Translated by Irina Sholeva
The day idly rolled over and stopped in the late afternoon. The parking lot on the outskirts of Burgas was filled with arriving cars. People got out of them, walked along the dusty road, crossed the railroad tracks and continued to the brine pool.
In its rusty waters that smell of rotten eggs, their bodies become weightless, emerged on the surface and floated easily like rubber dolls. Nearby, beyond the wooden bridge, other people who are covered from head to toe with black mud strolled around, waiting for the mud to dry.
Gradually the color of the mud changed, going from pitchy black to mousy gray. Strange figures in mousy gray and pitchy black spots were moving back towards the sea, where, when the mousy gray overtakes the pitchy black completely, the sea waters would wash away all the mud and leave only the effect from it – smooth skin, a strong body and a supposedly strong spirit. It didn’t take much to see which visitors were here for the first time. They were squeamishly wrinkling their noses while entering the brine pool and reluctantly, with disgust, smeared mud all over their bodies.
Those who were used to the procedures were walking boldly into the sticky substance and were energetically smearing it all over their faces and bodies in a thick layer. The characters in this story belong to the latter group, but for now they are still wandering in synch around the mud baths, having a leisurely conversation.
“This water is miraculous, miraculous, I tell you! My back didn’t hurt the whole winter. That’s why I’m regular here and I’ve told myself that this summer again – a minimum of 15 sessions!” says Zachary.
“I hope you’re right. These bone spurs are torturing me, man… They say it helps… I hope so, ‘cause this pain is unbearable,” sighs Stoyan.
“You’ll see, you’ll be as good as new. Like I told you, I’ve almost forgotten about my bone spurs after three summers of sessions here,” Vassil reassures him.
“I hope so, I hope, man…” – Stoyan makes a circle around the group.
“Let’s enjoy it while we can. I heard they were going to build some complex here, a spa, I guess that’s the modern way to put it these days. If that happens, we can forget about the mud baths. They’ll charge some out-of-this-world fee and only luxury cars will start parking here,” Zachary scoops up some salt and starts scrubbing his back.
“Even if they weren’t out-of-this-world, with my pension… Maybe someone will think about the pensioners and make it free for us?” There isn’t much hope in Vassil’s voice.
“Bahhh! Who would think about us, man, no one cares about us. Vested interests are what’s important, with this financial crisis, things are going from bad to worse. They say that the winter will be harsh, I wonder if we’ll survive till next summer at all…” Stoyan sighs deeply and moves forward.
“Well, you chose the new government, why are you worried,” Vassil snaps spitefully.
“Bahhh, we chose! The new government can’t work miracles. It’s still suffering the consequences from your government,” Zachary retorts.
“Let’s not talk about this again, man. Yesterday I had a headache because of you.” Stoyan cuts them off.
“What should we talk about then? About the finical crisis? That’s a very cheerful topic.” Vassil doesn’t give up.
“What do I see, tsk-tsk-tsk,” Zachary says suddenly.
The other two follow his gaze.
An Intriguing Stranger
Zachary’s gaze is fixed on a young woman with very white skin and light blonde hair framing her face. She is wearing a dark blue bikini. She enters the brine pool with a slightly wrinkled nose. Little by little, she gets used to the smell and relaxes into the water, while making elegant circles with her hands.
“From where did that mermaid come from?” Stoyan cries.
“From the moon’, Vassil won’t stop harping on his spiteful tune. ‘Where do you think she’s from?! She must be a tourist.”
“She looks like a Russian girl,” Zachary guesses.
“Polish.” Vassil expresses his opinion authoritatively.
“She must be a Russian girl, man!” Stoyan takes Zachary’s side.
“Hm, you’ll lose here. I know Polish girls. I can recognize them from afar. I used to be a porter at Sunny Beach. There were only Poles in the hotel, but I remember one young girl who was like a droplet of dew.”
The other two are listening with half an ear to his words while watching the girl. She continues to move gracefully and idly. At some moments she stops, stretches out in the water, relaxes and absorbs the sun with her face.
“Stop staring at the girl like you’ve never seen one. Listen, let me tell you about the Polish girl.”
A Porter’s Love Story
She was like a droplet of dew. Blonde, with blue eyes, like the girl here but more beautiful. (Exclamations – she couldn’t be more beautiful, think a little, man!). Her name was Kachka. Katharina, but everyone called her Kachka. She was twenty years old. Two girls had come with two young men.
Her friend apparently had something going with one of the young men, and the other guy was his friend, so in a way she was set up with him. However, she didn’t look much interested in him. Every time she passed by the reception, she would cast viscous glances at me with her wild primrose-blue eyes. I didn’t hold back either, I also smiled faintly and watched and watched her.
She grew flustered and blushed, smiling to herself, looking down and hurriedly passing by. She was so sweet I could have gobbled her up. The young man, however, started to notice this and was getting nervous. They had come three or four days before, but things weren’t going as he had would have liked.
They were supposed to stay for two weeks. On the fifth evening, I was working the night shift, Kachka came to me, she was trembling and crying and in broken Russian explained to me that the guy had gotten drunk and come after her. I offered to let her come to my room, as I was working then.
She hesitated for a bit and in the end accepted. When I came back in the morning, she was sleeping peacefully as an angel in my bed. I lay down on the other bed and was careful not to wake her. I offered to let her to stay in my room if she wanted and she agreed. The next evening, she went out somewhere with the guy and came back late, I heard her, taking off her clothes, my heart started pounding like crazy but I didn’t expect at all the thing that happened next.
She came into my bed. We stayed awake the whole night. We were together until the end of her vacation. The other guy was dying of anger and jealousy, and one night came banging on my door, but after I explained some things about life to him, he calmed down. He just kept glaring angrily at me.
Kachka left in tears, she didn’t want to go home. Later she wrote me. I wrote her, too. She sent postcards, pictures. The next summer she came again. I was waiting for her and we were together for two more weeks. I had a nice time with that Kachka… At the end she came and said: “I can’t live without you, let’s get married!” And as I was young and crazy, I said: “Let’s do it!”
She went back to Poland, prepared her parents, and I started to get ready to go there, but the authorities wouldn’t let me go. And we started to put things off. She didn’t come back the next summer, I met Maria, and that’s what happened with my Polish love. But I can tell you – I recognize Polish girls and she is one of them.
Meanwhile the girl had come out of the brine pool and was heading towards the mud.
“I stayed in the brine pool too long, I’m going to smear some mud over my body,” said Zachary.
“So did I, I overdid it,” replied Vassil.
“Let’s head for the mud already.”
The three of them walked along the water’s edge, then waded out and headed towards the mud. There, from afar, they spotted the beautiful stranger. She had removed her top in contrast to the other women and was smearing mud all over her body. Soon, her firm breasts were also pitchy black. Zachary, Stoyan and Vassil swallowed hard at this view.
They settled in not far from the girl and also started smearing mud on their bodies.
“I still think she’s Russian,” said Zachary. “They are more open-minded.”
“Are we making a bet?” Vassil perked up.
“Let’s do it! For a Cloud cocktail!” Stoyan backed them up.
“Who’s gonna ask her?” Zachary asked hesitatingly.
“We know who, man! Vassil. He has experience with Polish girls after all,” Stoyan answered back for the earlier nagging.
“Well, I’ll ask her, it’s not a big deal. But let’s let her wash away the mud first. It’s not good to bother her now.”
In the meantime, the girl had covered her body and face with mud and was heading towards the beach. Zachary, Vassil and Stoyan followed her from a distance.
The beach was covered in trash and plastic bottles and in between the junk sunbathers had laid down their beach towels. The girl was standing and waiting for the mud to dry completely on her body along with another dozen people, who were walking back and forth along the shore. She stretched out her arms and stuck her chest out. She took a deep breath and slowly started to do exercises.
Those around her had their eyes on her, on her flexible, young body, her shiny golden hair, which bluntly contrasted with the mud on her face. Stoyan, Zachary and Vassil also silently were watching her, from time to time exchanging meaningful glances. The late sunbeams gradually melted the pitchy black into mousy grey. The girl finished her series of exercises and went into the sea. She started to wash the mud from her body and face and to dive under the waves.
“I told you she was a mermaid.” Stoyan smiled slightly. “She is neither a Polish girl, nor a Russian girl. Her beauty is out-of-this-world, it is…”
And the three friends entered the sea.
A Missed Chance
They were diligently washing off the mud of their bodies when Stoyan cried out: “We missed her!”
The girl had come out on the shore and was getting dried off. Her skin looked transparent, and her golden hair was shining under the sun. The sunbathers were watching her, and she was either not noticing their gazes or was very used to gathering attention because she very successfully was ignoring its sources.
She dried her hair with the towel, combed it back and put on a light blue short dress. She turned around and left.
The friends looked at each other, disappointed.
“What a pity, what a pity.” Zachary began to click his tongue.
“Don’t worry,” said Vassil. “Tomorrow is a new day. If she came once, she’ll come again.” This time there was more hope in his voice.
On the next day, again in the late afternoon, the regulars at the mud baths were gathering in its rusty waters. Stoyan, Zachary and Vassil were floating in the water, but this time their conversation was broken up by longer pauses.
“It was nice yesterday at the station. It’s been a long time since so many people came,” Zachary noted.
“Hmm, I had a headache,” Vassil mumbled.
“And you, did you manage to get some sleep afterwards? You weren’t feeling well.” Zachary turned towards Stoyan.
“I got… some sleep, man! I kept having strange thoughts…”
From time to time the three of them would glance at the entrance to the mud baths.
“We should have been more proactive yesterday,” Zachary said in the end.
“By the time Vassil made up his mind, man, the bird had flown the coop.” Stoyan sighed.
“Since you’re so smart, why didn’t you go then?!” Vassil bristled.
“You are the expert when it comes to Polish girls, aren’t you!” Stoyan answered back.
“Stop arguing, it was meant to happen this way,” Zachary interrupted them. “It’s not a big deal; after all we are gonna drink Cloud cocktails tonight at the station even without the Russian girl.”
“Polish girl,” Vassil corrected him.
“Never mind, whatever. Apparently we’ll never find out,” Zachary said resignedly.
They sank into deep silence again, floating in the warm water.
“You are very quiet today,” Vassil said.
“I’m having strange thoughts… maybe that’s why,” Stoyan said.
„It brings a story to mind. Again, about a girl,” Zachary began.
Another summer, another non happening
I was in Varna at the Naval Academy. In the summer we used to sneak out with a friend of mine and go to a pub to drink beer. Near the beach. It was a sort of break from life in the barracks. We met girls, chatted with them… One night a girl appeared and she took my breath away. She had long brown hair and eyes of some indefinable color. Hazel, thoughtful. I can still imagine her, despite the fact that it was … oh-hooo forty years ago. I watched her the whole night but didn’t dare go over to her. She was with friends, but was sitting alone, like she wasn’t with them. She didn’t talk, didn’t dance, she was just watching.
I dreamed about her all night. She didn’t appear again, neither she nor her friends. I asked the barman later but he knew nothing about them, didn’t know them. I waited for her for the whole summer, but in vain.
“Is that why you never got married, Zachary? Because of that stranger?” Vassil teased him.
“I doubt it was because of this but I still remember her. I didn’t have any luck with the ladies, it can’t be helped…”
“Well, I’ll be leaving.” Stoyan stood up.
“Why the hurry, Stoyan, it’s not even ten o’clock.” Vassil tried to stop him.
“I’ll go to the mud and then to bed. I’m tired today.”
“Are you coming to the station tonight?” Zachary asked.
“We’ll see. If I’m feeling better, I’ll come.”
“I hope you are…”
The sun was again following its path, and in the brine pool there was the usual bustle for this hour.
“How are you today, Stoyan? You didn’t come last night…” Zachary asked with concern.
“I’m better, Zachary, thank you, much better. I got enough sleep last night.”
“It’s good that you got enough sleep, that way you’ll be rested up to lose this bet. Look who’s here.” Suddenly Vassil nodded animatedly towards the entrance of the mud baths.
Their stranger was there.
“We are not gonna wait for her to enter the mud today! Go and ask her as soon as possible, Vassil.” Zachary brightened up.
“It’s not certain who’s gonna lose, man…” Stoyan smiled faintly.
The girl stripped her blue dress off and entered the water. She relaxed on the surface and started slowly moving her hands by her sides like a big butterfly flapping its wings. That’s how she was moving through the mud baths. Her face was glowing as if she was enjoying her own movements in the warm, reddish water.
“C’mon, Vassil, go!” Zachary teased him again.
The girl had come nearer to them. As if she was lighting up everything around her. The other visitors to the brine pool were also watching her, some of them were quietly whispering. Vassil sighed.
“You are such scaredy-cats! Fine, I’m going. C’mon, wish me luck.”
He began swimming towards the girl. Stoyan and Zachary were looking on with interest. They saw how the girl was startled at first, awakened from her reverie, but after that gave a friendly smile which made her even more beautiful. The two of them exchanged a few words and Vassil came back with beaming face.
“So, what happened? Tell us. Is she a Polish girl?” Zachary couldn’t wait.
“You are so impatient! Who did all the work? Who?”
“Yeah, yeah, Vassil, you are the best, you did well starting a conversation with her. Don’t make us wait. Tell us what happened,” Stoyan asked him.
“What I can tell you is that no one wins, but I am closer. She is Czech!”
“Ahh, a Czech girl, I should have known!” Zachary cried.
“Apparently no one is going to buy drinks and it turns out that after all we are going to be the ones buying the drinks,” Stoyan said. “So, tell us what happened? What else did you talk about?”
“What could we have talked about?” Vassil smiled with satisfaction. “Her name is Eva. She is here on a vacation.”
“Did you speak Russian?” Zachary watched him with delight.
“Well, a little Russian, a little Czech, I used to work at the beach a long time ago. Ahoj mahoj, I’m good with Slavic languages.”
“You are the best, man!” admitted Stoyan and there was delight in his voice.
The End of the Vacation
During the next week the three friends continued to enjoy Eva’s presence from a distance. Every day they followed her ritual while having conversations about youth and the women they had met. One day she didn’t come. She didn’t come on the next day either. Nor the following day.
On the fourth day Vassil thoughtfully concluded: “Obviously she went back home.”
“Yes, that must be it, her vacation ended…” Zachary agreed.
Stoyan was deep in thought.
“You are not in a good mood, why is that?” Zachary asked with concern.
“It’s an odd day today, man…”
“And what’s so odd about it?” Vassil broke in, this time without his usual biting tone.
“I was supposed to celebrate our anniversary with my wife. Forty years…”
“Stoyan, what can I tell you? At least you had it and you were happy,” Zachary said.
“That’s right, man, we had it, it wasn’t always easy, but it was nice to be with her. It’s been five years since she’s been gone, but it feels like yesterday.” Stoyan sighed and two tears dropped down from the corners of his eyes.
“You can’t do anything about it, that’s life…” Vassil sighed and looked the other way.
“You are coming tonight at the station to drink a Cloud cocktail in her memory, right? And not to be alone.” Zachary looked at him, trying to make his voice sound normal.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll come.”
“This is the end of this season at the brine pool for me. I stayed here for three weeks this summer. Next year I’ll come again, if they don’t build a spa complex,” Vassil noted.
“And if we have survived the crisis,” Zachary tried to make a joke.
To my father
The young man from yesterday came again today. He appeared at the same time, 10.30 a.m., and ordered a double coffee. He was around twenty, with dark brown curly hair and hazel eyes. I had a strange feeling at the first moment I saw him: he seemed familiar in an unexplainable way. I am a rational man – I have never believed in what one can’t touch. I respectfully listen to stories about souls, connected by karma, and so on and so forth, but my attitude to the matter is over with this. At the end of the day, everyone has the right to believe in whatever makes them happy. Things are very simple to me – we came from earth and will become earth. But this is not the point now. The point is: I have faced a paradox for the first time in my life. I am sure I have never met this man. Yet, I have the feeling that I know him. I am not one of those lonely bar owners waiting for someone to enter to strike a conversation. I feel good with silence. My life has passed in solitude and even though in summer I am surrounded by people, coming and going like migratory birds, this doesn’t disturb my usual state of being wrapped in my own thoughts. However, yesterday I wanted to talk to this young man, to learn something about him.
My bar is small, self-service. I have never had staff. I looked at the man while preparing his coffee and threw in:
‘Is this your first time here?’
‘Is it so obvious?’ he laughed.
His voice was warm and hearty.
‘The village is small and I own the only bar. I don’t remember names. But I remember faces. Yours seems familiar to me. Nevertheless, I don’t remember having seen you.’
‘No, I don’t think we have met. Certainly, not here. My parents have been here but there is no way that you would remember them. It was too long ago. Actually’ – he laughed again, this time a bit awkwardly – ‘they claimed I had been conceived here.’
The coffee was ready and the man took it away to one of the tables. He drank it slowly while reading a newspaper, got up, waved to me and was gone.
The thought of our meeting was preying on my mind by the end of the day. It didn’t leave me during the night either. I dreamt about walking with him, bare-foot, on the shore, silently, in complete agreement.
While he is waiting for his coffee, I am breaking my order again.
‘How are you today?’
‘Fine, thanks. I’ve had some busy months and it’s nice to unwind.’ ‘Yesterday you mentioned that your parents had been here. What are their names? Perhaps I would remember them.‘
‘Their names are… were Marina and Pavel.’
The way I am staring at him, probably, makes him uncomfortable.
‘I imagine so many people have passed by. There is no way for you to remember them.’
‘Do you have their picture?’
‘Yes, I have one. Funny enough, when they were alive, I never had their picture with me. But I wanted them to join me in this journey.’
He takes out of his wallet a portrait picture of a young couple. The woman is a dark-eyed brunette; her face is serious, determined. The man has a moustache; he embraces her shoulders. His face is gentler, his expression – softer. I feel weak in my knees and I lean on the bar.
‘Are you ok?‘ the man asks, slightly alarmed.
‘Sorry, it’s from the heat. I’m fine’ I say with a parched throat.
Twenty years earlier was my first summer in this bar. The season happened to be poor. Every now and then Russians and Czechs were coming as well as some Bulgarian families and that was it. All the rest were local people. Nevertheless, I felt good. I was twenty and I liked my job. It was interesting to observe the newcomers. When there were no clients, I was reading. Having started Dostoevski, I was happy to be left in peace. Many things made me happy back then. For instance, the summer. In a seaside village like this, winter is a dead season. While summer is something different – everything breathes, lives, populates vigorously. The sea changes – it transforms from something one looks at to something one becomes part of.
Every morning, before opening the bar, I went to swim. As I was feeling the litheness of my young body, I contemplated the future. I was imagining how one day I would leave. How I would go to a remote island where it is always summer and will work in a beach bar, wearing a Hawaiian shirt. I wouldn’t serve oblak and rakia, but would make the most exquisite and exotic cocktails with skillful movements. Beautiful girls in bikini with chocolate suntan will sit on the chairs around the bar counter and will smile at me. Accept for one girl who will shyly wear a top. She will have long coal tar hair and pearl teeth, will sit alone by a remote table and will patiently wait my shift to be over. That’s what I imagined and was sure that it was just a matter of time to reach to the island and to my girl. I didn’t have a plan but believed that things will come together that way and Destiny will take care of my transformation to this tropical being. I only hoped that the girl would be patient enough to wait for me.
One evening, towards the end of my working time, a middle-aged couple entered the bar. I didn’t have other clients and was wrapped in ”Crime and Punishment”. I quickly left the book aside and stood up behind the counter. They approached me and ordered vodka for the man and white wine for the woman.
‘I’ll be closing soon,’ I said.
‘We won’t stay long. We have just arrived and want to chill out a bit after the long journey,’ replied the woman calmly. ‘What were you reading?’
Her way of speaking, pronouncing the words in a clear and distinct manner, made me think she was from the capital.
‘When we entered you were reading something.’
‘Ah yes…„Crime and Punishment”.’
‘Do you like it?’
‘Have you read anything else by Dostoevsky?’
‘Only “Idiot” and “Brothers Karamazov”.’
‘This is quite a lot.’
She had long dark hair in which few white threads were shining. She was not exactly beautiful but her face was pleasant, with visible cheek bones, slightly bent nose and thoughtful eyes. A simple long dress was freely falling around her full figure with heavy breasts and roundish hips. Flat sandals completed her outfit. The man was of middle height, with chestnut hair, bright eyes and a moustache. His shoulders were slightly bent, which made him seem hesitant or timid.
‘Indeed quite a lot,’ he repeated his wife’s words in a distant manner with the same hard and clear articulation.
They took their drinks and sat by a remote table. Soon after, I put the label “Closed” and waited for them to finish their drinks. They talked quietly, their heads close to one another.
On the next day, they came early in the morning. They greeted me and asked for coffee.
‘How far have you got with the book?’ the woman asked.
‘Have you read it?’
They sat at the same table. From time to time I happened to meet the eyes of one of them or another. As in the previous night, they were talking quietly. In the evening, they reappeared, asking for vodka and white wine.
In the following days, they kept on coming morning and evening. Each time we exchanged a few words. They asked me about my life in the village and what was it like to be here in the winter. One evening the man came alone. I asked him where the woman was and he said she was tired and had stayed in the room. He offered me a drink to keep him company. At first I refused by saying that I didn’t drink when working. However, he insisted and, as there were no other clients, I agreed to a little vodka. We sat at a table near to the counter. I felt a bit uneasy in his company; he appeared somewhat fidgety that evening. He cleared his throat slightly, made a pause and started talking, while looking somewhere beside me:
‘I met Marina twenty years ago at the National Library. I was a last year student and was working on my thesis, whereas she was at her first grade and was reading for exams. She wasn’t stunning but I immediately noticed her. Her beauty was different. Exquisite. Classy. I glanced at her for a whole week from behind my books before approaching her. She looked very concentrated and serious, as she was reading and taking notes. I doubt it that she would pay any attention to me, such an interesting girl. I was wondering how to establish contact... I had never been very confident with women. Finally, I went to her and told her, stuttering, that she had made an impression on me and I’d like to meet her. She stayed serious but wasn’t cold, didn’t push me away. She calmly said her name. I said mine and… that was all. I was so embarrassed, that I only managed to wish her a nice reading and withdrew. On the next day, I asked her to join me for a coffee, after we had nodded to each other from distance and had spent some two-three hours over our respective books. To my surprise, she accepted. Our conversation flew so easily and naturally that my embarrassment melted and at the end, I even dared to invite her to theatre. She accepted again and when I went out of the library, I had the feeling that I could fly. Sofia looked different and life seemed beautiful. Soon I would be a graduated engineer, there was a chance for me to get a job and now the most interesting girl I had ever met would go out with me! Really, these were good years despite the regime and what they say now. We were clear about our options and didn’t have too many complicated choices to make. Marina and I started seeing each other and after a short while, I came to realise that, miraculously, she reciprocated my feelings. A year later, we got married. Meanwhile, I had started working in a state enterprise and after the wedding, with the support of her parents, we got a small one-bedroom flat as a young family. Life couldn’t have been better. We decided not to hurry up with increasing our family so that she can graduate. Years slipped away, she graduated, got a job in her field and we were ready to become parents. But the child wasn’t coming. A couple of years later, we went to medical examinations. The results showed that the problem was in me.’
Pavel sighed, looked shortly at my face and continued:
‘Marina is a lovely woman. She is the best thing in my life, certainly the most important one. When she heard about the result, she embraced me and said: “We’re fine as we are”. We discussed adoption but the procedure turned out to be too long and complicated and we left it there. There is no day without me suffering from not being able to give her a child. When I see the way she looks at other people’s children…’
Pavel sighed again and regained his composure.
‘I am ready to do anything for her. That’s why I am here today. I’ve had this idea for some time now and I think that you are suitable for its…hm, realization. You have made a very good impression on both of us. You are intelligent and - more importantly – you have a good heart, you are hard-working and nice to the clients… When I shared my idea with Marina, she started crying. Then I managed to talk her into it. Tomorrow is our last night here. The moment is good, if you understand what I mean.’
Pavel fell silent as if he didn’t know how to continue. His voice went down and he, for the first time since the beginning of this monologue, looked into my eyes:
‘So…We want to ask you for a favour. If you could try to give a child to us… to my wife. You wouldn’t hear from us anymore, we wouldn’t bother you with anything, nor would the child know about it. It would be mine, ours…only…the material would come from you.’
I must have blushed. I had an urge to get up and run, run, run where my feet take me. I wished they had never entered my bar. I wished I hadn’t accepted that drink. That we hadn’t started that conversation.
But here they were, asking from me something unthinkable. How could he think, how could he imagine that as I was sitting here with him, I would go and… Unthinkable.
I had had only one woman. It happened the previous summer. They were two female friends, in their thirties, on holiday. They started talking to me on the beach in the early evening and invited me to join them for dinner. After the dinner, we came to the same bar that I own now. I got the job as a barman later and ten years into it was able to buy the bar with a loan. Anyway. That evening we drank vodka. One of the women was smiling at me in a suggestive way. She gazed into my eyes and touched me, nonchalantly, every so often. At some point, the other one said she was tired and left. The two of us had another drink. I remember being very dizzy and feeling very good. She told me that she was married and she shouldn’t be drinking vodka with a young handsome stranger, laughing. She paid the bill and we left. She said that she couldn’t invite me to her place because she was sharing a room with her friend. I replied that I was not sharing a room with anyone and this felt hilarious. That’s how we found ourselves in my small room, in the back garden, behind the house where my parents were sleeping. We started kissing and undressing, we fast got into my single bed, she sat on the top of me, started moving madly, I was completely helpless against this new, shaking sensation, and… This had been my entire sexual experience.
How could I tell to that man who looked at me with such hope, that I found what they asked from me immoral? How could I go with his wife when I would think all the time about him and his feelings and it might not work out at all…
‘There is no need for you to reply now,’ Pavel said, ‘We will come tomorrow morning and if you accept, we would agree on the details. All our hope is in you. Marina is at a certain age already… if she doesn’t become a mother now…,’ he sighed and looked down.
I finished a bit earlier than usual that evening and went home. I was feverish despite the heat. I couldn’t close my eyes that night. I was turning and tossing and trying to get my restless thoughts into sleep. In vain.
In the morning, Pavel and Marina came, took their coffees and sat at their table. I avoided their eyes as much as I could. Half an hour or so later, Pavel used the pretext of getting another coffee to ask the questions I had been trying to escape.
‘So, what did you decide?’
I was wondering how to tell him. I cannot. I am sorry. Find someone else.
‘You agree? Oh my God!’ He almost embraced me. I felt sick. ‘Well, will you come to our table then to discuss it?’
The three of us sat together and made a plan for the evening. Marina would come and pick me at the end of my shift. I would take her to my room. Pavel would wait in the car outside and when we are done, they would leave.
As agreed, Marina returned alone in the evening. She was prettier than usual. She wore lipstick and some shades. When I approached her, I sensed her perfume. A heavy, sweet scent, which, if I close my eyes, could feel even now. She wore a dress, which I hadn’t seen. It was dark blue with tiny flowers. She looked at me in her serious way but there was something different in her look. She waited for me to count the cash for the day and we left silently for my place. We passed without a word by the house and we crept into my room in the back garden. I didn’t put the light on. Once we were inside, she embraced me and I felt her lips on my neck. We kissed. The present became very condensed, like a bottle of champagne at the moment preceding the cork flying up. Before I knew it, we were in my bed, naked. This time I was in the active position. The experience was different from the previous summer, not only because of this. Marina looked into my eyes; she was caressing me and kissing me all the time. I didn’t go on for long and this wasn’t the purpose anyway. Even though - if I have to be honest – at this moment I wasn’t thinking about the purpose. Nor did I think about her husband. My thoughts had evaporated like morning dew. I was falling into a chasm. Marina stayed lying some more time with her legs folded over her breasts. I remember me caressing her hair and face. I tried to say something but she put her finger on my lips. Then she got up, put on a tampon, followed by her bikini, slipped into her dress, kissed me on the lips and whispered: ‘Thank you!’
Then she left.
I heard the car engine and fell into deep sleep.
‘So? Do you remember them?’ The young man is asking and is looking into my eyes with anticipation.
‘No, I don’t remember them. I’m sorry.’