Searching for moment of peace in the raging storm of my life, I used to go to the graveyard of our hometown. Walking among the ashes of the countless of past lives, watching the worn epitaphs, lopsided tombstones, faded names, and tried to recall the memories of those who passed long before I was born. Those who have been forgotten decades ago – I tried to conjure up their image, the way they must have lived, and fathom the mystery of the darkness they faded into. Some of the dates under names only showed a couple of years between birth and death, filling me with dismay as I wondered with clenching heart about the people in their short little lives, unaware that, in a remote, hidden corner of the graveyard, in the shadow of an immense silver pine, I would find your childhood picture on one of the little graves…
…How could I forget, as you would remember also, the devotion with which our shy, pure children’s hearts loved each other, and how joyous the moments were when we could meet on the playing ground between your grandparents’ house and ours? The multitude of memories, unforgettable yet so few for a lifetime, became a searing pain: the confessions whispered between us, our eyes closed, heads turned aside… No, don’t fear, Szilvi – I shall not breathe a word, I would not give away the secrets we have shared. Your plans, your dreams, by foreign ears will not be heard. Oh, how I shuddered with the joy of hearing you talk of tales of future times, a future we both created there, among the dreams and hopes forever unfulfilled. To all that you made me an heir, and for brief moments of bliss, your sky-blue eyes would fall upon my face, with childish innocence, an angel’s smile that would soon freeze, lying upon unfeeling, solid marble, hidden away for twenty-one years among the silent, uncomprehending graves.
How many worthless years have passed with uncompromising ruthlessness since then, tearing millions of hearts with agony and spreading joy, dissolving in the depths of human hearts, while changes unimaginable to you have stirred in your former schoolmates’ soul, inspiring those fleeting yet wonderful moments which, looking back heavy-hearted with the knowledge of their passing, used to make us tremble. Those glorious feelings we experienced, becoming more majestic with every fleeting moment – those unknowable emotions and desires your eleven-year-old self was so shamefully robbed of. What heartless cruelty. It’s inconceivable, unfathomable that you’ve never got feel this, even as I struggled my way through them all to grow up – you shall remain eleven forever, the same cheerful girl who used to throw pebbles onto the road with me, or call out to strangers, names made up on the spot, the one with whom we used to pretend being newlyweds for the other kids… You were a young child-wife when you suddenly didn’t come anymore to play. Whom I, with clenched heart and a little boy’s indignation, fighting everything in my way, kept searching for… Whom, fearing adults finding out about my love, I could only find again as an adult myself, and the reunion fazed me with the endless pain of passing weeks and months which fate, in a cruel moment among the troubles of my life, revealed before me: the mystery of my shyly blushing love’s disappearance.
If you lived, we could be laughing – maybe as members of two distinct families – on the childish things we used to do: you would remember the day I fell from the railings, wanting to stand on one foot on their top… But why am I remembering at these things alone, the memories drowning in pain, when you, robbed of the chance of growing up, are unable to reminisce about our childhood deeds? Only I got to experience that which would have seemed impossible being together day by day as children: past hopes and dreams turning to bitter sorrow, giving birth to the quiet, untouchable and unchangeable, motionless hours beside the stone slab which has condemned you to eternal silence.
That day, I was given what I used to dream about as a child, still obliged to go home before sunset; in my lonely room I thought about being with you every Christmas Eve, and here the silver pine towered over us like a solemn Christmas tree among the snowy graves, in the company people perished long ago, dissolving and fading into nonexistence, who watched, unseeing, unfeeling and silent, the way I gave a small package to you.
For years, I kept the secret of this unconscious life as I, an adult, was pining away for an eleven-year-old girl. But suddenly, on a gloomy early afternoon in August, a strange event strengthened my ever-growing, ever-waning resolve to put an end to this perilous state, in which I tried to convince myself that the circumstances of your death and everything that happened since were insignificant compared to your absence.
You may not believe it, my little love, how many remember you still, you who, on the street crossing before the church was hit by a careless driver… and the medical mistake which took your life twenty one years ago. It turned out that the painter I knew through my parents was your uncle, and his selfless help enabled me to find those you had left behind.
You know, Szilvi, I couldn’t take it anymore. After much soul-searching, I went to see your mother for I hopelessly desired, unable to imagine the bereavement, the bleeding of the badly healed wound at the injustice and the pointlessness of your death. I wanted to know everything, everything…
When I saw her there, coming towards me in the stormy wind that tore at the garden flowers, I finally understood what it meant for a mother to lose her child whom, after carrying within herself she brought to life and kept safe from the dangers of the world… I’ve seen a mother who has been wasting away from the pain of twenty one years.
You truly died for me on that fateful afternoon. I felt, as an adult, the indescribable horror of a child’s death – the agony of the shock your close and not so close relatives must have felt on May 21, 1981. It was on a Thursday, half past five… I’ve learned of the pair of slippers that you found in the window of a shoe shop, that you wanted so much but never got to wear… I can imagine your excitement as you brought the package up to your grandpa’s, then ran home to your little flat behind the town’s marketplace to try them on… never getting past the church. It wasn’t even five o’clock yet.
Then you’ve been brought to an old hospital with outdated equipments, among adults struggling with illnesses and themselves, and put in a bleak room radiating anxiety, and the bruised swelling on your forehead kept growing, and your mother, in utter despair, fearing that which was impossible to imagine, trembling with horror, kept stroking it gently, murmuring comforting words…
Your mother, in her despair, drew comfort from the words of the doctors, who had said it was not serious, that you only had to stay in for observation… And at nine o’clock, the phone rang suddenly, a shrill sound without empathy, and she was told that you, the vulnerable barely-teenage girl was taken to the emergency hospital with unexpected developments, your state deteriorating quickly, and you had to get a tracheotomy, and after a night spent in unconsciousness, you were operated in the morning… But no use. They hadn’t noticed your wound bleeding internally on the day of the accident and, at 2 a.m. on May 25, you no longer lived.
All that remained of your short, abruptly ended life, I got to see yesterday. Do you know you have your own wardrobe, its shelves filled with all the treasures you as a little girl held so dear, your French doll, your candlestick, the carved jug you took home from a class trip… Your jewellery box has all the things they took off you before your last journey: your watch, your necklace, your earrings, and a small leather wristband that was torn in the accident, but it must have been pretty, I could see you loved it very much…
There is the memory book in which one classmate wrote ‘Be a good wife!’ and the metal matchbox, the ashtray that you made in polytechnic class, carving only a T and an unfinished S into it… Your collected photographs, the one in which you were practising the splits with a friend, preparing for a school performance, and the one I’ve first seen of you… Your letters… No, don’t think I read them! No. They were written for you by other boys… I returned them, unopened.
The permanent anxiety of uselessness after a sleepless night drove me to your grave yesterday morning, and there, in the garden of eternal rest, in the sorrow of grief, suddenly I felt the same joyful anxiety I used to feel as a child, thinking about you, hoping to meet, the angelic soul now lost in the untouchable mist of infinity, endlessly far, but loving until the end of time, and beyond…
My dear reader, I hope you liked my short story. Thank you for reading it. I think you would like my novel, Sanctuary of the Guilty, which is why I would like to recommend it to you. Of course you can read it free. The events of the book take place in a Catholic seminary where I had to live as a seminarist. In a secret and close world where very shocking things happen… about which some people would like to remain silent. I wrote about these with a little apprehension but I think that the truth must always come to light… My website where you can get to know the secrets and the truth is: https://en.malota.hu/category/sanctuaryoftheguilty/ Thank you very much for your interest. Have a nice day. Laszlo Malota
Copyright © Laszlo Malota
All Right Reserved
Cover design by: Ultimus
Translated by Anna Kovacs
To Szilvi Tóth, who couldn’t live to be twelve Searching for moment of peace in the raging storm of my life, I used to go to the graveyard of our hometown. Walking among the ashes of the countless of past lives, watching the worn epitaphs, lopsided tombstones, faded names, and tried to recall the memories of those who passed long before I was born. Those who have been forgotten decades ago – I tried to conjure up their image, the way they must have lived, and fathom the mystery of the darkness they faded into. Some of the dates under names only showed a couple of years between birth and death, filling me with dismay as I wondered with clenching heart about the people in their short little lives, unaware that, in a remote, hidden corner of the graveyard, in the shadow of an immense silver pine, I would find your childhood picture on one of the little graves...