Vrtlar i The Gardener

Gimnazijalci nastavljaju prevoditi hrvatske pisce. Kratku priču “Vrtlar” Sunčane Škrinjarić na engleski je preveo Bruno Mikolaj, učenik 3. d, pod mentorstvom svoga profesora Miodraga Maričića. Donosimo i hrvatski izvornik. Uživajte!

The Gardener

Eh – my old friend shouted, a colleague from my ex-grammar school. It’s a shame you couldn’t make it. It wasn’t a big funeral, but there was a surprising amount of flowers. He lived and died alone, and spent his days in that small, tatty house he most likely, somehow inherited. And he finished nothing, absolutely nothing, no higher education, after graduation he got lost, withdrew from the world and little was heard of him…

– He was an odd one – I replied indifferently. – He had no interest in anyone, so he didn’t even marry. His funeral would probably be attended by intrigued neighbours. That’s how it’s done in a block of flats. However, he lived in his little house like some slug. In fact, he did quite remind one of a slug. Rather slow, and somewhat distracted. Whenever you’d meet him, he’d just slip away like he’d done something wrong. And he looked to the side, never prolonged a conversation, never asked to go get coffee or drinks.

– Exactly! You’re right! – my colleague agreed readily, an admirer of funerals of strangers and, recently, an avid city graveyard visitor. – You know I’m trying to hold our class together now; at least the remains of it. With every passing day, our numbers decline. We age, get ill and die, so funeral confrontations are inevitable.

That was the blabbering of my dear friend, a scientist and narcissist of classy character and encyclopaedic knowledge with no less than two doctorates in humanities. He still did sports and until a few years back he could’ve also been seen near the pool of the most elite town hotel. He would arrive cloaked in the highest quality robe and sit in a comfortable linen chair. And he would open some intellectual yet well bound book about theatre or, at least, a recently printed monograph of a painter that the socially and materially respected audience admires.

In his younger days, my colleague played football, then tennis, then took up skiing. Luckily, he had cousins at the seaside, so he did lots of swimming, diving, and sometimes even rowing in the summer. He had maintained his figure and brisk walk. He made sure that at every event he could display his youthfulness. He spoke about the age of others and neglected his own.

He invited me to coffee, something that was not usual for him. Maybe I was decently dressed and had just come back from a hair appointment; in a way it fit his high-upbringing taste. He’d chosen seats near the coffee shop’s glass windows through which you could undisturbingly stare into the passing world outside. He constantly warned me about female passers-by. Though he’d always find faults with them. Usually they were too short or too fat and for some he claimed they had sunken behinds. His observations were by all means original, and they were renowned for their considerable amount of malice.

Young ladies think they will awake admiration and even love in older men, yet they are often wrong. To my surprise, those well-off elders perceive every, even the smallest imperfections on young girls. They’re even more persistent and demanding than their, according to them, long dismissed female peers. At the sight of some, in my opinion, gorgeous woman, my colleague would always have an opinion – Her nose is too big! Her teeth are too crooked! Actually, she is cross-legged, can’t you see? Of course she’s not blonde! You can see it from a mile away! – And he’d keep on going like this. He’d even find flaws to noted film stars: Sophia Loren’s mouth was too big, Marylin Monroe’s legs too thin, and also not a natural blonde. Ava Gardner lost herself to drinking and aged too quickly; and mentioning native actresses would simply make him wave his hand. He always made fun of his friends’ wives, yet he never showed his lawfully wedded. She obviously kept the hearth burning, was the kind not to be shown to the public. She was without a doubt in charge of their household. By his nervous glances at his watch, one could plainly suspect he had to be home by lunch. He must’ve cared deeply so he followed the rule without question. I could clearly picture his mousy and already crinkled wife sitting at a thoroughly laid out table, upon which a nourishing and homemade soup stands boiling from an old, porcelain soup bowl. In the face of these images, all other male needs, especially at an elderly age, are lost. It’s nice to sometimes show oneself attached to provocative babes, who’d attract views of accidental bystanders, but a ready meal with a main and side dishes and to top it off, a creative cake… Oh, how those old housewives have a way of pleasing spoiled gentlemen.

Seeing as how my respected colleague had, not purely by chance, walked off to a family lunch, I stayed at the bar and read the daily paper. Among the obituaries, tributes and other eulogies, I stumbled upon one about my late colleague, whose funeral was attended by my just to lunch departed colleague. – Nice! – I thought. That slug had someone after all! It turned out that the Final Tribute was issued by some Gardening Society totally unknown to me.

And I remembered our old encounter. I’d walked out of the city crowd and headed towards Medvednica’s slopes. Around that time, the area wasn’t still swarmed by lavish villas with ever changing landlords. I stopped at an old, white painted bungalow surrounded in green. Suddenly, my colleague, who’d disappeared after graduation, appeared in front of it. – What are you doing here? – I said, somewhat shocked. It was like some biblical moment, the birds were singing, a slight breeze in the air, and the tea rose shrubs giving off a curious scent. He opened the wooden garden door. – Come in! – he offered. He didn’t invite me to his house, only to his garden. I settled on a birch bench near a tree stump covered in moss. He’d gone in the house to get tea and cups. I looked around and enjoyed everything tremendously, a pampas grass bush was quivering in front of me. A carefully nurtured, bright blue hydrangea bush was shimmering. Small flowers I didn’t know the name of, shaped a colourful, verdant and ever moving rug. I’d remembered a story from One Thousand and One Nights. He appeared with the teapot, chivalrous and smiling as if he were Japanese. – So this is where you have hidden yourself – I said. – It’s beautiful here! Do you live all by yourself? – Certainly, if you mean people. No, I haven’t married. And I won’t. I tend my garden and it is enough. – Voltaire advised something similar – I noticed hastily, although this wasn’t as important for a gardener of his sort.

We slowly drank our eglantine tea. I casually watched the slow advance of a vineyard snail in a rhubarb leaf. My colleague grew all sorts of plants that were already slowly beginning to vacate city gardens.

I also have a vegetable garden – he unexpectedly proclaimed. Suddenly I held back not wanting him to think I plan to visit him often.

I got up. – The tea was excellent! Thank you! He silently walked me to the small wooden garden door where the usual and fake – Come again! – was left out.

And so I didn’t even attend his funeral.

Vrtlar

Eh – reče mi moj stari prijatelj, kolega još iz gimnazije. Šteta što nisi došla. Nije to bio veliki sprovod, ali začudo bilo je puno cvijeća. Živio je i umro sam, uvijek u onoj svojoj neuglednoj kućici koju je valjda nekako naslijedio. I ništa, baš ništa nije završio, nikakve daljnje škole, poslije se mature nekako izgubio, povukao se i malo se o njemu čulo…

– Bio je čudak – priklopih ja ravnodušno. – Nije se ni za koga baš zanimao, pa se nije ni oženio. Na sprovod bi mu valjda došli znatiželjni susjedi. Tako to biva kad se živi u većim zgradama. Ali on je živio u kućici kao puž. Pa, zaista, baš me je i podsjećao na puža. Tako polagan, pa nekako smeten. Kad ga sretneš, on se odmah izmakne kao da je nešto kriv. I gleda ustranu, nikad ne produžuje razgovor, i ne poziva na kavu ili piće.

– Tako je! Imaš pravo! – potvrdi spremno moj kolega, obožavatelj tuđih sprovoda i odnedavno redovit posjetitelj gradskoga groblja. – Ti znaš da sad pokušavam održati naš razred na okupu, barem onaj preostali dio. Svakim nas je danom sve manje. Starimo, bolujemo i umiremo, pa su susreti na pogrebima neizbježni.

Tako je torokao moj mili prijatelj, znanstvenik i sebeljubac, otmjena lika i enciklopedijskoga znanja, pa još i s dva doktorata iz humanističkih područja. Još se prije koju godinu bavio sportom, pa ga se moglo često vidjeti i uz bazen u najelitnijem gradskom hotelu. Dolazio bi omotan najkvalitetnijim ogrtačem za kupanje, sjedao bi u udoban platneni stolac. I rastvarao bi neku umnu ali i dobro ukoričenu knjigu o kazalištu ili barem tek nedavno izašlu monografiju slikara kojem se divi publika od društvenog i materijalnog ugleda.

U mlađim danima moj se kolega bavio nogometom, zatim tenisom, pa skijanjem. Srećom, imao je i neke rođake na moru pa je preko ljeta puno plivao, ronio, a pokatkad i veslao. Sačuvao je vitak stas i žustar hod. Bilo mu je stalo da svakom prigodom istakne svoju mladolikost. Govorio je o starosti drugih a svoju je zatomljivao.

Pozvao me na kavu, što i nije bio njegov običaj. Možda sam toga dana bila dostojno odjevena i isfrizirana, onako kako odgovara njegovu visokoodnjegovanom ukusu. Odabrao je mjesta uz kavansko staklo kroz koje se moglo nesmetano buljiti u prolateći svijet. Neprestano me upozoravao na mlade prolaznice. Doduše uvijek im je nalazio zamjerke. Uglavnom su bile preniske ili predebele, a za neke je govorio da imaju utonule stražnijice. Njegove su opservaciije bile svakako originalne, a odlikovale su se zamjetnom količinom zlobe.

Mlade djevojke misle da će u starih muškaraca probuditi udivljenje, pa i ljubav, a u tome se prečesto varaju. Na moje čuđenje ti dobro držeći starci zapažaju na mladim curama svaku, pa i najmanju nesavršenost. Čak su u tome neumoljivi i zahtjevniji od svojih već po njihovu odavno otpisanih vršnjakinja. Moj bi kolega na pojavu neke po mojem sudu očite ljepot

ice uvijek ponešto dometnuo – Nos joj je predug! Zubi su joj previše izbočeni! Zapravo ima ikserice, zar ne vidiš? Naravno da nije plavuša! Pa to se vidi na kilometar! – i sve bi tako nastavljao u tom stilu. I priznatim filmskim divama nalazio je mana: Sofija Loren imala je prevelika usta, Marylin Monroe pretanke noge, a usto, dakako, nije bila prava plavuša. Ava Gardner se propila i prerano ostarjela, a na spomen naših glumica samo bi odmahnuo rukom. O ženama svojih prijatelja govorio je gotovo uvijek posprdno, dok svoju zakonitu nikada nije pokazivao. Bila je očito čuvarica kućnog ognjišta, takva kakva se ne vodi u društvo. Jamačno je u kući ona vladala jer se po njegovu nervoznom pogledavanju na sat očito moglo naslutiti da mora točno stići na ručak. Svakako da mu je do toga bilo itekako stalo pa je to pravilo poštovao bez roptanja. Mogla sam dobro zamisliti njegovu mišju i već navoranu ženicu kako predsjeda pomno prostrtim stolom na kojem se u starinskom, porculanskom jušniku puši domaća krepka juha. Pred ovakvim izazovima padaju sve druge muške zahtjevnosti, posebno u starijim godinama. Lijepo se ponekad pokazivati u kavanama s izazovnim komadima koji bi privlačili poglede slučajnih namjernika, ali dobro zgotovljen ručak s glavnim jelom i dodacima, pa na kraju i maštovit kolač… Eh, kako te stare domećice imaju smisla za ugađanje razmaženoj gospodi.

Budući da se moj ugledni kolega, po svoj prilici, odšetao na obiteljski ručak, ostala sam u kavani čitajući dnevne novine. Među osmrtnicama, zahvalama i inim sjećanjima naišla sam na jedno što se odnosilo na pokojnog kolegu čiji je sprovod moj predašnji sugovornik pohodio. – Zgodno! – pomislih. Taj puž je ipak nekoga imao! Ispostavilo se da je Posljednji pozdrav uputilo neko meni sasvim nepoznato Vrtlarsko društvo.

I prisjetih se davna susreta. Išetala sam iz gradske vreve i uputila se prema obroncima Medvednice. U ono se vrijeme tamo još nisu namnožile raskošne vile uvijek novih gospodara. Zaustavila sam se kraj starinske, bijelo okrečene prizemnice utonule u zeleno. Odjednom se ispred nje pojavi moj kolega koji nam se svima nakon mature izgubio iz vida. – Otk

ud ti ovdje? – rekoh ponešto zatečeno. Bio je to neki biblijski trenutak, ptice su cvrkutale, vjetrić čarlijao, ruže čajnjače mirisale. On otvori drvena vrtna vratašca. – Uđi! – ponudi mi. Nije mi ponudio ulazak u kuću, nego tek ulaz u vrt. Smjestila sam se na brezovoj klupici uz panj obrastao mahovinom. On ode u kućicu po čaj i šalice. Ogledavala sam se naokolo i uživala, busen pampas trave titrao mi je pred očima. Pomno njegovan sjao je grm modrogaličastih hortenzija. Sitno cvijeće kojem nisam znala imena činilo

je šaren, bujan i stalno pokretan sag. Sjetila sam se priče iz Tisuću i jedne noći. On se pojavio s čajnikom udvoran i nasmiješen poput Japanca. – Tu si se ti zavukao – rekoh. – Pa tu je prekrasno! Živiš li sam? – Dakako, ako misliš na ljude. Ne, nisam se oženio. Ni neću. Bavim se vrtom i to mi je dovoljno. – Tako je nešto savjetovao i Voltaire – primijetih brzopleto. Iako to za ovakva vrtlara nije bilo važno.

Ispijali smo polako šipkov čaj. Uzgred sam promatrala lagano napredovanje vinogradskog puža u listu rabarbare. Moj je kolega uzgajao stare sorte koje su se već pomalo gubile iz gradskih vrtova.

Imam i povrtnjak – objavi on iznenada. Odjednom sam se ja povukla, nisam željela da pomisli kako ga namjeravam posjećivati.

Podigoh se. – Čaj je bio izvrstan! Hvala! On me šutke isprati do vrtnih drvenih vratašca i ne izreče ono uobičajeno, lažno ljubazno – Dođi opet!

I tako nisam došla ni na sprovod.

Sunčana Škrinjarić

 

FOTO: Katarina Horvat, prof.