From his short story collection Degrad published by Ciela 2011
Blessed Sylvia couldn’t put up with my idiocy any longer and told me to get lost. And that’s why I’m moving out.
Moving always has to start with something that’s hard to shift, so as to make any return all the more difficult.
With this in mind I’m shifting the large fridge down the stairs. I’ve balanced it on two long wooden planks, so it can slide to the lift on the landing while I use my hands to grapple it down the two-three steps. And then the fridge will squeeze me in the lift down eight floors, before I get it into the van and drive it to the villa.
Planks provide the only option for me and the fridge to get away from Sylvia’s flat. They are the only possible rails over the cold chasm that has opened between us and over which I am trying to keep my balance – until I reach the secure horizontal line of the landing, and afterwards – the chilly villa on the Vitosha slopes. Every slip or stumble of mine on one of the planks will convert the fridge’s energy from potential to kinetic, which in its turn will shove both of us into the chasm’s freezing waste, if not, please God, into the morgue chiller and the fridge dump respectively.
And that sends me back to my other possible life – in the form of a vegetable, with broken backbone, quivering like a freshly slaughtered chicken, while the nurse tries to pop a spoon of special food into my dribbling mouth. Every time I stand on the pavement and a car screeches past half a metre from my nose, I wonder how my possible life would turn out if I had been a metre ahead of myself.
But I’m talking here about something else – a rational exit from the prescibed model. It sets me off towards something new, good or bad, beautiful or ugly – it could be a hike to the top of Musala, it could be the dawn at Izdremets over Lakatnik or why not sunset over Gradina – anything new or different that I need – as long as it’s not from Blessed Sylvia.
Lots of folk do this without getting their legs visibly tangled up.
At this moment the fridge electric cable, which I thought I’d fastened round the condenser, came loose and wound itself round my legs. I kicked it to one side, but it got caught on the left hand plank. I bent down to pull it with my hand, leaning sideways against the fridge with my elbow. Unfortunately I found support precisely against the door seal, which could not withstand the pressure from my elbow and so the door opened and the fridge, as if awoken from a thousand year sleep, fell on me with its open mouth and swallowed me into its enormous stomach. The door slammed shut and the fridge with me inside it, continued its crash-bang slide, in its unwilling swift descent down the stairs to the landing, to the accompaniment of splintering planks and metallic clangs.
When all movement ceased, I was quivering like a rabbit on heat. I attempted to open the door, but sadly the fridge had fallen face down and so there was no way out for me without pushing up its body.
I rang Sylvia: “Sylvia – I’m ringing from the fridge, on the landing, yes! Come and let me out!” “Who is it?” “Vasso of course!” “Which Vasso?” “The guy who came with the fridge and left with it!” I said in my most solemn voice. Sylvia cut me off, she’s cross and not up for a joke.
The thing is that I really wanted to lighten the atmosphere – turned out stupid that she found those knickers in the wardrobe, panties that I’d left as deliberate evidence among my clothes to tick away like a bomb’s timing device. Sylvia opened the wardrobe and Prrrrrd-d-d-d-d-j-j-j-j-j-j-j – the bomb, that I’d placed in the middle of our relationship, finally blew away the two little loving faces, glimmering in love.
These knickers – whose are they? She asked
Haven’t the foggiest baby honestly – they’re just here. I bet I got them with the flat, these knickers in the built in wardrobe. I’ll ring the agent tomorrow, ask if they’re hers.
I bought the knickers. I even wore them a few times so they wouldn’t look brand new, and then I threw them in the wardrobe with the expectation that some day they’d provoke questions which I’d answer as though I didn’t give a fuck. And I couldn’t give a fuck you know, they were the key to my freedom. Freedom from Sylvia’s expectations that I would change, the path marking the exit sign from our relationship. I’m really not good at arguing with people, so I get by much better with provoking them. After that it’s easy. I’m a master at turning a small tiff into an almighty row.
And so here I am in the fridge,
I ring Sylvia one more time. It’s giving engaged.
After a few attempts to open the door, at last I push up the main body. There’s nothing wrong with my fridge, a little scratched, dented here and there, but still the basic fridge-like qualities appear to be unimpaired.
At this moment, the next floor down, our neighbour, Dumbo, emerges.
I’ve no idea what his name is, but Sylvia and I call him Dumbo, because he’s as dumb as an earth worm. Our trips with him in the lift consist of a painful “How are you?” – rendered into palms and lifted eyebrows, smile – “I’m OK” – rolling of the head left right left and right again and then seven more floors of similar attempts at something I guess is meant to be polite. And so I’m always a bit embarrassed when our paths cross.
This time, though, things are different.
“Wossup with the foot bro?” he starts up in basso profundo as deep as the chasm in my soul.
I jerk but examine my left leg and there just below the ankle there’s a cut about three centimetres, oozing a little blood that’s already soaking into my sock.
“You’ve not had a fight with Andrei?” he asks carelessly.
I don’t know who this Andrei is any more than where Dumbo got a bass voice from. I consider the following working hypothesis. Dumbo by some miracle has started to talk with the most beautiful bass voice from Boris Christoff up to our time, but at the same time, he’s turning out a bit crazy – something that his dumbness has effectively hidden, rather like Michael Jackson’s wig covered his bald spot in the latter years of his life..
“Andy-Pandy fuck his mother,” – I say with the greatest force but Dumbo continues:
“Best you go to Chemists downstairs and get a bandage and Dettol, Come on I’ll sport you the lift.”
We don’t have bandages and Dettol at ours so his suggestion seems positive and I see no point in turning it down. Moreover I’m obsessed with asking him not just how he’s started talking but how he’s got this beautiful bass.
I do this in the most discreet fashion:
“How did it ha-appen?” I ask him.
“What neighbour?” he answers.
“This thing with your voice (I’ve never been sure if he was deaf, but reckoned that in the end he was going to boil up whatever I asked him.)
“What voice, mate?” I notice he’s looking at me critically but not especially threateningly. Even so I decide to stop
“Whatever, fuck it.”
The lift creaks to the first floor and I bid him “Goodbye”. He gives me a hurt look: “What do you mean, Goodbye? You know I’m just off to buy beer to watch Formula 1 round yours.”
Something strikes me that the most logical step is to get back from the chemists before he’s got the beer and wound up in front of my door/ Not that I’m afraid of him, but what if the whole time he’s pretended to be deaf and dumb, and at the same time he’s been listening to the shrieks coming from our room with Sylvia, with a glass glued to the ceiling, with his ear just a twenty centimetre straight line from her bum. And now he knows I’m a fucked arsehole, he’s going to try for my place. Maybe that’s been his whole life’s plan. And when the cards are on the table, he turns out to be the Jack of Clubs, which has been hiding from me for the whole two year game with Sylvie. The Jack of Clubs that will beat the last ten out of life’s final deal, the Jack that will win the big hand, with which later he’ll stroke my former love’s fanny.
In the Chemists who do I see but Kamen Vodenicharov, the famous TV compere. Under the sign “Kamen Vodinacharov Msc Pharmacology”. Perhaps they’re filming an ad, hidden camera or something of that sort, but whatever’s going on, I’ve got to get some bandages – that’s what chemists shops are for aren’t they – fuck them? I enter with a slight frown and Kamen meets me by the very door.
“Hey, hey! Vasso, man, how’s it hanging?”
“Hello,” I say. “Excuse me, but is the chemist’s working?”
“ Well, when hasn’t it been working?” Kamen looked a bit worried. “Why are you asking? How’s good old Andrei?”
“Andrei…he’s OK. Do we know each other?”
Kamen looked surprised and said; “Are you sure you’re OK, you look funny. I explain. He gets out the bandage. “Shall we call a doctor?” he asks. “Oh look, best we call Andrei.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me. Give me the bandage and some Dettol, I’ll be as right as rain, I’ve got to go upstairs to watch Formula 1.” I mention Formula 1 to prove that I’m OK with space and time.
“Ah Formula 1 … OK man, just as you like. You know I’m here till eight, then Rich-boy is on nights.”
I leave. I’ve got to take on board the following things that have jumped out as if from nowhere:
Dumbo talks – that’s good.
Kamen Vodenicharov’s got an Msc in Pharmacology. – I couldn’t care less.
I’m going to watch Formula 1 with Dumbo, or whatever his name is now – I’m none too pleased.
Andrei (I don’t know who he is, but information on him has come to me from two independent sources) – I don’t know anything about him except that he’s some kind of factor in my life, let’s hope it’s not what’s going through my head.
I ring our doorbell feeling a bit guilty. Opening the door, instead of Sylvia, is the fattest man I’ve seen ever – he looks as if he weighs at least 180 kilogrammes, with an enormous belly, he’s poured his gigantic thighs into blue jogging pants, ginger hair curling down his back, a short beard covering his entire face and two earrings in each ear. Disgusting!
The man gives me a tender kiss and hugs me, before I can scream or find the first available knife to rip open this ginger whale. In the same instant my legs gave way, I jump into his embrace, and surrender myself to this fat red-head angel with earrings. I French kiss him. U-u-gh!
“What’s up with your leg, pussy cat?” he says in the softest tones as we enter the kitchen, where, believe it or not, I see my fridge – no scratches, open and filled from top to bottom with cholesterol friendly foods – no doubt the preferred diet of the love of my hitherto unsuspected life.
The most interesting thing is that in spite of the my brain denying the possibility that I have anything to do with anyone except Sylvia, to say nothing about any link with Ginger, obviously my feelings are enflamed by this pig. Apart from anything else, I have to find out something. Up till now the following things are clear:
I live in the same place
I don’t have any clue about Formula 1 contestants.
Gay – OK. There’s nothing I can do about that. With a view to the upcoming evening, however, I have at all costs to find out what my role is in what might be best described as a strange relationship.
“I forgot to get something from the chemists!” I say after I’ve bandaged my leg.
“OK, pussy cat, I’m here,” says Andrei and tries to pinch my bottom. But I pull away, brimful of disgust, and jump to the door.
On the way down, I immediately forget about Andrei, and Sylvia swoops into my consciousness like a bird that escaped long ago, happy and far away from me. Sylvia – my lost possibility, missed train, desire, yearning and yawning loss. Pit, chasm, misfortune. A moment in which I neglected, spoiled, rotted, crushed, my life’s spirit, what did I do, the fridge and I are in the right place, but there’s no Sylvia. Just as I was thinking as I lugged the fridge down. And there’s no way, no way to find her. I’ll ring her again, so I get her, so I can beg forgiveness, so I tell her that it’s me, Vasso,yay, there’s no way for you to know this, but me and you, it’s true, yes, in another life, that’s right, look how you catch on, I want to kiss you, like I did before, wait, Mr Sergeant Major, where are you taking me, where?
What is the alternative possible life of ours. My mean wish to continue along the line of possibilities and get away from Blessed Sylvia, how many times have I imagined how great it would be if I hadn’t met her, how my life would have played out, what a beautiful accommodating girl I could have met up with.
All of this runs completely contrary to that passion in the beginning, when we walked out on the Rebrovo meadow, and I talked to her and she talked to me and it was so beautiful and eternal, how I though my life would be nothing without her, the first month, the second sunrise over Fig Tree Beach, third time, the ten SMS messages per eight hour working day, use of the direct line Skype messaging window and the joy of waiting for what I would read, a second stolen from the most valuable period of that most wonderful life which she shared with me, a second which though it brought her a second closer to death, she generously set aside to send me a yellow kissing ball in the message box.
“Stop calling me or I’ll put in a complaint about you with Mtel!” I hear her voice across the way.
On the street I see a guy who in my other life is the Justice Minister, but here he’s wearing overalls and is heaving some sack of cement towards the nearby building site.
“Watch where you’re going, mate,” I say not so much because he’ll bump into me, but because I don’t approve of his politics in the old life. He looks at me with his placid dark eyes, murmurs something and meekly continues on his way.
Sylvia I so want to be with you.
At the Chemist’s I smile at Kamen Vo. Or whoever it is there.
“Give me a brown packet of Durex,” I say. “Ribbed,” I add.
He hands it over He says nothing, doesn’t express any surprise, clearly I’m the one who uses condoms, which is preferable after all, rather than have my arse pumped.
Even so I ask sotto voce:
“Tell me now, who buys condoms more often – me or Andrei?”
“It’s usually him who buys them, but it’s nice that you get them for him sometimes,” he giggles. “Unless you’re buying them for someone else,” he winks at me.
Bugger. I’d like to see him choke on his own pills, if only.
Something froze in my backside and returned me to the frozen chasm, over which a little time earlier or somewhere else, I grappled with the fridge. Something soaked into my bottom, I pulled my trousers down and, no joke, I saw those same knickers, which I’d put in the wardrobe for Sylvia to find.
“No! I’m never going back there ever! No I’m not giving him my arse. I’ve not given him my arse, I’m not going to give him my arse – you’re lying you greasy TV bastard, I am a guy with balls and no-one else! No-o-o-one! I’m a man in my head, my role in everything! I listen to myself screaming at Kamen Vodenicharov, crazy with fury and in the same instant I see Sylvia’s face opposite mine, the face of some woman doctor, and the back of one of the two guys who are carrying me down the stairs on a stretcher.
“I think he’s in shock. Maybe he had some problem in his childhood, the blow unlocked a memory,” said the doctor. “We’ll pass him on to a psychologist.”
Sylvia is terribly worried about me, “I love you Vasso!” “And I live you!” I say. “And I‘m giving you the fucking fridge.” I continue while the pair continue to lug me and my broken leg down the stairs.