Sins by Soňa Hrúziková
The sun is setting; the air is cooling down. I remember we left a window open in the front room. I make tea. For a while the steam rises from the white cups with roses and names on them: Mary, Michael. I marvel at the scene for a few seconds and then leave for the front room.
We’ve been decorating today. The room is empty, there isn’t any furniture covered with paint-stained plastic either, the white walls are bare too. I come closer to the two windows; first I shut the outer one, then the inner one. Hitting against each other the white wooden frames make a little noise, but that’s all right. Very carefully I pull the last black plastic handle shut. Going back to the door, I become aware of the acoustics of this empty room with the walls echoing my steps on the floor, my whole existence echoes in here. I picture my dad and his zealous explanations of these physical phenomena. He would see things in different light, search for other connections. And today again I wouldn’t listen to him.
I like the unexpected reverberation, the echo of my thoughts. With childish joy I jump all over the parquet floor. In this silly way I reach the wall, I breathe onto the white paint, touch it. I turn and look around. It’s a large room, rather spacious. I want to know how many of my steps it takes to get to the opposite wall. I put my right foot in front of the left one. Twenty-one. Now I know about the room just about everything and so does it. How many of my steps fit in it, I shall remember it. I must go back and take the tea-bags out.
But granny is already in the kitchen, standing by the kitchen cabinets, the tea-bag in the cup moves up and down, finally she drains it and throws it into garbage.
We sit silently at the kitchen table, neither of us will speak up, try to catch up on the lost years, now when my father, her son, is no longer with us, when his hostility and unwillingness to forgive his hard childhood doesn’t stand in our way. But perhaps childhood shouldn’t be forgiven because there is just one beginning of life for each of us, one such basis. When he was a child, my father didn’t learn many things, like to forgive, apart from other things. So nobody should have expected it either.
But I won’t say it aloud, there is no reason, just as there is no reason for granny to say that she has only me now, that I’m the only one that is left. She won’t squeeze my hand laid on the table, won’t smile.
Surrounded by the silence, I think of the room that we painted a few hours ago, how we decorated it, covered the regular green pattern made with a paint roller a long time ago, how we stretched our arms and applied the appropriate amount of paint. Both of us together, each in a different corner of the room. The white paint is everywhere, on our faces, in our hair, on our rugged clothes. It penetrates everything, who knows for how long and if we will ever want to change it, make it more unusual.
This time we’ll sleep together in one room, in an old double bed with a high wooden headboard ,on spring mattresses under heavy feather quilts. The next time I come here, I’ll already sleep in that big room. In a few days new furniture will be delivered. Granny wanted it this way, now you can come to visit me more often, I will decorate the front room for you, the way you want. But tonight, still here, under the picture of the Holy Pair, I feel heaviness descend upon me, I can’t sleep. Granny can’t sleep either. In the middle of the night she gets up, opens the door and lights a candle in the kitchen. She begins to pray, I can hear her whispered recitation, it rings in my ears, perhaps the first time in my life I understand those words, I can see their meaning, the connection between them, they hang in the air, pierce the soul. And then all the moans come. When she comes back to bed and her body just lies there, it need not be on the alert and listen to orders, it just shows how much it hurts. Such a long suppressed pain.
In the morning I pack a few things: my toothbrush, face cream, lipstick, underwear. Then I wait until ten for a train to take me home, loaded with all these little memories. At quarter to I turn the key in the key-hole to open the brown front gate, I unlock it and turn round, bye-bye, I’ll see you soon, I don’t know what else to say, I don’t want to act like a stranger, so I put my bag down and hug granny, her delicate frail body. I feel all the troubles drift away from her, the anxiety, she trembles, her eyes water and then suddenly I hear her whisper into my shoulder. She says take care, Michael.
written by Soňa Hrúziková
translated by Zuzana Starovecká
first published by HUMNO on 31 March 2010
the original (Slovak) version is available at https://www.humno.sk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=552&Itemid=10