Extract 3 from WIP No.1

And so it continued.  I switched from one dead-end job to another.  I could find no way of putting to use those skills that had been so highly prized on-board Lokomotiv.  Another city, another country, always the same thing…  Eating cheap food in dirty cafeterias, drinking strong beer in run-down bars, forging friendships and relationships that never lasted…  I didn’t seem to fit anywhere.  I was growing tired.  And the pain was still there – the breathlessness, the aching chest.

One evening after finishing work, I’d been standing on the platform of the busy central station, watching and waiting, much as usual.  The express train across the way began to pull out of the station.  As it did so the view of the platform opposite cleared.  It was then that I saw him.  He looked at me directly then immediately averted his gaze.  Young women caught my eye from time-to-time, and I would occasionally catch theirs.  Otherwise, I never met a stranger’s gaze.  I knew no one in that city.  But I’d recognised his face.  He wasn’t someone whom I’d known exactly, but I’d seen him about often enough, in the bars on Lokomotiv.  I fought my way through the crowd, hurried down the steps and along the tunnel that ran beneath the tracks then leapt up the steps on other side, taking them two at a time.  I could see his navy-blue woollen hat bobbing above the crowd up ahead of me.  I began pushing my way through the travellers once more.  I was getting nearer to him.  ‘Hey!’ I yelled.  ‘Wait – please!’  Others turned to see who it was that was shouting in that unrecognisable tongue, but not him, the only person present who could understand my words.  ‘Come back!’  Only a few bodies separated us as the external agent entered the lift that ascended to the shopping centre above.  He met my eye as he pushed the button.  I reached the doors just in time to see his red baseball boots disappearing from view.  I was left staring at the mechanism of the empty lift shaft.  I’d lost him.

The following evening, as I’d been standing alone at a bar in the city, drinking a bottle of strong beer, I felt the touch of another’s hand on my shoulder.  He spoke softly.  ‘Godakk, Olav,’ he said.  Even before I’d turned around, I knew it would be him.  He bought me another beer and we crossed to a table in the corner by the window.  He wouldn’t tell me his name.  I asked him for news.  It seemed that there was nothing he didn’t know.  My mother and sister were well.  My friends were pursuing careers, settling down with women that we’d known.  Things on Lokomotiv were much the same as ever.  I suppose that I became carried away by the sound of my language.  I realised that I hadn’t spoken or written it in years.  I told him about some of the places that I’d been and things that I’d done since leaving the city-state.  He heard me out then remarked, ‘Yes, we know.’  And then I’d been unable to stop myself asking if there wasn’t some way I might go back one day.  Surely, I remembered what I’d been told.  It was a question of security.  An exit visa was just that.  I could see that there’d be no point in trying to force information out of him.  He wouldn’t have told me anything.  And besides, I could make out the outline of the pistol in his coat pocket.

‘Well, I must be going,’ he said, at last.  ‘There is always work to be done.’

I had one more question.

‘And Tiia?’ I asked.

Tiia?  She was as beautiful as ever, of course.  But I knew that.  Aaksel was a lucky man.  And now they had two small children, a boy and a girl, Lars-Toomas and Anna-Tiia.  The girl was a scale model of her mother.  Her eyes were green like her mother’s, her hair the same shade of red.

I felt the switch-blade plunging once more into my sternum.  I had known all along that this was what he’d tell me.  I couldn’t speak.  The external agent rose from his chair.

‘Well, gajuvel, Olav.’

He shook my hand.  And now he was striding toward the door and I knew that we wouldn’t be talking again.

Gajugot, Niils,’ I called out.

He stiffened visibly but kept on walking, out through the door and into the street.  I returned to the bar and ordered another bottle.


Text and image © PSR 2013

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