By Reshat Kripa
The third part
Memorie.al / “Sometimes, when difficult trials fall on a child’s head from the tenderest age in the secret recesses of his soul, a kind of scale is born, a beautiful scale, with which he weighs the affairs of this world . Feeling himself innocent, he submitted to his fate without making a sound. I didn’t cry at all. He, who has no reason to be scolded, does not scold others”!
(Viktor Hugo, “The Man Who Laughs”)
Dedicated to family and society,
Continues from last issue
IN MY CITY
The next day I went out in the morning. I wanted to see my city. The four years of being away from him had made me miss him. I decided to climb the Ball Neck, a place from where I could look out over the whole city. In addition, it was also close to home. When I got there, I sat at the foot of a bunker built by the Italians since World War I. Once upon a time, there was a big ball. For this reason, it got the name Qafa e Topi. From there in our time, the cannon that announced the opening of the Iftar in the month of Ramadan were thundering.
In this very place, grandfather had a model vineyard and a garden of trees. There were also many olive roots. He often took us on horseback and drove us there. We played all day and in the evening, we came home. Now this land was nationalized and belonged to the farm. There were no more vineyards or trees. It looked like a desert to me.
I was sitting and looking at my city. I saw his neighborhoods, Varosh and Vrenez, Lirim and Karabashi, Lagje e Re and Tophanana, Muradie and Skela, Kume and Çole. Cold water, it didn’t seem. Kuzum Babai’s hill stood in the way. Then I started looking at the characteristic buildings. Here, the Italian Consulate, which had now returned to the offices of the District Executive Committee. In front of it, there was the prison building. A shiver went through my body.
It struck the soul. I remembered my father and sister, who had stayed in that building for three days. Further on was the Mosque of Tabakeve and Hotel “Gambinua”. Then the house of Sarra and the Lead Mosque. From there to the Wharf, there were almost no buildings at all. Across the Pier, the sea was blue and behind it raised Sazani and Karaburuni, the two symbols of Vlora.
I looked down from the beach and looked at the place where our villa used to be. I felt a great regret. From a center that once buzzed with the sound of the voices of vacationers, it has now turned into a ruin. The German mines left only a pile of stones that the citizens took from time to time to build houses.
I was lying on my back thinking:
– “How many poets have written about you, my Vlora”?!
I remembered Ali Asllani’s verses, which I had read in a singing book:
“And with white clouds, I took and gave,
But like my Vlora, I did not see a city”!
I returned home in the evening. They were alerted about me and were looking for me everywhere.
After a few days, I started classes at school number two, “Naim Frashëri”. I continued the fifth grade of primary school. At that time, primary school had five classes. In class we had many friends, such as the poet Duro Mustafaj, Ramadan Hoxha, Xhevat Llupa, Ali Zanko, Rushit Rushiti, Muhamet Kasëmi, Qani Kojani, whom I called “Cousin”, since his people were from my mother’s tribe, or the girls; Mynevere Skenderin, Zymbyle Hoxha, Angjeliqi Labovitin, Liri Lule, Haxhire Alimerko, Nedjate Llupa, and others. That’s how the days passed one after the other, until the school year ended.
The next year we started the fifth grade again, but this time in the seven-year school, which was created that year. There were four elementary and three unique classes together.
Meanwhile, my father had started working as an oil technician in his factory. He was a specialist for that job. Fatushja had graduated from high school and was appointed as a teacher in primary school number four. This was a good start for us in Vlora.
* * *
November 1947. Literary reading hour. Teacher Quichua, entered the classroom, made the appeal and said:
– “Open the book to the section; “For a bottle of oil”! There you will see the brutal exploitation of the bourgeois, the working class, who had no bread to eat. You will see the brutality of the capitalist system”.
It was a story by Alex Çaç. It was about a poor worker in an oil factory in the city of Vlora. One day this worker, driven by great poverty, is forced to steal a bottle of oil, but is dictated to by the factory owner and fired. Whether by coincidence, or perhaps on purpose, the author had given the owner my last name, Qazim. My father was the only owner of an oil factory with this name in Vlora and the event sounded real.
– “You will start reading it all in turn” – continued the teacher.
Angelica began reading first. Then Ali and when it was my turn the teacher passed him and continued reading to Rushit, the friend who was sitting on my horn bank. I thought he did it on purpose so as not to offend me when I read the story that mentioned him. But it wasn’t like that. When it came to the paragraph where my name was mentioned, to my surprise, the teacher called my name. I looked at him in surprise. An ironic and mischievous smile played on his lips. The class had fallen silent. She expected everything to happen. I closed the book. The teacher, when he saw that I was not reading, said in a stern voice:
– “Salt, I ordered you to read”!
I stood up and said in a confident voice:
– “I’m sorry; Lord Teacher, but I can’t read that part”!
– “Because my father was not like that. The author lies. My father did not exploit anyone and did not fire any workers.”
He blackened in the face.
– “Get out”! – He called in a harsh voice.
I left and ran home. I wanted to express to someone the feeling I had inside. There I found my father. I told him what had happened. I noticed that he was very touched. I will never forget the look on his face in those moments. However, he held his own. He caressed my hair sweetly and said:
– “Long lives my son, because you showed your nobility! Don’t be upset! Tomorrow I will go to talk to him”.
That hand was a balm to me. Surprisingly, I felt relieved.
The next day I went to school as usual. We were lined up to enter the classroom, when its commander appeared in front of the squad. He was holding a communiqué in front of him, which he read:
– “For poor behavior, contrary to the norms of the new morality of our pioneers, the student Reshat Kripa is expelled from the Pioneer Organization, for an indefinite period. We call on him to reflect and self-criticize in front of his fellow members of the organization.”
In the corridor of the ground floor, there was a newspaper on the wall. Writings were constantly published there, criticizing the so-called; foreign plays at school. The newspaper was published twice a week. When we entered the classroom, I looked at her and saw that in the middle of her, they had painted a caricature of me and below it writing with the title in big letters: “DOWN TO THE BORGEIZIA”.
The term “bourgeois” came to mind again, just like in Tirana. He was chasing me every step of the way. A revolt began to develop within me. I didn’t feel guilty, so I had no one to apologize to. Let it go wherever it goes. I decided to take on myself, all the consequences that could come.
When I got home, I told them all. The father went and met the director of the school, Dhimitër Lakuriq. He listened attentively and said:
-“Not all things are within my competences. Don’t fret though. You have a good son. I think that soon, it will be corrected.”
After a few days, the meeting of the Pedagogical Council was held. Quichua teacher, proposed to break me a grade in behavior. Most of the teachers opposed it. Among them; Xhevdet Kofina, Kostaq Baltadori, Remzi Shtylla, Tish Daija, Kalmina Gurakuqi, as well as the director. Their opposition was decisive. So he could not accomplish what he had in mind.
However, the correction was made only the following year.
I ended that year with all grades, except for reading and language, which I had threes. They were the only notes that spoiled the beauty of that receipt. At that time, the five-grade system was in force. Quichua teacher, he had completed his mission.
In the evening I sat and thought about what had happened. I wanted to do something, to protest silently. I had the idea to write a poem dedicated to this event. I’m not a poet, but a man at that age has many such dreams. I took the pen and created the following poem:
“Why does this term haunt me?
I’m small, I’m a child,
Everywhere I go I find money,
Like a demon behind me.
I hear it everywhere at school,
And from the people on the street,
It terrifies me, fixes me in the head,
A thought I don’t want.
Why don’t you leave my world?
My spiritual world,
You are suppressing it with fixations,
Ruin my youthful dreams?
Let me dream
I sing to you like a free bird,
I build my life,
More beautiful, better
But the term haunts me,
From night to morning,
And calls me in my sleep,
You are not ours, you are bourgeois….”!?
This was my first poem.
September 1948. A serious disaster struck uncle Shyqyri’s family. His wife, Sabrija, passed away, leaving four children orphans, the youngest of which, Lejlaja, was only one year old. Initially, the disease of jaundice was the cause; from the beginning it affected children and uncles. Then it appeared in a much more severe form to her. There was terrible pain. Despite the efforts of Dr. Ali and Dr. Lito, two of the best doctors in Vlora, he could not live.
– “Take Genci and go with Bujar from Ryvejdeja”, – said the mother, the day she died.
Genci was the uncle’s little son, only nine years old, while Ryvejdeja, the aunt’s daughter, who lived nearby. Bujar had arrived a few days ago, together with his mother. We went there and tried to take Genci’s mind off the misfortune that had found him with toys and other items.
We stayed two days and then returned home. Genci didn’t look for his mother anymore. He felt that she had flown away, never to return. To take care of the children, the grandmother went to live with the uncle.
November of that year. I continued sixth grade. We were in literature class. Our teacher was Kel Gash, a man who was truly passionate about his subject. When the student recited a poem, he had the habit of making his own literary commentary after each stanza that was recited. It was nice to hear his comment, full of passion.
Zymylja was erected on the blackboard. The program included the poem “Bukuria” by Naim Frashëri. As she recited, there was a knock at the door.
– “Enter”! – said the teacher.
The school principal entered the classroom, accompanied by a girl of our age. We stood up.
– Sit down! – He said and mentioning her name he continued – She will be a student in your class. I wish you success in your studies!
I’m not mentioning that name. I’ll keep it to myself. For the readers, I will call him Neri.
The teacher motioned him to sit on the bench next to me, where only Rushiti was sitting. She sat down and greeted him. Then he turned his head to me and greeted me with a smile. I returned the same.
Surprisingly my eyes had stayed on the newcomer’s profile. I felt a stirring in my heart. Ali, who was sitting behind me, asked me something and I answered him without thinking. I was staring at the facial features of the new guest.
A seductive lip, a small nose, two bright brown eyes, above which arched a thin eyebrow, like the new moon on a summer night. This eyebrow caught my attention. It seemed to me like something special, like something rare. On top of that, a broad forehead, a mole on her cheek, and straight brown hair tastefully combed gave her the appearance of a goddess of beauty.
I was watching in amazement when the teacher called my name. I got up like a sleepwalker and headed to the blackboard. I could not speak. He said:
But where should I continue?! I was deeply engrossed in my dream. I did not know where Zymbylja had left the recitation. I turned my head to Ali and he pointed at me with his eyebrow. I understood immediately and started:
“I cried from my eyelids,
But I found the truth
My eyebrows have killed me,
The bow and not the arrow killed me”!
– “Do you see what a beautiful metaphor the poet uses”? – said the teacher and started the usual comment.
He continued to lecture with enthusiasm. I turned my head to Neri. Now we were facing each other. Their eyes met each other, but quickly separated. She lowered her head. I kept looking at him and thinking. Such an eyebrow must have been the girl who inspired the poet. This eyebrow killed me too. It seemed to me that it was God himself, who had sent him to our class. It was like an angel fell from heaven, especially for me!
– “What happened to you that you lost it like that”?! – asked Ali, when I sat down on the bench.
– “I do not know. I don’t even understand it myself. I have a cloud in my mind,” I told him honestly.
The teacher got up and started explaining the new lesson. We all kept quiet and listened. When the bell rang, everyone turned to Neri to congratulate him. I was glued to my bench. I couldn’t move. When I mentioned it, the class was empty. I went out into the yard. It was the big break. She was talking to Mynever. I approached and welcomed him. She thanked me. During the conversation I learned that he lived in an alley, near my house.
Her voice seemed to me to have a special timbre, similar to the notes of a pentagram. Let everything about her seem perfect to me, like an endless symphony.
– “Come and rent it”! – said Myneverja.
I was afraid of my stupidity, it caught her eye.
– “You go,” I said, “I want to meet Ali.”
They both went to a sugar seller who sold sweets, at the gate of the school. When the lesson was over, we headed home. My feet took me in her direction. He was together with Mynever and Zymbyle. On the main boulevard they separated and I was left alone with him.
– “I am also coming here to accompany you”, – I told him.
She blushed a little, but didn’t speak.
– “Don’t be afraid, – I continued – I want to become friends. In me you will find the best friend”.
Surprisingly, my mouth had come. Whistling all kinds of nonsense. She listened but rarely spoke. On the way I learned that he came from a southern town. Her father was appointed in Vlora. I don’t know, but because I felt very close to him.
From that day on, I began to feel restless. Something was bothering me. Something was bothering me. It was a feeling I had never experienced before. This feeling made me a different person. I wanted to be seen in everything. I wanted to stand out, to be a hero. I was learning more. When I got up on the board, I lectured like a whistle. I wanted to get someone’s attention. And this someone was Neri. A kind of ego began to arise within me. It was an ego, in the best sense of the word.
What was it?! Love?! I don’t know if a person can love at this age. I was only thirteen years old. I lived the age of feminism. An age full of beautiful dreams. At that time I was reading all kinds of books. I was more attracted to the love-themed ones. They weren’t for my age, but I, surprisingly, preferred them. Such were: “The Lady with the Camellias”, “The Cursed Daughter”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “The Bridge of Sighs”, “Tristan and Isolde”, “The Precipice of Love”, “The Count of Monte Cristo”, and others of this nature. Their heroes were quite young. Some even at my age. Wasn’t it their influence that gave me this feeling? I do not know…!
Every time I met Neri, I felt something that I hadn’t felt about the other girls in the class. With him, everything was different. When we met, words came out with difficulty. We didn’t know what to say to each other. We saw each other; we blushed, lowered our heads and passed in silence.
This situation continued for several months. Every time I would go to Ali’s house, my feet would lead me away from her house, although it was further away from there. Sometimes I saw him, in the square resting the stairs. He blushed and pretended he hadn’t noticed me. Other times, when we met face to face, we exchanged two words and parted before meeting. When I left, I felt like eating myself with my teeth, why I hadn’t kept it longer.
But there came a day when our mouths were completely cut off. We stopped talking to each other, as if we were busy. Yes, we were busy with love. We met, kept our heads down and avoided meeting. I didn’t say anything to my friends. I didn’t dare. It seemed to me that they would say to me:
– “How they looked at her. We have other more beautiful girls in the class”?!
In those moments I remembered a story of Saadi, according to which a son of the King was in love with a black woman. Everyone teased him about it, as he told them:
– “If you want to enjoy its beauty, then look at it through the window of my eyes.”
I looked at Neri through the window of my eyes and from there; she seemed the most beautiful of the class.
* * *
In the final exams of the school year, the education section sent my sister, Fatusha, to our school as its representative. She had become one of the best teachers in town. It didn’t feel good to me, because it seemed to me that my friends would tell me, that they would keep me in the dark, because of her. To prove otherwise, I prepared very well and came out with great results.
One afternoon I found the notebook at home, where my sister had written the exam grades. I was curious to know what Neri had received. I opened it, but saw that they were not marked with numbers, but with words, in the French language. I did not understand them, but judging with my mind, I came to the conclusion that; “deux” was two, “trois” three, “quatre” four and “cinq” five. Neri had two quadra…! I was overjoyed, but I kept it a secret. I didn’t want to reveal my sister’s secret.
The next year we continued the seventh grade. We were in algebra class with teacher Kofina. Neri was up on the board. I looked at him as if I was going to devour him with my eyes. For a moment our gazes met. She blushed and remained speechless. The teacher, trying the side of the right palm, on the left, called:
– “Girl, are you here”?
She blushed more and lost her temper. He, in an ironic tone, as was his custom, spoke to her:
– “What’s wrong my daughter, that you lost the bun like Xhaferi. Or did you do it like those three friends who went hunting? Well, while they were hunting, one of them put his head in a hole. There was a fox there and he snatched it. The friends approached and when they saw him without a head, they said to each other:
– “More, this guy had a head, didn’t he”?!
They thought and thought and, since they could not give an answer, they decided to go to his house and ask his wife…! She listened to them and after thinking carefully said:
– ‘To be honest, I don’t know, but this morning, he bought a hat’!
“Same to you my daughter, don’t lose your head”?!
The whole class laughed out loud. I laughed along with them. Aliqi, one of the cutest and funniest girls, who was sitting in front of me, turned and said to me laughing:
– “What about you Reshat, why are you laughing”?!
I immediately understood where he wanted to go…! I don’t know, but I also started to get confused, after learning that she had also understood my feeling, which I had not told anyone. Memorie.al
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