Weaving Stories of Return

by Alicja Kwiatkowska

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Her sole reason for reading Hrabal was that the man of her life did. She did not consider herself mature enough to enjoy high literature, which usually tired and bored her to death; however, she had to say that there was something immensely charming in the very fact of engrossing herself in someone’s favorite book. It was like nosily peering over the person’s shoulder and suddenly catching a glimpse of something embarrassing, blushing scarlet and turning on your heel, with a solemn resolution to put an end to such a shameful activity… Only to return, as you tend to return . . .

(my dear, I am glad that I embarrass you)

. . . to a moonlit meadow on a summer night, just to lift your head high, so high! And to gaze at the stars until the wonderful moment comes when you are overwhelmed by a bizarre, dense weakness.

(one day I will take you to an empty golf course, you will be barefoot and blindfolded, and leaning on my shoulder)

Here’s Orion’s Belt - Mintaka, Alnilam, Alnitak; there’s Betelgeuse, a name as red as the star itself.

(synesthesia is a brain disorder)

There’s Sirius on the right, Aldebaran on the left. The stars are signposts, the sky a map. What pride there was in people who, instead of kneeling down under the starlit sky and praying from their hearts and from their souls, and laughing, and crying, started to give names to stars and planets!

No one thought, no one considered that everything in the world and beyond it did already have names, their own, innate, everlasting, in the universal tongue of the universe. Those who wish to hear and comprehend it, but are not able to, should hold themselves culpable. However else can you hear the music of the spheres, which fills up the sky and the earth, flowing down from the stars into every blade of grass, if you do not get rid of other sounds in yourself, of everything that is low, everything that is human?


Sometimes she felt like killing him. Like when he gently bit her hands, telling her how much he adored her. She hated it when he said such things. She had no idea how to react then, whether she should feel embarrassed or just fall into his arms. She felt like doing both, so she limited herself to putting on an expression that made her look like a confused, scared creature.

Sometimes, when he was in an inquisitive mood, he would ask her for detailed reports of her breakdowns, disappointments, depressions, mistakes and lost friendships. She would share everything with him with sincerity - which was one of the rules of their relationship - and he made comments. Or did not. Sometimes he just listened. And told her to go on. He required to see everything she carried in her soul and mind, stories about what was lost and found, and the story of the scars on her hands.

(there isn’t anything more beautiful than fancifully scared female flesh… you know, you could even have a tattoo made around this scar)

That made her feel so embarrassed that she wanted to do something really bad to him, or at least take offense for good, which she once attempted to do. But since he . . .

(you haven’t taken offense, you’re just trying to punish me for something)

. . . could read her mind, and felt at ease using this skill, she always returned.

She returned, twisting some stray strand of hair around her finger, and told him about everything. About how her day had been, about the latest episode of her favorite soap opera, and did he think that kittens grew on trees?

(did you have any doubts?)

She told him about that song on the radio that had appeared in her dream the night before, and that some friend of hers tried to flirt with her by talking - or rather giving a monologue – about True Art, and Post-modernism, which was so grandiloquent and boring, oh! so boring!

(he just wanted you to think that he’s the greatest guy on Earth, so that you’d want to have his babies; some men put so little effort into such subtle things, for they do not understand that they have to be both smart AND charming, like me)

She would tell him about that and about million other things, and he listened, commented and reminisced about how beautiful the autumn had been. Only sometimes could she hear that voice in the back of her head telling her to stop elaborating on such trivial matters, because it was high time to grow up . . .

(don’t even think about it)

and because by telling such bullshit she only proved that she was an idiot. How come she despised people who kept talking about nothing for hours when she wasn’t any better than them?

(about nothing? I haven’t noticed you talk about nothing; you talk about the world like you see it, and there are few who can truly do that, believe me)

She also told him about her dreams.


In one of them she was wandering through the corridors of a deserted castle. She was looking for something, but she had no idea what exactly it was; something important, that’s all she knew - something she desired with all her heart. She entered a chamber lit by candles with blue flames; there was a beautiful girl standing there, a girl with pale skin and black hair, accompanied by two men. She herself remained unseen by them, though she stood right in the opening of the chamber.

Then it happened.

Her own mind and the mind of the pale girl blended together, as if they were one person in two bodies. Suddenly she understood everything - she knew that the girl had committed an appalling sacrilege, that she did it out of vanity and low reasons, and that she was just about to be punished. It would be the only fair punishment. There was no rebellion or fear, just pride and a deep belief that the only way to redeem herself was to die with courage in her eyes. One of the silent men took out a handgun and shot, and for a fraction of a second a thousand thoughts and feelings passed through the dying girl’s mind; the belief that you are not allowed to give up until the very end, that there are things you have to stay loyal to at all costs, and that those who have noble hearts live in harmony with what they think and feel.

And along with the black-haired girl, who died with courage in her eyes and a gentle smile on her lips, she died as well.

She found herself in some crowded, noisy place, blinded by the bright lights, jostled by strangers who seemed not to notice her, for she was invisible. She wanted to find her way out, but how? Then an elderly lady approached and passed her a ring with a blue gem. “If you ever want to return to the castle,” she said, “look into this stone”.

Why would she want to return? But she looked into the jewel, and she saw it become the whole world, and her vision was obscured by a blue landscape with the outline of a castle looming on the horizon.

Alicja Kwiatkowska is a student of languages and linguistics from Gothenburg, Sweden. Her work has not been published previously.

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