By Reshat Kripa
The third part
– “People who have never known dictatorship and tyranny find it easy to give in to the rhetoric of freedom, forgetting the simple and terrible reality of willful oppression where it exists knowingly”.
Giovani Sartori: “Once again for the theory of democracy”.
Memorie.al/ Robert Krasta, had made it a habit that on every anniversary of his parents, he would go to the cemetery and place a bunch of flowers on their grave. He would look at the picture stamped on the porcelain and start a conversation with them. He had been doing this habit for a long time. The conversation seemed to soothe his soul. He told them about everything that had happened in the family. Sometimes, when he found difficulty in something, he asked them for help, and it seemed to him that they answered him. Perhaps this, could be some guess of his own, yet he believed it.
Why? Why? Why? They sounded loud in Agron’s ears. The thoughts expressed by the giant, who had known each other for no more than ten days, had deeply affected him. These thoughts conflicted with those expressed by his mother, a little while ago, and he was unable to answer them! But deep in his conscience, he felt that they were right. His father had fought side by side with a nationalist. Maybe even with Besnik’s grandfather. He was killed together with a nationalist. They had buried them both next to each other.
He was thirteen years old when his father was killed. He remembered very well the conversations his father used to have when he sneaked home.
– Listen, friends – he said to those who were around, – We continued like this, the victory is certain. But I’ve heard some whispers that I don’t like. I am sorry that these whispers come from above, from us. I grabbed the gun for the homeland, because its voice called me and not to shoot against my patriots, who are fighting alongside me.
In Agron’s consciousness, two people had begun to live. One was obvious. He was the chief engineer, but who should have been nobody, a man who did not think, did not decide, but acted according to the instructions of his superiors, while the other, was an invisible individual who lived inside him and contradicted him, took away his conscience. A dualism developed with itself. Which of the two would be stronger? Anyone win? No one could answer. He lived in a turbulent time where anything could happen. Let’s wait and see how things will unfold.
The last day of vacation. On that day, the sky was covered by some black clouds. But it didn’t rain. However, it was not a suitable day for bathing. They decided to go out and visit the city. It was their first time there and of course they had a lot to see. They visited the historical and ethnological museum, the ancient city and the characteristic old houses that stood in the old quarters. Finally, they sat down in a Bar – Lulishte, which was located in its center.
The waiter, a young and very charming guy, addressed him with a sweet smile:
– Welcome to our bar! Enjoy the dishes and you will be satisfied.
He was handed the menu and was waiting for the order in a ready position.
Agron opened it and after reading it said:
– Bring us a pasta and a beef steak with potatoes. Also bring a large plate of mixed salad and a bottle of wine. Don’t forget to bring a bottle of “Gline” water.
The waiter left to take the order. He did not delay and brought “Glina” wine and water as well as four glasses. He placed them on the table, opened the bottle of wine and began to fill the glasses.
When it was Irida’s turn. she said:
– No, “Glina” water.
The waiter opened the bottle and filled his glass, then addressed the others:
– Do you want it too?
Agron nodded and he filled them with the rest of the wine. Then he left to bring the next order.
– You were a very educated boy, – said Lumtua.
– He must have finished school. They teach him these things there, – Agroni reinforced.
– Today’s boys learn everything, – mother Gjyla completed the conversation.
They continued to eat quietly, talking in low voices. The dishes were really delicious. The waiter was right. Finally, Agroni ordered:
– Three espresso coffees and a cassette.
– I did Turkish, with a little bit, – added mother Gjyla.
While they were drinking coffee, the waiter approached, who spoke to them in a low voice:
– That fellow at that table over there wants to talk to you.
Agron looked in the direction the waiter showed him. At that table, there was only one man in his fifties. It seemed like a familiar face. He thought for a moment. He remembered seeing her in his hometown. Recently, he had appeared to her several times. It had seemed to him that he was being followed by a shadow from behind. However, he decided to go to find out where the hammer was fired.
– Wait for me here, because I’m going to meet him. He went to his desk.
– Good afternoon!
– Welcome! I’m sorry to disturb the family peace.
– Nothing, we were just getting ready to get up.
– I don’t want to keep you too much. I’m getting straight to the point. We expect more from you, but so far, you are not giving us anything. These words told Agron where the mysterious friend was shooting. He decided to leave as if he didn’t understand.
– Excuse me, but I don’t know you and I don’t know why you talk?
– Thank you from Mayor Petriti. He will know if you understood what he said to you.
– And what can I say, when from morning to night I think about nothing but how to accomplish the tasks as best as possible?
– But don’t forget Comrade Agron, the Party made you chief engineer and this duty must be justified.
– I think that I have justified the trust given.
– It’s not exactly like that, – the enigmatic character went on the offensive, – who was the friend you had dinner with three days ago?
– The neighbor we have with the mistake. He is from the working class, a welder, while his wife is an electrician. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with this.
– Why is he from the working class and a trusted person? That, my friend, is a hidden snake waiting to bite you. Does he know that his grandfather was killed by the Party and his father fled to American imperialism? And you, the son of the martyr of the War, eat, drink and make friends with such a person. Does this seem small?
The attack had begun. The interlocutor, who did not even tell him his name, did not know how to speak in the plural, as required by the ethics of an intellectual. The tone he used made Agron understand that he had to be very careful about every action and every word he said. In front of him, there was one of those types who were used to speaking from the positions of the one who is higher in the administrative hierarchy and who is only used to command, although his level is much lower than that of the interlocutor.
It was before a dangerous bango-trial. Despite all the shock he suffered, he replied redeemed:
– How do I know that he is like that?
– Okay, okay, get up and go now, they’re waiting for you. Open your eyes to what Mayor Petriti has told you and don’t make trouble for yourself.
Agron got up, shook his hand and went to his desk.
– Why did he want you? Lumtua asked him.
– Let’s go, – he said without answering the question. He paid the waiter and left in silence.
On the way he thought about the scene that had happened to him. It was located in front of a major crossroads. How could he do it? How to get out of this situation? These questions tortured him. Until recently, he had lived peacefully, without trouble. He worked honestly. He was also a good chess player. But here, suddenly and without remembering, someone asked him to perform actions against his character. This someone was a representative of the state, of that state for which his father had given his life. She squeezed her friend’s arm significantly so that she wouldn’t open her mouth and hurried her steps.
In the evening, when they fell asleep, he said in a low voice so that his mother would not hear him:
– He was an envoy of the State Security. Mayor Petriti had sent him. The offensive began. Let’s prepare to wait for the downpour.
– Rainfall? Which one do you like?! We haven’t done anything. Why punish us in this way?
– Do not worry! This too will pass like the others. We will find a way to cope with it. They will give and give and then they will rest. Great job, we have to prepare for this. We will be calmer. At least we’ll be somebody.
The next day they left for their city.
Stefani and Gjergji were two young engineers. It had been five years since they had finished their studies and had been appointed to that city. They were second cousins to each other. Their fathers were aunt’s son and uncle’s son. Another cousin with a position had intervened and they had the right to study. Both were single. They were waiting to move to their city and start a life there, with some beautiful girl.
They were boys after all. They had finished the university with good results. But it was the biography that had brought them to this city. She continued to follow his feet. They had taken a room in a bachelor hotel. They lived there. Although they had an age difference of about fifteen years with Agron, they were connected with him, with a great company.
That day, two weeks after he had returned from vacation, they met at the chess club. They had a friendly match with the team from the neighboring city. Agron was not feeling well. His head was full of frenzies, which turned him into a hopeless man. He remembered the last conversation with Rustem. He felt himself surrounded by a kennel of leeches, seeking to drink his blood.
In this state, he sat down at the meeting table. It was table number five. In front of him was the best chess player of the opposing team. The other four tables had finished their meetings. The result was two to two. His fate depended on the result of table number five. After fifty-four moves, Agron surrendered. His hometown team lost the match. The cause of this loss was that.
When they went outside, Stephen said:
– What did you have? Why on such a dark day?
The opponent was who knows what.
– Tonight, get out of my place, I have something to talk about – said Agroni, without further delay. In the evening they went to his house. He ushered them into the bedroom.
– I brought you here because I want to talk about a matter that I don’t want my mother to discuss with Irida. A black cloud is hovering over our heads.
– What do you mean by these words? Stefan asked.
– I left work late last night. It was raining and I sat with Rustem talking. He said some words to me that I didn’t like.
– What did he tell you? – asked George impatiently.
– In the party organization, they talked about the three of us that, allegedly, we are micro-bourgeois garbage. Those who accused us were Rasul and Ibrahimi. You know them both well, for what they are worth. But they have what we don’t have. They are communists and they get their word out.
– And then? – George continued again.
– Then they said how is it possible for a chief engineer like me, with a father who was a martyr of the War, to associate with two people who, according to them, have a bad biography.
– What else did they say? Stefan intervened.
– They had said that you came from a declassified family and I didn’t want to trust them. I knew such a thing, after we talked about it together, but I pretended that I did not understand anything. I played the fool.
– And what do they do to us, when we are okay? – said George.
– It’s not like that, Gjergj, – Stefani continued. – Today you have to be more careful of what you haven’t done. How many innocent people have been killed? What was Rustemi saying?
– He said that, he had heard, that we are allegedly not satisfied with the system in our country. For me, this is not very important. But I want to inform you about something else, much more important, and I want your opinion on this.
Lumtua came in with the tray of coffee cups. They took them and started drinking them thinking.
– Lumto, sit down and we’ll talk. You can give us some thoughts. Two months ago, Petriti, the head of the Branch, met me. He proposed me to become an associate of the State Security. He assigned me to watch over you too. Since that day, I have been followed by an unknown individual. He met me when I was on vacation and threatened me. During these meetings, I played the role of the one who doesn’t understand. I was trying to change the conversation. I now seek your opinion on this matter.
A silence followed his words. The four were thinking of finding the answer to what Agroni had asked for. But such a thing was very difficult.
– We live in the time of the absurd, – Stefani began. – The individual wants to think and act freely, without falling on anyone’s neck, but he cannot. Others come and ask you to think and act the way they want, except that they can be very ordinary people, without personality. You must submit to them, praise them, lift them up to heaven, in short, turn into a dirty and immoral servile.
This is the picture of today’s society.
– What about morals? – asked George.
– Morality? What moral? That of Rasul and Ibrahim? Their only morality is submission, blind jealousy and unscrupulous servility. This is the ruling morality in our society, – concluded Stefani.
– You have to laugh when you are not laughed at, – Agroni intervened, – to accept the absurd when, logic does not accept it, to applaud when your superior speaks, regardless of the fact that the words he says are chickpeas on a spit. Forgetting that you should have dignity. To be stripped of any form of human feeling. This is the “new man”, which is being built in our country. He is the dirty spy who wants to make a hole for his closest friend. It is the son who spies on the father or the brother, the brother. Espionage, servility and hypocrisy reign today in the behavior of Albanians.
He was happy that until then he had remained silent, intervened and with a trembling voice spoke:
– The secretary of the school party met me two days ago. She started talking to me in such a tone, as if she was the principal of the school and not me. This is a paradox of our time. As the people say, the tail is bigger than the beak. I did not like the tone in which he spoke to me. The implication of her words was that I would give up my position as the school principal. Things are moving towards that conclusion.
– It seems that I, too, towards her, – continued Agroni,
– Wouldn’t it be better to resign? Let’s find some reason for this.
– No, no, I don’t agree with that, – Lumtua continued. – Such a thing would give them one more argument, to think that we feel guilty, so we resign.
– Lumtua is right, – Stefani reinforced his opinion. – We must continue like this, as until now. We must not let them understand that we are shocked by the development of events. Let’s leave as if nothing happened. Let’s continue our society as it is today. Even with others, act as if nothing happened. In particular, we must be careful with Rasul and Ibrahim. Then here we are and we talk.
– In the end, what will happen to us? Let’s think that they will fire us. We will find another job and we will live, – said Gjergji.
– Then we will leave it like that, – concluded Agroni. – Thank you very much for calming me down.
– Even with us, – said the two young men at the same time.
They broke up. When they came out, a shadow moved behind them. It was an insidious shadow. She had been following them for some time. Stefani and Gjergji saw him, but pretended not to notice him. They went quietly, until they arrived in their room, talking and laughing out loud, carelessly. Whoever looked at them remembered that it was about two young people who had drunk a little too much and were flying in the world of dreams.
One day the postman brought a strange letter. He came from Italy. It was sent by the administrator of the weekly newspaper “Domenica del Corriere”. Among other things, he wrote: “We received your letter, in which you sent 500 lire. But since in it, you did not write why you are sending this money, we are returning it.”
On the letter envelope was Agron’s full name and address. It was also the address of the newspaper. Inside, together with the letter, there were also 500 lire. Agron was very surprised. He had not written any letters or sent money for anything. But the letter came from Italy. He thought he hadn’t sent them on his behalf, Ben, who was still at the embassy. He called her and asked her. He told her that he had not sent anything.
– Surely this is a game of the State Security, – he told Lumto.
– Have they reached this far?
– They are able to do anything. They will use all the ways. But we will explode the bomb in their hand.
– How will you act?
– Tomorrow I will go to the branch and report the letter I received.
– Isn’t it better to keep them away from that door?
– No, I will go. It’s my first encounter with them. I will tell you that someone has provoked me by sending me this letter.
The next day he went there. Asked operative, Ilian. He knew him. He was covering his enterprise. He was ushered in and taken to his office. He got up and smiling said:
– Welcome friend Agron, I have been waiting for you for a long time.
– To tell you the truth, I don’t understand why you are waiting for me, but I have come for a personal matter.
– What issue?
– Someone is provoking me and I want to know who it is.
Agron took out the letter and said:
– Read it and give me your opinion.
Ilia took it and began to look at it. He didn’t know Italian. Returning it to him, he said:
– Read it, I don’t know Italian.
Agron read it and after finishing it he said:
– I have not sent any letter or money. Then who sent them? That someone must have done it. They do not write for nothing. Who made this game on my back? I ask you to choose this…! Memorie.al