From Shpendi Topallaj
Memorie.al/ During the long years that have passed since it was built, that simple house at the end of the boulevard of Durrës, right in front of the main door of the Port, has seen many strange stories. But the most interesting thing, I want to believe, was what happened inside its walls. An honorable family has lived here since the beginning, which had a son named Xhoxh Koçi. Many are those who have known that tall and handsome man, who often came out on the surrounding wall of the small courtyard, which was adjacent to the stone stairs that led to the second floor.
When Xhoxhi was young, he was very fond of fishing. At that time, both the sea and the market were full of fish, but the pleasure of these types was when they caught it themselves. They made three or four friends and at the appointed time, after taking some fishing rod, hooks, reeds and worms that he, who lived above on the hill, collected, they sat down on the sand of the shore and waited patiently. But one day, as if by chance, that boy from the hill did not bring worms, but a dynamite mold, a pilot fuse and a detonator capsule.
– You will open a job for us – Xhoxhi told him. – What are you talking about, man! This fills the whole neighborhood with fish in five minutes. Xhoxhi saw nothing and just as he lazily joined his friends. They left a little from the usual place, so that they wouldn’t be seen, and the one who brought the dynamite mold, who had done his military service and knew how to use it, after preparing it, lit the wick with a cigarette and threw it away in the sea. There was a great noise and several waves arose like concentric circles, which spread everywhere. It didn’t take long and when everything calmed down, the fish started to come to the surface with their white bellies up.
The boys jumped for joy, but also felt good when they noticed that no one had seen them. They began to fill the rafts quickly and take them ashore. They didn’t stay there long, and talking and laughing, with the rafters on their backs, they took the way back. However, they were happy prematurely, as someone had seen them and reported them to the Department of Internal Affairs.
Later that day, a policeman knocked on the door of Xhoji’s house, who was known as the most powerful of the neighborhood. He asked Dzhojji, who had just returned from distributing fish to the neighbors, and told him to come with him, because they had to clarify something in the office. The mother, who was cooking the bread for dinner, came out and asked the policeman why they were taking her son.
– He will be back soon – he answered and both of them headed for the Police Region. On the way, they almost didn’t talk at all, but Xhoji couldn’t think of anything: “Haven’t I talked to anyone about things that I shouldn’t?” They might have seen me when I met those two Polish sailors. But I didn’t say anything to them. I was not even asked about anything suspicious. They wanted to know where there was a brewery. Or will they give me some tasks of insurance. I need this too.
“When they arrived in the large and poorly lit corridor of the Region, the policeman, after presenting the guard officer, a lieutenant whose belt was hanging below his stomach, said to him: – This is that boy. Xhoxhi, on the spot, did not understand the meaning of these words, but when that fat officer ordered one of his subordinates, also with a red ribbon on his arm, to lead him into the dungeon, he realized that the job was not that simple. . He learned this better when he saw his fishing companions in that stinking, musty dungeon.
– I told you about that damn dynamite… Now, come on, bear with them. You know it’s illegal. We weren’t bad… – Don’t take it like that, man. – replied the friend. – What do they do to us? As if the fish of the sea ran out. They will scold us, and that’s it! And the boys really had this conviction, until they were brought to court. They took it lightly and as if with disdain. And the one who seemed not to want to know about all this was Xhoxhi.
He had been attending an English course for several months. There, someone had told him that in order to give the words of this language the right emphasis, he had to twist his mouth a little. And Xhoxhi, partly as a joke and partly as if to mock, took to answering the questions of the prosecutor and the judge with an English accent. They, as they listened to him like that with that mouth turned aside, and suspecting that he was mocking them, got angry and knowing that even from the biographical point of view, he had a flaw, without much delay they sentenced him to two years in prison.
Others, with good biographies, with conditioning, as they felt guilty and regretful. – Yes, this black spot – Xhoxhi said to himself. – Even for the fish that the neighborhood ate, I must be punished. Poison and bitterness became those of the family, when Xhoxhi was sent to serve his sentence in the artisan prison in Tirana. Of course, the boy was in pain, but also shame as shame. – Bo, bo, what did you find us – says the mother. – A boy like an azgan, will remain unmarried, who takes him, who has been in prisons. Or many, many times there will be some hallex woman… Xhoxhi, for his part, because he could not find any other reason, scolded himself: – Why did you need an English accent, you bastard!
Those who were called convicts for ordinary crimes served their sentences in this prison. Apart from work, often in the construction of buildings, there was neither torture nor ill-treatment. Then, Xhoxhi was sociable and had a good time here with his friends. But prison as prison. However, solitary confinement was locked in bars and guarded by armed guards there on the first floor of that prison. So he would be upset that he didn’t do it. And time did not move at all. One day he remembered that he had followed Morsi’s circle at the Pioneer House. In his room was a pipe that no one knew what it was for. This pipe went up to the second floor where the women prisoners were kept. They also served their sentence in that same building, but the men had never seen them.
Xhoxhi told his roommates that he was trying to hook up with someone to pass the time by knocking according to the rules of the morse alphabet. – Who knows, someone might understand – he said. And started from work. He would knock on that pipe and the knock would go up. After a while, to his surprise, someone was responding in kind.
Naturally, the first question: – Who are you?
And the answer came: – I am so-and-so, from the Toptani family.
Then the questions followed: – Where did you learn the Morse alphabet? – Why are you punished?
The answer: – When I was seven years old, I was a widow in the liaison circle, but in high school I was insulted as the daughter of a rich family, which they understood: enemies. I gave, I gave and I couldn’t stand it. I replied: – Run away, you filthy leper. It was you who cursed me. Damn sheep. And further: – I was wrong to say that, but I lost my reason. And those of the court gave me three years, half of the sentence, because of my age.
Even Xhoxhi, for his part, in continuation of these exchanges, clarified his fate, as was likely. This communication was repeated for days, weeks and months, until one day Xhoxhi, even though he had never seen this girl, felt that he was falling in love with her. He had in mind the fact that the woman who was punished kept her dignity, came from a prominent family and was cultured. And above all, honest in what he said. Therefore, always with that bride, he affirmed his love and proposed that she become his wife. She was almost mentally prepared for this. The heart tells him that he was dating a good man whose only fault was that he had caught some fish the wrong way and used an accent that the judges couldn’t stand. But above all, she knew now that he was punished more than he was, like her, a mark in his biography, that is, for that infamous class war. – I will discuss it with the family, when they come to the meeting – answered the girl.
And so, he did. When they heard it, they almost didn’t believe it? But then, thinking that now the daughter would find it more difficult to raise her family, they gave her consent, reasoning that the end would be near, in Durrës. Xhoxhi was happy when she told him that they also agree. That whole night he did not sleep because of the pleasure. He also told his roommates, although they had already understood something. They knew that he had once joked about that English accent, but he was honest and did not play with such things. When the time of Xhoji’s release approached, while the girl still had three months to complete it, he told her that the day she would come out, he would wait for her at the outer door of the prison. –
I don’t know how you imagine me, but to know me, you will see a tall boy. Xhoxhi himself, when he got out of prison and told them about his relationship with an unknown girl in prison, they laughed at first. Then seeing his determination and which family he came from, but also the ridiculous reason why he was punished, they congratulated Xhoxhi. And they were not wrong, just as Xhoxhi himself was not wrong, who spent a happy life with that girl. She was beautiful and above all very kind. When they came out of that door by the boulevard, where that policeman had once knocked, everyone admired them. Five children were born and raised, one better than the other. For his part, Xhoxhi never went out to hunt fish, but you always tell your friends that every bad thing has a good one./Memorie.al