– God only know where we got it wrong. The important thing is, we didn’t deserve a war – she concluded with a trembling voice, on the verge of tears, and sat down on the bench.
Kiro looked at her full of sympathy.
– Yes, we did. The hell we didn’t – Gordan started shouting – History is unforgiving. To be in a circus. The entertainment of others. To be in a farce.
Kiro lifted himself up.
– Finally! – he said with a dull expression on the face.
Gordan and the teacher looked at him in shock.
– The train, damn it – he said – the train’s here!
They turned around and noticed the composition approaching them from the distance. In the hot trembling air the train in motion seemed to be skipping left and right from the tracks, looking strange, almost unreal.
Kiril bent down and picked up the bag with the gin and stood by the tracks, and the woman put her purse on her shoulder, then picked up her plaid suitcase and went by the railway man.
The train entered the station screeching and stopped. That was the cue for Gordan to bend down and pick up his plastic backpack, even though he was determined not to enter the same compartment as the other two travellers. Bent down as he was, Gordan heard the train stop, the doors opening with a loud bang and, yelling and screaming, soldiers in combat dress and full equipment, with long automatic weapons in their hands ran out of the composition.
– Freeze! Nobody move! – one of them, with sergeant stripes, shouted!
– Hands up! – screamed another one with a metal corporal badge and pointed his gun at them.
– Up, up, up, up! – the soldiers started yelling dissonantly, with their guns ready to fire.
Gordan was staring at the soldiers all petrified, and then noticed that the teacher and Kiro were acting as if they didn’t even hear them since they calmly passed by them, she, dragging her plaid suitcase in both hands, he, puffing his cigarette toward them. It looked to Gordan as if the Skopje railwayman and the teacher passed through the figures of the just disembarked soldier that seemed to have come out of nowhere. He wanted to do the same, but still, their dangerous shouting was ringing in Gordan’s ears, so, even though it all appeared unreal, the threatening yells and gun-waving made Gordan put his backpack down and lift his hands up. Besides, they were talking to him specifically. Kiro was already on the train and was helping the teacher up, first taking her suitcase, then pulling her in.
– Hey – the soldier said with a changed, almost friendly tone of voice, to an astonished Gordan – Isn’t this Afghanistan? Or… or something?
Gordon was dumbfounded and remained speechless.
– Platoon! As you were! – the order came and Gordan saw them change into a new, relaxed mood, joking around, opening packs of bubblegum, chewing, reaching for their military-issued water canteens, some of them lighting cigarettes, whereas others blowing and popping bubbles, then cheerily and noisily going down the stairs of the train station plateau toward the exit.
– Kiro! – Gordan cried, his voice trembling – Wait for me, I’m coming too!
He picked up his backpack from the ground and rushed to the entrance just at the second the composition jerked on the blistering tracks, made a sharp screech and slowly left the train station in an oddly deranged Skopje.
Trnaslated by Kalina Janeva