I light a cigarette and stare at Maria’s soup. Chicken soup, as if I’m sick. That’s what I often made for Sveto. He really liked my chicken soup. I’d make him a huge pot, and he’d eat three bowls twice a day – for lunch and dinner. Sometimes he’d even get a stomach ache from eating too much soup. You make the best soup in the world, he’d say to me. And once D. Asked me to bring him something to eat. Sveto was at work. I put some of Sveto’s soup in a jar. I took it to D. We did what we did. When I got back home, I saw that he’d sent me a text. He said that the soup was delicious, and that next time I should bring him a larger amount because he’s a man with a hearty appetite. A week went by and I made soup for Sveto again. This time I made a bigger batch and I poured half of the soup into two jars for D. He texted that night: ‘You only brought me a little bit of soup again. Next time, please make me a whole pot.’ He started saying that to me every week. And so one time I made a huge pot of soup when Sveto was at work. I filled four jars, and there was only a small amount left in the pot. When I got home that night, Sveto was waiting for me in the living room. ‘Honey, I’m a little bit cross with you,’ he said to me. ‘Why did you make me such a small amount of soup?’
My mother’s ringing me on the phone. I know that she’s going to want to come over and bother me again. Every time she comes over she tries to raise my spirits somehow – that is, to take my mind off what I’m going through. So she talks about her friends, about my brother’s kids, and sometimes she even starts talking to me about politics. It all just gets on my nerves. Still, I pick up the phone and tell her she can come over. Perhaps finally she will realise that I don’t want to see her, or anyone else for that matter.
She comes over that evening. I recognise the sound of her footsteps at the entrance. She walks like a soldier. Her footsteps could wake a person from the deepest slumber. At the funeral she trudged around like a soldier; even at a solemn occasion she doesn’t know how to behave. She rings at the door a few times, reminding me that it’s her. She rings the bell in short sharp bursts. I decide not to get up from the couch immediately. I leave her standing outside the door. That way she might even get the message that perhaps I don’t want her coming round. She rings again, and to prevent her from annoying me any further, I get up to open the door for her.
‘It smells of smoke in here,’ she says as soon as she enters and begins to open the windows and the balcony door.
‘Leave them,’ I say to her, even though I know she won’t take any notice of what I say. Every time she comes over she starts acting as if it’s her place, moving my things around, tidying up, opening doors and windows.
‘You shouldn’t smoke so much,’ she turns to me once she’s opened up all the windows. The orange rays of the setting sun spread throughout the apartment. The scent of linden trees wafts in. Even nature carries on, I think to myself angrily, despite the fact that Sveto is lying in a grave.
‘I don’t have to do anything,’ I say to her and light up another cigarette.
She sits down beside me and lets out a sigh.
She starts telling me about her friend, Mira, and how her boss treats her. How when her son had his wedding she wasn’t given any time off work . . . Or something like that. As usual, I don’t listen to her. I scrutinize the wrinkles around her lips. She smoked for many years and lines have formed around them from her constantly sucking on cigarettes. They are especially noticeable on her upper lip whenever she rounds her mouth to make the ‘o’ or ‘u’ sound. Grains of orange lipstick, which looks awful on her and emphasizes her yellowish complexion, are stuck in the wrinkles. When she opens her mouth wider to make the sounds ‘e’ and ‘a’, I catch a glimpse of her shriveled up tongue, covered with a white crust. It looks as if she were sick, as if her mouth smells horribly, even though it doesn’t. Although really it should. I see she’s lost her upper third molar. Her other own teeth have yellowed, while her crowns have dark lines near the gums, which have begun to recede. Her gums also look old and sick.
‘You need to go to the dentist,’ I interrupt her.