he felt it nevertheless). But he wanted to go to bed now.

And, in the darkness of his room, hearing the low humming of cars on the street outside, he could not scare away from his mind the image of the granite-bodied creature who had kept him company at twilight. He imagined him shivering with cold and with fear of the hounds; even though he was one of those half-Godlike creatures who were closer to God than us, the angel was alone in the garden, stuck to the grayish pedestal. Dima turned around in bed, and different thoughts entertained his slumber.

At School (I)

After having stared fixedly at the arm for a couple of minutes, directing occasionally the pair of black pupils to the wing, and then back to the arm, he concluded that undoubtedly both appendages were moving. It did not matter how slowly they moved; he clearly sensed that, under the golden light of sunset, the arm and the wing were shrinking, approaching the ivory-white body until all dust would be crushed in between the limb and the thorax, in between the useless and heavy organ of flight and the spine.

It was getting dark already. All the other kids had already gone home, except for the little girl who lived two steps away from the school entrance. She was the daughter of the doorman, a short man with sunburnt skin and grayish hair who – the school kids used to say – wandered alone through the school at night, when not even the most fervorous of the nuns, under the protection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, would dare to leave her room in order to knock at a neighbor’s door.

The doorman stepped out of the hut by the school gate, and with slow steps moved towards the patch of brownish grass where Dima was standing. Still looking up, under the spell of the white-winged, slow-moving angel, Dima heard the doorman’s voice behind his back scolding him for being where he was. The kid slowly turned around, and even more slowly – perhaps as an attempt to reproduce the motion of the pondering spirit he was admiring – returned to the cloud-like solidity of the brickstones on the floor.

He followed the doorman back to the gate, which was already half-closed in preparation for the falling night. He could not understand what was happening: why had nobody shown up to pick him up yet? Had they forgotten about him? What would happen if the doorman closed the gate for good (in fifteen minutes he would do that; the bell at the chapel had just rung the third quarter of the hour): would he stay inside, inside with the hounds and the dead kids who lived here when the school was an orphanage, or would he stay outside, outside in the… what would there be outside without his parents nearby?

It seems that the doorman’s daughter, a simple girl with rosy-dead cheeks and a strange way of walking (one hand always kept close to the side, as if she were afraid of some spear being hurled at her), was asking herself the same questions concerning his situation, because she yelled a carefully rehearsed “Beware of the dead orphans, Dima!” as she limped back home for dinner.