The Breathing Hill
Novel. Ciela Publishing 2010 Award Nomination for Helicon 2011
Novel. Ciela Publishing 2010 Award Nomination for Helicon 2011
excerpts from the novel The Breathing Hill
MY FRIEND ALICE
Mary’s friend is petite, fair-haired and blueeyed, and Mary sometimes regarded her as translucent. As she walked the streets beside her, she often thought of herself as suddenly being taken afloat by an air draught, drifting with the wind and the dust over the Sofia boulevards, just following the direction for the moment.
Alice had a cat, or a big and jealous tomcat rather, with whom they lived like brother and sister, only if you could cast a glance over them, when together, huddling and ready for a snapshot, his paw resting on her shoulder, her head bended next to his. For Mary, the tomcat looked huge next to Alice.
She also enjoyed taking pictures of herself with a camera. She took several shots a day, as if she was hiding and then trying to find herself, assigning the latter job to the camera. The camera stood on high stilts in the room and wore a dustproof hat on its top. Quite obediently, every day, it told Alice stories of herself, and I loved to picture her in my mind, standing before it as if before a monster ready to gulp her down, while she surrendered herself to being eaten at least once a day. Then I loved to continue fantasising what little Alice could be doing in the insides of the monster, because she never developed her films, but just changed them with new ones.
I just imagined that the click of the button was the beginning of her trip and I often beheld her imploringly to make her tell me what she had been thinking of at the moment of the snapshot and how she had felt later. This was because I presumed that she would either find it difficult to tell me about the rest or that she was forbidden to do so.
I don’t know. By the one who gave permission to Lewis Caroll.
When she started crying, Alice could cry as much as ordinary people did for a whole month, no, for a whole year. She had a flair for it. It was hard for one to find out why she was crying, but weren’t there too many things for which you could cry, Mary kept reminding herself. And she always showed understanding for her friend. Sometimes, however, Mary thought that Alice had gone too far crying and offered her to go to the movies.
They usually went to see some old film at the Odeon, such as Mamma Roma or a similar one. Afterwards, all people seemed to Mary as having stepped out of the screen, which is they looked somewhat as Italians, and in general Mary perceived neo-realism as something very contemporary.
All people, but Alice.
Provided she hadn’t disappeared (because Mary imagined that Alice would disappear any moment, carried away by some spectator, who took their popcorns, coat and bag from the seat, collecting her by mistake), after the movie, Mary always thought it was not Alice, her friend, who walked next to her and smiled, but it was rather the girlliving-in-the-camera, who seemed to know all films by heart, even without having seen them.
Yes, all people around looked as participants in the film, but Alice.
„Well, I’m going there to rescue Alice from the Photo-Zoom”, Mary said, as she headed for her friend’s place, not being sure, however, about the scale of zoom-in or zoom-out at which the In-Camera-Alice could be at the moment, and whether she had made it back at all.
Recording 20: А
Here is a funny conversation I had with Mr. A. He is seated comfortably in a chair opposite to me, his long legs crossed in his large black shoes with rounded toe caps, his arms crossed on his belly, а-а, hmm, tummy, well… cute belly, in his white-and-blue chequered shirt. His head is tossed back, as if he needs to be slightly further away from me, and he is eyeing me inquisitively. I try to look in his eyes and I’m eager to hear him say some…, something…, which really matters, … a true story.
For instance, a true story will always have a beginning, a middle and an end. Whereas everything which happened in our story had a beginning only. So I ask him to tell me some real sentences, and he looks at me, he stares in my eyes for a long time, and says:
‘Same for me.’
Then he keeps looking at me for a long, long time, and I wonder what he might have on his mind, and I… suddenly realise. Then I say on my turn:
‘Same for me.’
His eyes stay fixed into mine, for yet another long lapse, then he smiles even wider and says:
‘Same for me.’
It would have been boring to continue on the same track, so I requested to hear a couple of sentences and nodded, so he said:
Then we both burst into laughter because the whole story seemed to have evolved in three sentences… The entire thinkable story.
Is this what a love story would sound like? A couple of repeated sentences with several nods in between and a ‘Thank you’ once or twice…
It seems absurd!
So I come in: ‘Let’s start it all over!’
We both began to laugh…
No, no, I’d better go out of the room.
ANARCHISM FLOWS FROM MR. A
This is a new theory. Most probably, you haven’t heard of it. It says that if someone’s name contains the letter ‘A’, then that person would be an Anarchist. You only need to know the name of a person to be clear about it.
BELIEVE IT OR NOT
It’s Mr. A’s birthday, however. He had purchased three cakes, each of unrivalled merit. One even had black currant on top. The inner part contained some banana (my piece). He walked round in a fawn suit handing people a piece of cake on a plate and smiling free of charge. I mean, he could charge premiums for this smile from advertising agencies, against this joyful and even alluring smile which he gave out today, for free.
I have always dreamt to be served by such a waiter – a big one, truly lanky, but sleek, very finely dressed, without perfume, sweating slightly (streaks running down his temples), while pieces of cake floated in the air and, all of a sudden, you get three in front, three different types of cake: make a choice!
I chose the black currant.
He left the plates and spread his arms apart as if to say: ‘Hugging time!’
I couldn’t wait to see anything more, but grabbed him around the waist and lifted him… Yes, you don’t believe me, but I really lifted him! I think I thrust him off the ground by a centimeter or two, then I dropped him…, then I hugged him and stretched to touch his cheeks, where I felt streaks of sweat…
Pippi Longstocking, a.k. Windowshade… did this to the people she loved, if you remember…
Pippi, however, is an invented character!
I can assure you that everything is possible and if Pippi was invented you could also materialise me (Mary) out of your thoughts, but I swear… (at this point, Mary wondered what to swear into), that Mr. A was in the air, for a second.
A whole day of kisses
At this point, Mary needs to confess something before you. One day, quite some time ago, she spent a whole day kissing with her friend Thomas.
And it was not a kissing competition, but it was all quite voluntary. And as I know that you haven’t been kissing for a whole day /how nasty I am!/, I will tell you how it happened and what it’s like.
At the beginning, one does not intend at all to spend the whole day kissing. One dallies around as it is the last day of one’s stay in a foreign city, which had lasted for about three months. It suddenly comes to mind that this, being your last day here, you could call your friend here, whose name is Thomas and who was full of doubt even at that time.
Thomas admits that he is very happy, you meet near the bridge over the river. /It is good if the city where you would be kissing for a whole day is seated on a river./ At some point you start crossing the bridge, which is so long that its end never comes. /This is also very important./ And what happens? Several elements are of significance now:
The river down there is large, deep and dark as fate.
The end of the bridge is well out of sight.
And you have next to you a fair, bearded, poetry-writing new friend of yours, who made you buy out the stock of the bookstore as he pulls out not from the inner pocket of his jacket, but rather straight from his heart, small butterfly booklets, and as he traces their hesitant attempts to fly one direction or another and seems to be trying to draw them back by calling their names, you have already pictured continents… The river also babbles there, as if it comes from the lower world and the bridge seems to Mary like a huge zipper, which opens noisily with every step of theirs – to Mary those steps look like giant strides, fatally taking them to the other end of……………… the Zipper, which in this case was a huge garden by the river.
The trees there looked like candelabra and the paths were so narrow that they had to stop kissing when they walked past other people.
Sometimes they stopped because they were very thirsty and Thomas gurgled a sip of fanta down Mary’s mouth, while she rolled the cherry of her ice-cream…..
Yeaahh, it was already dusk and the waiters started looking at them kind of strange, as Mary and Thomas were Marytom and then Thomasmar, and as we all know, it is difficult to serve coffee to people whose minds are so blurred.
Then it got pitch dark, Thomas and Mary got on a bus and before that a funny machine spit out a small ticket and Mary suddenly realised that she was going to miss the train.
The next morning, she looked at herself on the train: her cheeks and lips were burning and her chin was very red. In the course of the day it formed a crust. And on the next day she was home and her mother asked her:
„Where did you rub your chin sore?”
Mary put up a whole story how the bridges in some cities are zippers, which sometimes get stuck, they trip you and, there you are, changed for the rest of your life. And, Wittgenstein was not right in saying that the boundaries of our language…, well, how had he put it, … it was related to the boundaries of the world, because the zip-pers had to be taken in mind. There are some compressed data there, say, a day of kisses compressed… they could get decompressed, you didn’t even have to speak, they just… But her mother wanted to hear no more of Mary’s inventions.
Translation: Angelina Sekulova
The Breathing Hill, Excerpt