Ian led Elza to the taxi stand. In an effort to avoid a further bottle of wine and a walk through the sweltering night town. He sat her next to the driver and looked at his face. He himself remained standing on the pavement. He slammed Elza’s door shut and his arms were left hanging limply beside his body, useless and too long. He had to be careful not to drag them along the ground. Not to trip over them.
A while later the taxi stops and puts Elza down at the end of the street. She leaps out like a young deer. She dives back into town. She opens her arms, kicks her legs. A man on the pavement looks at her retreating back and slowly begins to dance. The orchestra is not playing.
Kalisto Tanzi, Elza sings to herself. That is what the cuddly little animal that is lazily growing in me is called. Sings Elza. And women would like to buy it for men and it catches men’s eyes. They look at me and see it, sitting inside me and maturing. Sings Elza. Just behind the door. And they would like to slit my belly and break my back in two. Just so they can have it. Sings Elza. They would like to tear off my head and grope inside me with their hands. Sings Elza. Not minding the blood: happily, even in front of the children. Sings Elza.
Even after his return, Kalisto Tanzi’s flat remained empty. He spent most of his time in his car. As a dancer at the height of his career, he hardly moves except when on the stage. Driving his car helps him to overcome inertia. The landscape flashes past at a speed comparable with dancing. The car forms the lower part of Kalisto’s body. His back grows out of the driving seat. Kalisto Tanzi is a minotaur. When Elza gets in, she sinks into the interior of the vehicle as into a close embrace.
When she and Kalisto hug each other, she remembers the warm rubber internal organs the children passed round when they were learning about the human body. She and Kalisto are the pulsating innards of this dark vehicle. The liver of the car. A paired organ. The kidneys. They work whole nights. Warmly dressed in the cooling car. Their movements keep the vehicle alive.
In the morning she would return through the empty streets. Washed white by a tidal wave: first it swept away all the houses and towns. Then it caught at people’s legs. And two days later it returned them: faces smoothed by the hard sand, a pearl in every opening in the body.
At home she lay down beside Ian’s sleeping face. It revealed the whole chain of appearances it had passed through in his life. Childhood friends, the endless summer, parents, a bicycle wheel sticking out from under a Christmas tree. Changes for the better and for the worse. Ian’s face was ageless. It was a restless swarm that had settled in one place.
When she looked in his eyes, she could see all the forms they shared. Every couple that they were.
She was woken up by a pain shooting from her elbow into her palm and in the opposite direction towards her shoulder. It excited Elza. It was caused by her unnatural position in the car.
Kalisto ruled her life. When she walked through the streets of the town, she no longer looked into the faces of the pedestrians, but into the interiors of the cars. She was searching for the driving body of Kalisto Tanzi. She would have preferred to walk on the line in the middle of the road between the vehicles rather than on the pavement.
At times her arm was really weak. She couldn’t work with it. (Don’t panic, Elza probably thought, don’t panic).
She couldn’t hold anything in her hand. Her fingers went numb. Her arm withered and hung beside her body as a sign of perpetual presence – Kalisto Tanzi was always at her side: when she couldn’t write with it, when a saucepan slipped from her fingers. If she needed her hand, but could not use it, she shivered with pleasure.
She stopped eating open sandwiches – just the grapefruit and gin remained, apple and calvados, whisky and ice. Eating seemed disgusting to her. To have chewed-up food in her mouth. She wanted it to be empty and sublime – prepared to receive. His mouth.
She disinfected herself with gin and at the same time it gave her the courage and shamelessness to meet with someone she liked so much. To look into the face that threatened her with what she desired. The gin made it more bearable and liveable. It was at the same time an answer to what to do with her free time. With the inertia of the night just before dawn.
When Elza felt desperate, she was sorry she had never learned to do cartwheels. She could, for instance, use them to fill in the time while she waited for Kalisto Tanzi. If she could do a few cartwheels around the edge of the car park, her day would no doubt pass quicker. As it was, she was just circling in ordinary figures of eight.
But then she caught sight of his car. It was standing right at the end of the car park, which is why she had not noticed it immediately. She opened the door and slipped into the seat. However, it was to a stranger that she turned her face. “I can’t now, love. Look, I’ve got my daughter in the back.” Elza turned her head round and looked at the little girl who was sitting there. “Maybe next time,” the man pushed her out of the car.
She had to tell someone about it.
In the evening she described the incident to Ian, as a story that had happened to her Girl Friend. She kept the character of the Girl Friend in reserve. It would no doubt come in useful again. Later she read that lonely children without siblings often invent imaginary companions.
In time the Girl Friend she often talked about to Ian began to behave very like Kalisto Tanzi, they had the same opinions, friends and past. They had been to the same schools and restaurants. They had read the same books.
In this way over time Elza told Ian almost everything about Kalisto Tanzi.
Rebeka had an imaginary friend only in childhood. She disappeared with her first menstruation. Her name was Yp. And apart from her, Rebeka also kept invented animals – one very lively little dog, two ladybirds and a lovely horse that was completely white.
Wolfgang Elfman, the brother of Lukas Elfman, had his animals in the forest. They were wild. That’s why he couldn’t keep them in the flat. He used to go to see them in the forest. He would call and they would come running. Then they played together and chatted until darkness fell.
When Lukas was a little boy, he wanted to play with them too. But Wolfgang never took him with him to see the animals. Every evening he would just tell him what they had done during the day. He was fervent and his eyes would light up in the dark room. Lukas Elfman decided he would find the animals for himself.
“Wooolfgaaang’s animals!” he called to them in the middle of the forest. “Wooolfgaaang’s animals!” he shouted, going deeper and deeper.
Elza plunged into the forest. After a while she stopped and turned her face to the tops of the trees. “Kaaaliiistooo Taaanziii,” she called, “Kaaaliiistooo Taaanziii,” she shouted, going deeper and deeper. The tops of the trees shimmered on the surface. The water swallowed movements and words. With her mouth open, she hit the bottom of the lake.
Translated by Heather Trebatická