Translated from Macedonian: Milan Damjanoski
It was one of those more than usual days, a day coming at the end of the week. It was one of those rare days when Jon was at home in the morning. Yet, he entered this day with trepidation, because he couldn’t shake off a troublesome dream that had grasped him that night. He was awoken by his wife’s voice calling him to have coffee together in the living room. He felt a ceremonial tone in this invitation for morning coffee. He rose slowly and went to the living room. He sat on the sofa facing the library, just as he did every day, while his wife passed him his cup of coffee. Still drowsy from sleeping, he took a sip. His gaze stayed on his collection of books. He lit up a cigarette, though still absent-mindedly. All that preoccupied his gaze were the books.
– ‘Your coffee’s getting cold’, his wife told him as she came out the bedroom and headed for the hallway where Arijanisa and Arsa were waiting, fully dressed and ready to go out. ‘I will go out with the girls to shop for shoes, we won’t be long’, she said and left with the girls who were waiting for her impatiently. Jon just kept on looking at the books as he heard the door close. Complete silence set in and that somehow bothered him. So, he pressed the button on the TV remote to break the silence. However, the TV screen stayed dark, so he tried to change channels with the remote but only numbers changed on the black screen, nothing else. ‘The antenna must be on the fritz’, he comforted himself and turned his gaze once again at the books. Suddenly, in front of the book shelves, his Mother appeared. She stood across him looking at the books on the shelves, caressing gently and with respect their covers. After she finished her ritual, she turned toward Jon who looked on in amazement at his Mother’s show of warmth for the books. She sat next to him, took the cup from Jon’s hand and drank from it without turning her eyes from the books. Jon tried to comprehend what was happening, or to catch a glimpse of her thoughts while she was calmly drinking her coffee and kept looking at the books.
– ‘Have you read them all?’, she asked him gazing at them.
– ‘Most of them several times’, Jon curtly replied.
– ‘Good, good for you. Really good’. She stated in her calm manner.
– ‘The covers of those books hold the destinies of many a people. Many wars, many defeats, many…’
– ‘I imagine so’, Mother interrupted him. ‘Your father loved to read, but yet neither he nor I could ever feel the wonderful miracle of reading! There’s nothing you could do about it, this was our fate. We spent our lives bereft of its light, a light so needed by every human being. Those multitudes of people, whose destinies are to be found in these books, they come to life when you read them or something to that effect, right?’
– ‘You’re exactly right,’ confirmed Jon, surprised by his Mother’s statement. This was the sentiment he tried to convey to his students at the university, trying to explain to them the importance of reading, and yet, here was his Mother who had comprehended this even though she had never read anything written on a page in her life.
– ‘These books should contain the wind and the fire of those people that have written them. When you are reading a book, the wind and fire of the writer should connect with your wind and fire, so all that you are reading about should seem alive as if it is happening right in the moment when you are reading,’ his Mother continued her musings with the same calm demeanor as she put the coffee cup down on the table. Jon’s cigarette was burning out between his fingers while he sat motionlessly, looking confused at the cup that was now empty. He heard the words ‘wind’ and ‘fire’ of the people echoing in his head, something that he had read about in books, and yet he was hearing them now from the mouth of his Mother who had never read anything in her life. After a few moments, he barely muttered a question to alleviate his confusion.
– ‘Mother, how do you know these things?’
– ‘I know them because I am a MOTHER, my son. It’s not easy being a MOTHER.’
– ‘Your insights are so sublime and…’
– ‘Even those of us without any schooling do know a thing or two about what is important in a man’s life’, his Mother spoke with the same sense of calm.
– ‘But, the human wind and fire… where did you…’