‘I struggled to finish books. I did my best and strained myself for many sleepless nights, but I must admit sir, finishing books is just too hard for me’. ‘It is the same with finishing anything sir, finishing my tea is difficult too, I need great focus to finish because you see, my good sir, my mind wanders. I didn’t do too well in school you see, sometimes, I…’
I pretended to be distracted by the songs of the bird in the trees behind us. I had to convince this fellow of my incapacity at all cost. My life hanging at the tip of his little finger, I was attempting to decipher the thoughts hidden deep behind his voluminous forehead. I could see the folds of his eyes deepening. His intense concentration as he was studying me was almost rendered burlesque by the impression of strenuous physical pain making evident the truth that such a sustained intellectual activity was not part of his usual daily routine.
‘Don’t try and trick me you little scoundrel, I know what you’re up to! Do you dare deny me? ‘
Surrounded by a small army of policemen ready to send my poor self to penal oblivion, I stuttered: really, sir, I don’t know what you’re referring to. Since the beginning of my miserable life till this day, I could not finish any activity that I set myself to achieve.
I put all my efforts in trying to convince this man that I had been damned by fate or some other vindictive deity to never end the things I started despite my best intentions, that I had striven all the days of my worthless life to challenge this cruel destiny but that I was always defeated.
‘This is why I cannot marry your daughter my good sir. I could never end the engagement. Not because of anything she might have done but rather for the reasons I explained.’
The events that led to this curious episode were all jumbled up in my mind. The threat now looming over my life made memories blurry but I seem to recall the faint odour of a rose, the touch of a lady and promises made under the influence of a nefarious beverage.
Nikita was a lady indeed, everything about her was class and sophistication. She had a way of looking at one with her head slightly tilted to one side like a puppy who doesn’t understand the command of its master but is too adorable to be chastised for it. Her soft spoken tone, the delicacy of her character and the refinement of her tastes was a delight and a comfort for all those around her. That is what fascinated me and what laid the foundation of the predicament I now find myself in.
Indeed I fell in love with Nikita, her charms were irresistible, her spirit and intelligence overwhelming but nothing could have prepared me for who or should I say what she really was. After a few days spending time in each others company, we were madly in love with each other, a few weeks later we were thinking about marriage and so went to her father, the chief of police, to ask her hand and his blessing. He was so overjoyed at that news that his shoulders seemed to be relieved of a burden that might have weighed on him for centuries and this promise of marriage seems to make him young and trusting in life again. I did wonder at that time if that filial love and hope of a father for his daughter was enough to provoke the disproportionate reaction I witnessed.
The first time it happened was when I brought her tulips. I brought her so many roses that I thought some diversity would be welcomed. How wrong I was. She was occupied in conversation with a friend, Teresa, in front of her house. When she saw me arrive with the tulips in hands her face hardened, her mouth just a thin angry line. She looked at me like she was looking at an annoying child and backhanded me with such strength that my jaw almost got dislocated. I caught myself in time lest I fell. I was so shocked that for a few seconds there was only silence between us. She didn’t say a word, a dark fire in her eyes, she walked away. Her friend looked at me with a silent apology on her lips and followed her.
After a few other such incidents to which I never had any explanations and after which she would not manifest herself for days and then suddenly come back to me like nothing happened, I decided to confront her and pose her an ultimatum. One evening, while she was seated, writing in an old journal, I came in what was her room in the house of her father.
‘Nikita, you leave me no choice, if you’re not ready to explain your unacceptable behaviour I will be forced to withdraw my marriage proposals and we will part ways.’
She turned so swiftly towards me and with such desperation and fear that at that moment she looked revolting in her neediness. She reached for me for what seemed at first a gesture of supplication but instead seized my collar with the strength of a professional wrestler and pulled my face close to hers with great violence.
‘Don’t you dare threaten me, a man, a mere man like you? You need me! You will not break your promise or it will be the last thing you do’ she whispered.
She swiftly walked away with a regal confidence that was made all the eviler by her triumphant smile and left me breathless and my spirit subjugated by a situation I did not understand. I understood one thing though, I needed to break free from her and everything that she hid behind her charms. So I decided to pack my meager belongings in the secret of the night. I was prepared to leave immediately and never come back again but the dictate of a kind nature and a disposition to compassion for my fellow man imposed on me the duty to explain myself to the chief of police. He would surely be understanding as he must have known better than most the hidden vices of his child. After that, I would take my leave.
I now found my self encompassed by grief, anxiety and a small army of narrow-minded men ready to blindly obey the orders of their chief, however vile and unjustified they were.
There was no escape, soon I was taken and the chief sent me straight to prison. He ordered that I be sent away the next morning to a penal colony. As I sat in my cell, trying to make sense of the concatenation of seemingly incoherent events that led me to lay here I heard someone coming. An individual dressed in shadow approached my cell. All I saw was a tulip and then through the bars, strong and delicate hands seized me and all was dark and cold. The fear disappeared with everything else.