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Things of Men


Looking at the woman, Elspeth is overcome with pity and envy, both at the same time. You cannot invent another life for yourself, however much at times you may want to take a paintbrush in your hand and rewrite the past. Or, at the very least, repaint it in different, more desirable tones to convince yourself that everything had been so beautiful and so worth it, that she hadn’t lived her life like some crazy soul from the front pages of gossip mags, squandering the most precious thing that she possessed – not on some piece of real estate, or on cocaine, or the latest car, moreover, but simply by tossing it out the window.


Her own hours and minutes. That is, if she were to accept the illusion that they truly belonged to her.


Pretending that she isn’t breathing down your neck, pretending that in her classic outfit – black gown and carrying a scythe – she isn’t on the roof of the dacha mowing the grass that has sprung up there from all the joints Elspeth has smoked at those moments when she has decided to find her place in Latvian mythology, becoming Herb Mother, so that she would at least become some kind of mother. The hours and the minutes roll by, discussing politics and humour on social media, scrolling through recipes and looking at friends’ photos from their travels; they tick by as if the most precious thing, the only thing that belongs to her (except for those eight hours of the day, on quarterly reports described as eight-point-four), that she should not disperse over an infertile field like some benevolent millionaire, a field that crops even more poorly than a maize field during Khrushchev’s era.


The century has swallowed up time. It has irreversibly destroyed her sweet childlike face, inscribing on it furrows of recklessness and desperation, imprinting bluish circles beneath her doe’s eyes that made her so popular in her school years and puffing up her face like a balloon sometimes even three days after she’s hardly slept for one reason or another. However, the century is right: you don’t get your body on credit; she herself has at times behaved as though she could postpone living until some later day, as yet unknown.


In this situation Justin would give a supercilious smirk and bestow upon Elspeth the none too flattering description of ‘emo’ – too emotional and sensitive – or would say that she always comes up with problems at those moments when everything is perfect. Simply so that there would be a problem to grieve over, just so that, god forbid, it shouldn’t seem that everything was OK.


Justin is not God, Justin gets it wrong too. As if he himself were some perfect example of the virtues of not wasting time and being kind to your body.


Elspeth herself will never be able to meet up with that likeable, naïve, bright and soulful young man who writes to her on Facebook in the evenings and sends her aphorisms that would make even Coelho puke. She doesn’t really know what to talk about with someone like that. These kinds of topics have been left behind in the ancient past, just like the time when she had something more important than her cactus, the one that, she definitely knows, continues to wait for her on the windowsill in the kitchen – it thrives and becomes ever plumper, but will not bloom for love or money.



Ilze Jansone, Things of Men, Latvia