4. An excerpt from novel "The man who needed nothing"

Read first pages of a novel "The man who needed nothing"


Translated by Jura Avizienis

This novel is dedicated to life.


The events of this story happened numerous times, but the ending is always the same.


Table of Contents


  • Down Below

A LINE. Sylvia and I

  • Down Below
  • Up High

THE TRIANGLE. Sylvia and I, and Some Obstacles

  • Down Below
  • Higher Up
  • Up High

THE CIRCLE INSIDE THE SQUARE. Sylvia and I, Me Again, and the Book

  • Down Below
  • Higher Up
  • Up High
  • At the Highest Reaches

THE STAR. Sylvia and I, the Indian, Astra, and the Thief

  • Down Below
  • Higher Up
  • Up High
  • At the Highest Reaches
  • Too High, Or So High That There Is Nothing

THE HEXAGON. Sylvia and I, the Earth, Water, Air, Ether, and Love’s Sacrifice

  • Too Low, Or So Low That There Is Nothing
  • Down Below
  • Higher Up
  • Up High
  • At the Highest Reaches
  • Too High, Or So High That There Is Nothing




Down Below.                    

No, absolutely not.  Such behavior is totally unacceptable.

It’s three o’clock now, and I’m lying on the rug, immobile.  I know it’s bad to be inactive.  I should walk around a bit.  But I can’t walk if I’m lying on the ground.  I could when I was little.  Not anymore.  But it should be the other way around.  Lots of things should be the other way around, but they’re not.  That’s why I’m looking out the window.  It’s a shame the window’s so dirty.  It’s a shame I didn’t clean it when I was still able to walk.

You know what she did?  You’ll never guess.

I can’t stand the sight of that grimy window anymore, so I get up and clean it.  I take my time.  I don’t understand how vertical things, things that nobody ever touches, can get so dirty.

I clean it and lie down again.  I lie there, unable to move.

I have neither arms nor legs.  Maybe I do, but they’re not mine because I can’t move any of them.  All I have is a head and a back.  I’m certain of this, because I’ve been lying here for a long time; my back aches, and I reflect.  I still have lips that I lick from time to time.  It’s not because they’re dry.  I just want to make sure they’re still there.  I once read a story about a person who had no lips.  That’s just the way he was born.  He said he was miserable his whole life.  That doesn’t surprise me in the least: of course it’s important to have lips.  If you take my lips, you might as well take all of me.  I don’t want to be divided up. 

But she divided me up.  She divided me into the prior-to-then me and the me that was born the moment I saw her.

She stood in the doorway, quite disheveled.  I said “Pardon me,” and tried to pass by. She asked why I was apologizing: did I sense that I’d hurt her someday? She refused to budge.  That’s when I shoved her.  She wasn’t fazed by this and asked if that was the reason I was apologizing. 

I don’t understand why she did it.  Why did she make me fall in love with her?

The first time I saw her, I found her repulsive.  Beautiful, even extremely so, but not at all what I wanted.  Her skin was dark: brownly blue.   She’d dyed her hair a ridiculous color—half of her head was white.  One eye was darker than the other, but even the lighter one was quite brown.  I’ve never had a girl with brown eyes.  There’s no way to tell what they’re thinking as those coal-black abysses stare at you, seemingly wanting draw something from you, extract it, or, the opposite, implant something you don’t need.  I’ve never liked people who do things for me without asking—I don’t care if they’re giving or taking.

Besides, she wouldn’t stop smiling.  I shoved her, but she smiled at me, as if that were exactly what she wanted.

In other words, she was repulsive.  That’s why I shoved her and walked away.

Nothing happened.  Lighting didn’t strike. Nobody hypnotized me.  But I realized that I’d left my car keys in the room.  And that meant I had to go back inside.  Of course she was standing in the doorway again.  I have no idea what she did during those few seconds while I was turned away, but she was even more disheveled.  And she was smoking.  She had sensuous lips and long fingers, and her arms were almost too graceful to bear.  It occurred to me that if she’d kiss me, I’d probably drop dead.

When I came up to her, she said “pardon me.”  I had no idea why.  She must have known that she could kill me with a single kiss.  But she probably wouldn’t have ever done it: why waste a good cigarette?

Her neck was extremely long; it looked soft.  If I would have touched it, I would have died.  I vowed never to do it.

She really had no need to wear so many necklaces strung with crystal bubbles of every size and color around her neck.  Maybe they weren’t crystal.  I’m not sure.  What difference does it make?  Against her skin the beads all looked darker than they actually were.  I selected a crystal to examine more closely.  As I pulled it away from her skin, the crystal became bright red, transparent, as if it had lost its backing.  I’ve never liked things that lack substance, so I let go of the bead.  It was so heavy that it thumped against her chest.

I couldn’t understand why she had to wear all these glass beads.  She certainly knew that she gave them life.  Without her they were nothing.  But you can’t keep everything that’s meaningless without you.  I thought that she must be a very good person because without any resistance she gave me essence, turning me into another one of her synthetic crystals which turn pale, transparent, and useless when they are separated from her.

I must have stood there before her for quite some time, because she finished her cigarette and lit another.  Then she came over to me and shoved me.  I was so surprised, that I almost fell over. 

“1-1,” she said. And she went inside.

I desperately wanted to change the results to my own favor.  To get even.  To show I was the stronger one.  And to touch her.  To force her to touch me again.  But she disappeared.  I couldn’t for the life of me understand where.  I tried to find her, although I tried to convince myself I was just wandering about just for the fun of it.  From what I understand, it’s not against the law to wander about aimlessly or to look for someone.   But whether it’s against the law to find them, I have no idea.


The second time I saw her was nearly half a year later, on an ordinary day.  It was still dark when I got up.  I couldn’t see where I was going and stepped on something, crushing it.  I wasn’t sorry in the least: that’s what it gets for being where it doesn’t belong.

I’m lying.  I was very sorry, sorry to have done it.  I was always crushing people and hated myself for it.  I hated myself for considering myself better than them, more worthy of love and acknowledgment.

I crushed my brother.  He wasn’t my real brother.  My mother had remarried when I was five.  She was beautiful, even though one leg was shorter than the other.  Quite the contrary, this gave her a certain sexuality.  I never liked my mother and had always been embarrassed of her.  Even though I loved her very much, I had to admit that not only did she sleep around with any man that came along (although this was none of my business), but on top of all that, she was a complete idiot.  

I don’t know why God didn’t give her anything—neither beauty, nor brains.  When I grew up I learned about theories of compensation.  But even then I couldn’t understand what God had given her to compensate for what she lacked.  Mama always said I was her compensation.  But I don’t think that I’m worth anything.  So her idolization of me was further proof of her stupidity.  I never wanted to be like her, but unfortunately I was.  Just as ugly, and like her, I slept around.  Like her, I couldn’t roll my “r’s”, my ears were asymmetrical and my right thumb was crooked.

When I was five, God decided to give my mother yet another gift: a thin and eternally sweaty man, who was very thrifty and a poet.  He was stupid like my mother, although he had a better sense of what was going on in the world.  The man liked to tell us that, if not this year, then surely next year he would be getting the Nobel Prize.  But the following year he got TB.  Nobody understood how.  Perhaps he caught it from one of his books.  I’ve read that the pages of a book can be poisoned, whether intentionally or not.  He died immediately.  And then God graced my mother with a third gift: my brother.

From the day he was born, my brother was as thin and sweaty as his father.  This annoyed me because it forced me to think about what each of us inherits and from whom.  It was then that I noticed that I never had a father.  Geneticists have elaborated on their various indistinguishable theories, but I didn’t fit any of them.  I didn’t inherit anything from my father.  Neither masculinity, nor the desire to be attractive to women; neither courage, nor self-love.  Nothing.  That’s why I’ve always been this way: one-dimensional, uncomplicated, humble and loved by all.

My brother’s completely different.  Even as an adult he remains an eternal dilemma to himself and others with his continuous doubts, endless extremes, incessant manic depressive attacks.  I’ve always envied him for this.  I eventually lost my ability to live a normal life.  I no longer had the time or the energy for anything.  That’s why I crushed my brother.  It wasn’t difficult.  After he’d transitioned from his agoraphobic phase to his claustrophobic phase, I arranged for him to get stuck in an elevator.

I planned everything carefully.  It was midday when there were no people--and no repairmen--around. He was stuck in the elevator for a couple of hours. He scratched himself up pretty badly and passed out.  But he eventually came to.  He left his extremes behind in that elevator after he eventually got out of there.  The repairmen tried to use force to pull him out of the elevator because he was being uncooperative and refusing to leave.  They weren’t bothered.  They repaired the lift and left.  Nobody wanted to do anyone else’s job.  Just don’t try to tell me that this is the sorry state of things today.  Things have never been different at any other time in history.

The neighbors eventually chased my brother out of the elevator. They basically beat him up and threw him out. For the rest of her life my mother blamed them. This annoyed me. I figure that you understand me perfectly because everyone wants to be recognized for their achievements. But such is a mother’s love. Mothers don’t care one bit about what their children do--whether they achieve unfathomable heights, or if they plumb the deepest depths.  Mothers love their children unconditionally. That’s another reason why children hate their mothers.

Well, my brother got better.  He became stable and constant; that’s why after six months everyone forgot him.  This should come as no surprise: nobody notices flat, even surfaces.  I’ve never heard of hordes of tourists descending on flatlands—everyone travels to the mountains as if wanting to prove that uneven surfaces are valuable in themselves. And when there are many people proving something, no matter what that something is, everyone believes them.


Remembering the story of my brother upset me, so I didn’t even look at what I crushed this time. I picked up the rug and kicked the “thing” underneath.  I made some coffee, but because I forgot to add milk, I burned my lips.

Sometimes my work takes me out of town, so I have to fly.  I’m afraid of flying.  I’ve seen many films in which a woman of unreal beauty sits down next to a man. They chat, and the man seems to be happy. Unfortunately, however, they get off the plane, and never finish their story.  They go somewhere, and do something, and it always ends badly.  That’s what I’m afraid of.  So when I get on a plane, I always try to sit next to a man or an ugly woman—that way, if I have to go somewhere with her after we land, things are much less complicated than if she were beautiful.

In general, I don’t think much of beauty. Everyone tells me I’m attractive.  But I don’t like to hear it.  I like it even less when they tell me I have beautiful hands, ears, or something else, because then they’re dividing me up.

I wasn’t late for my flight.  I was right on time.  Some seats were already taken, so I sat down next to a heavyset woman with a child.   Of course, the child would cry upon landing.  (It’s not that I can predict the future. It’s just that this always happens).  But one should never expect ideal conditions in a public space.

I plugged my ears with earbuds.  I turned up the volume to the maximum and closed my eyes.  I like to fall asleep to loud music because I can consciously block it out and stop hearing it.

When the lady with the child started to fidget so much that I couldn’t take it anymore, I opened my eyes.  I thought I was dreaming.  The woman and the child were gathering up their things. She was standing next to me, and the flight attendant was pleasantly explaining that there had been a mistake: children are not allowed to be seated near the emergency exit; so she was changing their seats.

Relaxed, I dreamed on.  What was there to be afraid of if this was just a dream?

She told me right away that her name was Sylvia.  Even though the name was truly ugly, it suited her.

“Oh, what a lovely name.”  I said politely.  My mother had taught me to be polite.

I don’t know if the same rules apply in dreams, but just in case, I tried to look as normal as possible. I believe that even in dreams one must take all necessary precautions.

She was wearing the same necklaces.  Oh, well.

“You have beautiful eyes,” said Sylvia.  I was disappointed.  I felt like a part of an animal on display, like a deer’s head, decapitated, stuffed, mounted and hung on a wall for everyone to enjoy.  Everyone always says, “Look at how beautiful the deer’s eyes are.”  You can’t talk about eyes.  Nobody wants to donate their hearts or eyes after they die.  My lungs or my liver—go ahead and take them!  Just not my eyes.  Eyes are the mirror to the soul.  And if this is true, then deer’s souls must be brilliant; they always seem so happy and content, although I don’t think they actually have anything to be happy about.  You can’t be happy if you’re missing something, especially if it’s the rest of your body.

I don’t know, maybe they’re not missing the rest of their body. Maybe it’s sticking out of the wall in the next room, but I can’t prove it. When I go to check, the rest of the body isn’t there, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there after I leave the room. Oh well, it doesn’t matter.  The eyes are what’s most important. 

This situation left me feeling romantic.  That’s why I asked:

“Would you like me to recite a poem?” 

Not only did she not say anything, not a single muscle in her face moved. I guess she didn’t believe I was serious. She didn’t know me yet, although she knew everything about me.  I wonder how?

“Shall I?” I made sure, just in case.

“Yes,” she answered rather ironically. This was unnecessary because I had prepared a beautiful poem.  Unfortunately, the din of the engines required me to shout, and shouting wasn’t exactly appropriate for my poem’s mood.  But I already mentioned that one mustn’t expect ideal conditions in public spaces.

“His held his head and neck high, his stature steady, without a quiver, his gaze directed to the tip of his nose.  Let him not divert his gaze to various directions.”[1]

Sylvia laughed (Do you understand the humor here? Because I didn’t), and asked:

“Did you write that?”

“Yes, I wrote this poem. But the Hindus republished it.”

Sylvia kept smiling. That’s why I asked, “You don’t believe me?  What a shame. You should believe what you’re told.” 

“My grandmother died when she was 99. One year before her death, she took up singing.  Her voice was almost as beautiful as Pavarotti’s.  Nobody could understand what was happening, because until then she didn’t have a voice—not even an ear for music.  They took her to various specialists, but none of them could explain her illness.  That’s how she died, singing—or perhaps singing caused her death, because nobody could determine any other cause.”

I found her story fascinating, but I didn’t get what it had to do with my poem. I supposed that singing caused her neck to lock, and even though she really wanted to, she could not turn her head.  For a whole year.

I don’t remember ever wanting so desperately to touch someone.  But I was afraid that if I did, my heart would explode or an even bigger catastrophe might occur: the plane would crash.   It wouldn’t be fair for the other passengers to have to die because of my desire, so I just sat there, immobile, not touching anything.


There’s nothing spectacular about the fact that I fell in love.  It wasn’t the first time.  After the first time, you know what to expect, because any one love affair is exactly the same as any other.

The passenger window was covered in frost, opaque.  This annoyed me.  Windows should be transparent.

“Do you see anything?” Sylvia asked.

“No,” I said angrily, as if it were her fault.

I asked her, “You don’t have leukemia, do you?”.

“One more question and I’ll ask the flight attendant to find me another seat.”

I don’t know why she was angry.  I only asked because I wanted to know if this would be one of those typical love stories where one of the protagonists dies while the other protagonist barely sheds a tear. But the viewers certainly do cry.  In my opinion, there’s no reason for tears.

Sylvia pretended to read a book.  I knew she was pretending because she didn’t turn any pages.  I leaned slightly towards her because I wanted to read what was written in her book. But there was no text. Only a photograph of a castle. 

Usually castles are made of:

  • sand
  • snow

I don’t know which ones last the longest.  But the ones that last the longest are not necessarily the most beautiful.  But this one really was beautiful. It was made of little round plastic balls in multiple colors. The smaller ones were on the bottom and they grew bigger as the castle scaled upwards. Huge bubbles topped the castle like towers.

“I would like to live in a castle like that,” I said to Sylvia. 

“That’s all the castle needs.  You,” she laughed. 

I liked imagining the castle crumbling as I exited, the little balls slowly tumbling down on me.  I don’t like eternal things.  Eternal things are boring. If a woman tells me “I will love you forever,” I leave her that very second. I offer no explanations; I simply turn and leave.  In the doorway I stop, turn, and take one last look.  I saw a scene like this in a movie once; I found it very beautiful, that’s why even today, this is what I do.  I spread beauty.


I normally dress in grey. I think grey is a very flattering color. It makes you look like a rock, and everyone likes rocks.  

I don’t eat anything. That’s why I gain weight. You’ve probably noticed as well, that nothing grows quickly.

But I’m not happy about how I look.  Even on those days when I look to myself, I know it’s the ultimate deception, an illusion, which will fade once the lighting is changed. 

But I don’t tell anyone that I’m unhappy with my appearance.  I don’t want anyone else to notice. That would be too much even for me. 

To give myself more character, I wear a grey scarf. Don’t ask me if I do this in summer too.  Don’t ask me any questions.  I’ll simply either refuse to answer, or I’ll lie.  I like people who lie.  Not out of necessity, but just for the sake of it, for their own and others’ enjoyment.  Truth doesn’t exist, and I like people who understand this and don’t suffer for it.  Why suffer for something you can’t change?  Just enjoy it.  

I used to wear my hair long.  But a girl I spent the night with one night cut it.  I was asleep and didn’t feel anything.  In the morning she told me I looked much better.  At first I didn’t understand why.  I thought love had made me look better.  That’s what I thought a few days later when I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror (I really didn’t look good).

I don’t have a mirror at home, so I only noticed that my hair had been cut one week later. I don’t like seeing the same reflection day in and day out: my broken heart, dark circles under my eyes. I don’t know if you can see your heart in the mirror, but I can.  It’s a lot like the postcards, only much more obviously cleaved in half. The two halves are connected to each other by a thin thread, it might be a blood vessel, but I don’t know if it’s a vein or an artery.

I asked my mom if my heart had always been like this. I think that’s what moms are for, to answer questions like that.  I don’t need my mom for anything else. Too bad I can’t remember her answer. 

When I looked at myself in the mirror that day (in the bathroom at McDonald’s—I look at myself in the mirror there whenever I wash my hands because there’s nothing else to look at), so, that day when I looked, I didn’t see my heart, because I noticed my hair.  One side was much longer than the other.

“It’s your own fault,” the girl told me the next time I saw her. That side of your head was on the pillow. There was nothing I could do.”  I agreed.  People are responsible for what happens to them.

Her name was Ana, or perhaps Anna—I don’t remember precisely. But I’m pretty certain it wasn’t Annna. The second time I ran into her was by accident.  I usually don’t like to see girls a second time (although this time I was wrong: the second night was much better than the first).  The first time I met her was also by accident.  She was hanging around in the bicycle lot.  When I asked her what she was doing there (I only asked because I felt like it.  After all she wasn’t pretty, so there really was no other reason).  

She answered, “I rent bikes.” 

I decided I needed a bike, so I paid her; it was a pretty hefty sum, and she said:

“Choose one.”

There were many bikes to choose from; they were tidily arranged in rows perhaps a bit too crammed together.  I chose the most beautiful bike, one tied with a white ribbon. Then she said:

“Take it.” 

Unfortunately, the bike was locked like all the other bikes in the lot.

She told me that she rented bikes, not keys.  I thought once again how fate had been kind to me, because can you imagine how would I have looked on a bike like that?

Annoying music was playing from an indeterminate source; I think it was Bach. Maybe not, I didn’t really know any other composers (of course I knew Tchaikovsky, but this really wasn’t the song of the dying swan, I would bet my life on it). That’s why Bach was the only possible choice.

“This is probably not Bach.  He couldn’t have composed such a song,” I said, criticizing myself in my thoughts.  If you say something, say it with confidence. Why second-guess your every step? Women don’t like indecisive men.  A man should exude strength and confidence. 

I wasn’t exuding anything. I wasn’t even sure that Bach composed songs. I think that after you compose a melody, to come up with lyrics can’t be hard. And what’s the difference in the end? 

“He could have,” laughed Ana.

Lost in my own thoughts I forgot what we’d been talking about.  That’s why I was confused about what “could have” was about.  But I thought, sure, he could have, and that was a good thing.  It would have been far worse if he couldn’t have.  

In other words, I still didn’t have a bike. I wasn’t sure how many people she’d duped before me, but when I invited her to go out with me, she agreed.  That means I was the first.

I pretended to know where we were going.  I found myself wishing for a tour guide with a flag or some umbrella held high walking ahead of us.  But we had no guide.  Besides, I’d learned a lesson that day: that I had to pay for my desires. And I didn’t have much money.

I wasn’t good at getting around, even though I’d lived in this city for a long time.  I love wandering without a map in my head; then everything seems like the first time, when you have no idea what awaits you at every corner. 

And something was awaiting me now.  On the asphalt, at the very center of the sidewalk, there was a black lump. I thought it was a dead bird (I assumed that it was flying and had fallen and killed itself), and that would be a pretty good sign.  But as I approached it, I noticed that it was just a wrinkled-up newspaper. 

Knowing I wanted to see more than was actually there made me realize I’m a romantic at heart. I must admit I was hoping to come up with something beautiful in order to impress Ana, perhaps even to do a heroic deed, to bag a black bird (I’d forgotten that it was supposed to be dead already), or something like that. 

While I was crafting various and sundry plans (plans of action are important for someone trying to crawl out of a hole), Ana told me she was deaf in one ear. She didn’t say which one and I didn’t ask. She said she made buttons and was not a fan of zippers, because buttons are round and that alone makes them beautiful, but things that split in two for no reason are not trustworthy.  She talked about making her living leasing things. She didn’t like lilies of the valley.  If she had a choice about where to live, it would be in the Stone Age.  

Now, don’t think that I talked and I listened silently.  No, I said quite a bit.  For example:

“What’s wrong with wanting to zip up quickly?”

“What the hell are lilies of the valley? Although, what’s the difference, if you don’t like them anyway?” 

“Take bigger steps. The sidewalk is uneven.” (She kept getting stuck on tiles).

“The Stone Age is not ‘where to live,’ but ‘when.’”

“We are living in our own Stone Age, only most of our stones are made of plastic.”

And also: I should have offered her a handkerchief because she had a terrible cold. I don’t know how I could have slept with such a girl, because I am normally very cautious about viruses and bacteria.


It was a shame that I devoted so much time thinking about Ana. Flights are short unless you’re flying to Australia, but we weren’t flying there. Maybe next time.

Sylvia adjusted her air vent to direct the cold air directly onto the back of my head. I appreciated that she cared about my wellbeing.

But I also liked being with Ana. I took nude pictures of her. Once. We made multiple copies of the same image and plastered the walls with them. At her house and mine.  Ana seemed different to me in each one.

“It’s true,” she agreed. 

Ana couldn’t keep still for even a minute.  She kept moving as if she were trying to hide the fact that nothing was actually going on.  Every morning Ana would go out to lease bicycles. She made decent money; it was enough for her and for me.

I wasn’t going to get into this, but so be it: Ana killed herself.  One evening, I came home and found her dead. She had taken all my pills; I have no idea she could swallow so many. The doctors were unable to explain which pills did her in. I thought it was my head lice treatment. I had bought some just in case.

Ana left me a suicide letter. Perhaps it’s more accurate to call it a note, not a letter, but it was written on fancy stationery.  That’s why I couldn’t decide what to call it.  She’d written: “Now you can take over my business.” That was all.  At the bottom left corner she had drawn a small bug. This made me suspect the head lice treatment.

I don’t know if she intended the letter for me, because it didn’t mention me by name.  But no other name was mentioned, so I took it. 

I tried to take over her business, but had no luck. Some idiot spilled coffee on me the first day. He took a cup of coffee and poured it over my head. I dumped the business; but I had no regrets. I walked out as proud as a sewer rat. How urban, I thought as I walked.  Where else would someone pour coffee on me like that?  Besides, I had the money that the idiot had paid me for the bike. If it were me, not only would I have gotten my money back, but I would have asked for reimbursement for the coffee. The moron didn’t think of this. That’s why I walked away smiling. I smile even now as I remember it all.  To my left is seated the woman of my dreams, reading.


Sylvia closed her book, slamming it shut louder than she had to.  Perhaps I was asleep, and she wanted to wake me. The flight attendant came over and asked what we wanted. What I wanted was to kiss her, but I didn’t say anything. Whenever I like a woman, I want to kiss someone else, not her.  

The captain told us we would be landing shortly. Of course he did not say “shortly” but told us precisely when, but I didn’t understand him, because just at that moment Sylvia asked why a circle was better than a square.  I didn’t understand her question, so I didn’t respond. I don’t like it when people ask confusing questions but still wait for answers.  That’s when she asked why I wanted to live in a bubble castle. The second question made more sense so I told her that a square is the same thing as a circle, except that it has four corners.

Sylvia found this very funny.  She had a beautiful laugh, although one of her teeth was crooked. It reminded me of my first love. It wasn’t exactly love, but people tend to refer to all their intimate relations as love.  I would consider it a strong indifference: the person in question is so insignificant to you that you want to show it.

My first love lived in the same housing complex as I did.  We were both about thirteen. Her name was so ugly, that I can’t even say it right now. It was a bad sign—from the very beginning—that nothing would come of the relationship.  But I persevered, spitting against the wind with all my might.

She was much taller than me, but that didn’t bother me. She would make me kiss her often.  And that was a good thing, because back then I was so clueless, that I wouldn’t have dared to do it.  She made me feel like a dog on a leash, forced to shit where his master indicates, not where he wants to.

She wanted more than I did, and that’s why I was afraid of her. I always close my eyes when I’m afraid.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t usually help. And it didn’t help then either. She kept asking me why I wouldn’t even look at her—was she so ugly?  The worst thing was that it was true: she was very ugly.  That’s why I could never answer her question.  This must have eventually gotten to her, because she eventually left me.

I already told you about my indifference to her, but after she left I became obsessed about what would have happened if we hadn’t separated.  And when I become interested in something, nothing else exists for me.   I can’t do several things at once. 

I started following her around (that is, when I wasn’t too lazy).  Sometimes she would turn around and say:

“What do you want?”

The intonation of the question was different every time.  Sometimes she would scream it.  Sometimes she could barely pronounce these few words and seemed as though she would collapse here at my feet after uttering them.  Every time this would happen, it would occur to me how unpredictable she was and what a good thing it was that I left her, because I’ve never been able to stand instability of any kind.

You never know what to expect from people. For example, sometimes for no reason she would just stop in her tracks.  And what could I do?  Of course I would bump into her.  Then she would accuse me of harassing her.  But she was the one getting in my way.  Absolutely never would I cross the boundaries of decency of my own free will. 

And besides, I never answered her question.  Tell me, what could I expect from her?  Emaciated, disoriented, obsessed with whether I was following her.  Why didn’t she leave me alone and just go wherever she was going?  She must not have known where she was going, if she had to keep turning around to look back.

But then one day our story ended. Her mother stopped me on the street and told me that if I didn’t leave her daughter alone (I tried to explain to her that she was the one not leaving me alone, but she wouldn’t listen)--that if I didn’t leave her daughter alone, I would have to deal with her (i.e. her mother). This terrified me and I ran away.  I later regretted it, but at the time, sex (How else would a male deal with a female?) with a woman twenty years older than me freaked me out even more than kissing a thirteen-year-old.

One of her mother’s teeth was crooked.  I could see it clearly when she gave me that talk about dealing with her.  Because of that tooth, both of them, Sylvia and that girl’s mother, remained tied together as if with a rope, like any other two things that have nothing in common might be tied together. They should be grateful to me for that, because they didn’t have anything in common. Our perception of objects is never just the sum of sensual perceptions. But in my mind, sensual perceptions combine to a completely new configuration. That’s how the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

I was a heavy smoker back then.  I would smoke cigarette after cigarette.  To no end.

You might be wondering if I lost my innocence with that waif.  This question is absolutely justified.  I sometimes expect certain events to follow a certain sequence, and sometimes it seems to me that according to the rules of causality, under certain favorable circumstances, a certain event ought to follow another. But no, I didn’t lose my innocence with her.   And the circumstances are not to blame. I didn’t lose my innocence.  I was born guilty and experienced, tainted by original sin.  I read in the Bible that we are all born with original sin (and I believe this sincerely, although I don’t believe anything else that’s written in the Bible), that’s why we have nothing to lose later in life.  It’s a reassuring theory.  I know of several others like it, and I abide by them.  In life, I find very little that is reassuring, so I console myself with theories. We all look for reassurance, and lucky for me, I’ve found it.


I have always been a nobody, a nothing, like everyone else, but unlike everyone else, I have felt it every second of my life.  I could never delude myself into thinking otherwise.  Sometimes I would even imagine, that if I looked in the mirror, there would be no reflection.  I live a quiet and empty life, leaving no trace of my existence. What more can you want from life?

Sometimes, like anybody else, I would entertain the illusion that I’m important and significant.  This would make me laugh long and hard at myself.  That’s why women have always found me attractive.  They’ve always liked my sense of humor. I don’t entirely agree with their opinion, or, perhaps I simply don’t understand what a sense of humor is. 

Women like it when men have feelings—it doesn’t matter what kind, even if it’s just the ability to feel the pain of a toothache.  Even that is enough.  A woman once told me that pain is like a drop of ink.

“What kind of ink?” I asked, maybe a bit too curtly, bet I’ve always really hated banalities. 

She explained to me that when you trickle ink into water, it, like pain, slowly expands into all kinds of interesting patterns until it turns everything blue. We decided to try it, to see if it really works. We only had brown ink, so of course, the water didn’t turn blue.  I think that in essence this annuls her theory. A glass of brown water has nothing whatsoever to do with pain.

Apparently my face betrayed my skepticism.  (When I think back, I realize I could have done without the smile: so another theory was proven wrong.  What’s the big deal?)  She started to cry hysterically.  She even asked me if I was an idiot, or if I was just pretending to be one.  I told her that I was pretending (I thought that would console her, but I was wrong). Then I said that it was the first time I’d ever seen a person sobbing because a theory had been proven wrong.  Because she didn’t respond, I corrected myself: it was the first time I’d ever seen a person crying over a theory, disproved or not. 

I don’t really remember what happened next, but I think that she threw something at me.  Something she had in her hands.  It hit me, but I was too soft (women often tell me I’m too soft).  That’s why that “something” cracked the minute it hit the floor. From the pieces it was impossible to tell what it had been. She cried even harder, even though it seemed to me that I was the one who should have been crying at that point. 

“Idiots like you are going to bring about the end of the world!” shouted my beloved (whom I did not love, but I can’t think of a more precise term for her). 

This new theory pleased me.  I have always thought that it was the intelligent people of the world that made history, not the twits and lame-brains like me.  That it was they, the mighty ones, who after careful deliberation and planning were the ones who created and destroyed everything.  But she, it turns out, thought the opposite.  I wanted to discuss this with her further, to ask why she held this view, but my intuition told me that her theory was not grounded in anything, that she would not be able to present suitable arguments to support her claim.  I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I didn’t ask.

While she was sobbing, I managed to think that the end of the world might not be so bad.  Afterwards, things can only get better.  Why would they necessarily get worse?  I didn’t have time to analyze this idea in full because I needed to help her dry her tears.  I saw a man do this in a movie once, so I did the same. I always imitate what I see or do what others tell me to do.  What’s wrong with that?  There’s no guarantee that what I come up with myself will be better. 

I dried her tears; at first she didn’t want to let me (most likely, she’d seen movies where women do this).  Afterwards, she calmed down and we made love.  It wasn’t bad at all.  In other words, nothing happened with her that’s worth talking about.



[1] Bhagavadgyta. Vilnius: Vaga, 1999, p. 193.