Thursday, June 8, 2017

Ease, by Zuzana Pápayová

People are places. Places with heartbeats.

Part 1
First, it was Bratislava. It has collapsed or has been liberated. It depends on the side you're watching from. There are two sides, two truths. She used to believe in one, wholeheartedly. Then she’s got used to live the other one. Now she's walking along the knife-edge not judging anyone´s truth. Just waiting for it to be over.
It happened to Vienna, too. Freedom. Or the death of dream about perfect society. Whatever you choose. Or is it better to say- whatever they choose? The boundaries have been so blurry, she just wanted to close her eyes and disappear. It was too hard to be someone, to believe in something, to have trust in anybody but capricious god.
Now, it’s time for Brno. Brno has struggled since the 17th of April. The air in Ořechov is still trembling. The particles of dust have been restless ever since that day. The helmets of Red Army's and Romanian armies' soldiers against Hitler’s last remnants of power. All that during his birthday. Happy Birthday Mr. Hitler. Your Brno was captured. Even the city center.
As she recklessly looks out of the window, watching first light-hearted, impatient people climbing the debris in joy, her mind is wandering away from Brno. She is thinking about the birthday cake. Was there any for Mr. Hitler this year? Did he think about losing Brno when he blew out birthday candles? Did he wish not to lose another city, just please, not Brno, too? Did he wish it as wholeheartedly as she used to wish for her birthday - tons of love and happiness for her family and friends? And was he so unpleasantly surprised by the result as she happened to be, when many of her friends and her family members just vanished because of Mr. Hitler´s wish? Or did some people wish the same as Mr. Hitler for their birthday? Did they?
There were times when even they didn’t know what was right and what was wrong. What could she know? Which side should she join? Was it wrong to label Jews with the yellow Jewish star stitched to their clothes? Her friends were so proud to be Jews, so what's the fuss about stating it by their clothes? Back then, at her alma mater, the German Technical University, it was all justifiable. Not wrong, not right but justifiable. All those villas in the Masaryk Quarter- all Jewish. So you, Jews, be proud…State it. But anyway, she just loved to hang out with their star-labelled folks in Café Esplanade.
It happened there. The turnover. How she started to live different truth. Just imagine, a heated exchange of opinions on literature with young not only Jewish intellectuals in this architecturally stunning café, drinking coffee. Imagine her leaving the table, heading to rest rooms. Imagine her sitting on the toilet, trying to figure out a bulletproof argument in favor of her cause. Carefree chatter in background. Suddenly, an awful sound. The glass is breaking. Over and over again. And then, a squeaky scream. A man is screaming in panic. Wait, said to her her brain. A man is screaming? How come? It froze her blood. The truth was born. She was sitting there, not peeing anymore, just sitting, automatically praying to god without being sure if there is any at all. The sounds of her friends mixed in one. Her Jewish friends screaming from horror, her university fellas beating them, demolishing what she loved. Goodbye sweet Café Esplanade. She almost unconsciously took a pen from her purse while still sitting on the toilet with her pants down. She hastily wrote down on the door the only thought in her head, pushing so hard on the pen that it almost carved the letters into wood:
Horses are melting down to the concrete. It´s winter. Time to go to sleep.
It just happened like this. Truth was born. It screamed so loud as it was pushed out of the hatred's belly. Then transportations, executions, ghettos, empty villas turning into Gestapo´s branches. She has had these rewinding dreams about Café Esplanade ever since.
But she's living in the present. Not the past. The die was cast. Everybody now knows how it's going to end, who was right and who was wrong, which side is the advantageous one. She decides all of the sudden to have a look on Café Esplanade. She joins the mob in the streets which is heading towards the city hall. Mr. President has just come back from exile. He´s speaking from the balcony of the city hall to the vindictive mass of people about his decrees. “…the German issue in the Czechoslovakian Republic must be exterminated…” Her mind recorded that phrase from his speech. Another Mister. Another truth. One is exhaling its/his last breath, forcing own believers or even bystanders to die with it, to march towards expulsion. The other one is cheering at the city square with the flock of people. Who the hell are we? She is walking through the city of disfigured bricks and characters carrying one last undecided bird in her pocket - her mind.  As she is walking through the streets, the angry mob trapped in its own vicious circle becomes small and quiet.
Here is the street. Here is the Café. Except, it´s not here. Oh, it suffered so much. Debris, only debris all around. As if the bricks were people. She sits, rests. Who am I? Who the fuck am I? - the question won't let her go. It´s so unbelievably hard to state it, even if only in her mind. How come that all those people shout it so clearly? They could wear their own sign - not a star…whatever… - only to show how determined they are. She incidentally smiles on the irony. Did they forget this place? The envy? What´s there to do for her? She takes an edgy stone, walks through the destroyed hall, sees a cup on the floor- unbroken. There used to be a toilet. There, she used to sit and think, in this quiet place. She sits on the broken toilet bowl. Only one wall is still standing. She is carving out in the bricks, patiently, she takes her time:

Part 1: Horses are melting down to the concrete. It´s winter. Time to go to sleep.
Part 2:  But rats are flying hastily, easily. A bunny runs around the rock and he doesn't give a shit.
And as the last words are resting on the wall, she knows the answer. She knows who she is. She is the place. She is not screaming the hatred out of her anxious ego. She is the place, they can't steal her away. She is rooted in this space, in this city with all its birds. In all these walls, in all these parks, in all these trees, there are people hidden. People without truth. She is listening to their heartbeats, to the heartbeat of the place, to her own heartbeat. A bird in her pocket is gone. Her mind is a place. Not a trapped bird. She can easily be one of these bricks. She is one of these bricks beating her heart out.

There's a pub. It´s called “Naproti” (Opposite) A stinky one. All the conversations drowned in all those beers and tapped as so many cigarettes- that would leave a mark here. The almost unreadable inscription on the toilet door says:
We       will      drink the wine, until we´ll be fine.

                        IS THAT ALL THERE IS?

Part 2
Okay, let's not panic. Let´s not die out of tangled thoughts. Let's think rationally. There are so many ideas in her head, but she can't touch them, can't enunciate them. They're coming from nowhere, heading to nowhere. She´s like a slave of them, only a transfer station. It somehow feels like it all matters too much. The burden of decision. She suddenly can´t state her own position. It seems that she was abandoning all what she has known just for…who knows. Her heartbeat is racing her footsteps. She´s got lost. Her plan failed. Because she decided so, but what now? She is walking back and forth, back and forth along Komenského square, watching her new faculty coming closer and then again straggling away from her. She is like a restless wild beast trapped in a small cage except she made her cage herself- her mind with its assumptions, expectations, fears and desires. The spectacular red church captivated her gaze. “Oh you, you´ve got the easiest life whatsoever!” she spitted indistinctively out.  “You know your past, your future, you know who you are and what you believe in. Don't you?” She needs to sit. The envy is overwhelming her.
She walks into the K2 building known also for its Computer Room. It allegedly used to be a nazi university. There's a small garden between the two buildings she has been in once. If she believed in magic, this would be the place where to practice it. It is April but in the garden, it's already May. It´s warmer than outside. The trees there, they are already blossoming with small pinkie-purple flowers and buds all over them. It's quiet here, no clinking and rattling of trams although they're just two walls away. As she walks in, an unexpected calmness and ease seduces her heart. Her mind isn't there yet. Her mind is in a war. She has just torn all expectations apart, to small pieces. Let´s face it. She has left Bratislava; three years of her study was just a waste of time. So, she has changed her major. Like that. Never mind. She has ended up here in Brno, abandoned by all of her friends. Or has she abandoned them? The truth is somewhere in between. And the only one thing that left her after all this haste, she could still count on, has just lost its meaning. Okay, she was lying. It wasn't “just”, it has been months maybe even years but who does really look so deep within oneself and who does have the fucking courage needed to admit you are living a lie? So, what? She left her town, left her friends, left her fiancé. She is sitting right there, in this splendid garden and she is amused by this confession. She is damned by many right now, judged. She´s a runaway. She was labelled as a naïve, dreamy girl with a wish for an unconditional magic love and self-respect. This was their truth. And she…she couldn't even assert her truth, couldn't argue with anyone because actually, maybe they were right. But was it all wrong? She was just repeating to herself: “I just want to feel alive. I just want to feel alive. I just want to love.” Suddenly, her mind has joined her heart. There they are. Together: Here in this paradise in the middle of the city, in the middle of all her personal struggle. Pigeons are swooshing with their wings and there is this strange sound, like a heartbeat, like a mechanical heartbeat coming out of the building, like it was the heart of Brno. It accompanies her own heartbeat until they become one, the calmer, steadier one.
She doesn't have a plan but at least she has courage to say: “Yeah, damn it. I was wrong. I hurt. I´m really sorry. I will try not to fall for it again, to be better, to be true.” How is it possible to be true without own truth? But there is this place, this garden, this city and it will be there no matter how she decides, no matter who she disappoints, who she loves, who she loses. It is the calmest feeling she has experienced in months. All these flaws, twisted thoughts and choices are not so serious anymore. It is not a burden. It is only human to admit there is no truth. “You don't have to live up to anybody´s expectations,” she whispers. And if everybody disappears, even if she will stand by herself with her dream; this place, this city, the birds will be there. She is the place. She is its calmness, its steady flow. Not right, not wrong. She is an integral part of a place like everybody else. And if we all vanish one day, we as a place will stay there. We are its story and the story is the place.
She is heading to the pub “Naproti”. There are so many pubs. That´s Brno. She drinks a lot. She laughs a lot although some may judge her.  She´s sick of alcohol. She pukes. She rests against the door. She looks at the door. There's this thought:
We       will      drink the wine, until we´ll be fine.

                        IS THAT ALL THERE IS?
She finds somewhere a pen and adds with a distant smile:
It was beautiful, in the middle of that madman's laugh,
In the middle of all that noise,
To lose all the vanity, sadness, to stop be tough
And to feel the madman´s relief.
She was once terrified of the time wasted on bad choices. Many people were, are and will be. She was once a mortal scared human being desperately looking for the truth. But time can't be really measured by clock, because clock is only an objective referent to another clock. But time… time is in heartbeats. If mine once stops, it will be hidden in all the places I have touched.

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