Андрей Гродзинский

Страна: Узбекистан

Литература во всех её проявлениях.


Country: Uzbekistan

Перевод малой прозы  “Человек-призрак

A ghost-man.

They exist: ghosts. However, not quite in the guise of which it is usually to speak. Each of us, no matter what country we are in, sees them every day. The only difference is that someone sees them much more often than others. No, this is not a gift, by no means. Such people who have no means of subsistence, who every day need to think about where to get money in order to, elementarily, eat — they can rightfully be called ghosts.

He was lying in the street: lonely, abandoned by everyone and even by himself. Belief in a better life, just like belief in people, seemed to have evaporated, became something distant, unreal. For a long time, his legs did not obey him. Probably, he thought, they also betrayed him with one single purpose — so that he, like this, during frosty winter evenings, was lying on hot pipes, remembering life and what it had become.

Sometimes they came to him. Not that they were the most desirable visitors — rather, the same as he was — losers, alcoholics and those who had someone to blame for all their failures. Broken people. They even looked the same: unshaven men in their forties, with obvious thinness, barely bare their soul; with crookedly bent fingers, which trembled so noticeably before and after the first shot of vodka, and after the second they ceased to be noticed by their owners; hair, no matter what color they used to be, now characteristically gave off sweat, grease, and a categorical refusal to follow the banal rules of hygiene; the eyes — so dim, as if the light had never flickered in them, even in those ancient times when everything seemed to be good.

He and the people who came to visit him were united by one goal: waking up in the morning, or at any other time of the day, they frantically began to feel in their pockets, which were overgrown with countless holes, in search of money. Not finding anything, they suddenly remembered their drinking companions, and not always remembering the names. But the belief that one of them started today differently — better than the others, forced the body to take to the streets of the city, overcoming a sober assessment of itself from the outside.

Day after day, the picture was the same: he lay on the pipes, periodically waking up from unbearable pain in his legs. He could not walk, and that simple device — the wheelchair, which was always standing next to him, served as the support he was looking for in passers-by, which gave him a look full of such obvious impatience. At first, he was angry with them, and then he began to understand: after all, it would also be unpleasant for him if there was a man lying near his house or street — smelling bad, with always drunk eyes, in dirty, shabby clothes. People did not want to admit that this was possible, and they did not want to scold the government either. Their opinion of this man usually consisted of a banal conclusion: “He himself came to such a life.” They were probably right in their own way. It’s easier to live this way when you pass by the need and say to yourself: “I would help, but if this person does not want to help himself, then I should not interfere.”

He began to understand why people shun him: the smell. They disdained him, as if he had ceased to be a man and turned into a huge dung heap, which they piled so inappropriately near the house: you cannot remove it, and you cannot endure it. It remained only to accept, expressing his attitude with looks full of contempt, and he accepted this: he was not a fool, but was naive. This naivety once drove him out into the street with a kick in the backside, and he only now understood that.

When she approached him for the first time, he should have been happy: he dreamed so much that at least someone would come up, except drinking companions, sit down next to him, speak, listen, try to understand. Instead, he suddenly felt so ashamed: for himself and his appearance, for this young, attractive girl, who for some reason is not indifferent to his fate. And she was approaching so quickly that the whole storm of emotions was just beginning to grow in his body, wounded by daily pains, but as soon as she spoke, everything calmed down, landed and became as it is.

She recently returned to her hometown. How contradictory were her feelings: she was glad that she would finally see her family, but the fact — quite obvious that she never achieved anything in another country greatly tormented her. Five years in vain: no prospects, no fulfillment of desires, even a smell of stability was not there. She understood that over the five years she spent in Europe, her worldview had undergone significant changes, and it was difficult for her to look at the same things that did not cause her questions before leaving: now it was all wild for her.

Getting out of the taxi near the house, she immediately saw him. Probably the fatigue caused by the flight did not allow her to come up and show humanity at once, and then a week passed in chores around the house and wonderful evenings with her family. But once leaving the store, she suddenly remembered that literally five hundred meters in the opposite direction was a man.

She was probably that type of woman — an exception to the common rule, who could love just like that, give their love to a person only for what he is, thank fate for this meeting and quietly enjoy the long-awaited happiness. Perhaps for this reason, she so easily approached him, greeted him, tried to strike up a conversation, remove such an acute feeling of self-loathing from the face of this man from the street. She wanted to help. Not knowing how, not knowing why she was doing it, not knowing her motives and root causes — she was offended for a man who turned out to be quite decent for himself, with a pleasant, albeit cold voice, but in a state of deplorable despair. She assured him that now she would come every day, carry food for him, find something of warm clothes — winter is still outside. And tears appeared in his eyes.

He did not believe that she would keep her promise, but he waited so impatiently. His “friends” came and offered to drink, but he refused: he drank to numb the pain in his legs, but yesterday’s meeting with this girl acted on him like a good pain reliever. The drinking buddies threw something back at him, turned around and went off to drink in another place, leaving him alone. And he waited, imagined how she would come — that was already enough! Another meeting, another evening with a person, to talk, to look in the eyes, and everything else was not so important: he did not care about food, he was already used to the cold. However, he thought that none of the people around him dared to step over themselves, their alleged moral principles, and come up, ask why he was lying here and what happened. And she could. Why? He couldn’t find an answer. I guess I’m not such a bad person, he told himself.

Evening came. The winter sun had long since disappeared behind the horizon, and darkness has come. The lanterns were served, with a yellowish, subtle glow that took a while to brighten. He was sitting in a wheelchair. “I moved into it by myself: I didn’t want her to see me lying on those damned pipes again. This is something I can do myself”, — he assured himself, “this is something I can do on my own.” He sat, wrapped in a torn blanket, and waited. He didn’t even notice how the events of the past began to arise in his head: the deception and betrayal of his sister, who drove him out of his own house; people who beat up and took away money; legs, which hurt so inappropriately when he was already living on the street and could not even call an ambulance. However, it all went away, dissolved into oblivion, as soon as he saw a familiar silhouette: she was walking, clearly in a hurry, but the heaviness with which her hands were occupied prevented her from going as fast as she would like. She thought she had come late, that she should have come earlier. And he looked at her, not believing his eyes, as if he did not expect a repetition of yesterday’s miracle, and cried.

She could not sleep well at night. It all seemed to her — although it really was, that he was there alone — on a cold winter night, lying on the pipes. Perhaps he will feel bad, and she will not be able to do anything. How ashamed she was: she has a home, delicious food, warm clothes, family, friends. And he? What did he have? Nothing. She seemed to harass herself, remembering how he said “Will you come tomorrow?” How much hope was in those words — some strange hope bordering on despair; faith in what is still going to work out, against the wall of reality with cold, indifferent crowds of turning away faces passing by every day. She thought for a moment that she was back in childhood, but only in the place where the thoughts remained the same, and the rest — the scenery, were greatly distorted: as a little girl, not a day passed that she did not bring a kitten home from the street, but now she was essentially being torn apart by an irresistible desire to take this person home, take care of him, resurrect a flame of goodness in his undoubtedly suffering soul.

He was sleeping. For the first in a long time, he fell asleep serenely, unburdened so tightly by the uncertainty. Although, he reflected in a dream, it was rather a completely mundane reality: he knew for sure that tomorrow it wouldn’t be better — only worse, and this understanding seemed to give him a reason to give up, limp vodka with drinking companions who came, letting himself feel pain , having no desire to make attempts to tame it with reason. However, she changed everything: his thoughts, his grievances about the recent past, and even his pain, which, as it turned out, is quite bearable, if there is a reason to wake up the next day alive. How could he think that life was over? That it will always be this way? And after some time interval, death will come: he will die on the street, without documents, special services will come for his body, in which not the best representatives of the human race work, they will take him out of town where he will be thrown into a common grave and buried. And there will be no monument, not even a plaque with the name and years of life! He would disappear without a trace, disappear with tens and hundreds of people like him. A ghost — is who I was before meeting her, he told himself in the dream. It’s like they gave him a second chance for a decent life, perhaps not of the highest level, but who else should understand it better than he: it could be much worse. After that bottom, on which he found himself due to own stupidity and idleness of his lifestyle, being thrown away like waste material, he wanted to thank all the people living on the Earth only for the fact that she was among them – his resurrector.

She never could have imagined: how many of the same caring people, trying to help with all their might, walk the streets of her hometown. It is probably impossible to define them externally, because their faces do not bear any common imprint. They can sometimes be angry, too emotional, but perhaps what unites them is the inevitability of participation at the sight of the catastrophe of life. And then they find each other, create communities where they exchange information, tell different stories about people in trouble. There — in this land of kindness and compassion, so cleverly hidden behind the curtain of individualism of modern days, there is no place for condemnation —- it does not bring results. The main thing is to help, to the best of your ability, of course, without reaching the brink of fanaticism, and then, reluctantly accepting gratitude, move on to the next character in the novel of a ghostly country.

She began to think too much about this formally non-existent country. How many people are there who were not fortunate enough to bury themselves in an empathizing shoulder at the right time, and instead, circumstances have organized such a dastardly trip that it’s scary to imagine. And while traveling this country, she met a long-forgotten hero — hopelessness. How silly we often talk about banal, such easily solvable problems, especially when they are not associated with death. Hopelessness — even though we don’t love it, from time to time teaches us one of the fundamental lessons of being: while life is glimmering in the body, the hands should not be lowered, just like the head. The fact that we idealize the world — the guilt is on us, but it is not ideal, and it should not be so. Life is a chance to find yourself in certain circumstances, sometimes depending directly on our decisions, but more often purely spontaneous ones. Scrolling through these reflections in her subconscious, she, who found herself in that reality where she needs to take care of a stranger, could not find that turning point, that decision, after which the endless matter of the past began to frantically change and bring them to that first meeting. Probably, she concluded, closing her eyes just before dawn, this is another test, and since I decided to take responsibility for this person, since everything is already developing so that his fate is in my hands, then I, not being seduced by the power entrusted to me , should not indulge in vanity and self-love, but must complete the matter and make sure that he can live with dignity.

After this, the events began to get ahead of each other, giving variability in the answer to the main question: how to help this ghost? The bureaucratic system hindered this process as best as it could — we must give it its due, it played a good game. But a person who has acquired a goal — disinterested, pure and cherished, cannot be stopped.

Other people began to notice him: when they came to the passport office with her, his body ceased to be transparent, somehow unimportant to others — they saw a person who made a mistake, but next to him was the one who was ready to intercede for him. Many looked at them and saw a contrast: a beauty and a beast, a dazzling diva and a street beggar. But she didn’t even think about what she looked like when they walked side by side down the street. She didn’t care what other people might think: what difference does it make what they say? The decision to help belonged only to her, and, unlike social services, which perceive this action as work in the most routine sense of the word, she said to herself: “I am a very happy person: it is possible for me to make a choice that will not become fateful for me, but for the person I have decided to help, this choice is necessary like a breath of fresh air. “

The documents were ready. What’s next? She can’t leave him on the street, albeit with documents, but still without a roof over his head, without simple but essential food, without a job that he could occupy himself with. Church. She heard from a friend that there she can find shelter for people like this man, who has become like a part of a family for her.

He still did not believe, could not afford to relax, let go of terrible thoughts, drive away insecurity. It seemed to him that even with such a person as this girl, he could not control himself, follow the lead of former drinking companions who sometimes passed by and drink alcohol. He knew that there was no good reason to break down, but, apparently, the segment of his life that he spent on the street left a certain imprint on him. He needed to learn to fight again, and first of all with rather banal temptations. That was hard. But he wanted, and not for his own good, but in order not to fall even lower in her eyes, which looked at him so touchingly — such a weak, helpless man.

She scolded herself that she could not find shelter for him, did not do enough. The beliefs of her friends did not work: she realized that, in principle, not everything depends on her, and this is what brought her into a furious state. Being constantly on the phone, she had absolutely no time for herself: she forgot about her regular visits to the beauty salon, did not visit the gym, did not spend evenings with a glass of wine and a delicious dinner in a good restaurant: this became insignificant, only giving a little piquancy time, which is allotted to her. This man became a teacher for her in the most important subject that is not taught in any university in the world — life.

Both of them could not even imagine that this moment would come — a minute of saying goodbye, which spilled over into long conversations and clarifications of any visible details that did not matter much to outsiders, but not for both of them: they seemed to not want to let each other go, although any story is doomed to an final. She cried: she always wants more, and it is much easier to get hooked on help, than on any other available drug. She said that she would call every day, ask “how are you”, come whenever possible, but at least once a week, and he looked at her, shedding tears on the floor of his new refuge under the roof of the almshouse and still did not believe that he — is a man.

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