The City of Silence

I cannot recall any reason why would he spot me in a crowd where I was slowly moving. It is Thursday, market day. A river of people loudly bubbling, unstoppably rinsing the market stands.

As soon as he noticed me, he rushed in urgently, didn’t want me to get away,
I guess, and stopped right in front of me, so I halted unintentionally.

The man first lifted, and then slowly, for a hundredth of a second — faster than a sun when setting — lowered his eyebrows. While watching me so, I thought it was very appropriate to offer him my curious gaze. He smiled. But there was nothing to be added, since I am always smiling.

Neither he asked me anything, nor did I answer him. A moment, long as eternity. Surprisingly, my thoughts streamed smoothly into this unexpected confluence of our encounter. It seemed like we were perfectly understanding each other. Like fish do. Flexing bodies.

I got it, the conversation will not be easy. Troublesome are those who start their sentences with “I.”

“I,” repeated it several times a bit louder, “don’t have trousers!” Carefully,
I looked at him from head to toe, but not too noticeably, because of the crowd. From the top to the waist, a pretty decent old guy. From the waist to the bottom, a very bold combination even for evening outings.

Lacquered shoes, size 9.1 (US 10), and navy blue socks. An absence of trousers, duly reported. Therefore, an old man, without trousers, wearing white pants and a gray jacket, and me.

In the middle of the marketplace, face to face. I felt tightness in my throat. Choked up, unskilfully, I tried to swallow the saliva in my mouth, and with tears in my eyes, I realized that I just swallowed my chewing gum.

“The tribes of Arad and the graves of ancestors, my son, have occupied my mind!”

“You crazy, old man!” It almost left my lips.

“With your archaic speech, as if you were a character in a reader.” It crossed my mind, simply, to rebuke him lightly in my thoughts. However, looking at me even more seriously, he instantly provoked a spark of shame within me. Satisfied that it remained hidden, I allowed him to continue.

“Can you hear the sound of silence?”

Obediently, I tried to hear something and the old man continued.

“In 1887 there was a railway here, and the train rolled late into the night. From the inside, a famous poet, curiously looking into the darkness through the wagon window, to see what kind of city is this.

Whether just to cut time or ease boredom from a long trip, I do not know. The Empire ordered a curfew at that exact time. Nevertheless, from time to time, disobedient residents were sneaking around with lanterns through the darkness, wandering from tavern to tavern. Just like stunned, enamoured fireflies in the night, roaming to and fro, aimlessly from appearances alone.

Perhaps because of a chilly night, mist, or from a draft in the wagon. Who the hell knows!”

The scene seemed spooky. As if he had appeared at the graveyard and watched the procession that revered him while honouring ancestral customs. And then what?

An inspiration gave way to a poetic impulse. The wine had spoken from his innermost, his words got into agreement to exult us in a poem. I knew, up until yesterday, which book and title. He called this place a city of silence, thinking of the quiet in a graveyard. However, gentlemen, it is not a romance, it isn’t. It’s a graveyard!

You drink as if in a graveyard! I am heading over there. My one foot is already in the grave.

Where is the romance in this? Here, I’ve forgotten my trousers.

The people do not know that. Would I come to the marketplace without trousers?

This way, when to the grave, who cares.

Photo ©Aleksandar Oklobdzija

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