by Antonia Antonova; translated from the Bulgarian by Marina Stefanova

A young man, with an apron, stained from a just filleted fresh fish, storms out of the back entrance of a small restaurant to a crossing of Stamboliyski boulevard, sits in front and lights a cigarette. A gargantuan grey cat with what used to be a white patch around the neck, approaches him with a dancing step, and begins to rhythmically caress its face in his black leather ankle boots: now to the left side, now to the right.

‘You’ve got no heart! You’ve got nooo heaaaart, you don’t know what love is! Leaving me for someone else… You sinner!’ The sound of the radio comes from the Döner kebab shop across the street. Foreigners work there: blue-eyed men from the East, who speak Bulgarian fluently. One of them slices meat from the bulging rotisserie above the heated greasy plate and sings along confidently, every now and then resting his free palm on his chest, while distorting his face with emotion, commiserating with the bitter anguish of the song’s protagonist.

I pass by and disappear into the smog. I’m not here, I never was for these two men, as I never existed for the cat in her usual flirt with the cook’s boot, or for the majority of cats, the majority of people once lived, living, or ready to come to life.

The winter walks towards the expansive western neighborhoods are mourning processions for aliens and loners, parades of animal packs, ravaged by cold and illness, mobilization of last drops of strength for wasted away tramps, rhythmic dance for raging pubescents, bent under blasting headphones, precarious shelter to desperate, undone lovers who don’t have a home for each other but only rooms and beds, bus stops, and cars, lovers who have no time for each other’s souls but only silly fragments of eternity along the sidewalks of Sofia.

Along the sidewalks of Sofia you stroll, checking your reflection in the shop windows, somewhere in the background – countless cranes, unending construction sites and skyscrapers, in front of you – illogical puddles without rain or snow, only fog, only fog and smoke, and dog shit, and prams, wrapped in blankets, and covered with suffocating nylons, mothers, late from whatever, their faces wry from continuing anguish, prostitutes, gambling dens, brand logos, stores with their soft lights and colorful merchandise, barber shops and stalls, barbarous racks, and between them – the Night’s eyes – the green in the leaven of every inevitable temptation. Poisonous, loveable green.

‘Cross, cross. Cross…’

At the traffic lights I clear my throat. Three hundred meters behind me somewhere, the young man in the dirty apron, already trampled the butt from the tastiest cigarette ever, strokes the cat absent-mindedly, and slamming the black door enters his stuffy little kitchen. The one with the meat from the shop across sings yet another song about yet another woman someone once loved:

‘And when I’m gone, you’ll still find me, when my tears are brought to you by the white doves…’

A little blonde girl walks in and orders "two large chicken doners with everything, extra spicy." The green light is up before my eyes and together with the large white dog next to me we cross at the intersection opposite the mall, less than twelve hours before the sun dazzles the ridge of the Vitosha mountain with the first rays of its virgin winter sunrise.

Antonia Antonova is the founder of the social satire and poetry project "Viral poems about sex and drama." Alongside her creative partner, Tsvetelina Vateva, she has authored the book of the same name, which serves as the basis for the performance "Loneliness in the Modern Man/World" directed by Veselka Kuncheva and the poetic action "Sex and Drama" at the Theatre Workshop "Sfumato."

Antonia's professional journey has been centered around creative writing. She shares her original texts on the platform of the Bulgarian National Radio and contributes journalism to popular online media outlets. Her website "Letters" features her short stories, impressions, essays, and poems.

She holds a Master's degree in Creative Writing from Sofia University, Kliment Ohridski, and currently works as a communication expert in a large Bulgarian energy company. Since 2022, Antonia has embraced motherhood and is fully committed to this role.


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