The Exile, short story by Lucretia Lixandru at
Leandra Bischofberger

The Exile

The Exile

written by: Lucreția Lixandru



It’s autumn. It’s night and cold. The leaves are continuously falling, just like the trenches fall under the bombers’ assault. Seems like it is about to rain as well… what a mess!
And what about this beaten dog groaning? Oh, forget it, it’s just the wind blowing, as usual, for no reason. At least if there would be another person to care about this sad, sharp, and prolonged wail, cutting the silence the same way a rusty knife is cutting the old, musty, dried by the time passing bread.
Even so. What are the chances of finding someone else awake at this hour? It seems like none if I’m looking at the graveyard silence around. What a place! You don’t even realize where a street is ending and where is the beginning of another, just like in some sort of labyrinth that would put the antics themselves to shame!
But oh, well, let’s just say that we’ll get over it. In the end, I just can’t have enough of wandering around these devious little streets. They have something of their own, attracting me persistently and inexplicably. Even so, I only come here during the late fall. Otherwise, I just wander across the world. Look, just look at how beautiful the street looks when walled with leaves… Like it’s from another world. And that lamp, from the end of the street, stubbornly resisting the time…
I wonder how many people have stopped under his obscure light, how many stories, how many secrets does he know? If it was a human being, I would’ve said that he is proud, selfish, self-centered, stubborn, deuced, that he won’t die, once and for all! But like that… What can you blame an object for? I don’t know what I could blame the street lamp for, but I know what you could blame me for: that I keep talking and talking, and that I’m not a classy woman. That’s right. I’m not what they call “a classy woman” at all.
I mean, ‘till now you don’t even know who on earth you’re talking to, what my name is. Fine, fine, I’ll tell you, so that you’ll eventually shut up: my name is Mona. What kind of woman am I, you’ll dig it by yourselves…I suppose. I hope so. Anyway.
I discovered pretty late that, for me, there will only be a railway: this one. That the place where I keep coming back is the kind of place lacking that kind of charm, of quelque-chose, but…perhaps this is telling something about me, after all.
Maybe that I’m still searching for myself. But,  nah, it’s way easier than that: I’m insanely attracted to everything morbid. Or, I haven’t yet found a place as dead as this one. Not even the moon rises here anymore, and I believe her. She might have gotten scared of what she’s seen, too. This place is so empty that you feel like there was a plague roaming around: no stray dogs, no stray cats, talking about children playing in the street is, as one could see, pointless as well.
Now… Now I’m believing that old lady that was crying twenty years ago, sitting on the same bench as I stay now, telling you the story, crying and saying that she has locked her life up in this cage. She was heavily, mournfully crying… Damn, I am feeling so old now!
But do you know why I’ve left this place? Because I’ve been forced, darlings, because, as “sane” as you see me, I would not have left this place for the world! Now, I don’t even understand why am I still coming back here, after so many years. Oh, well, I do remember why. I’m gonna tell you as well, maybe this way you’ll stop looking at me like you’re some lambs that drank vodka instead of water, ‘cause I don’t like that at all!
I was somewhere on the shores of South Africa. The heat was bothering me, I was thirsty, so I got into a tavern. Poor, dark, greasy, and stinky as it was, it was also insanely successful.
You could’ve found any kind of person in that place: gypsy women with long, dark hair and a bunch of kids hanging by their skirts, black men with tattoos, the kind of men covering the entrance door and making the room they got into seeming full, white men with scars drawn on their faces, old men covered by scars and wrinkles… You could’ve found anything in that little corner of the world!
The landlady was a small, fragile, and seemingly obedient woman. From the way she looked, she could have been Swedish or German. She had her blonde hair cut short, in a manly style (something that made “the fine society ladies” nod with horror), blue, sad eyes, and always an inappropriate joke on the tip of her tongue, a fact that made me like her terribly.
We became friends quickly. She told me that her name is Linda, that she is German and she freshly arrived there. She had escaped. A runner.
She got some jail time for robbery. In her vision, she had to take care of her four brothers, so that she committed a robbery. One night, she opened the silver jewelry box of the old lady she was taking care of, took the most beloved jewelry, and left. It was a pendant made of a piece of black sapphire, tear-shaped. Linda sold it for serious cash and ran away all the way, to here. Here, at the end of the world.
With the money she got for the pendant, she made a living for her family here. She got caught and escaped four times in a row. You wouldn’t say, at first glance, that she is capable to break a cell’s bars. In the end, the plodders gave up on her.
-They finally understood that they have nothing to take me for. I would rather die by my own hands than to be put in jail by some dummies!
Yeah, I know. Such kind words coming from a woman that seems taken out of some high-class all-girls school and brought here by force. Or how deceitful can the appearances be. But let’s get back to our railway, though.
On the table where I was sitting and chit-chatting with her, there was a globe. One of those glass-globes treated like a cute caprice to be added to their collection by the old-fashioned lades and used by the nomads with jewelry on their long, black locks for selling the future to the naïves, all in the attempt of catching another “tomorrow” by the hand. I got out of my senses, as I was becoming so sick of the cesspool niff where I felt like I’m drowning deeper with every step taken on the wet and cold stone. And it surely wasn’t, at that moment, time or place of changing my mind.
So that I’ve hit it on the ground so hard that you would’ve thought that I wanted to choke alive the whole mankind, to get rid of every human being alive from here to the poles. All the hatred that I managed to hide for years, even from myself, came around to hit me back with the power of a boomerang thrown my way by a skilled indigenous man. For a second, I thought that the whole tavern has turned to stone: everyone was looking at me silenced by terror and stoned by despair, waiting for what it seemed to be the end of it. I didn’t know what to say, so I have only cussed mumbling.
-Goddamnit! What the hell are you looking like that at?
At a certain point, the gypsy woman that I’ve seen some time ago around (I would, by then, have lost the track of time) puts herself on her knees, in the middle of the tavern, and she begins to cry. Her smooth skin got wet, her beautiful black hair turned white, her eyes shined. Oh, those eyes, shining in such a bizarre, almost demonic way, a sparkle I’ve never seen before or met after that moment… Her lips turned blue, and all her body was shaking.
She was crying with hiccups, with a mourning cry, with words barely spoken, mumbled, apparently without any sense or logic. From the other side of the place came to me an old man that went, till then, unnoticed.
He was skinny, tall and hunched, with a somber, yet magnetic stare, with long and white hair. He seemed an otherworldly priest, cropped from the book with tales that I’ve left home.
-You know what you’ve done, right? he asked me reproachfully.
-Well…I’ve broken that globe. Ain’t it?
You see, once an indolent, always an indolent. I was smirking like I was waiting to be decorated, or something. And now, looking backward as I tell my story, I notice that it’s in my blood, this attitude. Pathologically, it’s me.
-So you don’t know a thing… In this case, let me tell you! He said, a little bit more at peace.
I’ve agreed happily, as he wasn’t so furious anymore. If he was younger, I would’ve expected him to fight me, so I’ve accepted to let him tell the story. Such a poor choice!
He took a chair, sat right in front of me, and, looking straight into my eyes, he started to tell me a story that creeped me out.
It was about an old curse saying that the end of their community will arrive on a Thursday after the red moon, on the water. The end…it was me. This made me shiver, as grown-up as I was.
I turned back to Linda. I wanted to ask her if it’s true, but her eyes and her loud, heart-breaking cry that was filling up the place told me everything before I even asked. It was true.
The gypsy came straight to me, put in my hand a piece of chalked paper, a holey coin, and disappeared. Afterward, they’ve thrown me outside, lit their rush lights, and waited patiently to die.
Got to admit, I didn’t understand their attitude, not until this very day. I mean, let’s just be honest about it: you could just wait, so calmly, to…reset character? Cross the Jordan? Anyway…to die?!?
I would not be able to do it. So that I went as far from that place as I could until I found an abandoned fisherman’s house and I began to read the note. To decipher it. I regret doing so till this very day. The note told me how I was going to die: by the time when trees are rather naked, I will receive a bouquet of lilies. White. Perhaps 20, perhaps 40. No more, no less. They will be brought up to my door by some gorgeous-looking stranger, as everything involving risks and unknown fascinates me. The stranger will be accompanied by a cat, which will be not grey, nor black, but something in-between, some sort of hybrid. I was going to die young, the note was telling me. At 37, or maybe 50, it was up to me. If I was able to find the other inscription of the coin, I would’ve been free to choose- 37 or 50, all up to me. It made me, once again, shiver. How much of a sadist you have to be, to give to an individual a detailed description of the way she’s going to die and then…to tell her that the age when she will kick the calendar can be her choice? How much of a cynic must one be?
Regardless of my endless questions, I kept on reading, my pupils were getting smaller, as I was getting through it. I’ve always discovered that wherever I’d go, I will always be returning to the place I hate the most. Quite illogical, I thought, why on earth would I come back home? Exactly. Not a single reason to do so.
But here’s the catch…it didn’t happen exactly how I thought at that moment it would. Now I’m always returning here, to the cesspool giving birth to all sorts of rascals. Eh. I was young, back then. Now I feel like I should show you something. Something that will be known by no one else after my passing, by no one else after your passing. It says like this:
“I can not do it anymore. You are my main sin, the primordial one. I am full of you. Of your smell since when we were running at nights in the gangs, while outside was raining like crazy and we were drunk on happiness. Of your whispers heard as in a dream when you were not around. Of the ideas that stayed deeply rooted in my mind after your leaving. Of the cold nights when we were staying butt-naked in front of the window, with all the lights turned on, sniffing the cold outside like two greedy greyhounds. You are my purple sin, the crime of so many late nights. It’s pointless. It’s a strange game. It’s like a magical feeling, the revelation of the fact that we are above the laws. Above any barrier. It is some kind of attraction. Demonic desire. It is…like some sort of endless power that I can only reach by and for you. Like a drug, an addiction. An animatic state. It is passion, guilt, wilderness. Just like a game where I break any rule just to touch you, to feel you, to have you. I gave you all that I could feel, but you have only left me empty on the inside. This is one of those endless games. But it will not continue with me, even if you’re being eternal. Farewell!”
Tomorrow I will no longer be here, and the street lamp will shut itself down. Forever. Come see it spreading light for the last time, stranger girl. You see, I’ve done what it was written in that note for me to do. Now I go, I have to wait for him. Do not forget Yolanda and her weird tale, and live fearlessly, alright?
And she left. The second day, the street lamp shut itself down. Just like She said. Now I sit here thinking: if that street lamp has heard at least one tale like this one, well, in this case, it found out more about what being alive means than all the humanity and its gypsum civilization.
Don’t look at me that way, I ain’t kidding here! What, you thought that I’m going to cross the Jordan waiting, like the good girl that I supposedly am, for my eternal guest and his cat of uncertain color? No, darlings, Mona will remain with you for a while and will tell you stories after her death, too, in her dreams. The old and chic Yolanda must, by now, have reunited with that mysterious guy and his cat for years.
On second thought, though, perhaps the retirement clock rang for me as well. Would be a great idea, isn’t it? You boodle of pricks…we will meet again, for sure, now cheese it!

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