Kirila Cvetkovska ~ Falling Teeth

The day had no end. Her bed was a uni­verse engulfed with many oceans and com­bat­ive tidal flows. She could swim, prac­tice breath­ing or just float.

K. opened her eyes and noticed the strong sun­light in the room. She didn’t want to open the cur­tains and start mov­ing. She had to adjust to her being first. The heavy limbs and the fin­gers. Her head was defy­ing adap­ta­tion, always drift­ing or drown­ing in thought. That is why she nev­er learned how to dri­ve.

It always took her a while to under­stand where she was. The bed was always the same, but she would go to sleep and for­get her geo­graph­ic posi­tion. Waking up was an act of remem­ber­ing. Getting out of bed was a deci­sion-mak­ing process.

Every morn­ing, K. was crawl­ing out of the cave. She was com­ing back to the world as if after a long win­ter sleep.

Once she decid­ed to move, K. would raise her arms and force her body into the air. It seemed as if some­one care­ful­ly chore­o­graphed her move­ment, or as if she was appro­pri­at­ing some cer­e­mo­ni­al dance.

K. didn’t trust her hands. She was not sure if she could stand. She felt as if sleep­walk­ing, day by day.

Her moth­er said she should recite her dreams in the bath­room and then flush them down the toi­let. Except, K. was nev­er tru­ly awake. She would just sit there scratch­ing her scalp and her legs. There was a small win­dow above her head. She could always hear the neigh­bors yelling. Their lit­tle child had the same scream­ing pitch as her very own.

Why bring a child into this world?” K. won­dered. “In this place of eter­nal tran­si­tion, the child needs to be a tran­si­tion­al being, con­stant­ly adjust­ing the scream­ing pitch.”

It was hard to look at chil­dren on their way to school. K. could only see the bro­ken bonds. The ones in the fam­i­ly and the ones in the sys­tem. The hid­den por­tions of dai­ly sur­vival.

She was look­ing at the pieces of fur­ni­ture in the liv­ing room. All of them were col­lect­ed frag­ments of homes, gift­ed or sec­ond hand. Uncomfortable but prac­ti­cal, as prac­ti­cal as it gets.

K. remem­bered a recent over­heard con­ver­sa­tion.

It is no good to build homes on grave­yard ground,” B. said. “See the hous­es up on that hill? All those peo­ple van­ished real­ly young. There are cer­tain rules one should not break.”

There’s a mois­ture prob­lem in those hous­es,” M. said. “That is sure­ly no good for your health. Asthma, arthri­tis, chron­ic pain. Stubborn ground.”

K. had a sud­den urge to vis­it her grandfather’s grave and sit at the wood­en bench next to the tomb­stone. It was the only place where she could think with­out inter­rup­tion. Observation was one of her great skills too.

She picked few flow­ers from the gar­den and could feel their strong smell. She wished to come and go in sea­sons. Resurrect in a dif­fer­ent type every time and receive admi­ra­tion with­out too much effort.

Her eye­lids were twitch­ing. K. would touch and stretch her right ear when­ev­er she was afraid. A thing she learned from her grand­moth­er that turned into a habit rather than a super­sti­tious belief.

K. remem­bered her grandmother’s rheumat­ic hand. She would often spit on it and then cross K.’s fore­head, whis­per­ing few words. She had to dis­pel the evil eye.

You are too slow,” her grand­moth­er would say.

She was not aware of being too fast.

What about angels?” her grand­moth­er asked once out of the blue while she was peel­ing gar­lic cloves.

She is prob­a­bly going senile,” K. thought. “Or maybe she just has a strong imag­i­na­tion.”

K. would lose her­self in thought so often that she had a feel­ing of con­tin­u­al float­ing. She was already on her way to the grave­yard, not aware of the time of day.

She was dream­ing of the ocean and liv­ing in a land­locked place.

You need to find a way around the bush,” her grand­fa­ther would say. “We used to have a big wal­nut tree in our gar­den and there was a cher­ry grow­ing next to it. The cher­ry had to find its way around, look­ing for light and nour­ish­ment in the cor­ners. There are  many revolv­ing axes and you need to find your own.”

They were a fam­i­ly of eight. Four boys and four girls.

We were sleep­ing as a cat­tle and it was always warm,” her grand­fa­ther would say.

Half of the sib­lings had a big and strong phys­i­cal­i­ty, while the oth­er half were tiny but tena­cious. Few of them were bus dri­vers and traders in their free time.

K. loved wait­ing for the bus at remote dusty sta­tions. She was tread­ing water while her pre­de­ces­sors were mov­ing. She felt as the cher­ry from her grandfather’s sto­ry, look­ing for light in a far-flung cor­ner.

K. was drown­ing in her thoughts again and tripped on a speed bump. She was walk­ing in the mid­dle of the road when a loud car horn sur­prised her.

Are you sleep­walk­ing?” the dri­ver yelled as he drove away with what seemed a very high speed for a nar­row side street.

I am just… wait­ing,” K. thought as if she had just wok­en up from a dream.

She could feel the atmos­pher­ic pres­sure drop rapid­ly and was over­whelmed with the weight of los­ing some­thing famil­iar. As when her teeth would fall out. A recur­ring dream every now and then.

I lost my teeth last night,” K. said one morn­ing. “What does it actu­al­ly mean?”

Shut up!” her aunt said. “It means we are all going to die!”

What is it with people’s nerves?” K. thought. “Are we all too frag­ile and soft-heart­ed that we just become neu­rot­ic? Or we need to act out every sin­gle belief? A direct pro­por­tion­al dis­tri­b­u­tion!”

K. was often chased by a real­ly aggres­sive dog and would wake up in sweat and tears, hold­ing her breath. The dog would bite her on the back­side and she would feel again the weight of los­ing some­thing famil­iar. She nev­er man­aged to flush it down the toi­let.

The teeth and the ass,” she thought. “A direct pro­por­tion­al dis­tri­b­u­tion once more.”

K. was sit­ting at her grandfather’s grave with­out know­ing how she even got there. A decay­ing bou­quet was left at the edge of the tomb­stone. She touched the petals of a rose and walked in a straight line to the oth­er side.

Walking in a straight line will not get you any­where,” her grand­fa­ther used to say. “Remember, go around the bush.”

There was a huge crack in the traver­tine and the tomb­stone was tilt­ed.

He couldn’t even fall straight into his grave,” K. thought. “He had to find his revolv­ing axis.”

She was star­ing at the crack. Her father nev­er repaired the hole and pre­ferred to pour down some wine through it. That way he could be clos­er to his own father. In a cheers fash­ion, or so he thought.

K.’s grand­fa­ther was always dehy­drat­ed but no one paid atten­tion.

The show is just begin­ning and we are the mav­er­icks in the last act!” K. was talk­ing to her­self. “Look at all this pol­ished stones! A benev­o­lent gift or a com­pen­sa­tion for someone’s remorse?”

A belief in the morn­ing after called after-life.

There were many sto­ries buried inside a sin­gle hole. One cof­fin above the oth­er. Arms and legs. Fingers. A mutu­al dis­in­te­gra­tion deep inside the sub­ter­ranean.

There was a worm crawl­ing out of the crack, try­ing to find a foot­ing on the tombstone’s sur­face, in the cen­ter.

The nexus or the periph­ery?” K. won­dered. “Too many pies in the sky but no one pays atten­tion.”

I wait for the chamomile flow­ers and he just plucks them ahead of time,” her grand­moth­er would always com­plain.

He was rac­ing time but no one paid atten­tion.

The chamomile flow­ers were in full bloom at the edge of the tomb­stone. Yet again, no one paid atten­tion.

You need to be pre­pared for every­thing in life,” K.’s grand­moth­er would say.

The farewell tow­els and shirts were always ready, in case some­one died.

Whenever K.’s grand­fa­ther was in the hos­pi­tal, he would call look­ing for his teeth. After each oper­a­tion, the nurse left the teeth in a draw­er next to his bed. He would rather call and search for them at home.

There are cracks and holes first, and then there is empti­ness. The teeth break­ing and then falling out. The speech reced­ing and becom­ing a sigh.

The deceased bod­ies were always wrapped in a blan­ket that was a gift from the rel­a­tives. The bod­ies resem­bled babies cloaked in dia­pers and left undone.

K.remembered all the faces at her grandfather’s funer­al. She wished to wave good­bye at sun­set, bathing in light. Instead, there were heavy clouds, pour­ing rain and shak­ing ground.

Funerals and wed­dings were the only occa­sions when the fam­i­ly gath­ered togeth­er. They would go through the motions and give each oth­er a hug. For a sec­ond, they would fall out of time.

He sold five cows so to pay for the wed­ding,” K.’s grand­moth­er said after the milk­man left the house. She boiled the milk and swal­lowed the rest of the sto­ry.

K. was sit­ting at the wood­en bench, look­ing up and down. The sky was attrac­tive but so was the under­ground.

The worm was still try­ing to crawl out of the crack.

Push or pull?” K. won­dered. She always con­fused those actions. Or notions rather.

Her par­ents didn’t know the dif­fer­ence too.

There were many firm beliefs usu­al­ly spilled dur­ing lunch or just thrown under the table.

The children’s umbil­i­cal cord stumps were kept togeth­er in a lit­tle wood­en box, hid­den in the wardrobe between blan­kets and clothes. They had to dis­pel the evil eye.

K.’s grand­fa­ther would take notes of his phys­i­cal pains every day. He kept the note­book with the detailed descrip­tions in his own wardrobe. Not to dis­pel but to keep track of time.

He looked for his teeth but couldn’t find his eyes. They would start bleed­ing, as springs of a riv­er in red. K.’s aunts would scream and run around when they just had to stand sound­ly on the ground.

Everyone had to hold onto some­thing. K.’s moth­er could nev­er stop clean­ing.

K. took out a lit­tle piece of paper and wrote:

            It is late at night
            and I hear some­one
            mov­ing dish­es around
            mov­ing tables
            in count­less efforts
            to remove stains and dust.
            It is in the way this sound moves
            that I hear your dis­tress.
            What is it about mov­ing and remov­ing
            that sparks your mind?
            My fix­a­tions revolve
            around the absence of mean­ing.
            You say you are hap­py
            but I hear you at night
            clean­ing.

The worm had crawled out of the crack and spread on the tombstone’s sur­face. Delicate and light, yet seri­ous.

How did you get there?” K. thought.

Her pale eyes were look­ing for a rev­e­la­tion. She felt invis­i­ble and this was her pre­ferred state of being. K. longed for a world with­out expla­na­tions or inter­ven­tions.

Her body had many cracks and there were worms try­ing to crawl out. She was also del­i­cate yet seri­ous, but afraid to call things by their name.

K. walked around her grandfather’s grave. She nev­er fell in love with per­fect beau­ty, that was too easy.

The coils of the mat­tress were always bro­ken and she didn’t mind.

Her grand­fa­ther kept his pills in a shoe­box. There was a col­or­ful selec­tion and he resem­bled a child open­ing a Christmas present. He hid his pain but the rem­e­dy was always pub­lic.

He was a rhom­boid in a world of squares.

K. was star­ing at the names and years on the pol­ished tomb­stones next to her grandfather’s grave. She then looked at the crack and the decay­ing bou­quet.

K. only fell in love with with­er­ing ground.

The house was wide open when­ev­er some­one died. People came to bid farewell in the liv­ing room, the most frag­men­tary space of all. Everyone’s sighs would stick to the walls and add to the frag­men­ta­tion, both phys­i­cal and imma­te­r­i­al.

The graveyard’s silence remind­ed K. of her neighbor’s scream­ing child. It was only in silence that she heard the loud­est cry.

She couldn’t see the future because she couldn’t see a home.

Do you know what inspi­ra­tion is?” K.’s grand­fa­ther asked her grand­moth­er once dur­ing lunch.

The spice I add to the food you are eat­ing!” her grand­moth­er exclaimed. “Spare me your expla­na­tions, please!”

The next day, the world was a dif­fer­ent place.

K. would often spit on her hand so to dis­pel the evil eye. She was guard­ing her­self from def­i­n­i­tions and mas­ter plans.

Tricksters always scream in a lack of argu­ments,” K. thought. “They don’t know how to stand sound­ly on the ground.”

So did her fam­i­ly, still try­ing to walk in a straight line.

How do you hold some­thing so del­i­cate?” K. won­dered, look­ing at the worm.

She was sit­ting at the wood­en bench, bathing in sun­light.

Now you need to throw your tooth on the roof,” K.’s grand­moth­er said when one of her baby teeth fell out. “So it comes back stronger!”

K. kept on throw­ing things so they come back stronger.

She was star­ing at the crack, falling out of time.

The day had no end.

~

Kirila Cvetkovska is a writer and artist from North Macedonia. She has pub­lished writ­ing in antholo­gies by New River Press and Poets Unite Worldwide. Kirila is at work on her first poet­ry col­lec­tion Parting With Thyself.