Brana Dimitrijević


Luckily, June’s examination period was coming to an end.

Through the widely opened window came the freshness of the morning transparent sky, reminding of the country home, hidden among the pine trees, with its workroom, its library and a mountain of papers spread out in a pleasantly calming disorder.

We pulled somehow through this winter, my wife and I; the country blue skies will turn into city gray. Oppressing heat will take over. I will be offered institute’s noisy fan. I will politely decline… And then will come September, October and then damned retirement.

Daria came in; she is a widow, about thirty years old. Only recently, under pressure, she completed her doctoral studies. She was not a lecturer, however, comes June she would intervene on behalf of this or that student, to help him get through the exam; bent backwards and lowering her eyes, she would beg on student’s behalf, something that did not agree at all with her still pretty, lady like face.

At that time, as the fights broke out in the western part of the country, whispers could be often heard about the exams that could be “bought”. Our department and our institute were also mentioned - and I frowned upon the news.

- Yes…Daria?

- There is a parent who would like to see you. It has nothing to do with the exams. He is a director, he says, of some either Trade or High school.

Daria’s nasal mumble, her servitude was disturbing, her stubborn insistence on (familiar) “tu”, especially in this kind of sticky moments.

I followed her, with certain kind of apprehension. Daria disappeared in a dark, long hallway, brushing herself in a meaningful way against the parent who was patiently waiting.

He seemed to be around 60 years old, well build, of a strict disposition. He wore a pale, faded tea shirt with color and short sleeves behind which his suntanned, opulent arms were bursting. His short neck, protruding stomach, steady and slow steps were telling of a long, useless conversation. He entered the office and set somehow sideways in an armchair, leaning his left palm against his knee. He raised his shoulder as if he sat on a three-legged chair, in a smoky, to him alien homestead.

- My son was your former student - he began talking, looking down at the floor - he graduated a long time ago. This is where he earned his bread and butter. - He sighted and then continued.

- Five, six years ago, before all our hardships and wars started, in order to spare him, I sent him to USA. There, he was asked to complete some additional exams. It was costly, but I didn’t spare. Then, at one moment he disappeared. He became a monk, as I learned later, in some Russian monastery. My son is a monk!

Our eyes met for the first time.

-My son a monk! - He repeated lauder, and the word “monk” sounded like a “renegade”.

I lowered my shoulders, moved into my chair and offered him coffee which he tiredly refused.

- As soon as I learned about this horror, I got ready and traveled over the sea. I found him, in such and such city, in such and such, true, rather undistinguished monastery, but it was Russian. When they let me in, I humbly told them that I was looking for my son. Yes, they answered, only that such person is not with us anymore. He sailed away to Holy Mountain, to monastery Helendariou (Hilandar). I immediately returned to Belgrade. Hilandar is in Greece, isn’t it! So… Run here, run there, get the visas, passes, and I joined a group that was just about to leave for “Holy Mount Athos”.

Loafers! You were there? You were not? Mountain like any other Mountain: rocks, shrubs, monastery… There is a beauty in it, sent, waves of unusual colors of sky and sea, beautiful. But no use, I didn’t care for anything.

We are climbing up, I am dragging my backpack, and I am dripping with sweat. Where and to who I am going to, I don’t know. Then, suddenly, we see a first black garb.

I rushed towards him, I approached him… I greeted him using God’s name. I said all that in Greek. Then, I asked him if he knew such and such person, his brother in Christ, first, by saying his real name and then by his religious. “The one who came from America, not long ago.”

The monk keeps quiet; he listens but does not answer. He has high, strong forehead, determined, calm wrinkles, as if they were sculptured. Certain power beams out of him… He is not old. His hair carries the traces of gray, his beard little more. Then again I began the same story from the beginning. I mumbled for the third time, the whole story in Greek, when suddenly he asked me in Serbian: “What for do you need this person”? “How? What for do I need this person! My son! The only son! My blood!” The monk looks at me, looks somehow between my eyes, and then, without a trace of mercy says:

- I am the one whom you are looking for.

It was my son! I didn’t recognize him.

He stopped, expecting my sympathy, to show it at least out of politeness!

- What did you expect!?

- To embrace me! So I could bring some sense to him! And take him back home with me!

I didn’t notice when he lit a cigarette so that the blue clouds of spicy smoke would cover, or perhaps enhance this father’s sigh.

- The great ruler, the nobleman , the powerful and temperamental Stephan Nemanja was not successful. He sent an army of equestrians to stop and bring back Prince Rastko, who took vows in Vatoped at the Holy Mountain in Atos, in the Russian monastery. You know that story?

- It happened eight centuries ago.

- …That’s how monasteries and holy monuments, holy books and icons came into being … And Serbs remained Serbs throughout the centuries; for they saw the light of the day and adopted the true faith.

Silence took over. I didn’t recognize myself, my voice nor my words at the least which my visitor must have been digesting over and over inside himself with a kind of helpless persistence.

- You are refusing me! - He yelled. - It is about my child!? And about me! You are not interested in how I live, how I exist… Without money! In a clatter! And yet I don’t understand how they are putting up with me since I am still in charge of a school. I am penniless. Noise is all around me.

’’...and so I mixed with the cattle ...’’ Those were the words of the former prince Pastko.

Then I became silent. I still had on my mind: ’’ ...I the undeserving and in all respects diminished ...’’

However, the first Serbian archbishop!

- This means you are on my son’s side!? - Possibly, he added either “a renegade” or perhaps “a monk”. He yelped, got up and almost tumbled, holding his hand in the back of his pocket. He approached my desk and leaning over he said:

- He was like this! Here!

And he slammed his son’s black and white picture next to the open “Examination Book”.

I straightened myself up out of regard for him, fast enough.

The young men’s figure, his face were immediately recognizable; it was a picture taken way back in front of our Institute. He was in motion, surrounded by two girls which are quietly standing; his bright smile full of self assuredness was even more pronounced. He had an earring in his ear, a short, fashionable leather coat.

- He was the apple of my eye.

Whispered parent. Luckily, I was standing, so I turned against the window.

How many such instances stayed behind my only son? Cut down, God knows where in the Western parts of former Yugoslavia. They were similar to my son, in the full glory of their youth.

Take a look! Rejoiced his black and white photos at which my prematurely aged and on petrified wife kept staring secretly. Look! here I am on a wall above the sea! Here a bike. Sitting on a curb. Pushing my way through in front of a discotheque at the end of my days ....

- He is my only son, and now he is in Decani - voice behind me was saying - Help me! You will not be sorry - It was more of a mumble than a speech. – Only you, I swear, it is only you who could carry on with your former student and with his deadly, non earthly reasoning. which does not belong to this world. You will hear them. Let’s go while Decani are still in our hands, on Serbian land. We will implore the Prior to let us have a meeting. We will sweep in like the wind of a mind.

We will tell him: Come back! You saw it! It’s enough!

- Give up… I whispered in a similar conspiratorial way, almost crossing my hands.

- Give up for your own sake…

To give up? He!? The Parent. His expression became suddenly blurry, almost gory.

- You were in Hilendar (Helendariou), “Vilendar“ as our people are calling it in their poems. It was built by mighty, stormy Stephan Nemanja who sent an army of equestrians after his son so they would bring him back. When fifty years of his rule went by, he became a monk himself, in his own monastery, in “Vilendar” He became a simple monk and lived like a monk. You asked me for an advice - you have it. Example exists, you have it now.

I could not recognize myself - me the astrophysicist, member of this and member of that national or international organization - a “vagabond”, “almost a member of the Academy” as my wife used to say; she enjoyed our frequent travels, my presiding over these and that organizations and over the discussions that ensued.

“I would like to live to see my first grandchild, and only then your high place among the members of the academy”.

She would say this when she was still everlasting, never tired “seducer”, already in her fifties.

The time and space, endlessness and the squandering of time, these were her thoughts.

 She looked at all these things as man’s passion, incurable as the cards or the chess games are… How much I owed her…..

“That matter of yours, you had it with it!” She told me once when we were in some free shop, at some small airport following our three day long scientific meeting where we were the participants trying to outwit one another; all that happened following my exceptionally successful lecture given at one of the sessions. given

-“Yes, yes the first grandchild, and than your membership… Imagine, member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences! If there is any order, if there is any justice…” Maybe she thought of higher, not recognized, metaphysical justice…

Everything is gone, in a blink of an eye.

- I am handling him over to you!!! I am signing the paper, here, with my blood. I am giving you my son. Among the other professors, you are maybe the only one whom he respected. I know that I am nothing, that I am undeserving of him. Look!

And again, he grabbed for the back pocket and threw a bunch of photos in color on the table

-Icons. He painted them….

And from them – the light came!

- He was a talented child from the very early age. He was an exceptional drawer. Let’s go to Dečani! I beg you. Let’s convince him to come back. Let him paint... Where he wants, what he wants. He would have lots of time. But the time that he has now he is wasting on his “brothers” in prayers and whatever else…he will then be in his own home, on his own property. It is our place. We have a two stories house. Fruit trees are in the large garden. The house is away from the town. Road leads right to the front door. There is a spring in the garden.

- Give up… in the name of God

I could not control my words, just as a moment ago I couldn’t control my tears, and my knees were shaking. Probably, comes tomorrow, I will not be able to control my bladder.

-Give up…

- You are the same gang!

Whether I heard it or not, I was staring at the photos, that light, a pure heavenly gift. He was collecting them, putting them in order, slower and slower, at my delight, for I was the infatuated observer…

The country blue sky above Belgrade was still there…

-“Praise the Lord”, I am telling you. “Praise the Lord”.

Was I whispering or not? I approached him steadily to see him off and I suddenly found myself immersed in some kind of calmness.

He did not resist, a huge man, he was like a cloud.

– Impossible…Impossible… - He was still mumbling, looking at the widely opened door as if it was a gap through which he will have to pass, while still holding his hand in a back pocket.

He staggered for a moment, and then he continued with his firm walk between the students, who were waiting for the beginning of June’s last day of exams, and he passed by Daria, who like a bird also went by…

На Растку објављено: 2012-02-03
Датум последње измене: 2012-02-03 15:16:18
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