Jurga Tumasonytė is a prose author and interviewer whose numerous talks with artists working across a variety of fields have been published in Lithuanian periodicals. Tumasonytė was born in Kaunas in 1988. In 2011, she graduated from Vilnius University with a Bachelor’s degree in philology, and in 2015 – from Vytautas Magnus University with a Master’s degree in philology, having completed a literary studies program. For her debut short prose book Dirbtinė muselė (“Little Artificial Fly,” 2011), which demonstrates an original, ironic perspective on reality and is characterized by an engaging writing style, the author received the Kazimieras Barėnas Literary Award. Tumasonytė participated in poetry slam tournaments during 2010–2013; her writings are included in a set of texts by slam authors known as Slemas Lietuvoje! (“Slam in Lithuania!,” 2012). A fiction piece by Tumasonytė also appeared in Troleibuso istorijos (“Trolleybus Stories”), a 2015 selection of short stories written by Lithuanian authors. Jurga Tumasonytė used to work in eureka!, a small bookstore, and in 2018 the author published a book titled Knygyno istorijos (“Bookstore Stories”), which is made up of odd conversations she has had with the bookstore visitors. Jurga Tumasonytė published Undinės (“Mermaids”), her second collection of short stories, in 2019. The author also has published a novel titled Remontas (“Repair”, 2020) and a short story collection Naujagimiai (The “Newborn”, 2023).
She has received the Jurga Ivanauskaitė and Antanas Vaičiulaitis prizes, while her book Undinės was shortlisted among the Top 12 Most Creative Books of the Year and included in the Book of the Year list.

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reflections on belonging

a palmers chronicle right bw

Graphic Novels

Monika Plentauskaitė, Night Shift, 2017. From the MO Museum collection.



Selected from the short stories collection ‘Mermaids’

Music in their Eyes                            

It's windy this morning; the trees growing along the shore let loose their leaves, sending them to the centre of the lake. This lake is deep, and full of hungry leeches. Its shores are silty. The area is enclosed by a high electric fence, with cameras everywhere. The white-hulled expedition yacht rocks on the water; on board, four scientists are waiting for the coffee to boil. It's early morning, and the fog is starting to lift. On the deck the blond one with the snub nose breathes in the damp air deeply and gazes around: soon the shore will no longer be in view, and it will look as though they're in the middle of someone's dream. The man darts into the cabin again. We can only guess how they will behave in the fog. This is why the scientists all have hearing protectors slung around their necks, ready to use them immediately if there is even the slightest sign of danger. The camera they've lowered down to the bottom of the lake shows a static image: the first one is asleep, her tail tucked into the soft bed of the lake. The second is stretched out on her stomach, embracing a piece of wooden debris. It's not clear where the others are or what they are doing. The camera only found those two.

The fenced-off lake has been declared a dangerous place. No one lives near it, except a woman and her husband. Their little crooked homestead is about a kilometre away, located beside a large, dense forest, where the man and woman sometimes pick berries. They told the television station that arrived last week that they avoided the mermaids and didn't see any reason to go near them.

The public learned about their existence in these waters not long ago; so far it's been suggested that the mermaids have lived here for at least fifteen years. ‘She's up!’ shouts the blond one, sniffling his nose. The scientists are glued to the rectangular screen. The button on the boiling kettle clicks off. The second mermaid, the one that was sleeping hugging the piece of wood, is now walking along it on her hands, with her head down. Maybe this is how she stretches her taut muscles, or maybe she is practising a morning ritual as yet unknown to the scientists. Her silver tail resembles a flag; now and then she shakes her strong tail fin. Suddenly, the mermaid raises her head, turns to the right, and looks straight into the lens of the camera. The scientists stare at her eyes, round as tennis balls, with black dots in the centre. The mermaid doesn't blink, and looks comically surprised. Her nose is small and narrow; unnaturally small ones like this were popular in the 1980s. Her blue lips are slightly parted. There is something horrifying about this combination of features, not inspiring trust. She looks at the camera for just a second, then lowers herself from the piece of wood and swims off in a northerly direction. The scientists turn the apparatus to follow her.

There is an island on the northern side of the lake that is ten metres wide at most, green with grass, and with rushes growing along its shores. Islands like this are often teeming with grass snakes, which are hunted by water birds. The fog is everywhere, and this makes it impossible to see the mermaid out in the wild with the naked eye and not with binoculars. The second one, which the camera is following, has left the water and is now probably sitting on the shore. The first one is still sleeping, with her tail buried in the silt. The scientists again press the button to boil the water. ‘It's going to be a long day,’ groans the blond one, returning to the screen. Decaying leaves float on the surface of the water, and about thirty metres down, the first one also wakes; only she doesn't look at the camera and doesn't walk on her hands, but simply pulls her silt-covered tail from the lake bed, and sets off in a northerly direction, just like the other. The mermaids clearly understand that the people in the yacht can't see them in the fog, and that they can freely stay on the island. The two cameras belonging to the scientists plunge into the depths, looking for others. The blond one pulls a pen and a thick notebook out of his bag, and begins to write something. He likes his writing, twisting so elegantly across the dry paper, although he is making more work for himself: he will have to type everything up later.

It is already six-thirty, but the fog is not lifting. It's now so thick it resembles layered clouds. It feels like being inside the clouds, and the moving water is like waves of air. The cameras are still moving through the lake, not finding anything. The scientists take a vote: two say that they should sail towards the island where the mermaids are hiding; the others suggest waiting until it clears, and only then exploring that little patch of ground. Let them feel like mistresses of their domain for now. They decide to sail. One of them fills the kettle with water, and makes another pot of coffee. Their task is clear: they have to mark the mermaids, and take samples for further study. According to their instruments, which have recorded objects over a metre and a half long, there are fourteen in this lake.

The blond one's phone rings. He swipes his finger across the screen, and retreats to the other side of the yacht. His wife is calling, although he told her not to bother him because he'll be busy. ‘Don't catch a cold,’ says the voice on the phone. ‘I hope you have a weapon with you?’ The blond one fills his lungs with fresh air, and then barks angrily that he loves her and will be careful. ‘I worry about you. It's not difficult to write me a message to say that everything is okay.’ ‘Hey, come over here! We’ve found the third!’ they shout to him.

The third mermaid, or more correctly her back, is on the screen. She swims in the water with her arms outstretched, barely moving her tail. She is about four metres from the yacht. The second camera also finds a mermaid, rising to the surface not far from the first. The scientists do as they planned: they put on the hearing protection that is hanging round their necks. From this point on, they will communicate only with signs. The blond one checks his phone, and then shoves it in his trouser pocket. If a mermaid lies on her back there is no doubt that she will begin what they call ‘the siren's song’. You can buy recordings on the black market, and so far the authorities have been powerless to stop the sale of these sound recordings, which can make irreversible changes to people's minds, sometimes causing sudden death. It's said that it feels just like falling in love. Others describe the feeling as a slow orgasm. People with cardiovascular diseases or weak nervous systems die from it, paralysed by the long, drawn-out pleasure. Others behave unpredictably. For example, they bang their foreheads on a wall, overcome by euphoria, break the glass with their fists and jump out of windows, eat their own tongues, pull out their hair, tear their hands to shreds. Once these effects have worn off, they sometimes never fully recover their senses.

On the yacht, the scientists move in deafening silence. The cameras hone in on four more mermaids swimming in the water. It's understood that they too are making those noises. There are four tranquiliser darts in a small case. The blond man takes one out and fixes it in the gun. Then he takes aim at the closest body captured on camera. The stock of the gun is wedged in his stomach. The dart hits its mark, because the mermaid quickly flips over on to her stomach and sinks to the bottom. You can on the screen see how, not soon afterwards, she stretches out full length and slowly begins to rise to the surface. They get the net ready.

Now the two-metre-long mermaid is lying on the deck, a sharp smell of seaweed mixed with carrion wafting from her. The four scientists work in complete silence: one of them takes blood from the mermaid's neck, another takes some skin and scale samples, and another looks after the cameras, which the other mermaids in the lake are beginning to hit with their tails. Then he temporarily removes the cameras. The yacht begins to rock gently. Even though it's quite heavy, there's no doubt they could flip it over. Only the blond one is observing the situation from outside, pretending to write important details in his notebook. He has already photographed the captive from all imaginable angles. The mermaids continue to rage: you can feel them beating on the side of the boat with their tails. The fog continues to linger around them. The captive sleeps, and judging from her size, she is older than the ones they saw this morning. Her bald head, with its strong cheekbones, droops over her shoulders. Her eyes are open globes coated in a clear membrane. Her flat breasts droop towards her armpits, ending in blueish, weather-beaten nipples. A variety of parasites propagate deep in her belly button. The scientist has already taken a sample, and perhaps he'll even be lucky and find some undiscovered species. Under her belly button is her scaled part, and towards the middle of her tail hangs her seed purse, meaning male. When the investigations are finally over, they prepare to release the mermaid back into the water. One of the scientists makes a sign to the others: it's not breathing. The blond one rushes to the captive's neck, searching for a pulse. 

The mermaids are hammering the yacht with their tails, and it veers from side to side, as though rocking on the waves. The mermaids show no fear of the dissipating fog. They keep rising out of the water, almost to their middles, looking aggressive, like disturbed grass snakes trying to strike their attackers. They have to give up the operation: the scientists can no longer continue their expedition, and have to sail for the shore. They wrap the dead being in a polythene bag. The blond one's hearing protection begins to press into his ear cartilage. The mermaids follow the yacht right up to the harbour, and then, as if they'd all agreed beforehand, they disappear into the depths and don't come back.

The distant moaning of the mermaids is heard by the residents of the farmstead, the man and the woman. The man was scratching the woman's back: the two of them lay sprawled out on the grass near their house, he stroking her skin with his hard nails, leaving pink stripes. She does nothing, but lies with her cheek against the ground. Only when she hears the sirens does she raise her head, her cheek imprinted with grass stalks. They have to get up, and go and see. She buttons up her husband's shirt, so that his chest hairs don't show. Her own head gets stuck when putting on her dress, because she's too lazy to undo the zip. He doesn't laugh at her. ‘Let's go.’ They grasp each other’s hands, and hurry towards the lake.

When the yacht reaches the shore, a journalist is already waiting for them, accompanied by security guards. The journalist is wearing hearing protection, and waves foolishly at seeing the blond man's gloomy face. There is a live feed: nearly twenty thousand viewers watch the men climb out of the boat. The journalist received a license to bring a camera only after signing a contract agreeing that they would film without sound. ‘Where are the mermaids?’ viewers write in their comments.

The man and the woman wait by the fence. The first to leave the area is the unhappy journalist, whose live feed ended when the scientists explained that the operation was over. The journalist takes out a cigarette and lights it. The couple stand nearby. They are all silent, until the man smiles toothlessly and asks: ‘May I?’ The journalist reluctantly takes two cigarettes out of the pack. The man yawns and asks for a light. ‘Did they catch a mermaid?’ asks the woman. The journalist shrugs his shoulders. He isn't in the mood to associate with curious onlookers. He doesn't recognise them as the people who live near the lake.

It's evening. There are empty glasses and bottles of mineral water scattered across the table, but no one dares to open a bottle. They are listening to criticism. To kill a delicate animal is simple: you only need to give it too big a dose of tranquiliser. Who could have known that the opiates would work like that on the mermaid: the dosage they used didn't kill other two-metre-long animals. They will examine the body in the laboratory. All right? The body will be examined by other scientists. The team will be removed from its duties. After such a disgrace, the mermaid project will no doubt be given to a rival enterprise. They had trusted them! The scientists leave the office without opening the mineral water. The blond one's throat is dry. In the corridor, they don't speak.

The taxi is already waiting. ‘What did you say the address was?’ the driver asks him. When the throat is dry, some sounds disappear. The area’s name starts not with a ‘p’ but with a ‘k’ sound. It's already completely dark: it had not been the easiest day. The taxi rushes between high-rise glass buildings. All around is a multitude of red and yellow lights, pricking at his vision like an eternally decorated Christmas tree. The blond one doesn't like glass, especially this glass, which is fixed to the walls of the lift. He will have to look at himself, tired and worn out, for all the storeys he has to pass as he rises to his room. His mobile rings: it's his wife. The melody reminds him that there is a secret recording of today's siren song on his phone. Not one, but three siren songs. He will download the recording on to his computer, turn on the speakers, put his worn-out fifty-year-old bones down on the grey silk sheets. And maybe he will have the courage to turn on the song. Or maybe he will only imagine the courage. ‘I don't know if I'll make it tomorrow. I'm tired. I'll call you another time,’ he says, looking at himself in the mirror.

The woman puts her elbows on the table. The man is cooking nettle soup with pepper for them both, although she doesn’t like spicy food. Beer isn’t spicy. It slips down her throat, as if down a wide artery, straight into her stomach, and then into her heart. ‘When I drink, I become nicer,’ the woman jokes. ‘You always say that,’ answers the man, banging the handle of the nettle-covered ladle against the edge of the pot. ‘It’s already dark, and we haven’t gone down to the lake yet,’ she says after a short silence. ‘Uh-huh, but I’m making soup. You need to eat.’ The woman bends down under the table and pulls out a paraffin lamp. She stands it on the window sill, and, striking a match, lights the wick. There is a comforting smell of sulphur. ‘They will be very sad if we don’t come. I think something bad happened there today,’ she says. The lamp is the only source of light in the little house when it is dark. Men and women look more beautiful in that kind of light. ‘You’ll never tame them, you know. It’s not like a dog or a cat.’ He tastes the soup. The woman is naive if she imagines she can tame something through an electric fence, and with all those cameras. ‘Their songs don’t work on us. That’s a sign that we are on another level.’ She hugs her man from behind. He continues to stir the soup. The boiled nettles in the pot look very like seaweed. ‘I love you,’ he says gently. They sit down to eat. They rarely do this. Food is an illusion, like air. Sometimes it seems to the woman that the two of them could survive under water. ‘Do you hear that? I think it’s started already.’ She listens attentively, after swallowing a spoonful of soup. Grit gets between her teeth. The man has finished his bowl. He drinks straight from the bottle until the plastic sides cave in. ‘Don’t drink it all, leave some for tomorrow.’ It's the woman’s voice again.

On the island, on a small patch of land overgrown at the edges with rushes, there is no one. On rare occasions, when no people can be seen, the undies climb out on to the ground and play with an old shoe, which the capturer-scientists found at one point on the lake bed. You can do all sorts of things with that shoe: you can put snail shells and interesting stones in it; you can stick your hand inside it; you can throw it to another mermaid; or you can just gaze at it for a long time. It is brown, but that doesn’t mean anything to the mermaids.

They don't play tonight. Those who fought have bloodied tails, their injuries now covered in a layer of algae. All of them have dived down to the bottom of the lake, keeping close to each other, tense and glum. The mermaid who likes to walk on her hands is nowhere to be seen. Then her face and half her body emerge out of the dark water, and she lies there with outstretched arms and makes that sound. It reaches the man and the woman, who listen to her, blissfully embracing, not even getting up from the table. On the empty lake, the floating mermaid’s song resounds like an invitation to screw the round and ripe planet, and then swallow it whole while it's still nice and warm. Saliva streams from the mouth while listening to her, dampening the silk sheets the blond one is lying on.

The lake is the eyeball, and the floating mermaid is a black dot. When she is worried, the blond man's wife cooks. Now she is cooking fish rubbed with garlic. In half an hour it will be ready. The cooked fish’s eyes will become two white balls, looking indifferently into a face longing for love.


The Last Day of my Life


Eventually I decide there is no point in lying down any more if I'm not going to fall asleep, or at the very least keep calm in the warm bed. I get up, turn on the light in the bedroom, then in the hallway and the living room: everything is invariably the same, as though frozen in ice. Those same shelves and walls, the same desk, the same rugs saturated with my footsteps. Not finding any space in the rooms, I go out on to the balcony, sit down on the bench, and keep looking at the cigarette ends r. has left behind, crushed into a yellow plate from my luncheon service. I purposely don't throw them away, treating them as though they are live extensions of him. In a little while, it begins to brighten outside; the dark sky clears, and the sun rises from behind the shopping centre. I return to the bedroom: the cat is sleeping peacefully on the edge of the bed; she meows irritably when I pick up her soft body. I kiss the cat behind the ear, and cuddle her as if she's some kind of baby, until she bites my hand with her teeth and slips out of my arms and on to the floor

I return to the living room: I should turn off the light, but instead I approach the white shelf where I keep some framed photographs. These photographs are so boring that I've long stopped taking any notice of them, they only occupy my attention when a journalist asks me to talk about them: who's in this shot, who's in that one? I use my finger to wipe away some dust that has gathered on a silver frame, and in the process I knock another one with my elbow. I pick up the fallen photograph, where my daughter stands by the sea in only her knickers and a white hat, holding a little bucket in her hand. The photograph is in black and white, but I recall that the bucket was red. I remember how we baked little sand rolls together, and how each batch was washed away by a wave rolling in from the distant horizon. My daughter was afraid of the waves, because we scared her by telling her that sharks lived deep in the sea, and if she went into the water they would swim up and grab her by the legs.

We rarely communicate now: we are separated by nearly five-hundred kilometres. She called me yesterday for the first time in a while. I could sense from her voice that something was wrong. She said that a child had cracked his skull at school, had been taken to hospital, and was put on a drip. I had just read r.'s letter, and at the time it was difficult for me to switch to another topic. That's why I reacted so absurdly. I managed to say something like: ‘Hmmmn, that’s how it is.’ Then she explained what had happened. He had hurt himself in the cloakroom where he was tussling with some other boys, to see who would turn out the light: ‘It seems they played like that quite often …’ And then me again: ‘Hmmmn, that’s how it is.’ She mentioned that the child was much better now, that he was talking with the other patients, and wasn't vomiting any more. ‘I'm glad to hear that,’ I uttered some kind of nonsense again. Then a gap came between Ida and me, like a bubble of air from an immense fish. We both became silent, and my eyes darted around the room, searching for something to grab hold of to pull myself together. She spoke first, to say goodbye. I imagined that when our conversation ended, she turned to her husband, and told him that it was pointless calling Mama, and then added something else. But I really felt for the child. I pitied his little round head. But had I said something nice, I would only have messed things up even more. At least I didn't pretend.

I go out of the living room. The clock begins to strike the hour: dong, dong, dong. It is seven o'clock, time to take off my dressing gown and do my morning exercises in my nightie. I need to do them, otherwise I feel guilty. First, I raise my hands and breathe in deeply. Then I lie on the ground and arch my back. Today my joints crack louder than usual. It seems as if the sound is echoing through the whole house and waking the neighbours’ dogs. I hear them start barking several walls away from me. People are also waking up. They roll out of bed, flush their toilets, turn over their car engines. The day dawns, meaning that evening is already not far away. I put out some dry food for the cat, brew myself some strong green tea, and walk through the rooms of my house again, holding the hot cup and burning my hands. How do I survive and not disappear without a trace before evening?

Everything started with my celebration of thirty years as an artist. It was drawing near, and I wasn't looking forward to the anniversary, mostly because I didn't have any new ideas, and I was rather worried that I'd probably already made everything that I was born to make, and nothing depended on me any more. The objects I'd made existed fine on their own. What was there to celebrate? The unwelcome anniversary had not yet arrived when I received a phone call. That was when I first heard his voice. The caller was an art historian, who wanted to write a book about me. He would ask questions, I would answer. At his suggestion, we met to discuss the details of the project further. We met in a cafe with glass walls. The glass meant that passers-by in the street could not see us, but we could see everything through the windows from where we sat, as if we were some sort of deviants peeping through a keyhole. ‘But you're also often behind the camera lens,’ he said, when I blurted out something about the fetish of watching other people. In the street, a person dressed in a plush coffee cup costume handed out flyers to people walking past, probably inviting them to visit the very coffee shop we were sitting in. It was a sunny spring day, almost summer. The trees sprinkled their blossom on the cobbles, which stuck to people's shoes.

It wasn't as bad as I'd expected. I thought he would be affected, would ask complicated questions, and try to assert his authority on the subject (he was still young and unknown). But he didn't speak much. It even seemed that he was a bit shy. Sometimes I had to ask the questions myself in order to keep the conversation going. Out of politeness, I asked him about himself: he had taken his MA a few years before, and he wrote articles for newspapers and magazines. In other words, he was an ambitious boy, who had come to the town from the provinces, with a complexion that was too dark for today, and large glasses that did not suit him. We agreed to continue our conversation in the autumn, when it would be clear if the book was going to receive funding.

The summer passed quickly, just like other seasons, with a few memorable episodes, a caravan of similar calm days, then a few more important episodes, and then the days filling up again with the glaze of daily routine.

In June, I listened to my students defend their degree works. I think they were afraid of me. In truth, I was afraid of them too, in particular the mediocre ones: I protected myself from them, and poked at their weaker spots. I think I would be afraid of genius, but I never met a single genius throughout all my teaching career. I'm not a good teacher. Who would have thought that I would ever teach anything? But it seems that is what remains for me to do: to work with children, who expect something from me, when I don't expect anything from them at all.

In July, they showed a retrospective of my films on national television. I'd be lying if I said I didn't notice it. Of course, I can't look at those works impartially, because in each one I see the individual history of its creation. I remember the events of those days, and my own self. And I fear that I will never make anything better. Happily, I can live by not creating. More to the point: I already do.

In August, I went to visit a friend on a Greek island. I stayed for several weeks in her little house with chalk-white walls. We walked to the sea every day. We'd find an out-of-the-way spot and put up our umbrella. After the heat of the day had passed, we idled on the narrow streets. My skin peeled from the sun, and at night I suffered from heartburn because I always ate too much.

On the last day of my visit, my friend admitted that she had thought I was still mourning the death of my husband, and that she had been ready to listen to me, having stocked up on tissues. But I never mentioned him. ‘But you didn't know him,’ I protested. She had met my husband only once, fifteen years ago. At that time, he'd already started to go bald.

We lived together for thirty years, though when we met I was sure we wouldn't last even one. I got used to my husband, and he got used to me. Our relationship became as natural as having ten fingers. I don't know if we could call it a happy union. I had a lot of creative ambitions, and I wasn't at home much. He was the opposite: when he got home from work, he would spend almost all his free time happily among his books. He could sit for hours on end listening to concert recordings and wouldn't get bored. I think he knew about my infidelities, because each time one of my flings ended, I felt guilty and became more attentive and compliant with him. Why he never challenged me or made a fuss, I don’t know. After he died in his sleep, for several months afterwards, I felt an emptiness. I'd hear the thud of his slippers in the rooms, and when I lay down in bed it seemed to me that he was stretched out beside me, almost within my reach. Then I sold our flat and moved to another one. A new period started, the second part of my life.

I received a call from the art historian in the middle of September: the book would receive funding. We agreed that we should meet in October. When he came to visit me for the first time, he dashed out on to the balcony every ten minutes for a smoke, and over the entire time he managed to ask me only two questions, the first being ‘Why do you create?’ and the second, even more absurd, ‘When did you understand that you were going to create?’ When we met a week later, he asked me if I was afraid of death. ‘Why don’t you ask me about my childhood, about how I grew up, about my parents?’ I couldn’t keep it in any longer. Then r. began to tell me about his belief that a person's family circumstances are not very important, that all people grow up differently, regardless of their parents, sisters or brothers. The surroundings help to make people equal, to remove their idiosyncrasies.

At our third meeting, the conversation turned to my work ethos, to my differences with actors and camera operators. I don't know why I told him this. All the time I was with r. I felt responsible for saving the conversation. ‘What do you think your public image is? And how do you imagine it will be reflected in this publication?’ he asked. I replied that everyone would probably think I had aged. Then he, who was twenty-eight years younger than me, said that I was not as old as I imagined I was.

During these conversations, I learned a little about him too: he lived alone, rented a small room in a fashionable district, translated a little, and had never been married. His dark complexion came from his mother, who was from Romania, it seems. When the interview ended, we would call each other. He sent me the edited parts, I would cross things out and write a million comments. It seemed as though I did nothing else, I just corrected the story of myself that I myself had told, adding bits in places, removing bits in others. The text was finally finished, and negotiations with the publishers began. I would meet him quite often at my home, and we’d have coffee.

After finishing my tea, I go to the market. ‘Yes, those two pieces,’ I say to the seller, and he wraps up the red lamb in greaseproof paper. ‘And what if …?’ I pick up an avocado, and then another, checking to see if they are ripe. ‘What kind of relationship could you have? You’re even afraid to undress in front of him.’ After I choose the vegetables, the basket of goods weighs heavily on my shoulder, so I return home a little lopsided. I pour some grape vinegar marinade on to the meat, pile the vegetables into the refrigerator, and feed the cat again. I sleep for an hour, listening to meditational music, and wake to my pounding heart. Then, like a hundred-year-old lady, I totter to the kitchen and drink thirty drops of hawthorn tincture. I stand for a long time under the shower, washing my aged body in the water, as if the process could restore the smoothness of my skin and take ten kilograms off my weight. I waste an hour choosing the most appropriate clothes.

I go to the university by bus. My students are waiting by the door to the auditorium, and, like a school of fed fish, they all move towards the door when the key is turned. I switch on the computer. There are four hours left.

‘This film is based on a novel by Marguerite Duras, but you will discuss it during the analysis of the screening. Why is this film important? The director shows something that had not been shown until this point: ideas, the flow of memories. He is the originator of the cinema of inner monologue.’ The auditorium is full of young people. Maybe some of them are as old as r. They patiently take notes on what I’m saying. Only one or two watch and wait for me to say something that is interesting and not factual. And I don’t. Today I don’t have any desire to impress them. 

When the lecture is finished, several students approach me and ask me obvious questions, things that you can look up on the internet. ‘Learn how to search, colleague,’ I smile and close my briefcase.

My legs give way thinking that there are only two hours left until my meeting with r. Again, I don’t know what I’m going to say to him. Outside, the dusk lingers, and fortunately the bus is on time. I sit at the front, and r. calls to make sure our plans have not changed. They have not. When we are close to my stop, I go to the door. Two tall men in dark jackets stand behind me. The three of us disembark. After walking several metres, I turn round, and I can see that they are standing and looking at me. The bus drives off. It's empty around us, only yellow lights shining in the windows of houses. The heavy, ever-quickening sound of our footsteps echoes in the street.



Translated by Medeinė Tribinevičius
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