There was no plan, 2012

Audio installation, 7’ 28”

Voice: Uglješa Šajtinac

There was no plan. Not even the way things happened to us could be considered “expected”. Something like hunger and thirst. They were always there. Nothing followed us but the dust they we raised. There were two of us, somewhere there, the third one was waiting. Alone, as we thought.

In the valley, by the river, there was a huge ruin of an old building. Summer rain started to fall and then stopped, the walls shone metallic green. A gigantic shell, a turtle’s shell. It used to be a bureau once, not a “bureau” (*in Russian, zavod means factory) in the Soviet sense – assembly lines next to which there were workers in blue uniforms, but quiet, habitable intestines of a huge shelled animal where clerks in woolen suits once used to walk, slowly and significantly, like six-legged arthropods.

My friend knew where we could sneak in, right through the hole where there once must have been the head of the gigantic turtle. He called the third one. He was already inside. He knew the place well. We climbed up to the first floor and got lost. Run-down offices. A number of dirty, dusty rooms. Cobwebs in the corners. Once again the glow of sunlight at dusk appeared bathing their threads in colors. This is why maybe white is so perfect. The spiders might know that. I felt weary with the burden of years. I was seventeen and I was in for it. Every next step in that deserted shell seemed to bring me an inch closer to something superfluous. The fear of suffocation, left over from early childhood, now created an image of dying in the huge jaws that once closed would not let anyone else outside. Okay, we finally heard them.

The friend who was waiting for us stood before us, mumbling something to the girl who was sitting in a demolished orange chair like an armchair, and waving a big plastic beer bottle like a censer in front of her drooping nose. He noticed us and waved at us to come. Nobody had planned anything, except for him. His joyous expectation, the result of something we were about to find out, soon disappeared – he was asking us for help. The girl felt sick. We brought two more chairs and raised her feet so that she lay across them. He took off his jacket and put it, crumpled, under her head. She was sleeping.

I didn’t know him well, but he was already hugging me and offering me a drink. It was his sixteenth birthday. The girl lying across the chairs was his friend, who was a little bit older; she was drunk and also dosed with some tablets. But, “she should come around”, he said and unscrewed the cap off the bottle. We took long draughts in turns and burped. He brought two more chairs and offered us a seat. None of the chairs were the same. I moved away towards the window and sat on the board. He wanted to know “why I was staring”. I told him I was staring at the chairs. He didn’t know me.

We realized that we had met at the first stop on the way leading to the celebration of his birthday. Nobody cared whether this journey would be unforgettable or not, except the birthday boy. The girl’s spit was drooping from her mouth, somewhere half way to the floor it quietly separated from the remaining strings and fell on the dirty flooring. The two of them didn’t notice it. The birthday boy was getting into his friend’s face, grinning at him and hitting his shoulder with his fist encouraging him. “There’ll be more chicks, she told me she’d bring some of her friends, you’re coming with me”. My friend asked him about me and the girl. We’ll stay here. The two of them will get her friends; anyway, it was planned to bring more beer, he’s loaded with money. He probably was loaded with money although it didn’t look like that. When someone who doesn’t look like a person loaded with money says that he’s loaded with money, then you don’t doubt it. He looked at me and approached me. He slapped my face so that my ear started to ring. Had it lasted longer, I would have kicked him in the head. Then he told me to “keep an eye on her”. My friend said a few nice words about me, pulled him by the shirt and the guy moved away. He pointed to the half-open doors leading to the office next door. There was more alcohol there. “You won’t be bored”, said the birthday boy. They went away and then he turned around. He came back to the chair where the girl’s face was sleeping and not tenderly at all dug out the money from the pocket of the jacket crumpled under her head.

I was alone. I needed more beer. I found it in the office next door. There was a bottle of vodka too. The whole office was full of stacked furniture, desks and chairs. A deep sigh, somewhere behind my back. Not at all pleasant. I went back; noticed that the girl had turned around on the chairs. She was firmly asleep. Because of her smeared make-up it seemed that one of her eyes was still half-open and watching me. I took a draught of beer from the bottle. In the corner there were two closets standing next to each other. I tried to open them. I just dirtied my hand. Then I saw a white, round lamp. One of those used in toilets, with a thread. It was standing there, on top of the closet. The image of the birthday boy slapping my face reemerged. I didn’t know why but I thought it would be good to smash this glass ball into his face the next time he did so.

I was feeling the beer. It didn’t feel better. Time passed, it was becoming dark. The image of six-legged clerks crawling across the walls and ceilings returned to my imagination. Something evil, deadly. Blood runs faster then. I couldn’t sit still. I approached her. Her naked skin was showing from beneath her rolled down tracksuit. I wanted to feel her smell. Just damp, stale and stuffy air. I unbuttoned my pants and realized that my hands were dirty. I spilled some beer on my hand, washed it and wiped it with the lining of my jacket. I approached the girl and touched her skin. She turned around. I could now access what I was interested in. I pulled down the elastic band of her tracksuit and pushed my hand inside. My fingers were where I wanted them to be. I pulled them out and smelled them. I once again looked at her. She was sleeping as if nothing had happened. Let it remain like that. I could quickly do what I couldn’t avoid. When I was near the end, I turned around. I saw what I was looking for. The birthday boy’s jacket, now unfolded and creased, was partly lying on the floor. I kneeled and finished there what had to be finished.

Dressed and upright again, I was standing in the middle of the room. I had half of a huge beer bottle in my hand. I saw a faint smile on the girl’s face. I could feel that the ones that had left would soon be back here. They and some other, new people. I wished I had the strength to take her in my arms and carry her away with me. She could be with me, she could be my girl. I turned around and went away the same way we came here.

Down the street, I turned around once again and looked at the building. I swear it was like a huge shell of a gigantic reptile that had crawled out of it and gone somewhere far away.

Uglješa Šajtinac was born in 1971 in Banat, where he still lives. He writes plays, fiction, poetry, and screenplays.