Текстове на Мария Каро, Бети Файон и Мария Добревска.

The Doorbell, the Peephole

It was a doorbell like any...

It was a doorbell like any other, but to me it seemed like an irregular pimple, which hurt when it was pressed, perhaps because my father had stuck his dentist’s business card inside in the space intended for the name. He had done the same thing with the peephole. His business card was exquisite, his name and occupation were written in calligraphic script. I don’t know what the exact type was, but one could imagine that this dentist probably doubled as a fashion designer, that his dental pliers fluttered and danced around the face. The door of our apartment was painted the color of old pumpkin, and the front door of the house – which was even older, barley closing and completely chipped at the edges – displayed his working hours.  I loved to copy his working hours for him. They sometimes shrank, and sometimes they grew, and this made me think that my father controlled time. No wonder that he always seemed young to me.

I didn’t like the peephole. I felt as if I held people captive in it, squeezing them inside a binocular, their heads elongated and larger than the bodies, which had also grown and now twisted like roots from the invisible staircase below. I had learned to converse with his anxious visitors and often directed them to his practice upstairs. But the anxiousness of their presence never went away. Their dental bridges and prosthetics floated in greenish solutions atop the fridge in the kitchen and a silent dental technician often came to fetch them. Teeth color samples in all shades of white were piled next to them, spread open like fans, and when my father came down to have some of my mother’s soup for lunch, he always smelled of that particular dentist smell that can never be described. It is sour, it makes your mouth water, and yet it’s also dusty, like plaster, with a whiff of mold and a barely detectable notch of sweetness – I don’t know where from, perhaps the disinfectant, or the bloody tampons in the patients’ mouths. I always wondered who rolled those tiny cigarettes, the tampons, and how they managed to stay rolled inside the mouth… 

Once, and only once, that peephole could have been of use. 

It was evening, my grandmother was ringing the doorbell, an urgent and insistent buzz, over and over again…  as I didn’t open the door, she headed back towards the apartment across from ours, but since the light bulb had gone out (there was always something out of order, a light bulb was always out and we were used to the intermittent chaos of light and darkness), Grandma leaned against the wrong wall, that is – against nothing – and took off in the air… Grandma afterwards, hurting and curled up like a wounded bird, and I, silent and guilty. 

Perhaps even now, after many years, when the air in this house smells of the cheap perfumes of the new owners (a beautiful couple, she – wearing platform shoes, bright lipstick, and the optimism inherent to the owner of a private company controlling the entry of ships into the harbour, and he – a steward on a German ship on the Rhine, tidy and beaming with greased politeness) – perhaps the air still keeps, deep down in its tendons, cartilage, and ligaments, the memories of a buzzing and darkness, of dentist smell and plaster dust.

Translation: Ana Blagova


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