That morning, snow fell in clusters so thick even the birds, which had lately been signaling the coming of spring, looked up in astonishment and shook their heads. With their cries stifled, the horizon I woke up to was a land mass covered with a duvet of angel down and silence. Both comforted me immensely.
I sat up in my bed and gazed at the snow in voiceless prayer to the one who would surely hear. With all noises drowned, my unuttered words would surely rise to him and his voice would thunder from the white sky overhead. Perhaps the clouds would part, revealing a display of resplendent, golden light that would fill my room—and my soul—with the warmth it had been craving.
I sat and waited. My prayer never rose to the skies. It hovered briefly in the air, then sank to the ground as it grew colder, heavier.
The clouds remained impenetrable, the ambient silence impervious. Unmoved by my feeble attempt. The colorless landscape was wearisome to my eyes. I grew restless again.
It had been like this for days, perhaps months. I’d wake up in anticipation of new hope. It turned out to be still-born or short-lived. I’d hold its limp body in my arms, surveying the beauty that could have been. A moment of grieving later, I’d sing a solemn dirge, and lay my hope to its eternal rest. I’d fashion a simple cross out of twigs and plant it firmly in the ground, affirming the finality of this act.
Day after day, I’d roam the streets, looking for hope among the unfamiliar faces. But I saw none in those hapless oblong approximations of human form. They were equally bogged down, each hauling their own barge, a load too heavy for one’s back.
There were times when I thought I saw a glimpse of joy, a smile. But when I drew closer, it turned out to be a grin or a sneer. The pleasant contours had dissipated like a dream when one awakens. All that was left was a faint memory, a whiff of hope—but even that had turned sour.
So I kept walking, covering kilometer after kilometer of paved streets as they meandered through the city center. I’d reach the embankment and stare across the river—not directly across, where the distance was shortest and I could still make out even the minutest objects distinctly. Instead, I’d look diagonally over the steel-gray expanse which gradually faded into mist. I wanted to know if perhaps, one day, a solid shape would emerge from this nebulous canvas and advance slowly, majestically towards me. And when that did not happen, I’d carry on for as long as my feet could carry me—and by now, they’d been trained to walk as far as the ends of the earth.
In the end, when I saw the sun reaching a low point on the horizon, I decided to turn back and continue the next day. I’d take the tram and stare out of the window or blankly gaze at my own reflection until my stop came up. Then I mechanically got up, made for the door, and walked the rest of the way home without even remembering how I got there.
Dinners were a simple, lonely affair bathed in incandescent light: A sandwich or a cup of chicken broth or both, if I was feeling fanciful. Afterwards I’d seek solace in the embrace of a book; at other times, I’d put on Grieg or Chopin and hum along. On occasions, I’d turn on the TV and scroll endlessly through a list of movies none of which I intended to watch. In the end, I’d retire to the bathroom, soak my body in steaming-hot water, and thus cleansed of any lingering listlessness, I’d lie down on my spine, arms neatly arranged alongside my body. If they find me like this, I thought to myself, they’ll be pleased I made it so easy for them.
And thus, my mind turned to my ultimate destiny, I watched myself practice dying peacefully in my sleep. For in the morning, I’d be born again from my ashes.
That morning, when snow fell in clusters so thick even the birds, which had lately been signaling the coming of spring, looked up in astonishment and shook their heads—that morning I was full of anticipation. Surely, things would be different today. The resounding voice would fill the sky and, enveloping me in its echoing warmth, pronounce the long-awaited affirmation.
Instead, it was another day of plodding through the countless streets and, hour by hour, watching the comforting blanket disappear under a million footsteps until the pavement was bare once again.
When dusk arrived, I found myself in a neighborhood I did not recognize. I was walking down a narrow street whose houses, like me, had seen better days. Their vibrant colors had given way to grime; their proud, boisterous visage weathered, sagging.
I turned a corner and came out on a dimly-lit square where, out of the shadows, stepped a bold, opulent edifice erected to the one who should have heard my prayers. And, suddenly, without the slightest sign of caution, I felt my anger stir inside me and rise until it reached the spire. My voice thundered, then broke, pleaded, and, eventually, gave out.
I do not remember the way home that day. My thoughts had all been poured out and left behind in that squalid square.
When I reached my apartment, I threw my body resignedly on the bed, hoping to bring to completion what I had been rehearsing for. This was it. That very night my life would be demanded from me, I knew. I had been embittered and enraged. I had spoken when I should have kept silent. I had blasphemed the one I did not understand. Then darkness closed in.
I woke up void of any expectation and infused with a growing sense of embarrassment. I did not venture to glance out of the window. I hastily ate breakfast, dressed, and rushed out to spend the day hiding from the one whose wrath was sure to swallow me up.
Three paces later, I came to a halt, right by the patch where I had buried all my hopes. There the little twig crosses were planted in a neat, narrow row. And sprouting out of one was a tiny green shoot.