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Imanol Azkue Ibarbia > Extracts

Narrative (short story and novel)

2005 Jon is going | Nabarra aldizkaria, 56. zk. (2005eko azaroa)

“You’re here, then!” thinks Jon, letting the bag fall to the ground beside the parapet. He hasn’t got anything breakable inside the bag, nothing to make a noise, nothing made of glass or metal: no bottles, no front-door keys…, no heavy anchor attaching him to his past.

Later on Jon bends down over the parapet, and resting his elbows on it, gazes at the blue and white sea where the horizon is the only limit, starting from the whiteness of the waves that are closer right out as far as the distant blue that forces him to screw up his eyes. He has difficulty looking into the distance having become accustomed to seeing things up close for so long. “You’re here!” he says again. He closes his eyes and breathes in, deeply. The sea water clings to him again too, in the bellows of his lungs it seems, and he remembers how the drips of the sea wind on the barbed wire on top of the walls used to form bubbles; white from being air until they turned to tears, like lost wool on the rusty iron.

At that time, when there was inside and outside, but especially inside, he not only noticed, he also imagined the sea outside: broad, big and without limits when he was inside prison that had nothing but bans and walls. A physical limit but also one imposed by time, because inside a minute was always sixty seconds, and days passed more slowly than one wished, one by one, and they dragged in the links of the chain of one’s conviction.

Below the parapet the beach spreads out before him. The sand is white and he remembers the picture in the refectory which he had looked at so often, and which he would now be able to draw in all its detail without making any big mistakes: in the light of the hot sun, the striped deckchair (blue and white) in the middle on the white sand under the sunshade; and, more than anything, all the folds of the green towel made to dance by the wind. How many times had he imagined himself in that picture! Yet right now there is nobody at all on this beach, because it’s winter and there’s a definite chill in the air.

When he came out half an hour before, the warder carefully and patiently gave him some instructions before the main gates of the prison with the confidence of having given the explanations many times: “If you go up the hill, keep going in the same direction and when you get to the main road you won’t have any trouble getting to the railway station.” Jon nodded and thanked him as well, but when he went out onto the road carrying his bag on his back he headed downhill, in the opposite direction, along the road lined with plane trees in search of the sea, particularly when he noticed the damp blueness far away.

He does not know how long he has been here, without moving, with his elbows resting on the parapet. He looks from left to right. There are people walking along the pavement, but lower down the beach could resemble a desert, were it not for the sea. He climbs over the concrete fence and jumps down onto the sand more easily and lightly than expected. He starts to run across the sand for dear life, as if someone were following hard on his heels, but he laughs, happily, and goes on until his lungs tell him that it is enough. Then, lying on the sand, he gazes up at the sky. He can see clouds moving, changeable white sheep, but here there is no barbed wire, nor any walls, either that fence in the sky. Every morning, inside, when he was in the prison yard, the plane bound for Brussels at 11.15 am would draw a white line on the sky’s blue blackboard; it would pass the western wall and cross the piece of sky corresponding to the yard and then, as he looked at the trail of smoke, he would work out which way the wind was blowing outside; the fact was, apart from the prisoners’ steps, nothing else moved in the yard, unless it was the wind and the desire for freedom in that grey, concrete desert. A desert, for certain, because by the time the ornamental trees, which should have been green, had been planted in the middle of the yard they were already yellow, even if they had been watered every day. In fact, in prison there is nobody or nothing that becomes established there or puts down roots, except the moss and forgetting.

Jon gets up, shakes the sand that has got stuck to his clothes and walks back to the spot where he left his bag.

Then, just as he is going to bend down and pick up his bag, he hears a tiny thin voice behind him still calling him, “Jon! Jon!” But he doesn’t turn round to look, because he knows very well there is no one there and that the sound of the word is only in his imagination. He has heard it constantly during these years and does not escape from it inside his head as he constantly remembers what happened. Having served his sentence, everything else is just the same as before.

He puts his bag on his back and heads for the big city railway station, this time as the warder had instructed him: through the streets, up the hill until he reaches the main road. But on his way he does not pass in front of the prison on purpose. He can see the walls far away and the watchtowers, familiar and loathed in equal measure. As he approaches the heart of the city, the movement and noise increase, especially of the people and cars, and the avenue opens up before him. He walks along the pavement, crosses hundreds of faces, but is happy when he realises that no one looks him in the eye. At the end of the day no one is stalking and keeping an eye on him, he is just one more.

Standing in the middle of the large station, he looks at the screen in front of him: there is a list of many large local and foreign cities and the times the trains are scheduled to leave. There are some unoccupied seats and he sits on one of them in front of the screen. He patiently reads the list of greenish names from top to bottom and from bottom upwards, too. Jon knows about his past very well, too well in fact, where he comes from and what he has left behind; the future, however, is totally unknown to him, but it is written in the changing names on the panel. From time to time the names flash, as if each flash is an invitation to start afresh.

Jon is going, but he doesn’t know where he’s heading.
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