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Fiction

13th September 2022

Fiction

6 minutes read

Weronika Gogola

Dervish

translated by Julia Sherwood

13th September 2022

6 minutes read

dedicated to the victims of the crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border

Got to keep walking. If I keep walking, I’ll survive somehow. Till the morning. Till sunrise. Just keep walking. Around and around in circles. If I were a young kid on my way home from some festival who had run off without telling his parents, to hear one of those bands that are dangerous, since they tempt us to follow Satan and incite women to strip and twerk their oiled buttocks,

if I were that kind of a kid, born with a silver spoon in my mouth,

and the only risk I’d ever taken had been buying a ticket for one of those dodgy music festivals held in one of those vast, dangerous urban jungles, if I were this kid catching a train about to leave the big city headed for a tiny run-down station in some godforsaken suburb at around five in the morning, when not even the train itself seems to be real, when your very existence dissolves into a dream and your movements may seem to be coordinated but your brain is somewhere else altogether, if I were such a stupid kid, in order to shield myself from the cold dawn and let the first rays of the sun reclaim my body, I would jump on the train at the last minute, with no ticket and no money, and lock myself in a narrow toilet reeking of excrement, where wreaths of cigarette smoke are swirling like thick clouds from a steam engine.

Except, of course, this train wouldn’t have a steam engine, it would be one of those high-speed trains where you need to reserve your seat along with the ticket as I would obviously be living in one of those affluent, civilized countries where Satanists and a gospel choir are invited to perform on the same festival stage. Were I this kind of fare-dodging young kid, if I heard the polite

“all new passengers please show a valid ticket”,

I would bolt from the fusty john and the strap of my backpack, crammed with treasures bought with what cash I had left – the new album of the dangerous band and a four-pack – would snag on the door handle sticky with dirt. The strap would give my shoulder a yank, the train would whistle, and my fate would be left dangling in the balance for a fraction of a second and I’d freeze as if my entire previous existence were suspended in a vacuum. The fear of being caught by a ticket inspector who would issue a penalty printed on a scrap of paper as thin as toilet tissue would paralyze the rest of my body, though only for a moment. I would pluck up the courage to jump from the moving train and after a few painful somersaults I’d find myself on a station platform in some small town, at the far end of the country, late in the evening, with the daring plan of maundering around town until dawn and then positioning myself on an exit road to hitch a ride to my parents’ grand estate, to be back home in time for croissants with cranberry jam. If I were this young kind, who had jumped off a train in some godforsaken small town, without a penny to his name, with the album of the dangerous band and a four-pack that would explode like a bomb after my leap,

I would roam the unknown streets, brimming with shame

and sticky with the sweet smell of the spilled beer, pretending that I simply had nothing better to do.  That I was cool. That I was just out and about, sightseeing. And since I wouldn’t have any money, I wouldn’t be able to pop into any of the cafés gleaming with warmth and snugness, pick up a local paper and browse casually the local news of lost pets and the latest plans for expanding the number of parking spaces. I would roam the town hoping that I’d picked the right weather and the right day for jumping off the train, that climatic conditions would favor me and nothing but manna would fall from heaven, perhaps in the form of a banknote dropped by a careless passer-by.  I would walk around gazing at shop windows, glancing at the pavement from time to time and stopping at a cash machine at regular intervals, pointlessly tapping in my PIN at the end of each round. I would keep tapping in the same four digits staring at the receipt hoping – because you never know, maybe, by some miracle – till I’d hear the whirr of the receipt being printed: SORRY, you have insufficient funds.  I’d keep tapping my PIN in, staring at the Coca-Cola ad on the screen of the cash machine and the drops pouring down the frosty sides of the bottle would make me salivate and send my Adam’s apple jigging up and down anxiously. So clever of them, how diabolically clever!

But at least I’d be among people, I’d be in a town, in a place where at least some people have radiators, carpets and slippers, pots of soup. I could ask, I could plead, I’d work something out, I’d be young and quite good looking, as laid back as my dad. Even though the smell of spilled beer might make people take me for a vagrant, which is why each time I’d think of approaching one of the last stragglers, I’d waver at the last moment.

So I’d keep going round in circles till late in the night, always ending up in the same place, in a square with the statue of some local hero whose name would mean nothing to me, who might even have killed my ancestors’ heroes or raped our women.

I would look at this hero, at his frowning brow covered in pigeon shit,

at his silhouette waning in the falling dusk, erected with pride in this far corner of the country, with a plaque written in a language I wouldn’t know and couldn’t decipher. I would roam the town while, like in an old fairy-tale, as night fell the lights would be turned on one by one and the temperature would likewise go down degree by degree.

FULL VERSION AVAILABLE IN THE PRINT EDITION

written by

Weronika Gogola

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Issue 02

Crave

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translated by

Julia Sherwood

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