No past exists. It belongs exclusively to our dreams, appearing along with them and disappearing along with them. Window frames and smashed doors do exist, though, as do sidewalks wet from the fog and college stadiums. The past began with them. There’s an uncountable number of names and faces, brief greetings, confident movements, thousands of stories and biographies that comprise reality. It’s still all up to you — which of those stories you can hear, which ones will make sense, which ones you’ll be willing to retell. Avoiding them just once, you risk losing them forever, and all you’ll be left with is your nostalgia — a hopeless, melancholy longing to live a life of phantoms and fantasies, justifying your weakness with love and your hesitation with tenderness.

What else? The cold snap passes. In the evening, when the dark settles, it turns out there’s nothing here, just the dark, and nothing else at all. And then the Lord abandons all His affairs and begins tracing the lines of rivers and lakes on maps and atlases, borders, neutral territory, and routes for the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. He traces, thinking about them in particular, about the fish and the fowl, about their needs and whims, about their personalities and temperaments. The birds should be at ease up there; they shouldn’t have to clump together in frightened flocks, crying out in certain despair. They should circle over the high trees, hover over the quiet nighttime cities, and accompany single women coming home late in the evening down the cooling channels of the streets. The same goes for the fish. They ought to hide inside their borders, swim against the current, along the shore, ducking the comets that peel themselves from the tin sky and listening through the night to the quiet multitude of women’s voices.

© Serhiy Zhadan

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