The story of man and his thought, of the world and truth, may begin anywhere and anytime: somewhere on the sunny square of ancient Greece; upon the open blue sea beneath the sail of Colombo's Ninja at a time when three hundred or more men for many weeks or months drift between unknown shores; or this very day when somewhere in the vast space above the clouds and above some desolate mountain range drone the inaudible engines of a jet plane — far from the crust of the earth. There are many beginnings, the real beginning is vague and indistinctive, a mere possibility. And that possibility may be implemented by this or that will, or by a blind need. The man himself initiates a beginning by the mere fact of his being or his presence, his own or of any other singularity. Man's decision is only one possible decision, one possible choice, one peculiarity a mere disposition. For example: city B in country Y. Let us say November 6th, 1977, the day on which the sun had risen on the horizon 5 hours and 52 minutes after the moon and there remained for 10 hours less 2 minutes; while Aurora could be seen two thumbs to the left of Ear in Andromeda's chain. Although once upon a time one had to travel the distance between the nearby town K in the chosen country T and the said city B on a horse carriage from the early dawn well into the dark of the following night, and this quite helplessly subject to the whims of the weather, one can today, some hundred years later reach the city B from even farther town M in the country G for just over 17 hours — not with a horse carriage of course. The express train is yet another possibility at our disposal. And if on this train crossing several frontiers there happens to be no smugglers, or the customs officer finds no need for suspicion and efficiently looks through the travel documents; if all the tracks and stations along the way enable a smooth journey and the train captain and all elements make punctuality possible, not disregarding a countless number of unpredictable details and obstacles — this our train will take exactly 17 hours, 8 minutes and 25 seconds, calculating from the moment of the very first whistle in the station of departure, i. e. station M, to the very moment of standstill in the station B, i.e. the point of our final destination.

On that given day the train had traveled exactly that long. In the usual hustle-bustle of that afternoon, among other people who were patiently waiting on the platform, there stood a man in his late thirties. He was on a very specific mission. He was examining the faces of passengers passing by and moved step by step from one window of compartment to the next. At the very far end of the long train, an elderly woman, short but pedantic, was trying to extricate herself from her burden, she was handing her property, piece by piece to the passer by on the platform expressing gratitude, while the others behind her tried to clear the passage. By the time the aforesaid gentleman had reached the last car and compartment, the crowed had almost dispersed. On the deserted platform, amongst a pile of bags, and suitcases stood a solitary woman, proud and somewhat hurt. Hand in hand, purse under the arm and head slightly slanted to the side as if in valiant attempt to subdue a reproachful nod. The man had suddenly approached her: — Good afternoon, is something wrong perhaps?

— Where is the carrier? — asked the woman. — Is there no discipline here?!

— Oh, a carrier — answered the man with a smile — we shall find one!

They shook hands and hugged as relatives should: welcome, how are things with you, at home?

The man had already known quite a lot about this relative from far away, mostly out of hear-say, and this from the common in-laws in the town B. This was actually the aunt of his wife, bat having become no less than mother to a motherless child, as was already known from the stories of the aunt, to which God gave no child but wealth instead. Prom a far away country G every now and then a parcel with gifts did indeed arrive, mostly underwear and socks, and this was well taken care of: namely in case of an old worn out undies one needed a written permit from the distant town M in order to be able to resort to a new pair. Also, occasionally a money order would arrive, just enough to buy a book instead of borrowing it, or to have a lunch or dinner outside — since at the time his wife was still a student. Somehow by working on the city Fair or through the student association she managed to survive and get to her diploma. She got married and finally even put together a warm home, together with her husband, the man who came to meet the aunt at the station, and with the great help of his parents, succeeded in buying this little flat. On that occasion the aunt even wrote a special letter, that the apartment is too expensive, and that it's a shame to squander money so easily and that they shouldn't worry, because she will deposit her money into a saving account, so that it can serve as a dowry for their daughter when she grows up. Indeed the flat was expensive, as tiny as it was, like all other one-bedroom flats, considering it was to accommodate them and their two children, although the boy was just a month old baby. They decided to show their appreciation to the aunt, and thus invited her to visit them, in spite of the scarcity of space, emphasizing that they are willing to share, and that it will be the same for all. Since her husband died, they did not want her to remain alone in that far country in the town M, with her melancholy and memories. Several months later, the aunt did arrive. She first of all settled all her accounts in town M and reiterated all her plans. She explicitly made her plan known as well as her faith in God whose touch though invisible she clearly feels upon her hand as well as His needed guidance in these trying times. Consequently, her advice directed to them is some more respect towards God, and a reprimand that had they more faith in Him they would not have to drift from flat to flat like unwanted tenants, and that all of this would have been different had they consulted God Almighty or at least their aunt. Yes, the man knew that aunt was peculiar. In her habits and opinions she was rigid, in behavior and judgment exclusive. He knew that she calls her method under God's auspices — justice, while her sense of security, which she carries within during her preaching of advice and demands, she calls sensitivity and compassion. But he thought: a person with wide outlook on things, who can understand many aspects and feel them, and yet not lose his own beliefs in the process, therefore a person who has every reason to remain serene and who can patiently listen and thoroughly explain a request, a recommendation and a ready decision alike, or in other words a person of tolerance, should be probably able to share the tiny roof over the head or a place at the table with another, and also be able to normally interact in all situations. After all, each and every one of us has one's own pangs of sorrow, and we are all only human.

And indeed the beginning was not so bad. Aunt did bestow a gift for the baby as the custom would have it, and also in respect to the new flat she gave her contribution of two thousand. That was enough money to buy a car, not a big one though and not quite new. The flat was not only small, she was saying, but the wallpaper was put there just to stick something on, unlike the one at her place in M. They must also stick on more tiles in the bathroom, since it's no good to have it only half done. They have many different kinds in G. Listening to this, the man simply smiled and nodded his head. Two thousand after all are TWO THOUSAND, he thought, In fact, didn't she in the presence of his wife, her niece, ask him to accept the money, which was done in due respect to the host! And tastes are really different. This furniture, aunt continued, was bought without taste, and why did they not consult her for opinion?

And then, one evening, the man was standing by the kitchen table peeling potatoes. His wife already roasted the meat before she left for school and all that remained to be done was to prepare the potatoes, onions and cabbage. Outside the window a pitch-black night, while beneath the light-bulb in the dining room, aunt, with her finger raised, tried to explain something to the little girl. The girl patiently nodded her head, and then skipped away back to her toys. Aunt touched the crease discovered on her dress, and looked up towards the man sitting at the table:

— You are a good son-in-law, it's just that you peel potatoes in the wrong way — she said.

— How do you mean?!

— You are just peeling the potatoes wrongly, too much waste — continued the woman very much convinced. It should be done quite differently, she has a special knife for it in M, and the young should be taught.

The man could not take his eyes off the woman who found it so important to tell him all this. No, she was serious, and into this story of the potato she put all her talent and all the noble meaning of her words. The man, once again, grimaced in a rather sour way and continued with his work.

And then, at the dinner table, following each bite with a word here and a word there, the woman repeated her declaration again: — Your husband is all right, but he peels potatoes wrongly.

The man lifted his eyes towards the woman and added: — You know how it is, aunt, with these potatoes, now that you brought it up, your starting point is one single, unspoken assumption, which is however only one of several possible assumptions, certainly not the only one.

Now the woman stared back.

— For you, a properly peeled potato is the one with the least waste. But, look at the circumstances, the little one is still crying, just changed diapers still unwashed. Wife just about to arrive, and it's time for breast-feeding. Still we are dining on time. And I am not speaking of the time, as the clock would have it, but look at the little girl, she is sleepy, and she too will be put to bed on time. The sink is already full. Under such circumstances the properly peeled potatoes are the quickly peeled potatoes.

The woman nodded her head as if to indicate that she understood and added: — All can be done if done in proper order. Otherwise, according to you, it could be done this way and that way! Eh?

The man seemingly had nothing against that conclusion.

— Oh, no, my dear sir — the woman shook her head —there is only one God and there is only one truth. Think about it.

The man went silent and sank into the deep thought. He realized: Indeed the God is one and the truth is one. And that God — could anyone ever come to a different assumption — is, as one can see, always by her side, always in her own way, even when the baby with wet and full diapers cries all night — God what could it be! — that same baby which received her gifts and to whom she said with so mach affection: — Come, give your granny a smile! (The baby of course, never smiled, and the woman remained quite rejected and humiliated. The people hopelessly tried to explain that a month old baby can not see. That even upon mother's breast it will only smile from time to time, and this instinctively). And even that smile, if you consider the circumstances, taking a specific situation as the only possibility, is not a smile because a child smiles, but a smile caused by a certain order of events, which to her, that woman, is due approval and the cause of her affection, i.e., certainty. This is the only requirement, these are the only circumstances. After all, her circumstances are her own things — her bag, her suitcase, making-up kit, six pairs of shoes for all occasions, wherever she my be, town M or town B. All her circumstances she carries along. Even the bed spread she brought with her, spare sheets, all very special — made to measure for her delicate skin, bought there and there of material such and such. For every single thing she knew the exact quality, the exact purpose, and amongst these things she felt secure, here she was the undisputed lord, the center of all the events and the entire world, or whatever, God's very interpreter of all that ought to be done and how. Even a gram of potato fills into this world much better than the precarious smile. A gram is a gram, alms may be alms — but still these are facts. And what are to her an assumption and a word! Yes, the man realized that this woman indeed needs no explanation, or readiness for considerate dialogue, that beautiful and useful human characteristic. All she can understand is the situation in which the last gram of potato must be imposed upon another and to turn her superfluous exclusiveness, that common human weakness and vice, into her strength and virtue, before which any explanation becomes just a weakness and an unnecessary vice. Yes, the man decided: This will have to do, indeed there will be no need in the future, whenever the situation may arise, to convey his observations and requests to this woman in any other form other than ready facts.

And so the day went by. Since a few days ago, aunt is in her native town S, the town of her origin and her ancestors. She is there to recollect some old memories and to use the occasion, as she said, to put some important things in order. She returned to town B with an unfathomable load of luggage: Suitcases, large and small — five to be precise, not counting a few bags, bales and cardboard boxes. This time even a carrier was hard to find, a special one was needed — with a cart. And the man wondered, where on earth was this woman heading, with all these things. One way or the other the luggage ex town M had already filled the dining lounge prior to this paraphernalia. The following morning he realized that, according to this woman's conviction this luggage was here to stay: Various rather special carpets (rather pale and dusty, perhaps slightly decayed) made by the late mother, herself a martyr and a saint. Two rather large boxes of aunt's letters and diaries from her maiden years (tied up into three knots) which were not to be touched. Three small decorative pillows, with the special down, and not this synthetic stuff (who knows what kind of a room and furniture they decorated or how long they remained in some remote attic in some old chest). One folding mattress (in three parts) made of real wool (stuffed who knows when, something that even wool peddler would refuse) and a special suitcase (looked-up and braced with a strap), which was also not to be touched. And then old clothes and shoes, but in true fashion, not this modern stuffs, from which they could choose and wear.

The man was sitting at the table in his room reading a newspaper, beside him slept the baby in the crib following the first morning breast feeding, the little girl was over at the neighbors with their girl trying to dress-up a doll, while through the closed kitchen door he could hear the patient voice of his wife: —Thank you, aunt, but we have all the clothes that we need. The space here is most precious, our closets are already clogged-up. Thank you. — Followed by aunt's words of reproach: — You better keep quiet, I saw how much you have! — As much as we can, aunt, we do not complain! — You do not complain, but you also pay no heed to your relatives. This was not found on the street, if that is what you think! I brought this like the holy relic for you to learn, but you have no respect for your elders. — It's not so, aunt. I've already taken what was dear to me, you have seen our family album. You have seen those bed covers, have you not? I brought them, saving them from rotting away, even took them to the dry cleaners. — Prom rotting away! You ought to be ashamed. All these are chosen goods, summoned with care and hard work, from a decent house, what did you think?! Every item a special sample, a full suitcase. When some day, following God's will and mercy, I depart, all of this will remain in your hands. — But can't you see for yourself that there is no room. — Once you know the proper order for this, room can be found for everything. You just have no appreciation for the painstaking efforts of the elders. — It's not true, aunt, we do appreciate it ever so much, we ourselves know how painful this can be. We are simply modest under modest conditions. — You know not what drudgery is, God sees and considers all, snobbish you are, not modest. You deserve neither help nor sympathy. — This time there was no reply. — Have you nothing to tell me? — Still without reply. — Repay to me then the two thousands I gave you!

At this moment the man put down his newspaper and entered. His wife, bowed slightly forward, continued cutting the meat for lunch. The stalky woman stood amidst her luggage and with her chin high up anticipated a proper answer.

— You know what, aunt, — the man said. — My wife had said what she meant to, and so have you. It is obvious that we have a difference of opinion. Let us simply change the topic!

But the woman in spate of this suggestion expected a reply from her niece, HER due reply from HER niece, she only took an instant to reformulate the question: — And who is this, what has he to do with this?!

Her niece, however, for quite a while now WASN'T simply and only a niece, but also the wife and a mother. Thus her husband added: — I happen to be, in case you have forgotten, the host in this household. While the woman you have just called a snob, her and everyone around her, happens to be a hostess in this home.

At this moment, the stalky woman, willingly or not, suddenly turned and looked up to the man: — Give me back that money! — she abruptly announced the verdict.

Yes, a good idea, thought the man, on this we agree, He walked over, took the money and returned. — Count! — he said. — So that we later waste no words over this subject.

The short woman only now realized that something had gone amiss, she had suddenly in full force, head to head, confronted something new and unbelievable: the conditions (circumstances) which sprang up from beyond the circle of her control (things), harder than her (them), foreboding and unfathomable like someone else's life. The woman went red in her face like a lobster, realizing that the world did not fit the mold of her own thoughts and her own hierarchy. Other needs existed as well, inescapable gestures came up out of nowhere: vastness of the world was endless and in this depth every sense of order was easily lost. Precisely through this vastness and its openness this world offered itself to her, it had within itself a space even for her way, for still another way. But the woman was angry, insulted and bitter. She built around herself a wall of things, and crouched by God's side. Along with all the money that she had, from the world she lived in, she only took its order, one single possible order of things. In return she had the illusion that according to this worldly order she must be its first and most important subject while her money was the decisive ballast of all things. And now here is a certain moron who has the gall to throw this money back into her face. Is this possible? Isn't this the true illusion? And the woman looked over her shoulder, trying not to be conspicuous, hoping to get a glimpse of the other woman sitting at the table, but the hostess remained silent. There was work to be done. God's order was falling a-part, and yet as if naught had changed, all things remained still and unmoved. The woman fidgeted and shifted her money from one hand into the other, from there into her purse and into the bag, growing still redder in her face. And then, speechless, she turned around and left the flat.

— Aunt, aunt, where are you going? — shouted the hostess through the empty hallway, and that was all.

Tomorrow two men arrived, two special carriers and took away aunt's belongings. Next week a letter followed from the town M, stating what a shame before people and a sin before God it was to throw her out of the house in such a way; was that a manner in which to treat a guest?

This parting was definite. A certain human contact was not realized. The lack of will for reconciliation and inborn fear before it were stronger than the desire for a new contact. Such desire could only be an obstacle, the illusion was much more precious, it was a way through which a privilege could be gained, a superior stance, a decisive word, such as would enable her to reach the very heart of the meaning and world. This panic and fear that things already possessed, could be lost, was stronger than any sane need for a reunion, then an inborn need to be objective and to deny a personal outlook on things. Single-mindedness was in this case the only defense and the only identity. A reunion between the human beings did not materialize. This falling out was inevitable. Only a certain reunion and a certain parting in the town B. The town B just a chance venue among many towns. The world was full of symbols and specifications, full of possible beginnings. Even the sun was forever rising anew and forever and again setting down into the horizon. The world had no epicenter. Going apart becomes inevitable. Falling out is the only solution. Ah, if only such a solution were always possible!

What happens when such a separation is impossible, when we must continue to rotate around the axis of a single flat, a single country, on the very same planet — in the very same shadow of an A- or H-bomb, of this God or that Illusion?


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translated by Nikola and Elbina Mišθeviζ)