by Magdalena Blažević
(16. 8. 1993)
I’ll be dead in two hours. My hair, washed with camomile, as white as snow, will mix with the dust from the well-worn path and turn grey. It remembers the footsteps, from size 18 to 36, broken parts of the body and muddy fingers, and soon it will remember my whole body, all one metre and sixty centimetres of it. The dry soil will soak up my DNA and will not let the rains nor the snows wash me away. I will always be just under the surface, the grass may even grow from me.
The plums are overripe. I grab one and pull it. I can feel purple spurt. It leaves brown stains. My breasts are still clean. Over there, the stain’ll spread from a bright red to black when they lay me down on the nylon in the improvised morgue. I won’t be alone there. A cold circlet of blue fingers will crown my head. If I could inhale then I’d know how cutting the smell of stagnant death is. But, the photographer will know. He will get closer and he will discover my body and my face wrapped in the silver foil. My skin and lips will be blue, as blue as my eyes are now. He will bend over me, look at me through the lens, and take my last photograph. My eyes will be closed, a black trail under my nose, hardened. He will wipe his face with his shirt sleeve, his blue and white stripes will soak up tears and sweat. I will become part of its scary archive.
In an hour, a force of healthy male bodies will be sliding down through the forest like a stone avalanche. One of them will indicate with his iron finger that I should stand third in line. I’ll be the shortest in it. Dark heads on tall bodies on either side of me will turn towards me, like flowers towards the sun. The one from whose fiery rain a spark will hit my chest will be wearing his cap cocked. He will be standing beneath granny’s apple tree. We will just be separated by a low, thorny fence. He will prop his leg on the wooden bench, in the shade. In the resting place. He will never know that from behind the low window, precisely between two sandbags, he is being watched by a green eye. When I fall, so will he. He will be taken home by his brother’s strong arms, black from the sun, and I by the white, still boyish, arms of my brother.
Even the tomatoes are overripe. We have been mashing them all day and throwing them into hot cauldrons from which red sauce erupts like from a volcano. It spills over the sparse grass, with bugs and ants fleeing as if from a fire. On the table stand washed, dry marmalade jars. When we fill them and stack them, we will hear the echo of unfamiliar voices. Then my body will cringe, my breathing will speed up, and my blood will rush through my veins. Three red, glass rows, the timber straining under the weight, will stand untouched for a long time.
Sparkling water cascades over the soft orange sediment. I smear the surface with my fingers and briefly colour the source. Around it are warm puddles with green edges. I cool my feet under the pipe which is sticking out and fill the plastic bottles. The asphalt is red hot and deserted. The white line has been erased. The forest deep and dark, is still peaceful. When they look at it again from the other side of the Bosnia river it will be aflame, and ash-coloured tree fragments will be falling on our roofs. All the birds will be gone.
The railway track is overgrown with elderwort, the tracks rusty. I take off my shoes and walk as if on a beam. I don’t last long; the hot iron scorching me. I put on my slippers and feel the comfort of warm rubber. I pick some tiny berries and put them into my mouth all at once. The bitter-sweet bloody juice flows down my throat. I wipe my hands on my dress. I sit down on a white, stone sleeper in front of Feriz’s house. Two grey cats are resting there. Their skinny bodies breathing slowly. The windows have been covered by a once-white, thick bed sheet, the door shut. The window pane has cracked diagonally, and been stuck together with brown sticky tape. From the concrete frames destroyed by rain, yellow dandelions peep out. The dry corn fields behind the house aren’t rustling. On the black electricity cable above the haystack perch, lined up, crows, shiny black. When they take off and spread their large wings, the click of a worn lock will be heard. A dark-skinned man, his nose lowered, with a hat on his head will, with a look, give the sign upon which quick feet, like in some children’s game, will jump in ambush out of ditches, wardrobes and from under tables. The gypsy tarot cards will be spilt underfoot, and will be trodden on by strong, tightened boots. The cats will climb onto a tall walnut tree. The corn stems will fall, one by one.
The graveyard on the hill is behind my back, when you look from the mountain it looks like a ball with densely packed-in dots. I won’t be buried there. All day two soldiers will be digging deep holes at its foot, in the hidden, shaded part. From these holes worms and maggots will wriggle free and search for a new haven. Mine is the last in the row. They won’t take the foil off me. I will wear it instead of an evening gown. When they are lowering me in the wooden coffin into the ground there will be pairs of tired legs. Bouquets of wild flowers will wither in a moment and be placed on the hot soil. The forest will be doused, only in places will faint wisps of smoke be discernible. With time, the white letters on the wooden cross will come loose, the nails will rust. The loose soil will be compacted, and on it, instead of a stone slab, multicoloured wax will harden.
Now… now my eyes are damp. Mother is blurry, and he’s already cocked his cap.
About the Author:
Magdalena Blažević is a literary critic and short-story writer from Bosnia and Herzegovina. She was born and grew up in Žepče, a small town in Central Bosnia. She studied English and Croatian Literature in Mostar where she lives and works. Her first short-story collection will be published next year.