Paranoia

(translated by Diane Nemec Ignashev)


 
Ministry of State Security
Section Five
Letter-Processing Division
Protocol: In-Coming Mail Perlustration
Monitored site: Uninhabited Apartment, 14 Karl Marx St., Apt. 54

 

On 27 November an unidentified person operating from the side of the stair landing perpetrated forcible insertion through the door jamb (six inches beneath the latch-plate) of a standard legal-size paper envelope bearing neither mailing nor return address. Extraction of the envelope's contents was accomplished with the aid of a STIK-II unsealing device; upon completion of examination of its contents, the letter was replaced on the floor at its original angle. The letter's text was executed using the "handwritten" method; penmanship quality is uneven, with multiple strikethroughs, blots, and erasures. The overall jerky character of the handwriting would seem to justify determination that the author created the document under dire emotional stress, was psychologically depressed, and suffered from so-called "grief":

 

         You don't answer my letters and don't show up for assignations. You've disappeared, just like everyone else who has ever attempted to take them on (taking them on is like taking on atmospheric pressure, snow melting in the spring or, just the opposite, rivers freezing over in November. Yes, that's just the right metaphor: irreversible, gradual, nightmarish freezing, beyond the powers of one, five, five-hundred, or five-thousand people to unfreeze, whether by blowing or warming with their palms, who are instead to be frozen themselves). But what am I doing? Am I writing to you about him? No, no, no, I won't, I won't, I won't.
         I remember how careful you were when you contacted me that last time, after those eight convulsive weeks during which we attempted to come to our senses (had we taken ourselves out of harm's way then, you wouldn't have disappeared now, but we couldn't hold out, we didn't come to our senses!). Yes, yes, I know. I'm acting like a troglodyte, slipping notes through the crack in your door: they'll track me down by my footprints, my scent, my fingerprints (I can't write letters to you wearing gloves); they'll sniff me out, and one night I'll wake up to find a crowd of strangers in my room, dark, silent figures surrounding my bed—I've had this nightmare already, once, when I managed to fall asleep for an hour or two (I can't get a decent night's sleep these days).
         You toyed with them as if they were puppies, wrapped them around your finger, allowing only me to see you. I can't do this. No, that's not it. I don't want to do this. I have no right. After all, when we parted that last time, everything was different. I talked to you, and you answered. Now all I hear in response is silence: the silence of emptiness, if emptiness can really be heard, sound negated, total zero, as if I were talking to myself. But to turn coward, to talk to myself, that's the end. I've told them that it was me who came to you; I told them and didn't hide a thing, nothing, and I pray only that you can still hear me.
         I have no right to hide any longer, for—let's be honest with each other—your crime lay not in that you attempted to take them on. You, like me, never even challenged them. You were too lazy and too playful to take anyone on. Your crime lay not in that tiny secret of yours that I dare not commit to paper, even now. No, I, I was your crime. I. Precisely because of me, for my sake, you….
Alas! Our Garden of Eden turned out to be too close to their food-processing plant, and our wondrous creatures wound up ground into snacks to be sloshed down with beer in cars with tinted windows.
         But you know, I'm grateful to them. Yes, yes, grateful. If only for one thing: they don't leave any traces. Grateful for the fact that no one has ever found any of his enemies, anywhere, under any circumstances. Not a one. And in this way they will remain forever alive: people don't live as long as his enemies are awaited to return. First their wives will wait. Then their children. Then their grandchildren. Grateful that I can now fold my hands, bury my face in them, squeeze my eyes shut, and tell myself that you're alive. That you're silent because I, I—not they—hurt you; I really did hurt you, and apologized, and chuckled as I composed that idiocy from the GRUB (back then, in those first days when I was still capable of laughing).
         But I still have hope. It's so good to be able to start again from the beginning. "From the cob," as they say in Belarusian, which immediately conjures up visions of a delectable ear of corn with thousands of appetizing, untouched, virginal little bursts of sunshine, which, once their harmony has been disturbed, must be gnawed to the end so that one isn't forced to contemplate the exposed, defiled beginning, forced to finish it off and begin anew, from the beginning, from perfection. Perhaps —who knows?— his enemies can now gnaw the "cob" of life somewhere far away, knowing that for them there is no way back, that they have all "vanished": even I have come to believe that hogwash. That they all kidnapped themselves. I believe it for your sake, no—for my sake, for the sake of lending hope the space to grow. I believe that you, and they, disappeared with no help from anyone; that you all closed off your hearts to the past and flew from us forever. I believe, I believe that you are alive. That you will read this letter as you pack your things behind thick doors through which I am destined never to pass. That you will reread it later, in the taxi, on your way to the airport. And that somewhere deep in the black, bitter sands of your wounded heart a small shoot (a Peruvian lily, a bird-of-paradise flower) will take root for you to water with your memories. That caring for it will help you live, make your co-existence with the bitter desert tolerable. And—who knows?—perhaps one day this flower of forgiveness (precisely in this do I place all my hope) will bring your hand to write the word "bear" one more time. Everything else is not for their eyes; I utter this in a whisper while sealing the envelope, and I am certain that you can hear me.

 

Recommendation: consider initiating criminal prosecution for "slander" and "defamation of the Motherland and its government officials."




*note: The above is only an excerpt from the complete first chapter of Paranoia, published in Epiphany Fall/Winter 2011-2012. To read the full chapter before the book is published, please subscribe or buy the issue!


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