Broken Suns (Albania)

I drop Broken April by Ismaël Kadaré. The white flowers of a tree outside the window invite me to follow them. They tell me « What are you still doing in this life ». So I take all my things, oh it’s not much, and I set off never to return.

I get a little hotel room in… My wife tries to call me, I don’t pick up.

I write to the other one, all night long, telling her my suffering. The mornings spent at the factory, slaving so that my wife buys green curtains instead of blinds. Or the other way around, I don’t remember. I tell the other one my dreams. I wanted to become a writer like Mr. Kadaré, and I had the style for it, that’s for sure, but life sounded like a drum on a funeral day. My wife gave me two children, and time flies like a dragonfly. If I had been a young man driving a white Porsche like one sees in the capital, I would have taken her away from her daily life, we would have traveled to my country, I would have made her love Albania. I would have taken her to visit an Illyrian citadel under a blazing sun. Violinists would have played for us a waltz in front of the mosque called of the swans, built in 1827. I would have taken her away from the sight of the thin and brown trees on the Via Egnatia, in Elbasan. I would have spoken to her in Bulgarian and Turkish. I would have learned Spanish for her. I would have bought her a pistol sold by a little old lady from Gjirokastër. I tell her all this, well no, I write it down, and I tear up the paper.

One day I really send her my messages, but she does not answer me. I feel from here her contempt, like the south wind, this charlatan of contempt, it coagulates in my throat and prevents me from breathing. I pay the hotel, I don’t have much money left, it doesn’t matter. I am curled up in a ball on the rough hotel blanket she throws me like a bone to a dog a « good evening I am sorry, I am a very busy person ». My heart beats wildly. I brush my teeth. My wife has called three more times. I think of our two children, and I pray for a moment that the wind will uproot the tree of passion that shadows my reason.

One night, it was two nights after I arrived at the hotel, I told her that I loved her. She does not answer me. And then she ends up giving me a simple salute, like an overripe fruit, a salute that doesn’t sound right, a cheap salute. I have tears in my eyes. I look at her photographs, in galas or on the arms of other men. I look at myself in the mirror, I don’t do the comparison, yet I was a strong swimmer when I was younger and I am a good writer.

I wait two days, holed up in the hotel like a fox chased by fire and the shadow of guns. She ends up saying « good evening, we don’t know each other », and I answer her that I love her madly, that I left everything for her. She doesn’t say anything more, one day, two days, several days go by like that. Then I finally break down. I send her a long message. My novelist’s blood vibrates, for sure, the message is too long. I explain everything to her. Her bewitching look, her bewitching voice, her intelligence, I explain her beauty, her charm, and in explaining this, I reveal to her that I am a fool. And she does not understand anything. The rain falls like piano notes on the roof of the hotel. My enchantress answers me seriously that she doesn’t know me, so why am I telling her this? I know she thinks I’m talking nonsense, but I’m just crazy about her, so with the money from my wife’s bank account I buy a plane ticket to Spain.

I confess to her, she doesn’t seem to understand that I come to see her breathe on the other side of Europe. She asks me what day I arrive with the composure of a horseman pursued by a chimera.

How many nights before I am expelled from the hotel? I go out on the terrace. The night is bright and humid. I pick a flower, to offer it to my Esmeralda, but the stem breaks between my big red fingers.

I return in the small room. I drink until I am thirsty, then I try again to contact her. Hours go by. She has read my message, but she doesn’t answer me. She must be tired of my messages. I don’t talk to her about love anymore, I don’t talk to her about me or her, I tell her about the world. I throw her the hope, the night, the chastity of passion. I tell her about the short stories I write, the novel I am finishing. She won’t read it though, she is its heroine.

My novel is the story of a man madly in love with a face, a shadow, a voice, who crosses the world to realize the dreams of the woman he idealizes, without ever meeting her. I tell her the story of my masterpiece, which is my passport to another life, because one day I will publish it under my real name, no more pseudonyms, and I will be able to wallow in champagne and the eyes of women. I send her many more messages that go unanswered, I tell her again that I love her, that I have learned Spanish for her since my heart met her eyes, I tell her again that my novel is about her, that she is the most beautiful thing I have ever heard in the world, yet I have two children who are as cute as dog’s fleas.

I tell her all this, and wait with my heart out. I undress, I am naked on the floor of the room, the hotelier knocks to ask for his due. Already, damn it, I get dressed, I puke in the shower and then I open it for him. He looks bad, like a rifle turned into a man. He frowns one of his thick grey bushy eyebrows. I stammer out excuses as thin as playing cards, he leaves shrugging, I shrug too, then I close the door. I take the sheet, I tear it, I make a rope of it, I try to hang myself. My wife keeps calling. I try to hang myself, but I am too heavy, I fall like a buffalo on the carpet. My phone lights up again, it’s Esmerelda. She answers me, icy, like an angel frigid by a harsh winter, like a virgin violated by the eternal snows. So I play my cards right, I declare my love for her once again. And everything burns, my phone burns, the little table burns, the lamp and the curtains burn; the bed burns, the sheets burn too. The hotelier knocks again on my door, he must have heard me shouting insanities. Or maybe he is a wizard. Yes, maybe he saw the flames escaping from the small window of my room that looks out on the bottomless night that separates me from the hope of a shared love.

I flee from the hotel, a dragon appears in the darkness. He sets the hotel ablaze and the hotelier on fire, and I laugh out loud. Then he takes me with him, we fly over Albania. He blows flames through his nostrils, and I laugh like I have never laughed before. Is it because of despair? My laughter is heard and shakes the mountains we fly over.

The dragon drops me on a hill, I faint. When I wake up, I don’t know how I got here. There is a car with the key in the ignition. I don’t hesitate a moment, I start the engine. It’s my car, the one I parked in front of the hotel. How did it get there? I drive to a border – is it the one of Kosovo?

I arrive at a gas station. I cry like a child, my hands are stained with grease, my reddened nose has swollen from crying. I remember the lake of Shkodër, I imagine her thin hand in mine, her violet-brown hair I see her dancing in the fog, and my tears liquefy like melted gold. I pay for gas, get in the car, drive away. More alone than ever. I drive past the chemical plants in the Fier region. The sky looks like silver cobalt. I want to drive the car into one of those lower clouds, pink like girls’ cheeks, but I don’t dare. A police car passes me. An engineer stares at me on the side of the road, but all I can think of is the Spanish girl, her voice steady, her eyes shining like an ingot from the Elbasan metallurgical complex. Where to go? Hungary? Czechoslovakia?

There are vines a little further on in a field. I continue on my way, through the winter meadows, I am like the wind, my car melts into the speed and into the landscape. I arrive in a small town, it smells of rancid meat and coffee. A woman picks up a carpet on a plastic chair. I look in the glove compartment, I take out a devilishly elegant cigarette case. I smoke for a moment, thinking of Andalusia, of this woman who doesn’t love me, and I call my wife back to tell her I’m coming home. On the phone, she is not surprised, she asks me where I am. I tell her the name of the village. I turn around in the dark. I arrive home a few hours later, in the early morning. I hang the laundry, silently, without apologizing or giving any explanation. My children are playing in the garden. The sun looks exhausted, its strength broken into a thousand splinters.

In the evening, I send a last message to the other. I explain to him that life is a dream. That you have to squeeze this dream like coffee beans in your hand if you want to roast time, tear the blood-stained sheet of boredom. I thank her for having inspired me the future masterpiece of Albanian literature. She will answer me in a few months when she knows who I have become… Then I shoot myself in the temple.

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