On the first aerial toll-house, the soul is questioned about the sins of the tongue
Piret is still frightened by the man who stood in front of the car by the time we stop at a small restaurant by the side of a lake. Not wanting us to sit in a small room it is fortunate the restaurant has a large patio from which we can look at the lake. A bus for schoolchildren is just being re-loaded with its passengers. The kids had not sat at the patio tables. She points out the solitary children, those who did not have the ability to attract friends or acquaintances or who had successfully repulsed all intimate encounters during the school year and even on the summer journey they were not to give up their solitude for the transitory pleasures of having a best friend while visiting the Black Sea and now they only had to get through the final leg of their journey, Veliko Tarnovo.
Cops, it is often said, in once-upon-a-time bars like The 55 in New York and even in the Bambouka in Sofia, are an international fraternity and you could say the same about schoolchildren and from our point of view even if these kids are in high school they are still kids and as such are pretty much the same no matter where you are observing them, once you have seen beyond the momentary presence or absence of hair, the clothing, kempt, unkempt: all those trivial features masking similarities…but, those solitary kids with the eyes always focused on something not immediately in front of them, who are not listening, not touching, not being touched, not being seen.
Naturally, the man Piret has seen in Strazhitsa should make an appearance in this restaurant which cooked fish that had been caught in the lake or raised in pens in the middle of the lake. There is some distinction between caught fish and raised fish but my Bulgarian is not good enough to distinguish between the two and my tongue could not tell the difference in order to clarify as Piret orders a wild fish—Piret should have said caught fish and as a result the waitress questioned Piret as to what she meant by wild and Piret put her hands into her armpits and moved her arms imitating a bird as in free as a bird though the waitress didn’t seem to get the distinction or is it a distinction foreign to this waitress who had grown up in a country where birds are not seen as being free though that would take both of us or the three of us if I included the waitress in this flight of linguistic elaboration. I order a raised fish and the waitress smiled at the sudden simplicity.
The versions of the English language in Bulgaria are ever remarkable and it has long been mentioned about Shopka’s salad which was a favorite detail often brought back from menus read in Bulgaria along with the stories of being robbed, assaulted, defiled in some way or other. The desire for great linguistic purity is always remarkable in people who rarely read a book but thought of themselves as great travelers, connoisseurs of wine and pickles.
A picture is taken of the lake. Someone has parked a mobile home near the shore and it is a necessary detail to avoid the too easy acclamation of this being a very beautiful place to have lunch by and a place where Piret could congratulate herself on having avoided a fate looking to say the very least to her as we were stopped in Strazhitsa as not being something that would be easy to talk about back in New York City, even to those long jaded by friends’ misadventures when venturing out of their beds in the morning.
Now, we have Piret talking about the man who stood in front of the Mercedes we were driving and while it unfortunately did not come with tinted windows, at the very least it would receive a tiny bit of respect…once having escaped the possibility of being robbed because we are driving an expensive car we would have the advantage of driving a car that would suggest it would be a mistake to do some harm to the passengers and driver as obviously these are people for whom inquiries would be made. If we had been driving some nondescript car there is always the danger that it and the people inside could be made to just disappear.
All of this goes through Piret’s head in a disorganized sort of way and I take no credit for bringing any clarity, as always the photographs of destroyed Mercedes automobiles are ever vivid with the imagination supplying gruesome evidence of eviscerated torsos and severed limbs.
Nothing, so far, but who can be sure, seems to have happened in Strazhitsa and you have been alert to the presence of a photograph—not of anything that has been mentioned and you have wondered what purpose it is to serve…though now, we are dealing with this man.
This man is standing in the parking area and has begun to walk towards the patio, walking by the part of the restaurant where people could order directly into the darkness within, not a symbolic darkness by any means but in contrast to the brightness without and the clear light of the patio. Standing, walking and about to step up to the patio and find a seat—easy enough as we are the only people still at lunch and he sat…
Piret is sure it was the same man and I am not disputing her as she is sure it is the same man who has stood in front of the car in Strazhitsa.
Not that it would compare with the moment on HristoBotev Boulevard in Sofia—in the fading September light—as the poem would have it, when I stop and ask into the window of the kiosk…but that came…
There is not the need to remind me of that, Piret is saying. You have your story and you must allow me to have my story. Already I have noticed how you are taking possession of what happens to US and please hear me capitalize the word US both with my finger drawing air letters and underlining both of them with a slash of my flat hand rabidly moving from left to right wondering if I was to do the same in the Hebrew would an Israeli slash from the right to the left?
We finish our fish both raised and caught and sampled each other’s fried fish agreeing there is no difference but we are not experts in the matter and decide we would take up this matter with Filip in Sofia as surely he would know the difference.
This man seems to have something on his mind as is often mentioned in narratives and it is well that Januarius MacGahan is still current and well-read in Sofia both in English and in Bulgarian so my claim cannot be questioned by anyone familiar with such situations. It would have been better if what happened has been really dealt with in Strazhitsa.