A text by the 2019 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow and CapitaLiterature participant Maria Makedonska
The White Gentleman decided that the weather was too beautiful this morning to waste the day in everyday nonsense. Therefore, he put on his happy hat and flung the door open with a flourish. He took a deep breath, then stepped onto the street with his left foot. The town was still asleep.
The street was so quiet that he could hear his footsteps. He'd take three steps and then a hop, because walking in an even cadence was boring.
The White Gentleman was shod in white shoes with pointy toes, above which he wore white pants with sharp creases, a white suit jacket with long coat-tails and, of course, his happy white hat, which he never went anywhere without. In his right hand he held a white umbrella, which he used to measure his steps. Left foot, right foot, left foot, hop.
The street ahead of him began weaving into the yarn of the field, turning into a delicate thread, along which he skillfully balanced. The wind took hold of his coat-tails and blew them open like wings. The clouds in the sky began lining up for their morning walk and slowly set off ahead with their usual gait – from shape to shape. The White Gentleman watched them without upsetting his rhythm for a single second. As the day bloomed, the White Gentleman finally tore his gaze from the clouds to see that an endless field of poppies was stretching out in front of him. Quiet red sighs of spring.
And there, in the middle of the red field, stood a young wolf, watching him. His fur was as violet as lavender and shone in the sun with a glycerin gleam. The fanciful beast good-naturedly waved his fluffy tail and then slipped between the man's legs. Before becoming lost among the poppies, the wolf bit his tail, which then remained between his teeth. He dropped it at the feet of the White Gentleman. Then he disappeared.
The man slowly bent down and took the tail from the ground. He waved at the clouds with it. Then he tied it around his neck like a scarf. It was very soft and tickled his face. This tickle made him laugh; he became light as a joke, and the wind lifted him up. The White Gentleman began bouncing over the poppies through his laughter. An air current caught hold of him mid-jump, spinning and spinning him in little spirals, higher and higher into the sky. When the current finally quieted down, he saw the whole field below him. The poppies overflowed in the shape of a big puddle of blood amid the green fields. The grass was so young that its color was still electric. Something in it blinded him. A naked girl was sleeping in the grass. Flecks of sunlight danced on her closed eyelids, and her red lips ripened on her face like strawberries. Puffy white poplar seeds were raining down on her. They soaked slowly into her dream, spun in delicate pirouettes from the sighs of the wind, and quietly stole kisses from her lips. The White Gentleman couldn't stop looking at her. Suddenly, he, too, wanted urgently to steal a kiss. The wind played with his patience, though, carrying him sometimes up and sometimes down. Yet the man didn't stop looking at the sleeping girl, and he thought about what he would say to her when she woke up. "You are the dream of spring" – that's what he would say. And she would smile and kiss him. But how slowly he was falling downwards. More slowly than longing, more and more slowly than longing. The wind finally took mercy on him and spun him one last time before dropping him lightly beside the naked shoulder of the sleeping girl.
The White Gentleman sighed and sat in the grass. His legs wouldn't hold him up, because what he saw cut him to the quick. In front of him lay not a naked girl, but a plastic doll. A superfluous part of someone's childhood thrown into the grass. She had no clothes on, and her naked flat plastic breasts caused him to burn with shame. Her curls, sheared off in places by a clumsy childish hand, were tangled with the weeds. Her face was dirtied with mud, and her unblinking gaze stared up at the sky.
The White Gentleman was starting to leave when he heard a quiet voice: "I'm not sleeping."
He turned around and saw that the doll was looking at him. Her look made him tingle. Out of his mouth, like a glass marble, rolled, "You are the dream of spring."
A moment of silence nipped the grass like hoarfrost. The doll suddenly burst into tears. From the interior of her belly came frenetic falsetto sobs that grew more and more inconsolable.
The White Gentleman took the doll and embraced her with both his arms. She was lost in his embrace, and her cries soaked into his beautiful white jacket like a stain. The White Gentleman tenderly consoled her.
"Shhhhh. Quiet! Quiet! Why are you crying now?"
The doll swallowed and cried out, "Because they abandoned me."
"Who abandoned you?"
"The girl with the blue shoes."
"Because I broke. My voice box got damaged and I can't say ‘mama' or laugh anymore, I can only cry. That's why the girl brought me here and left me. No one loves sad dolls."
She choked on her sobs again. The man kissed her on her sad, stained cheek.
"I love them."
The doll stopped crying out of surprise and asked, "But why?"
"Because they're beautiful when they sleep and when they cry."
"And do you love me?" asked the doll innocently.
"Out of all the sad dolls in the world, I love you the most."
"You're lying. You're just the latest liar. Go away! Get out of here!"
"I'm not lying! I love you with all my heart."
"That's not true. Go! I don't want to see you anymore."
"But I came down from the sky because of you."
She wasn't listening to him anymore and had started crying again, drowning in her sobs.
The man put her on the ground and turned around. The sunset had fallen in front of him all the way up to his chest, and he dove into it. He swam tiredly through the field. A sea of blooming lavender stretched out as far as his eyes could see. The crying of the sad doll could still be heard behind him, and it pulled him downwards like stones tied to his legs. All night long, the White Gentleman struggled against the lavender current. Not until dawn did the violet waves toss him, frozen, onto the night's shore. He could barely stand up, and he stepped trembling onto the road that led to his house. There, just a glance away from his house, a spring torrent began raining down. It soaked the White Gentleman to the bone; he hadn't even opened his umbrella, and he turned back towards the field. It looked unrealistically far away, smudged by the gray watercolor of the rain. Between the drops he seemed to hear the weeping of a broken doll. She had fallen asleep in the grass like a woman.
Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the rain stopped. The sky cleared away its clouds and made room for the sunrise. It was early. The city was still sleeping and didn't even suspect that a person with wet white clothes was standing in a puddle of grief and staring into yesterday's day to recover there a memory of flying. The violet tail on his neck hung in matted strands, and it seemed to be strangling him and choking him at the same time.
The White Gentleman finally opened his umbrella. Then he removed the violet tail from his neck. It hung in his hand like an ugly and tasteless keepsake of love. He touched it to his lips and whispered into its cold fur, "You are the dream of spring."
Maria Makedonska was born in the city named after the famous Bulgarian author Elin Pelin. She learnt to love reading in the home of another Bulgarian author who had strange ideas of wooden houses in the middle of a main square in Sofia, from which handmade newspapers were sold, photo novels about aliens, theaters in a suitcase, and concerts for only one person. Her father self-published the first poems she wrote in a tiny book named Farewell to Dolls. Fortunately, she never said goodbye to dolls, because years later she started shooting short stop motions. She never said goodbye to writing either, even got more attached to it. She has won some national contests for poetry and short stories such as those named after Veselin Hanchev, Rashko Sugarev and Usin Kerim. As a result of the Veselin Hanchev contest, she has published a poetry book, Tremorio. At present, she is writing a couple of scripts for short movies and finishing a collection of short stories, written as gifts to her friends.