- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
I killed my husband last night. I used a dental drill to bore a hole in his skull. I waited to see if a dove would fly out but out came a big black crow instead.
I woke up tired, or more exactly without any appetite for life. My will to live diminishes as I get older. Did I ever have a great lust for life? I'm not sure, but I certainly used to have more energy. And expectations too. And you live so long as you have something to expect.
It's Saturday. I have time to dream and grieve.
I crawl off my lonely divan. Jana and I carried its twin down to the cellar ages ago. The cellar is still full of junk belonging to my ex-husband, Karel: bright red skis, a bag of worn-out tennis balls, and a bundle of old school textbooks. I should have thrown it all out long ago, but I couldn't bring myself to. I stood a rubber plant where the other divan used to be. You can't hug a rubber plant and it won't caress you, but it won't two-time you either.
It's half past seven. I ought to spend a bit of time with my teenage daughter. She needs me. Then I must dash off to my Mum's. I promised to help her sort out Dad's things. The things don't matter, but she's all on her own and spends her time fretting. She needs to talk about Dad but has no one to talk about him with. You'd think he was a saint, the way she talks about him, but from what I remember, he only ordered her around or ignored her.
As my friend Lucie says, you even miss tyranny once you're used to it. And that doesn't only apply to private life.
I don't miss tyranny. I killed my ex-husband with a dental drill last night even though I feel no hatred towards him. I'm sorry for him more than anything else. He's lonelier than I am and his body is riddled with a fatal disease. But then, aren't we all being gnawed at inside? Life is sad apart from the odd moments when love turns up.
I always used to ask why I was alive. Mum and Dad would never give me a straight answer. I expect they didn't know themselves. But who does?
You have to live once you've been born. No, that's not true. You can take your life any time, like my grandfather Antonín, or my Aunt Venda, or Virginia Woolf or Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn didn't kill herself, though; they only said she did in order to cover the tracks of her killer. She apparently took fifty pills of some barbiturate or other even though a quarter of that amount would have been enough. Her murderers were thorough. I myself carry a tube of painkillers; not to kill myself with though, but in case I get a migraine. I'd be capable of taking my life, except that I hate corpses. It was always an awful strain for me in the autopsy room, and I preferred not to eat the day before.
Why should I make the people I love deal with my corpse?
They'll have to one day anyway. Who will it be? Janinka, most likely, poor thing.
I oughtn't to call her Janinka, she doesn't like it. It sounds too childish to her ears. I called my ex-husband Kajnek when I visited him recently on the oncology ward. I thought it might be a comfort to him in his pain to hear the name I used to call him years ago. But he objected, saying it was the name of a hired killer who recently got a life sentence.
We've all got life sentences, I didn't say to him.
I can feel my early-morning depression taking hold of me. I had one glass of wine too many yesterday. I won't try to count the cigarettes. Lucie maintains I don't have depressions — I'm just `moody'.
Lucie and I got to know each other at medical school, but whereas I passed anatomy at the second attempt, she never mastered it. She dropped out and took up photography and was soon better off than those of us who stayed the course. She and I always hit it off together, most likely because we differ in almost every conceivable way. She's a tiny little thing and her legs are so thin you'd think they'd snap in a breeze. I've never known her to be sad.
What do photographers know about depression? Mind you, she advises me quite rightly to give up smoking and restrict myself to three small glasses of wine a day, though she drinks as much as she likes. I'll give everything up the day I reach fifty. It's awful to think that I'm less than five years away from that fateful day, that dreadful age. That's if I'll still be alive in four years and eleven months' time. Or tomorrow for that matter.
The best cure for depression is activity. At the surgery I have no time to be depressed. I have no time to think about myself. But today's Saturday: an open day for dreams and grief.
I peek into Jana's room and see she is peacefully asleep. Last year she still had long hair, longer than mine, and mine reaches a third of the way down my back. Now she's had it cut short and looks almost like a boy. The stud in her ear twinkles, but on the pillow alongside her head lies a rag doll by the name of Bimba that she's had since she was seven and always carries around with her. After she'd wriggled out of her jeans last night she left them lying on the floor, and her denim jacket lies in a crumpled heap on the armchair, one sleeve inside out. She hangs out with punks of both sexes because she says they don't give a damn about property or careers. The last time we went to the theatre she insisted we take the tram. She wants to do her own thing, but what does it mean to do your own thing in a world of billions of people? In the end you always end up getting attached to something or someone.
There's an open book on the chair by her bed. It's not long since she read fairy stories and she loved to hear all about foreign countries, animals and the stars. She was lovely to talk to. She always seemed to me wise for her age and to have a particular understanding of other people. She'd generally sense when I was feeling sad and why, and do her best to comfort me. Now I get the feeling she hardly notices me or simply regards me as someone who feeds and minds her. I tell myself it's because of her age, but I'm frightened for her all the same. We were watching a TV programme about drugs and I asked her whether she'd been approached by pushers on the street. `Of course,' she answered, almost in amazement. Naturally she had told them to get lost. I told her that if I ever found out she was taking anything of the sort I'd kill her. `Of course, Mum, and you'd feed me to the vultures!' We both laughed, although the laughter stuck in my throat.
I close her door and go into the bathroom.
For a moment I look at myself in the hostile mirror. No, the mirror's not hostile, it's dispassionately objective; it's time that's hostile.
My former and so far only husband once tried to explain to me that time is as old as the universe. I told him I didn't understand. Time couldn't be old, could it? For one thing it was a masculine word.
Time was feminine in German and Latin, and neuter in English, he told me. He was simply trying to explain that time began along with the universe. It hadn't existed before. There had been nothing at all, not even time.
I told him how awfully clever and learned he was, instead of telling him he should get a sense of humour.
I couldn't care less what happened billions of years ago and whether time began or not. I only care about my lifetime, and so far time has taken love away and given me wrinkles. It lies in wait for me on every corner. It rushes ahead and heeds none of my pleas.
It heeds no one's pleas. Time alone is fair and just.
Justice is often cruel.
Still, time has been fairly good to me. So far. My hair is not quite as thick as when I was twenty, and I have to use chemicals to stop the world seeing that I'm going grey. My golden locks — one time I wove them in a braid that reached below my waist. But I still carry myself as well as I did then. My breasts have sagged a bit but they're still large. Not that there is much point in humping them around with me any more — apart from men's enjoyment. Selfish bastards. But nothing will save me from time. They say that injections of subcutaneous fat can get rid of wrinkles round the mouth, but I don't like the idea of it. I don't have too many wrinkles yet. Just around the eyes. My former husband used to call them sky blue, but what colour is the sky? The sky is changeable and its colour depends on the place, the wind and the time of day, whereas my eyes are permanently blue, morning and night, happy or sad.
When I step out of the shower I'm shivering all over and it's not from cold. Even though it is already April, I still have the heating on in the flat. I am shivering from loneliness - what shakes me is the weeping I conceal, weeping over another day when time will simply drain away, a river without water, just a dried riverbed full of sharp stones — and I'm barefoot and naked, my dressing gown lies on the floor and no one looks at my breasts. Abandoned and uncaressed, milk will never flow from them again.
From the bedroom behind me comes a roar of what is now regarded as music and what my little girl idolizes: Nirvana or Alice in Chains or Screaming Trees, heavy metal, hard rock, grunge, I can't keep track of it any more. The time when music like that excited me is past. It's true that when the chair in the surgery happens to fall vacant, Eva dispels the quiet by tuning into some radio station, but I don't notice it. My assistant is scared of silence, like almost everyone these days. But I like peace and quiet, I yearn for a moment of silence within myself, the sort of silence in which I might hear the rush of my own blood, hear the tears roll down my cheeks, and hear the flames when they suddenly come close.
But that sort of silence is to be found only in the depths of the grave, such as in the wall of the village cemetery on the edge of Rozmitál where they buried Jan Jakub Ryba. He cut his throat when he could no longer support his seven children. His poor wife! But in that sort of silence you don't hear anything because the blood and tears have stopped and Master Ryba was never to hear again from the nearby church the words of his folkish Christmas Mass: `Master, hey! Rise I say! Look out at the sky — splendour shines on high ...'
For me blood, unlike tears, means life, and when I bleed from a wound in my gum I try to stop it as quickly as possible.
I've given my daughter her breakfast and I've reminded her she has homework to do. I'm dashing out to see Mum. Jana wants to know when I'll be home, and when I tell her I'll be back around noon, she seems happy enough.
The street is chock-a-block with cars on weekdays but it's not so hard to cross on a Saturday morning. And there's not such a stench in the air. I actually think I can smell the elderflower from the garden in front of the house.
The houses in our street are sexless, having been built at the end of the thirties. They lack any particular style. It was the time when they started building these rabbit hutches, except that in those days they were built of bricks instead of precast concrete, and most of them had five or six floors instead of thirteen. Mum used to tell me how in summer before the war people would take chairs out in front of the house and sit and chat. In those days this was the city limits and people had more time to talk. Little did
Excerpted from No Saints or Angels by Ivan Klíma. Copyright © 1999 by Ivan Klíma.
Translation copyright © 2001 Gerald Turner. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.