POLAR NIGHT – Short Story by Vagif Sultanly / Translated from Azerbaijani by Javid Abbasli

Short Story by Vagif Sultanly
“I’m not the former person!” – He was started by this unexpected response he heard in the first meeting he was waiting for with great excitement upon six-year separation and completely collapsed the world he established within these years.
While the car was missing the granitic rocks and sparse forest he was gazing at the uncommon images he saw the first time, however, he couldn’t concentrate because of amazement by thoughts that a person might change such a lot.
He had become incredibly aloof and, abundantly composed and taciturn. It was impossible to find any temporary signs of those hard years and days passing in torments and grieves in his rejuvenated body or any line of his face.
The matter he was thinking of after hearing the first response was that how he would live in the same apartment together with this person two weeks.
While the car was being driven among forests he was feeling with his entire body the solitude and loneliness hidden behind green trees and wild beauty.
After these words he heard, he felt in his soul the sense of regret of coming to this country for seeing him, and his memory fixed to other spirits completely stirred.
“What should I do now? Where should I go?” – he was asking himself at a loss and difficulty of taking any decision.
“But why he came to meet him? Why he always inspired him on phone to meet saying that he missed for him? But these actions didn’t comply with his words”.
When the green images changing each other along the road from the airport towards the city were substituted by rare buildings his anxiety began increasing. The houses were apart from each other but nobody was seen there, as if, they were not inhabited and the life and beauty here were covered by solitude and human happiness was wrapped by loneliness.
Actually, in the last years, leaving the country for any reason he took necessary documents and things thinking that he would never return any more because he was feeling with entire soul that he couldn’t live in own country and his Motherland where he lived the most part of his life had turned into the very hell for him. He couldn’t understand the people to whom he was close changing own essence and nature and felt quite alien among these people.
“I think my words offended you but I don’t like lying” – he repeated his words not separating his eyes from the road. “I’m not the former person. I only wanted you to know it”.
They stayed together in the same chamber in prison for a year jointly tempering the difficult prisoner’s life and torments. He was amazed by his friend’s endurance. His nails were pulled out, he was exposed to power shock and hard tortures, slandered with rumours without any guilt, but his obstinacy didn’t subdued.
Now, he was remembering those awful days spent in the jail and couldn’t believe that the person sitting near to him in the car is his cellmate.
The hardness of the prison’s life made them closer to each other. Sometimes, sitting under the dark moonlight flowing through narrow vent light they planned their future. Certainly, their greatest dream was the freedom; but they didn’t lose their hope. Despite of the hardness of the prison life they were feeling the spirit of freedom each moment and got cheerful knowing that freedom is not far.
Being in the prison they strictly decided not to live in this country. Occurring in freedom they planned leaving this country together but occasionally he could not join to his friend of childhood. He couldn’t venture or didn’t want to leave his old parents to the destiny – he couldn’t clarify the reasons.
He got aware of his friend’s leaving the country after several days. He was not in the city visiting his ill mother. Firstly, he got upset of this event feeling that he lost his friend forever. But this feeling didn’t last too long and he calmed down thinking that a bit later he also would leave the country.
He didn’t image this meeting such; as if, his coming was not interesting for his friend. As if, the person sitting near him was alien one; he had no initiative for talking, asking about familiar people and the state of the country.
He justified the people leaving own Motherland only because they were obliged to this step in order to protect own essence and nature. But if a person fails protect own essence and nature even after leaving the Motherland what was the meaning of doing it?
He knew that his friend had brought also his family here. But he didn’t dare to ask about them because of his friend’s coldness and thought that any case, he would know everything reaching the home.
At last, the car stopped in front of the five-storied building.
“That’s here”, – his friend said. – “I live in this house”.
Both of them got off the car, he opened the baggage and took his things and entered the block together. None of them said anything till the elevator reached the forth storey.
Entering the two-room small apartment he felt from the spirit inside that his friend lived alone. But not wanting to express of senses he hang his head and began undoing the shoes.
Making comfortable he took a shower, then they drank a tea together and, his friend gave to him one of the keys of the apartment and said that he should leave for important job. Leaving the apartment his friend said to him that he might take anything from the fridge and eat.
… Staying alone, he stood at the window for a long time and looked at the green trees around. Then, staying in front of the big map on the wall he found the city he came to. He left his home this morning and got surprised that he could overcome so long way only within several hours.
He had read a lot regarding this country and knew its history, culture and literature more than the most of the local inhabitants. But could he live in this country? Could he connect own destiny with this land forever? He cannot imagine it.
Then, he took a view of the sitting-room. The wall dyes of the simply equipped room and the comfortable furniture was establishing harmony and calming human nerves.
… His friend returned a lot later than the evening. Entering the room he apologized for leaving him alone and reminded that he was very busy:
“Here is not like in another places” – he said. “You should work full day for living here”.
He answered nothing and they sat at the table together.
His friend said:
“I will not eat, I’m not hungry”, – he said. – “I will cook something for you now”.
He got anxious of this unexpected proposal:
“Oh, no, I don’t need”, – he strictly rejected and saying that he has no appetite.
In fact, he ate last time in the plane and the nauseating smell of that meal still remained in his nose. Probably, absence of appetite after such a long time was connected with it.
“OK, let’s drink a cool beer”. – His friend took two bottles of beer from the fridge, opened them and poured into the glasses.
As he had eaten nothing full day the beer made him slightly drunk and his mood changed.
“But where are your children, your wife?” – at last he dared to ask.
“We have divorced”, – said his friend so calmly that he couldn’t ask the reason for their divorce.
But his friend didn’t make him wait a lot:
“We couldn’t understand each other”, – he said.
“But where are they now? Can you see your child?” – he asked.
“They are not interesting for me any more”, – his friend said shaking his head.
He felt that his friend didn’t want to speak about his family and commenced a topic regarding his work.
“I work in a company”, – his friend said.- deal with purchase of black oil.
He was started by this sudden answer because his friend was dealing with political issues and he could not imagine him apart from policy.
“But what about the policy? Do you have time for it?”
His friend answered with the same nervousness:
“Policy is not interesting for me any more. I regret of those years of my life” – he said and signed that he wanted to completely cut the topic.
A bit later his friend said that he should sleep because tomorrow he will wake up early and left him alone in the sitting-room.
… But he couldn’t sleep.
He couldn’t fall asleep till the morning in the whiteness of the polar night not differing from the daytime and firstly in his life he could glance over the pages of his passed life.
The time was imperceptibly flowing.
In order to regulate the sense of time mixed in memory he stood up and came to the window and began looking at the morning commencing in whiteness of the polar night. The sun shining in the sky was surrounded with thin clouds. It was very amazing to see the sun in the sky in this night time. The night was so light that firstly in his life he felt anxiety because of richness of light. As he was imaging the nights dark he felt that this flow of light was washing out not only the darkness but all secrets of the world and expose a human being opposite to this discovered world.
The lonely streets of the city reminded him in the flow of light a world with dead inhabitants. He felt that there’s nobody in the city except him and this big city belongs only to him with its streets, buildings, gardens, rivers and lakes.
He returned to his bed with these thoughts sticking his spirit but couldn’t fall asleep.
He wanted to leave own shadow and get far from this place and this country.
But he didn’t know where to go.
The Motherland was dead for him.
Translated from Azerbaijani by Javid Abbasli

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