THE INFECTION OF BEING, an excerpt from a novel

by Dessislava Sheytanova-Lekova; translated from the Bulgarian by Niya Vasileva, Petina Toneva, Aleksandra Tepedelenova McCrone

A text by the 2014 Sozopol Fiction Seminars fellow Dessislava Sheytanova-Lekova

Five years of getting up at seven. Suits, dress shirts, blazers and high heels. Hair up in a bun, nails painted nude. Less than ten years ago, I used to dream of it, hoped to build a career some day, saw myself precisely like this – in a large company, with a flashy office, in a prestigious and important position… And the weird thing is, I still like my job. Well, kind of. But more often than not I hate it. I don't want to quit, per se, but I have no clue how much longer I can carry on with this drab way of living before I blow up at my boss, get into a fight with my mom, set my work suits on fire, and flee to an ashram in India. It's not the job itself, although it has become annoyingly predictable, and every Monday morning I can already tell precisely how my week will unfold – like clockwork. But that's not the reason I feel trapped like a rat.

I am slowly losing my mind because of the way my life is passing by: I spend five days a week in this box, enclosed in grey drywall; I read tedious paperwork and write reports, creating more work for a whole lot of other people. I hate the expectations I evoke in others, being the young, married woman with a good education, fast-rising career and decent income that I am. Whenever I meet someone or my parents introduce me to their acquaintances, or I get together with college classmates, the same thing happens over and over again. The word "stereotype" has one other meaning. Chains. I can hear them rattling from afar. I am enchained by the image I have invented for myself and continue to maintain. For, if I ruined it, my whole carefully arranged house of business cards would collapse and leave me standing there amidst the rubble.

I am cute, smart, well-educated and well-bred. I stick to moral conventions and support the institution of marriage. I believe that hard work and perseverance pave the way to success. As a dedicated wife, I naturally dream of having a house full of tots to give my life meaning and make it nothing less than picture-perfect.

I love my job and am entirely devoted to it, though fully aware that once children enter the picture, my priorities are going to change: I'll leave work at 5 o'clock sharp to prepare the family dinner and play in the park with the little ones in summertime. It goes without saying that I'll keep in shape for my husband. However, like every contemporary woman, I do realise that marriage is a journey, not a destination, and if my husband happens to stray in search of fresh meat, I will tactfully look the other way… Thus, throughout this lifelong journey, we, the young Stanev family, will get together with suitable friends; that is, other successful couples. We'll frequent the theatre, go out to the piano bar on Saturday evenings (where else!?!), organise weekends at our country houses, and thrive and prosper… What a happy and peaceful existence! No extremes. Nothing too sharp or rough to disturb our smooth ride in the glitzy chariot of life.

The middle class of the global village, the sign of success in our society, the ultimate dream of the conservative folks on Earth. Order and predictability. I feel like howling…

Dessislava Sheytanova-Lekova was born in Varna, Bulgaria, in 1983. She holds a bachelor's degree in public administration and a master's degree in business administration from Sofia University. After graduating, she focused on fiction and in 2013 won the Annual Contest for Young Authors of Hermes Publishing House with her debut novel Diagnosis: Lost. The book was presented at the Plovdiv French language school during the Plovdiv Reads Literary Festival and at the Varna Book Walk before its official launch in Sofia in September, 2013. Dessislava is currently working on her second novel. She speaks English and French and is studying Portuguese. The featured excerpt is from her novel Diagnosis: Lost.



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