NEAR THE RIVER
…The rain began to sink. Only the last rare drops were still bumping in the bottom of the turned boat, where they had waited out the sudden thunder-storm together. When they got outside, all was over. The clouds torn away, the wind died down, and the river calmed down completely.
Behind them, there was a steep wall of a coastal slope, chosen by swallows and swifts, which had already started to shoot out from their nests again. There, above, over the ravine, near the branch line, there was their town with the milling and brick factories, boiler-house, three schools, and a trade school. She looked at the river, where, puffing away a black smoke, a small towboat was hauling a barge, then again at him: "Nobody's ever called me like that… Say it again". "My darling Pauline…," — he said quietly. She glanced into his eyes and had not been looking away for a long time. In that look, he suddenly saw all: their house, birth of their two daughters, heavy illness of the younger, his compelled departure, long separation, her agonizing suspense, parting, grinding letters, leadening ennui, unexpected meeting in the winter in another city, her chill legs in thin stockings, hot whispers, tears, rimy train, their way home from the station, tea on the kitchen, sleepless nights, her new enthusiasm, quarrel, final break, night call after many-many years, her unchanged voice, pain, taken away breath… A dragonfly sat for an instant on her shoulder and flew right away. A shudder passed over her. From the very beginning, she already distinguished "yes" in his deep dark eyes, and whiffed, "Well, that's it…" They stood up and, having joined their hands, started to walk one by one up a narrow pathway…
Minsk, January 2001
Russian-English translation: Andrej Bursau