This is some material I have cut from my upcoming memoir, Six Years in Slovenia. The reason I’ve cut it is that it doesn’t really advance the story forward, but it’s kind of interesting on its own.
August 5, 2009, Brestanica train station
It is raining again. Only lightly, but that makes me happy because it is cool enough to get things done. I am going to Brezice again to finish what I started yesterday; that girl I sometimes see is here, the one I have an odd little story about that I don’t want to tell right now. I was a little freaked out by that but I still like her. She is not one of the fairy-like Slav beauties, but there is something graceful about her silhouette. I avoid striking up a conversation, though. I fear intimacy.
Friday November 6, 2009
Tonight Friday, 7 o’clock train from Dobova, I get off the train and the girl is there, walking up the platform and up the steps to the road. It’s her. I only see her from the back but I recognize the line of her graceful figure at once, and her boots. Impulsively I decide not to go to the WC as I usually do when getting off the train, as Krško’s WC is never open, but to follow her instead. She followed me one day, all the way to the end of the Trg, stood looking after me as I walked on then turned back.
She must live somewhere on the Trg; I am curious to see where she goes.
My hole-ridden, wet shoes squelch loudly and she hears this. But she already knows I am walking behind her; she turned and saw as I was walking up the steps to the road. She has a little LED flashlight flicking ahead of her. I follow, about fifty yards behind, through the dark rain-puddled streets. The streetlights cast white orbs that barely penetrate the dark, but set the wet street shining. Over the bridge she turns and looks back once, walking a bit faster; she walks in the road – to spare her nice boots? I worry that she is frightened of me in the same way that I was frightened of her on that day. But she has recognized me, so why would she be afraid? When she glances back, I look away. I don’t want her to think I’m following her. Even though that is exactly what I’m doing. Rain spatters on my dripping umbrella with its one broken spoke. The umbrella is not big enough to keep me completely dry.
She is wearing a knee-length skirt; she is brave for doing this in winter. She has a little black umbrella. I have seen her before, waiting for the train; envied her somewhat for being almost a smaller, more graceful version of myself. Only she has long, wavy hair in a knot at the back of her head instead of stringy flat hair like mine. She looks at me, too long. She does it with a friendly mien, a smile, but her gaze is too long and it disturbs me, it feels overly intimate, like she is searching me for something or is about to ask me for something. I live in terror of this, being asked for something I can’t give.
I had turned away from her on the platform until she finally looked away. Then I studied her figure and the back of her head. She would make a good painting. She is not beautiful, but there is something graceful and soft in the lines of her frame; I keep using the word graceful because it’s the most appropriate and I can’t think of another one. I want to look at her, but not to talk to her, and I am terrified of her turning her face towards me.
I am being unfriendly and unsociable and I know it; I am being rude. I am being rude to cover up my discomfiture; I cope with overstimulation by withdrawing. I regret the impression this behavior must make, but it’s a powerful protective reflex which is very difficult for me to overcome; I can only relax when I feel safe, and I so rarely feel safe.
I entered the waiting room and sat down once with the automatic “dan” and hearing two female voices answer. I didn’t realize one of them was her. When I realize it I am embarrassed and find something in my bag to occupy me until the train comes; she sits looking toward me with what seems like pleasant expectation; again I am flattered by this; what does she want from me?
Now she is nearly to the top of the slope, where the road leads to the highway. A car pulls up, the window is rolled down, the driver speaks to her, she gives a short answer. He has tried to pick her up, she has declined.
No one has tried this with me lately, though I do get fewer rude honks. It seems to be a local method for picking up girls in this sparsely-populated area. He drives on, she reaches the top of the slope and stops. Just stops short, as if she is waiting for someone. But maybe not. Maybe she wants to confront me. I keep walking up toward her, because I have to, to reach the crosswalk. Now she is facing me, smiling toward me; she has a smooth round forehead which I envy. The light glints on her irregular teeth; as I reach her I know I must greet her, it is the unwritten law of the country; not greeting is an insult and causes suspicion, so I glance her way and say, “čer”, she answers the same and I walk on across the road. Now I am in front, I can’t see if she is following me, I can’t look behind me to see where she is turning, if she goes into the Trg. I don’t see her again. I don’t hear anyone walking behind me but the rain is pattering loudly on the pavement. I inwardly laugh and chide myself for this cloak-and-dagger mystery. Any normal person would just TALK to her and find out the reason for her interest, but I am not normal. Worse, I don’t want her to know how normal I’m not. Only the tip of my iceberg of madness is showing and I want to keep it that way.
(“Trg” means market square. “dan” is short for “dober dan“, which is a Slovene greeting used during the day, “čer” is short for “dober večer“, a greeting used at night.)
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