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the world is оne

Sonja Ćirić

The Novel in My Head


the world is Đžne


Sonja Ćirić Roman u mojoj glavi Copyright © Kreativni centar 2013 Biblioteka Svet je jedan knjiga šezdeset deveta prvo izdanje Urednik biblioteke Dejan Begović Urednik izdanja Violeta Babić Ilustracije Vukašin Bagić Lektor Violeta Babić Dizajn korica Dušan Pavlić Priprema za štampu Nebojša Mitić Izdavač Kreativni centar, Beograd, Gradištanska 8 tel. 011 / 38 20 464, 24 40 659, 38 20 483 www.kreativnicentar.rs e-mail: info@kreativnicentar.rs Za izdavača mr Ljiljana Marinković, direktor Štampa Publikum Tiraž 2.000 ISBN 978-86-529-0060-2


Sonja Ćirić

The Novel in My Head


-Don’t worry, everything’s going to be fine – Dušan would tell me if he were here now and I wouldn’t be afraid. But he’s not. He moved. Why didn’t he wait for graduation? Then he could go anywhere he wanted. -Why? You’re asking me why I’m going?! Ask my Dad! Better yet, ask his boss! He is the one who came up with the idea that my Dad was more useful in Paris, and now Mom, Dad and I have to move! I didn’t have a say in this! I don’t see how you can’t under­stand! – Dušan shouted and left. It was the last day of the last summer vacation of elementary school in my life, which means – the day before the eighth grade began. A mere half an hour before that I got back from the trip – floating on air – and called Dušan that same moment to come instantly to our bench in the park. -It’s important, urgent! – I said. I got a most perfect tan, and wanted to show it off. But he didn’t notice. He didn’t even say welcome!, as he’d always say, even when I went to his place 7


Sonja Ćirić

only to get a notebook. He simply informed me that from the following day he was to live in Paris, that his parents withdrew him from school and that their apartment had already been emptied out. I asked him why he was leaving, and he started shouting. He turned away angrily and left. -I’m more tanned than you! – I blurted out, no idea why. Did it cross my mind at that moment, did it occur to me that I might never see him again? No, it didn’t. I was trying to decide whether he’d be more pleased if I’d said I’ve tanned more than you instead of I’m tanned more than you because he always took care of the way he spoke. There, that was on my mind. Nothing else. I’m afraid. If Dušan were here, I wouldn’t be. One would think that I am in love with Dušan. Well, I’m not! He’s just someone I’ve known ever sin­ce I was born, nothing more than that. And it’s only normal that I miss him. We’ve been together all our lives! I know everything about him. He knows every­ thing about me. He even knows which lesson I’ve learnt well, and which I’ve learnt a bit worse, although I haven’t told him! That is why I am certain that it is his doing when in the middle of a test I suddenly come up with the answer to a question. I am convinced that he, while he was doing his test, came 8


The Novel in My Head

across a question he assumed I couldn’t answer and thought: Circle C, and I would immediately know the answer! The two of us completed each other in many things. I taught Dušan it did matter what you wore when you went, for example, to the movies, and what to wear when you wanted to make up a grade in Geography. He taught me to respect words. He persisted in correcting me and everyone else in the class whenever we’d say something wrong, so I’d tried for some time to speak correctly. -It may surprise you, but soon Orthography will be a best-seller, and the well-educated will come into style – announced Dušan a year and a half ago. We were the only ones from our class to say an hour; the rest would say an hour’s time. There is no­ thing else that could be measured in hours but time, so when someone says an hour, it stands to reason that he refers to time, and not marbles! Du­brav­ko doesn’t say that something effects someone anymore when he wants to explain how something affects people, because Dušan explained him the difference between the two verbs. Almost everyone says for the simple reason that instead of because. That is both incorrect and, the way I see it, really poorly said, but no one ever listens to me. I wonder how Dušan is getting by on his French in Paris. He had an A here and our French teacher 9


Sonja Ćirić

praised him often, but that doesn’t mean that he’s doing alright there with it too. Maybe now someone is correcting him whenever he says something wrong, like he did to us here. I find his name funny when said with French accent: DušAn! He didn’t think it was funny, I recall, and wondered why I did. Apart from me, no one in the class called him Dušan. For everyone else he was Duki, or Anastas (after his last name). Our History teacher called him The Mighty in the fifth grade, probably because of the Emperor Dušan, so the kids called him Emperor, but as soon as they’d realized that by calling him so they made him the coolest kid in the class, they stopped. I can’t stop thinking about Dušan. I am angry that he left. Does he, in Paris, know that I’m doing my graduation Serbian test? That I’m going to be in this classroom for the next two hours answering the questions and that these two hours will determine whether or not I will enter the high school I want... And... it doesn’t matter what else depends on it. He doesn’t know. And he doesn’t care. He left. It’s only ten to eleven. What am I going to do till twelve? Why does it have to take two hours to get the test done? If you don’t know the answer at the beginning, you won’t be able to think of one, not even if you think about it the entire day, which means that for a twenty-question test you would need twenty 10


The Novel in My Head

minutes, a half-hour at the most. Who sets these rules? -Minister – my Dad would say. Mom would smile, and Dad would be pleased. This sentence should be in the past perfect. For a long time, Mom hasn’t been amused by the things Dad says, and Dad’s stopped trying to amuse her. Everyone around me is writing; they are immersed in the test. Is it possible that I’m the only one who answered all the questions? They weren’t that difficult. These can’t be the most difficult questions, as our teachers announced. Should I go out? -Don’t brag – Anči and Dušan would tell me. I’m not bragging! I only wanted to say that I don’t need two hours to answer twenty questions. That’s all! -Exactly! You wanted us to know that you are better than others. That’s bragging! – they’d say and they’d be right too, but that doesn’t matter now. On second thought, I won’t go out. I must look for a mistake a little bit better. It must be somewhere here! Never before have I done a written test or a pop quiz without a mistake! Not a single one! And not a competition could go by without wrong answers. So, why would the graduation Serbian test be an exception? I’m freaking out! 11


Sonja Ćirić

Everyone is still. Are they breathing? You could hear a pin drop! Dead quiet! Am I breathing? Even Kosta’s ballpoint isn’t making those crackling sounds. He’s always been, ever since I’ve known him, opening and closing his ballpoint incessantly from the beginning to the end of every test. Boy, was that annoying! I can’t hear a thing. Not even the steps of these two teachers watching us. One is in purple, the other in green. They haven’t stopped walking between the rows since the test started – one from the blackboard to the wall, the other from the wall to the blackboard. They are like soldiers, walking with regular steps. Or, maybe more like a pendulum: up and down, down and up. Every few seconds a purple pendulum passes on my left, and on my right – a green one. And so it was from the beginning of the test. Guarding us. -Guarding you? From whom? Are you in danger? – Dusan would ask me if he were here. They are actually guarding us so that we can’t copy from one another; they are keeping a watchful eye on us lest they might miss the moment in which someone dares to glance at the test of the person sitting ahead. Because if that should happen to them, they would lose. And that would be awful! They woudn’t make their dreams come true... And their lives would become meaningless. Now I’m jabbering. 12


The Novel in My Head

It’s my first time in this classroom. Who on earth picked these hideous curtains? Coming to school almost every day for the last eight years, I could’ve sworn that I’d seen every inch of the building from the basement to the roof, but here I am – taking the graduation exam in a hideously curtained classroom I’ve never seen before. And worst of all, these kids around me are not from my class, VIII2. Maša from VIII1 is sitting in front of me, Nebojša from VIII4 behind me, Stojan from VIII1 is in the row on my right, Ziki is on my left... Where are my classmates? -They are here and you know it – Dušan would tell me if he were here now. All right, I know they are. All the eighth graders whose names start with the first eight letters of the alphabet are in this classroom; that means my classmates are also here. But they are not as close to me as I wish them to be. Everybody keeps telling us that this is an important moment in our lives, that it’s not our knowledge of Serbian that’s being tested, but our maturity. My mastery of Serbian is excellent, any time of day or night, but I don’t know much about maturity. Anyway, being adult doesn’t sound like much fun. If I weren’t right, teachers and all the adults would be smiling and happy when they talked about that new life, and not worried and sullen. My Mom talks with her friends, particularly with aunt Duška, 13


Sonja Ćirić

about prices going up, her bank loan, arguments... Everything is a problem for them, and they are never pleased. -I don’t know how we’re going to get by – she often says to Dad, and he just gets up and goes to the bathroom or behaves as if Mom didn’t exist. Why are they all frightening us? -Because they don’t love life! Come on, stop being silly, start looking at the test and search for mistakes – Dušan would tell me if he were here. And he’d be right. I am hot. How I’d like to cool just a little bit! I suspect that both green and purple teachers would appear at my desk the same second I used the test as a fan. Shall I try? Just for the fun of it? What would they do to me? They mustn’t dismiss me from the test, I know, these are the rules. They could only inform Deki, our principal, about it. I can imagine how he’d solve the problem! -Dear colleague, why are you so upset? That’s not a big deal, the pupil wanted to cool herself down! It is hot, our school doesn’t have air conditioners, you know yourself that there isn’t money for that. Therefore, dear colleague, nothing bad happened. These are children! Our children! Our Deki is a cool guy! I’ll never forget how he didn’t even blink when last year (or the year before – never mind that) Kosta asked him: 14


The Novel in My Head

-Deki, are you coming to our party, too? He simply smiled, just as if Kosta had addressed him properly, and said that he would come by all means. That’s the kind of principal our school has. Everyone is still writing. I don’t know what else I should do with this test. I did everything our class teacher taught us: first I read all the questions, then I answered those questions to which I knew the answers – that means all of them – and in the end, I answered again each question without looking at the answers. And I didn’t see one single mistake! Well, I’m not leaving here until I find one! And what if these wardens of ours locked the school gates just to be on the safe side, to prevent the possibility that a tiny answer should travel across the outer world on an invisible and silent little wave to someone’s ear? I’m jabbering again. I must calm down and focus on the test. -Think of something nice and it won’t hurt. Forget where you are and dream. Hop to a place where you once felt good – my Maja told me when I was going to the dentist for the first time. And she was right– it didn’t hurt. Maja is like all those good grannies who live in fairytales and help children. I’ll go to see her for a talk as soon as my graduation exam is over. Maja is the only person who knows how to listen to me. 15


Sonja Ćirić

Shall I try and think of something nice now? To forget where I am and to dream.. Nothing nice crosses my mind. Graduation exam is like a vacuum cleaner for nice thoughts, nice emotions and all things nice. Where are my lovely days with my lovely class? Anči, where are you? Help!

ANČI AND I LAST SUMMER LYING ON THE TERRACE OF HER BUILDING COUNTING STARS WHILE EVERYONE ELSE IS AWAY ON A HOLIDAY IN GREECE WITH OUR CHEMISTRY TEACHER

Mina: Which one do you think is the most beau­ tiful? I think – the smiling one. Can you see it? Anči: And I think that little, the transparent one... Look at it! Like a pixie! Mina: I am certain that pixies exist. Anči: Really? In fact, it makes sense! It’s logical that you believe in pixies when your parents call you Tinkerbell! Mina: It would be really good to be Peter Pan’s Tinkerbell! I’d live in Neverland... Anči: ... with the handsome Peter Pan... Mina: I wouldn’t have a care in the world, we’d all be together, we’d laugh days away and I certainly wouldn’t have the graduation exam next year. 16


The Novel in My Head

– Can they see us? 17 everything and hear everything. – Who? The stars? I think they see I think they watch over us


Sonja Ćirić

Anči: Come on, Mina, is that what we agreed? Not a word about the graduation! It’s summer vacation and we’re relaxing, and relaxing and relaxing... Mina: Sorry, but I am not like you. I can’t decide not to think about something that’s bothering me and pretend it’s gone away. Anči: Of course, but what bothers you won’t go away even if you think about it! Mina: You’re right... Can they see us? Anči: Who? The stars? I think they see everything and hear everything. I think they watch over us. – Can they see us? – Who? The stars? I think they see everything and hear everything. I think they watch over us.

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Pages from the novel in my headi