duminică , 19 noiembrie 2017

Short fragments: „The Last Hour,” by Alina Grozea

An intense and captivating read: Alina Grozea’s debut novel, „The Last Hour,” gives you the chance to look within yourself and see all there is, without fear, judgement or self-loathing. Instead, with a little bit more love for yourself and others. It seems like a book about death, but what it actually wants to remind us is how to live a meaningful life.

Here are a few fragments:

***

Do I die for myself or for others? he thought. Is there vanity in death? Is there a contest of the most beautiful suicides where I must win one of the first places? What’s wrong with this place, this room where I am now that’s lifeless anyway? Does what you see before you die matter; the last sight of a man that doesn’t care about a thing? Does it matter which lovely scenery will host your corpse?

***

I’m an idiot; hot chicks only knock on your door in movies. In real life, the one that doesn’t let you die is an average woman, neither pretty, nor ugly, neither tall, nor short, with tiny breasts and dressed out of date.

***

He poured the coffee into the only matching cups he had left from a set of six. He managed to find matching saucers. Why was he caring so much whether he had matching cups or not? We carry around some customs we can’t seem to give up on even when we’ve given up on everything else. It’s important to be a good host. Heavens might fall, earth might shatter, the third world war might come and our guests would still need to be content so they wouldn’t get the wrong impression.

***

He had only two modes: indifference and veneration. He preferred indifference, he could handle it better. Like any soul on this planet, he would need the affection, the tenderness and warmth, the unforeseeable and the adrenaline of romance.

***

They had had a most unproblematic relationship. He loved her, she loved him. The problem was that he couldn’t love in an unproblematic way. He had some sort of incomprehensible despair sweep over him as soon as the distance between them would become to major for direct communication. All was fine as long as they were in the same house, in the same bed, under the same sheets. As soon as they had to separate – and that would happen often, as they haven’t yet moved in together, their relationship never got to evolve that much – he would go crazy.

***

Everybody is free to live and die as they please, in theory at least. This woman and her technical difficulties was standing between him and freedom. He sneaked a glance at his watch so she wouldn’t notice it; it wasn’t polite. Only a quarter of an hour had passed, the weirdest quarter of hour of his life.

***

He had the ultimate conviction of being a unique being, that any external influence might at best temporarily disturb this internal fiber that we’re born and die with, the handprint of out deep personality, the nucleic ego that can only be put to sleep, numbed, never modified or destroyed by the ways in which others try to shape us.

***

He started thinking about death as a viable solution of getting rid of all his inner demons. I’ll die, but they’ll die as well; the world becomes a better place. But he’d never go past thinking it; he’d just punish himself periodically with the thought and then get back to his usual habits.

***

The woman in front of him, who wasn’t even very pretty, was taking the chocolate with measured, mechanical gestures, piece by piece, and his thoughts had remained suspended in a forbidden place, on the brown breasts of The First, in the muffled throbs of her impatient orgasm. He was surprised to notice that it wasn’t a painful view. He half smiled and realized that he could admire the view for hours, enjoy its every line and shape, and the observation startled him and killed the half smile. He didn’t have enough time for that.

***

Nowadays people eat people constantly, we live in an age of emotional cannibalism and we have honed our social abilities to such an extent that we stop giving a shit about people, casually and even a little bit affectionately. We can hug tightly, for a second at least, any stranger (see the ’free hugs’ campaigns) and then separate with utter indifference, immunized with a certain ‘feel good’ after the affectionate physical manifestation, and then forget about the stranger in the next second, as if we’d never met them.

***

His loneliness never had a memorable shape. It was made up of moments, days, years in which time had stood still. That’s probably why he looked much younger than his age. His loneliness had preserved him in a way; they had been kind to his outside appearance and only gave him wrinkles in unseen places. He could have been immortally alone.

***

The adrenaline of the first moments of this rash decision was almost gone. Her mind was empty and a panic that was close to desperation got hold of her. WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING HERE? Her inner voice screamed. It’s lucky that people can’t hear our inner voices; all semblance of civilization would be gone otherwise.

***

Suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem. She heard that in a movie or she read that on the internet; it had the flawless aesthetic of a quote worth evoking whenever you want to make a good impression on somebody, make people ponder so that they’d nod their heads in approval, with admiration, happy that you have revealed a fresh point of view on a theme humanity has always thought about without being capable of more that shrugging elegantly.

***

She cried like crazy, drenching the pillow with her tears and she shielded both sides’ insults as well as she could. She tried, until the divorce became final, to be the premature adult between two infantile grown-ups who were each pulling a hand, fighting over her as if she was a toy.

***

Only people with no school aged children can say they don’t know how a bathroom looks like after two tiny devils brush their teeth. You manage to find hardened toothpaste and spit stains in places that would even amaze a crime scene specialist.

***

“Do you love her?”, she asked him after a while, even though she couldn’t care less about the detail. She just wanted all the pieces of the puzzle composing the image of disaster. “Really? I thought you were a smart woman and you ask me these kinds of soap opera questions?” He was right. What could she get out of finding the answer to the most stupid question a cheated woman can ask?

***

She felt her skirt ride up over her knees and she wasn’t about to pull it back down. “Oh my God, I’m flirting with a suicidal guy. But if it helps both of us, why not? Everything is happening in my mind anyway; he’s too far gone in his thoughts.”

***

With faked sensuality she would press her breasts against his back, hugging him with searching and naughty hands, playing with his chest hair and loosening the band of his boxers. He would turn around sleepily, always happy for the treat; he had never refused her even after he already had a mistress. He would enjoy her with pleasure, as you do when you’re offered a warm plate of food, steaming and fragrant; even though you could have sworn before that you were not hungry.

***

She felt powerless and stupid in her desire to radically alter somebody’s destiny. So far, she had only lived like that, in inertia or anchored in tradition, she just waited for things to happen to her, she waited for life to fill out her schedule.

***

Waiting has a bad reputation. Everybody praises initiative; they all think that being present and proactive is the hardest. Nobody likes dreamers and fatalists; nobody wants them in their life or their company, even though waiting is the hardest and the most painful thing in the world.

***

She hugged him as hard as she used to hug his former husband, back when she had no idea that their love would slip through the fingers of a marriage that has been corroded by time and times. She hugged his waist with the desperation with which she was hugging her kids, just like that, for no real reason. She was embracing him with desperation, in a way in which she had never hugged anyone.

***

You can find „The Last Hour” on Amazon.

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