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
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
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.