Unsent Letters Series
By Hana Korneti
This is a collection of unsent letters gathered from apartments recently put on the market. When someone’s relative dies, and the heirs do not know what to do with the deceased’s piles of objects, books, and documents, they call Robi (a scavenger more than an antique collector) to collect what he likes. Robi by nature possesses a sentimental disposition, so after some time he began collecting written texts from the apartments of the deceased owners. The texts are of various sorts – shopping lists, blueprints, journals and diaries, telephone books, recipes, letters, and so on. This is one of the unsent letters which ended up in Robi’s hands.
Found in Skopje, 1996
Through a jumble of pictures, memories, and countless retellings, you remain in my thoughts. Several years ago, I passed by a white and violet garden, and its smell overcame me, stopped me in my tracks, pulled me by the nose, evaporated all the indifference and apathy from me, and like a film before my eyes, under my eyelids, a dusty atom of my brain expanded, turned into everything, a picture as clear as if it were from the moment itself: I’m smelling the towels in our room in your house on Corfu. Everything is wooden, everything is sunbathing, the towel is white, and the smell is inside me, both then and at the edge of the garden. I was activated like a Soviet sleeper agent. And I was very, very happy because I was four years old again and my head wasn’t so full of nonsense. I unlearned everything for a moment and existed only in the smell, only through the smell. Nikita, I think that the most romantic moments in life we live when we are alone.
The thought of you brought me back in time and space – like through a kaleidoscope – in front of the white and violet garden. The thought of you pains me, of me standing before you. With a bitter taste in my throat, under the black screen of my eyelids, a second picture, a second memory emerges. It is nighttime in the garden of your house in Corfu, alive green grass dances around me, a long table stretches before me, all the friends are sitting on it, above us lanterns are hanging on wires, above them branches reaching from distant crowns of trees, above them sky, above it stars. Below us… I don’t know about below us, but a villager once said that “We live between two skies…” At the other end of the table you stand. You’re laughing, you’re beautiful and happy, a perfect picture of what a child should look like. Between us is the table, spaghetti in tomato sauce. The next moment I recall, you are crying at your end of the table, and on my end I stand before my mother, she is shaking me, she is scolding me: I hit you, Nikita. Forgive me, Nikita, I hope that you do not bruise as easily as a peach.
Although there are probably other people in my everyday life to whom I should apologise, I choose you, because it is you, because I unconsciously turned you into a riddle and an analogy for my own self: do I still steal others’ balloons and “liberate” them into the sky? (Do you see how I still romanticise my crimes?) Do I still harm the meek, the soft, those who forgive and weep and make me feel smaller, and sadder, and in the end – angrier? Or have I grown, and that was a child palpating the boundaries and sin? Or perhaps it was a tendency that I eventually recognised and locked away, safely?
I remind myself that I do not know who you are today. Maybe you are a fisherman, maybe a medical student. Maybe you are a pilot. Maybe you sell watermelons on Corfu. I know that you will understand me, Nikita. I know that you don’t remember me, but that you will understand me. Maybe I won’t mean anything to you, but maybe what you represent to me will mean something to you.
Forgive me Nikita, for taking your parrot away. I remember – they bought us both helium balloons. Mine flew away, I don’t even remember what it was. Yours was a colourful parrot. I took it from you, against your will, and I let it go. I let it fly away. Maybe I wanted it to keep mine company in the sky? Both lost together? No. It was pure envy, pure and thoughtless, sincere jealousy of four-year old me.
Forgive me Nikita, I will always love you.
Forgive me Nikita, your name will forever be the name of all the lambs.
As you are fishing, or studying medicine, or flying planes, or selling watermelons, I work in a circus. I do cartwheels, walk on rope, run on my arms, and stand on my head. I was in love with a clown that stole all my lipsticks. It wasn’t funny one bit.
Are you happy, Nikita? Do you think too often?
Hana Korneti is a writer with several short story publications, who is trying to figure out if her diplomas would be best put to use to lever the desk, block the sun in the library, or be shredded in a performance art piece. She is based either in Istanbul or in Skopje (she is insistently vague on the matter).