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July 7, 2009 by · 1 comment

Ivanka Mogilska

Photo: Eryn_Vorn


I don’t want to do anything that might distance me from her. I don’t want us to get any closer… at least, not in the usual way:

The first few meetings over coffee. Then our life stories. Mine. Hers. In telling them, we already have our history. We start to untangle its beginning: every misunderstanding, even the most insignificant impressions. “What did you think when you saw me for the first time?” “And you?”… And as we clarify what is already clear, we begin to visit each other. We watch television. We eat dinner or lunch together, trade gossip, complain about bosses, coworkers, prices.

At some point things inevitably start to go wrong. A lack of time, a dead cell phone battery. The dwindling desire to clear up and prevent everyday misunderstandings. The accumulated dissatisfaction continues to pile up, never vented, and after a series of monologues by two accusatory sides, which you don’t care to recall, you finally erase her telephone number. You focus your energies on some new “best friend”.

So it’s better to stop. That intimacy before acquaintance, when you both know it without having said it, is the most absolute, because you know the same things without stopping to think about them. The downside is you’re not sure it’s for real. You have to double-check. Which is why you get to know each other after all, why you talk and share your thoughts. Every word, from the instant you say your names, is a brick in the wall that will divide you.


Who will be the first one to leave? It’s a question of nerves. The one who leaves takes the feeling of guilt along with himself. The other is the victim. Pure, innocent, abandoned, faithful to the end. He gets the sympathy. So I grit my teeth and wait.

One day, shortly before the brown floor is worn away completely, my patience is rewarded. I get home. I unlock the door. He’s not here. Every creak makes me jump.

I calm down quickly. I’m sure he’s not here. He’s taken his paper, pens, his house slippers. I savor walking across the hardwood floor without taking off my shoes. The symphony of my heels clicking on the parquet. My bracelet hits the cabinet and scratches it. I sleep with my clothes on. With my shoes on. With my earrings in. I imagine the bed creaking at my every movement.

I buy a radio and a TV. I turn them both on at the same time. I sing. Whistle. Talk to the mirror. I’m sure I talk in my sleep. Unfortunately, I sleep alone so there’s no one to confirm this. One night I set a tape recorder on my pillow. In the morning I listened to the tape. I’m satisfied. I talk in my sleep, too.

While we live together, I come up with the game. I wander through the streets and try to pick out the sounds. A car, a trolley, a bus, a door opening and closing – wooden, steel, glass. “Taxi!” The spiteful whisper of salesgirls, snippets of conversation, even drags on a cigarette, falling chestnuts and leaves…

Then I choose a sound, always one of the more unusual ones, and follow it. I try to figure out who its owner is. What he looks like, where he lives. I compare the real person against the imaginary one. I’m less and less frequently wrong.

I imagine new sounds. I line them up in my head. I mix them around. Again. And again. He tosses and turns in bed all night, but I keep thinking them up. He complains of nightmares. I feel for him. During the day I rush to get out of the house, to collect more sounds, so that in the evening I can begin to create my favorite sound for the night.

He’s already gone, but I can’t stop. I keep thinking them up. My head is overflowing. I organize them constantly. My brain refuses to stop. I imagine more and more of them. I can’t take a breath without a new sound popping into my head. I struggle to find one that will overpower the rest, that can conduct them. The more I search, the more they pile up, yet the one I need isn’t there… I feel as if I’m going deaf.

The sonic terror is the worst at night. I go on autopilot, absolutely stupefied and indifferent. Just like when he lived with me and I felt the silence crushing my head. As if he’s still sleeping on the left side of the bed.

I decide to wipe out every trace of him. To get rid of the house we lived in. Not just to sell it – but to obliterate it. So that no memory of it remains, because the silence has seeped into the bricks and is destroying me, disguised in the form of countless sounds.

I get a loan from the bank. I find workmen, architects, designers. Six months later the bar is ready. I hire employees. The first customers arrive. More and more people come. The noise is unimaginable. The silence is dead!

My now unnecessary game has left me with a peculiar talent: I can draw out the soul of everyone who comes in and turn it into a sound. All I have to do is laugh, and all the customers turn into a melody sounding in my head. It’s amusing. I possess all of their most precious secrets. This makes it impossible for me to get close to them.

There’s nothing left to discover. We can speak easily. The possibility of them hurting me does not exist. They like my attention. They value it. They covet it, yet at the same time they’re relaxed, because they know that I won’t bother them with myself. My story is untellable.

I’m happy. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted: to be surrounded by attention, yet at the same time safe from injury.

Translated from Bulgarian by Angela Rodel

Categories: Frontpage · Prose


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