Believe me, I wanted to conceive a hatred for you many times. Most of all, then when I buried our child in the sewage system of Skopje. The bloody clew I dug up from me, splashed into the water, and after that it rolled down the stream somewhere downwards, far from me, far from my life back then. However, you know nothing about that. By the way, you know nothing about many things. You don’t know because you didn’t want to. You would come whenever you needed me, and left whenever you thought that you didn’t need me anymore. My life, I knew then, as well as I do now, for you was an intermezzo, a side story, additional source of writing inspiration. Furthermore, to me, now I’m confessing to you, even if you didn’t know that, you were everything. Actually, my life had consisted of your short visits, and your promises mumbled in those few minutes of passion, of long waitings for you to call, and the hours spent in copying and rewriting the things you had written.
He came a few days later. He had rung the doorbell, and after I opened the door, he greeted me politely, introduced himself, and showed me his official ID. “May I get in?” – he asked me, and I just nodded in approval. I was so exhausted to utter a single word. He sat down on the kitchen table, carefully putting aside your crossed-out manuscripts and my meticulously typed, corrected versions.
Using his index finger, he slid toward himself a sheet of paper, and something flew across his eyes. “Did you write this?”, he said and without waiting for my answer, continued, “It’s excellent.” He gave me a smile when I opened my mouth to say something and waved away. “Police officers also read, believe me. I prefer Russian classics. However, this is really great.” He had gone silent briefly and then mumbled “You should write for you, with your name on. This way, it’s him whose name is on, he has been glorified, and what do you get from that? Nothing!” So we were sitting in the kitchen, I didn’t offer him even a coffee, I was waiting for him to tell me why he was here. He touched the most painful part of me. He started speaking about you. He told me you were an average writer only, even below average, “You know that well”, he added and smiled. “But you love him, don’t you?” You love him very much. That’s why you have offered to correct his short stories and novels before being published… So, what is being published is rather yours than his.”
I wanted to get up, I wanted to tell him to leave, I wanted to say I didn’t know him, therefore there is nothing to talk about my life or you, I wanted him to disappear right away, so I could be again alone with myself and these sheets of paper, with your words, with my own words, with the wrenching pain in my stomach, with the wish to conceive a hatred for you. But I couldn’t. I remained sitting opposite him, and he told me everything. He told me you had been followed for months and they knew correctly when you would come to me and what we would do. He told me where would you go when you didn’t come to me, he told me about your wife, your children, about your drinking, fights with other writers, about your sick ambitions. He told me everything I already knew or felt. He had also told me that he knew you would never leave her and never belong to me. “He is being frustrated by you, I hope you understand, don’t you?” He told me with sympathy. “You have been writing in the way he will never do. And everybody thinks this is exactly how he writes. That’s why he will keep coming to you, as long as he wants to be a writer. And he will never show you to the world, he will never, so to say, give you a recognition.”
He offered me something you never did – a friendship. He told me he will keep coming by once or twice a week, for us to have a conversation, as friends only, he emphasized. Everything we talk about will remain between the two of us, he said. The things I would tell him would be used for official purposes only, as bare facts only, without names, without intimate details. He promised me, he swore to me that nobody will find out about us from him. He knew how lonely I was with my secretive love for you, he knew how much I needed to cry my eyes out in front of a close person.
He had told me he was not judgemental toward anyone, that he knew what love was, he felt it throughout his life, not for his wife only, but for others as well. He appreciates those who love more than those who hate, he had told me and laughed at his own quip. He had adjusted his shirt after getting up and before opening the front door, he turned to me in order to say goodbye.
With both his hands, he shook my hand, loose and cold from the stings in my stomach. “How are you, are you still bleeding?”, he asked me worriedly. He didn’t’ let me give him an answer. “It doesn’t matter how I know that. I know a good gynecologist. Just give me a call.” He had thrust into my hand a piece of paper with a telephone number on it and left.
From then on, he started coming often, after two or three years I stopped counting how many times he has been here. We would always have a conversation, we became good friends. He never tried anything else, believe me, although I don’t know why I am telling you this, as if I have pledged you my faithfulness. He was my friend, a real one, the only one reading me in your works.
Sometimes, especially in the beginning, he would try to talk me into writing under my name, but he eventually gave up. Sometimes he would bring me 100 grams of Turkish coffee, pure, and we drank it in the kitchen, with an open pack of Bitola lokum.
Sometimes he would bring me washing powder, sometimes flour, depending on what wasn’t available in “Slavia” at that moment.
You have never asked me when did I obtain the coffee, while sipping it with relish on the balcony, partially hidden behind the wall, so nobody could have recognized you. You have never asked me how I obtained the washing powder while wiping yourself with the clean bed sheet. And there was no need for you to come outside, the recommended gynecologist had told me I won’t be able to have children anymore. But you didn’t know that. Just as you don’t know many things because you never wanted to.
Believe me, nevertheless, and despite everything, I loved you all these years. I still love you. I love you so much, that if I could, I would give you the pen, the thoughts, and the tongue to be really yours, not signed only. I love you so much, that I was swallowing your lies, I was crumpling my expectations with all your bad short stories, I was tearing them apart into the smallest pieces, throwing them in the trash in the nighttime, so no one could see me.
I love you so much, that I have never told you anything about our only, unborn child.
And I never wrote anything to you, except this letter you will get tomorrow, I hope before journalists start calling you.
I don’t put my name on, but the name given by my friend, the one who was swearing to me he would never tell anyone about our conversations. To be honest, I’m not surprised by him writing down all my sentences, I even felt flattered in some way.
I laughed after reading what name he had given to me in your dossier and yesterday I cried on his grave for my loneliness and that little bloody clew from thirty years ago. I don’t expect anything, nor do I want to have you committed by these two or three pages I’m writing to you. I only felt some urge to tell you now how it was, because tomorrow everybody will know about me. And no one will read your works the same way, and you won’t be able to choose not to know, my darling.
Sofia Andreyevna Tolstoy
Translated by Simeon Jankov