As Khudaverdi slept late he could hardly wake up again.
He began to move his hands into different directions as if done his gymnastics habitually. Hardly had he come to himself when his hands touched something and a frightful clank spread all over the room. While shaking his head and reading an anathema suddenly he remembered that the glass and the saucer had been left on the table since the evening. He walked on his toes carefully not to tread the pieces of the broken glass under feet. The electric current, i.e. “tok” which had been interrupted since the night was restored and the noise of TV spread over the room. “Look! I have slept without switching off the damned” – said he. Then he asked himself twice: “I am in zigzag within four walls again. What is the matter with me?”
Khudaverdi was upset when he saw thirty glasses which he bought and sold the final one free of charge a month ago. He looked at his unstrapped electronic watch which he used to carry in the pocket. There was little time till the work. He bought this watch from a foreign student whose skin was much black than the strap of the watch one year and a half. Though he didn’t know Russian well he pulled himself together and asked: “Tell me please, how long will this watch work?” And she answered with smile passing through her thick black lips in sweet Azerbaijani: “At least one year and a half”. Khudaverdi was very glad. As if this thick-lipped Negro became a quite white young lady with her sweet Azerbaijani. Because he always came across with men speaking another language not his own mother tongue.
He wasn’t remembering watch “event” now – i.e. at this time of the morning in vain: “the guarantee of the watch will be over tomorrow, so it’s impossible to trust this Satan trap”. Then he thought to himself without saying a word: “Whom and what can I trust now?” As there wasn’t anything for breakfast at home he had to go to the grocery. Fresh milk, sour clotted milk and curd were brought here every morning. Khudaverdi had gotten into habit of buying milk and sour clotted milk as he maintained his village spirit, i.e. he went to send the cattle to common pasture and when he returned he saw the churn and milk which was cooked on the trivet in the morning. All these are also available at present. But sometimes the symbols of abundance and the portrait of country life seemed too far for Khudaverdi. Well, his “troubles” were not over with this.
He was so miserable that the girls who went for a walk with him didn’t want to do it any more. As for them he was rude, jealous and a stingy person. That’s why he shunned the girl selling sour clotted milk. He was afraid of talking mere twaddle.
Three or four days ago he went to a fortune-teller thinking that may be he could help him. The fortune-teller said him: “My son, if you give me some money I’ll write a prayer, only then all girls will love you and fly around you as a moth. Otherwise the closed lock of your fortune will get rusty. – A poor fellow began to doubt. When he left the room he asked: “Why don’t you work with our lawful manat?” Uncle, if I had so much money I would do something. Suddenly he felt the effect of association of the word “lawful manat” on himself but then immediately forgot the thought about “honest place”. Khudaverdi’s work was so: He had a character of passing into those subjects which were seemed incoherent at first sight.
Khudaverdi had no money to buy sour clotted milk this morning. He thought a lot. He awoke from these thoughts with a muddy breathed sound of the water trap. He remembered that there were a lot of empty bottles at home. “It was so for this time” – said he and as usual went downstairs without waiting the lift. The words “the shop of komsomolchy gencler” which had been kept yet on the left side of the exit door didn’t delight Khudaverdi. He said: “though we became independent our poor people didn’t abdicate this komsomol-momsomol”and then remembered the words “Azerbaijan USSR”, “Glory to Sov. USSR!”, “USSR” which remained in different places of the capital and smelled of empire. He reproached himself: “Now then, I exaggerate everything. That mustn’t be done”.
First the door opened, then closed and he entered. The saleswoman had changed her place with another person at that day. Khudaverdi was both glad and sad. He was glad because he felt shy before her to buy sour clotted milk in a bottle. He was sad because he didn’t know why he was accustomed to see her everyday. When the saleswoman tried to count the empty bottles an old woman came forward and wanted milk and sour clotted milk on the counter. Khudaverdi looked at his unstrapped electronic watch once more. He wanted to return after saying “It seems that I am not destined to buy this sour clotted milk this morning”. Suddenly he heard the saleswoman’s voice:
- Mister, mister…
He asked surprisingly:
- Do you call me?
- Are you a newspaper correspondent?
- I don’t know. Isn’t everybody a newspaper correspondent today? – He spoke with this innocent and unknown girl angrily and with an air of importance.
- Do you write a poem?
- To tell the truth, it isn’t difficult to come across with poets now. He stumbled and the said: “As my father said nowadays everybody writes something”.
The saleswoman asked again:
- Don’t you live in the neighborhood?
Khudaverdi answered briefly this time:
- Yes, I do.
- Do you know that I was told to keep milk and sour clotted milk for you every morning?
- Who asked?
- A young lady who worked here before me. She is my cousin. She knew that you came very late and there will be no milk and sour clotted milk until you return.
Khudaverdi asked the girl who inspired him every morning:
- But where is she?
- She married yesterday.
- As I know she was coming to work till yesterday. But why did she marry in the shortest time?
- Her husband works in Dubai. He had to come to Baku for a short time and returned after wedding day. He is a businessman.
- Hmm… You say they went after wedding. What can I say? I can only wish them happiness. But Khudaverdi didn’t do it heartily.
While returning he said:
- It isn’t a secret for you. At first I supposed that her husband was a foreigner. I felt sad. Now I know that though he is from Dubai he isn’t a foreigner.
The saleswoman said nothing. She only smiled – perhaps her cousin had said her something.
Khudaverdi went upstairs without stopping. He had a slice of bread in a hurry. When he took his papers he saw his article in the water. It was the result of his gymnastic movements that he did a few minutes ago in a sleepy state. It isn’t for the first time happens with him such accident. His friends made fun of him. One of the said: “Drink tea carefully”. But the other: “I advise you not to touch the glass… Khudaverdi answered in short: “Look here, don’t meddle with my business, mind your own business”.
He went out sadly. A hooked-nose beggar woman who had nothing but skin and bones barred his way. Khudaverdi thought to himself: “Oh! My God! What is her sin?” The people passing near her said: “Is she alone?” “Let God take pity on her”, “Who knows may be we’ll be in this position tomorrow or the next day?” Khudaverdi came up to old woman whom he called “sick mother of sick society” and gave her a vow. He had convinced himself that if didn’t give her money he would suffer double loss.
His colleague – the chief of press and information department of the party had stood in front of the newspaper stand. They used to meet here every morning. As usual his colleague bought political newspapers. But Khudaverdi bought only the newspaper where his article had been published. It was always so: he looked through his article attentively as if read it for the first time. But the corrector always paid no attention to some mistakes. Without any doubt, he would read his article and begin to correct mistakes muttering to himself.
The bus came and his colleague got on and went to “Inshaatchilar” station. As the man knew his nature he didn’t offer Khudeverdi to go with him. Khudaverdi would go to “Baki Soveti” by bus and walk down there on foot. – The bus went through the upper sides of the city. Khudaverdi wished to contemplate the sea, the city, the rising of the Sun from the Caspian Sea to blue skyline and to look down even the highest houses at first opportunity.
He reached to his working place thoughtfully. The headquarter of the party and the editorial staff were situated here. On his way to work he saw the glances of salesmen selling rolls and buns and said: “Brother, you mustn’t sell these products in a dusty place”. Hardly had Khudaverdi entered the corridor when he heard his colleague’s voice that came to work before him. He caviled at newspaper over the phone in a loud voice: “Why have you written so? Don’t you know?» The functioner of young party had looked through the newspapers along the way.
Khudaverdi wanted to greet the chief who talked with the instructor of organizing department and ask after his health. The chief of the department looked at him seriously and said: “Don’t disturb, don’t you see that we are at the meeting”.
- What meeting is it by only two men, bey? – asked Khudaverdi.
- I asked you…
- No, you haven’t asked. But what can we do? – he said and went.
The chief of the common department was sewing a document on the folder. When Khudaverdi greeted him he asked:
- I beseech you! Tell me that poem, please.
- Hey! Look here, be off – Khudaverdi answered – It is a political party but not a writers’ union and you are the chief of this department.
The chief said:
- I won’t be off. It consists of only four hemistiches. You may go after telling it.
Khudaverdi saw that the chief won’t leave him alone he began to say:
When you look through the window
You grieve me.
You say that you love me,
But why don’t you marry with me then?
The chief of common department rose from the table and kissed him. Khudaverdi remembered that he had left his handkerchief at home.
This poem had a strange history. One of the teachers of philological faculty of Azerbaijan Teacher’s Training Institute said to his students to write a poem. At the next lesson he asked if somebody was ready. Only a girl raised her hand. The teacher took the poem from the girl and began to read. The students who had already learnt the poem by heart began to laugh. The teacher was also speaking the same dialect. It was said that he wasn’t angry at her grammatical mistakes in this poem. On the contrary he was very happy and had defended her for 5 years.
- Who knows how will be this girl’s life that came from outlying village?
A friend of him told this story to Khudaverdi. And once he told this story to his friends from the party. But nobody knew then the chief of the department coming from the south of the country was in love with the girl who grew in the same place where Khudaverdi was born. He would remember her with this hemistiches and dialect. Having known nothing about this Khudaverdi looked at his chief “oddly”.
The chief of the department for work with youth was so thin that the armchair where he had sat on seemed empty. Khudaverdi made fun of him:
- Hey! Bey! Are you still alive?
- Why don’t you greet me, bey?
- Because you don’t hear me, some hold meeting, some ask me to tell a poem. The boy interrupted Khudaverdi with conceitness.
- We don’t like each other.
… Khudaverdi shook his head and went to his room. After some minutes other workers came. The vice-chairman asked before greeting: “May I take your matches?” Khudaverdi repeated nearly hundred times: “Bey, I don’t smoke”.
The voice of chairman’s secretary was heard:
- There is neither tea nor sugar. Though they will ask tea just now.
A typist who always grumbled was coming with him. He again reproached somebody:
- You will see, I will do away with him.
As the chief of the central headquarter came he put his big blue copybook and “marked out” the name of the people who came to work.
When the chief’s tall bodyguard appeared in the corridor everybody began to work; some began to write, some to read a newspaper and others to speak over the phone… Tall and short bodyguards came behind the chief. The chief’s mood was bad and he came up the windows without greeting the workers. Khudaverdi knew the following events by heart. It was apparent to Khudaverdi that as soon as he entered his room he would leave his white “Marlboro”, cigarette lighter on the table and begin to speak over the phone: “I ask you”, “Yes, yes I ask you more than once”. Then he will hang the receiver, press the button and say to his secretary:
- My dear, bring me tea, please.
… The chief editor of press department of the party who had a paperboard in his left hand and a cap on his head came at last. Khudaverdi who unexpectedly asked a cigarette from the editor-in-chief was put this question:
“Bey, have you begun smoking?” As “a professional smoker” he stood at the windows that opened to the street without answering him. He was lost within eddy of smoke: though his life seemed perspective and interesting for the majority of people it was very monotonous. A broken glass, the voice of TV, the last “sour clotted milk” on the counter and the face of fate that appeared on the palm of beggar woman – were tutors of sequences opening with the eddy of smoke.
He hadn’t enough power to be lost in thoughts: when Khudaverdi saw a bare headed and breasted bride in the balcony of opposite building he sat down on his chair quietly saying “the devil take it!” He turned over the pages of the newspaper: from the bottom to the top and read these hemistiches from his “poem copybook”:
“There is a way to go from here,
There is a way – it is the same way”.
He looked through a paragraph of the last article of the page: “My father didn’t have sons, “damn the place where I am”. All think that I am in Baku - but they don’t know that I spend my time with twiddling here. I’ll go to the trench or to Garabagh or to Erese – Russia or to my native village. … I’ll go”. – He has written about me. Oh, my God, “as though he had heard me”. – Khudaverdi said this – the article had affected him very much.
… He came home very thoughtfully that day. He was so thoughtful that he didn’t notice the letter that had been dropped under the door. The man writing the letter was his brother. After inquiring he wrote: “Brother, my children are growing. Don’t think of returning to the village. Buy a shack in the city.
He lied downwards on the bed and put his unstrapped black watch on the table. In the other side of the wall – his refugee neighbor was listening to Kadir’s cassette. …There were a lot of books near his bed. Khudaverdi remembered the words that his mother had said him when he was in difficult situation: “My dear, these books will drive you mad”. He left the door open and felt asleep. “How will I be mad? I don’t know myself yet. I won’t be mad so easily” – he was speaking in his sleep…
Kadir wasn’t singing any more. His neighbor’s voce was heard from the other side of the wall: “Oh, my son Khudaverdi are you delirious? My wife has cooked boiled potatoes with savory – your mother-in-law loves you very much – come and have some”.
No, Khudaverdi’s mother-in-law didn’t love him. He had slept. His unstrapped black electronic watch was also delirious – it was out of order.