TEA WITHOUT SUGAR

dedicated to M.M.

All words had already been spoken. There were still ten minutes left prior to departure, but she wanted to say good-bye right now, lest he should wait then for the train to leave, but would walk away immediately. She knew that he was strongly against her going and would be upset as the color of his eyes had changed at once, but anyway he would accept anything from her. In front of the very car, she turned around. He was still standing at some distance, in the middle of the platform, and between them, there was already a usual station-esque ado: porters and seeing-off people were passing to and fro, someone was running to the other end of the train

Having put her carpetbag and noticed with pleasure the absence of fellow travellers, she drew aside the curtain and, having looked fleetingly into the window, at once, she saw him walking away. Suddenly, everything around stopped its existence: all figures got frozen, sounds trailed off, and only he, so bosom and close, was still walking and walking through a viscous silence somewhere away from her. Only the sun, the only object, which had not lost its ability to move, suddenly stepped out of glaucous before-sunset clouds and struck by its low shrill beams almost all along the ground All that lasted only a few moments: her Angst crept like a cat, then it soared heavenward as a bird from under her legs, and turned into despair at once. But while the not-surrendering wings were still floating in the azure, she knew that there was still time left, that it had not dripped drop by drop yet, and that her destiny, having given a hard respite both to her and itself, was still waiting for her. Her heart recollected itself and started beating, it filled her with love and her eyes with tears, but the last ropy droplet smashed up to spatter on a stock, just like suddenly someone changed one's mind And once again, figures started to pass to and fro, trainmen began to toot, the station bell rang, the platform gave a jolt and commenced to float. Only the sun, the low desperate sun was faithfully sending its last beams in might-have-been hope

After many years had passed, she happened to find herself at that station again. The same devoted sun was sending its before-sunset beams following her departing train. Everything was just like she had already known it before, as she was sitting in the shaking, gaining speed car. That short day was the last for them. She was looking through the window. It was strange as nothing seemed to have changed since then. Her tea was brought. The conductor had probably forgotten that she wanted tea without sugar: a five-gram paper tea-bag lay on the saucer.

Igor Savchenko

New York  Minsk

May  June 2001

Russian-English translation: Andrej Bursau