Odgođena smrt Katarine Bui

                                       Posvećeno Sommersetu Maughamu i čitačima novina

Oko podne dostavni se brod napokon pojavio na horizontu. Isprva se vidio samo kao točkica u neizmjernom plavilu. Točkica je malo pomalo rasla i poprimala obrise, sve dok odavde, s visine klisure, nismo mogli vidjeti konture prove, jarbolet i vertikalu dimnjaka. Točka je postupno, ali sigurno postajala brod.

Bila je sredina ljeta. Danima nije bilo daška vjetra, pa je nad Jadran nalegla vruća, teška omara. Prema istoku su iz vrele izmaglice, jedva vidljivi, virili najbliži hrvatski otoci- Lastovo i Vis. Nazirali su se u plavoj omari kao dvije tamne sjene bez rubova. S druge strane, na zapadu, vidik je bio bistriji, a talijanska obala bliža. Monte Gargano počivao je u modrini kao krepani kit, a apeninska se obala pružala nad morem kao tamna, tanka opna.

Arheolog Baut i ja stajali smo na vrhu Palagruže. Stajali smo na vrhu hridi sa svjetionikom nasred jadranskog mora, dvadeset i dvije milje od apulijskog Monte Gargana i tridesetak južno od vanjskih hrvatskih otoka. Razodjeveni do pasa, znojni i prljavi od crvene zemlje, Baut i ja četiri smo mjeseca noktima raskapali grčki hram boga Diomeda. Hram se nalazio na jedinoj, nevelikoj zaravni, na samom tjemenu otoka, dvjesto metara iznad mora prema kojem se obrušavao prijeteći ambis. Ustajali smo svaki dan u zoru prije vrućina, čeprkali po dolomitnoj zemlji do podne, a kad bi upela vrućina, sjeli bi u malo škrtog hlada i objedovali sir, biškotin i smokve. Tako je bilo svaki dan, pa i danas. Samo što smo danas – taman u uru objeda  -ugledali redovni, svakomjesečni, a opet grozničavo čekani prizor. Bio je to prizor dostavnog broda direkcije svjetionika, broda koji bi prvog u mjesecu, polovicom dana, prestao biti točkica na obzoru i – sada jasno vidljiv – ušao u vode palagruškog arhipelaga.

Ono što je slijedilo potom, bio je redovni svakomjesečni ritual. Brod bi obišao sjevernu puntu. Uplovio bi u zavjetrinu veloga žala s talijanske strane, jedinog dijela otoka gdje je obala bila pristupačna, a sidrenje moguće. Šijao bi provom i vezao se za anel bove osigurane korpomortom. Svjetioničari i posada broda upalili bi motor s koloturnikom koji bi zabrujao, i pokrenuli žičaru. Košaru po košaru, stara bi žičana skalamerija dizala u vis opskrbu: brikove mlijeka, šećer, kavu, brašno, rižu. A onda su se uz koloturnik, sa zadnjom turom, na koncu uspele i novine. Stigle su, uredno zapakirane kao uvijek, tek neznatno namočene u štivi broda. Dva paketa, mjesečno doza – trideset Slobodnih Dalmacija.

Četiri mjeseca smo ovdje Ante Baut i ja. Ta četiri mjeseca svjedočio sam vazda istom, svakomjesečnom ritualu. Svi mi ostali- svjetioničari, njihove obitelji, manovali i arheološka ekipa- gledali smo svaki dan TV vijesti, čekirali internet i čitali portale. Znali smo potanko što se događa prijeko, u stvarnom svijetu. Kad bi jednom mjesečno s opskrbnim brodom stigle papirne novine, tutnuli bi ih stoga nehajno u kut, kao tehnološki zaostali relikt, zbir mrtvih vijesti. Od sviju na otoku, prema toj hrpi karte strast sam gajio samo ja. Poput okorjelog ljubitelja papira, halapljivo bi, u samo par sati, progutao mjesec paralelnih, onostranih života – mjesec dana analiza, kolumni, reportaža, auto-priloga i satiričnih podlistaka.

Tako sam ja radio. No- Ante Baut ne. Ante Baut nije gledao TV vijesti, nije slušao radio, niti čitao portale. Za Antu Bauta internet nije služio ničem doli slanju maila. Ante Baut bi čekao da jednom  mjesečno stignu stare, papirne novine. Ipak- ne bi poput mene nahrupio da ih iščita. Naprotiv. Poredao bi ih po danima broj po broj, pa ih odnio u svoju sobu, na drveni kantunal. Tada bi- prvog u mjesecu-  otpočinjao Bautov neobični ritual. Svakog bi jutra ustao, skuhao sebi tursku kavu, sjeo na sjenovitu terasu ispred svjetioničke kuće, zapalio španjulet i otvorio novinu koja je bila na redu. Čitao bi ih svaki dan po jednu, redom, ne hajući što su novine koje čita stare mjesec dana. U takvom je svemiru živio Ante Baut: svemiru usporednom s našim, ali svemiru koji za našim kasni trideset i jedan dan.

Tako je bilo i ovaj put. Dok je dostavni brod odlazio, radnici su prekrcali rižu i fažol, a ja se latio novina. Baut je stajao po strani i četkicom pažljivo čistio novčić s posvetom grčkom bogu. Znao sam da neće navraćati do kuće sve dok novine ne pročitam, dok ih radnici i ja ne iskomentiramo, dok ne zašutimo i ne odložimo na stranu, na komoncin gdje ih on može preuzeti.

          Dok je Baut četkom čistio tabernakul, a radnici kuhali brujet i glasno raspravljali o novitadama, ja sam čitao nadošle novine. Gutao sam ih halapljivo, hitreći iz broja u broj, žvačući u oblapornim zalogajima skandale, afere, komunalne probleme, kulturne polemike i društvene tračeve. Progutao sam u sat vremena pola mjesečnog snopa, a onda sam, na nadnevku osamnaestog srpnja, došao do stranice osmrtnica. I ugledao nešto što nisam želio vidjeti. Ugledao sam osmrtnicu Katarine Bui.

U redovima šoneta, među staricama sa seljačkim maramama i starcima s hajdučkim brcima – među licima anonimnih ljudi koji će tog dana biti pokopani u Šibeniku, Lovreću, Rogoznici, Sutivanu- opazio sam lice koje sam tako dobro pamtio. Lice Katarine, moje i Bautove kolegice, najljepše cure Filozofskog fakulteta tamo osamdeset i koje. Katarine Bui, koja je aulom hodala u hipijevskim mokasinama, nosila pod rukom Hessea i Marcusea i vijorila lišom tamnom kosom. Katarine, koja je napustila arheologiju, u Torinu otvorila galeriju antikviteta i živjela desetljećima tamo, u nekom paralelnom, dalekom, nedosežnom svijetu, svijetu daleko od jugoslavenskih ratova, zastava i nacija, siromaštva i biskupskih poslanica. Ali- živjela i daleko od nas, našeg arheološkog svagdana, našeg crvenog praha pod noktima.

Lice na novinskom licu bilo je baš to lice. Lice Katarine Bui, u koju je Ante Baut bio tada zaljubljen i – vidjelo se to tako otrcano očito- ostao zaljubljen zauvijek.

        Nakon duge i teške bolesti, u 59. godini otišla je, tako je pisalo. Pogreb mile pokojnice bit će, pisalo je. Umjesto vijenaca molimo prilog klinici za onkologiju. Molimo biti izuzeti posjeta sućuti- i to je pisalo. I ožalošćeni. I slika: slika koja nije bila ni neukusno davna, ali ni sasvim nova da razbije čar Katarinine ljepote. Na slici- ona: duga tamna kosa, jagodična kost koja daje inteligentan izgled. I lijepe oči: one iste koje sam pamtio.

Zatvorio sam novinu i vratio je na snop. Snop sam odložio na njegovo mjesto, na Bautov noćni ormarić. A onda se vratio dolje do hrama, do Bauta koji je sav crven od prašine ljuštio skramu sa zavjetne zdjele. Načas, ali samo načas, bio sam u iskušenju da mu priopćim novost. Ali – sustegao sam se, naravno. Nisam to napravio. U Bautovu svijetu, Katarina je još živa. Neka bude- pomislio sam-  živa još osamnaest dana.

Idućih dana, sve se nastavilo po starom. Baut i ja nastavili smo kopati, nosova zagnjurenih u crvenicu koja se lijepila po našim znojnim leđima. Svakog jutra, Baut bi ustao prije mene, skuhao kogomu kave, zapalio španjulet i uzeo iduću novinu. Prvu, drugu, osmu, trinaestu. Dani su prolazili, a ja sam mu svaki dan više zavidio što živi u blaženom neznanju, u drugom, usporednom, boljem svijetu. U svijetu u kojem je Katarina Bui još nije umrla.

          A onda je stiglo to jutro, osamnaesti.

Dakako, cijelu sam noć spavao nemirno i loše. Pred zoru sam kroz debeli kameni zid austrijskog svjetionika čuo kako Baut ustaje, pušački kašlje, umiva se. Čuo sam kako pristavlja kavu. Kako korača prema terasi. Čekao sam da jutarnje sunce dosegne ispravan kut, da se probije između švera u moju sobu. Slušao sam i osluškivao Bauta, a onda, kad se neko vrijeme nije više čulo ništa, znao sam da je stigao čas da ustanem.
Jer, u taj čas, kad se s terase više ne čuje ništa, kad je Baut zasjeo i kad sad već pouzdano čita današnje novine, stiže trenutak za koji sam osamnaest dana bio spreman.

Stiže trenutak da se ustanem i odjenem. Da iziđem na terasu. Da priđem čovjeku koji sjedi pod odrinom.
Da mu pristupim, stisnem mu dlanom dlan i  izgovorim dvije riječi koje uvježbavam osamnaest dana. Stigao je čas da mu kažem ono što bih i sam htio od nekoga čuti, ali tog nekog nema.

Moja sućut. Samo to ću reći. Samo to- ništa drugo.

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Belated death of Katarina Bui

Translated by Tatjana Radmilo

Dedicated to Somerset Maugham and newspaper readers

A delivery boat turned up on the horizon about noon. At first, it was just a little dot in the immense blue. The little dot grew slowly, taking the shape of a boat, until from top of a cliff, on which we were standing, we could see contours of a bow, a small mast and a vertical chimney line. Gradually, but safely, the dot was becoming a boat.

It was mid-summer. There was no wind for days and hot, heavy sultriness was sitting tightly over the Adriatic. The closest Croatian islands Lastovo and Vis were sticking out from the blue heat haze, barely visible, looming as two dark rimless shadows.

On the other side, to the west, the view was clearer, and the Italian coast closer. Monte Gargano rested on a blue surface as a dead whale and the Apennines stretched out above the sea as a dark, thin film.    

I was standing on top of Palagruža with Baut, my fellow archaeologist. We were standing on top of the cliff with a lighthouse, in the middle of the Adriatic Sea, twenty-two miles away from Monte Gargano in Puglia and some thirty miles south from the outer Croatian islands. Naked above waist, sweaty and dirty from the red ground, Baut and myself were using our nails for excavating the Greek’s God Diomedes’ temple for the last four months. The temple was located on the only and not too big plateau, on the crown of the island, two hundred meters above the sea, hovering on the edge of threatening precipice. We got up every day at dawn, before the heat, poked in dolomitic land by noon, and when the heat hit, we would sit in a skinny shade, eating cheese, rusks and figs. It was same every day, just like on that day. Except for the fact that on that day we saw regular, monthly, and yet desperately longed for scene. A scene of lighthouse delivery boat, that stopped being just a dot on the horizon and became clearly visible, sailing into the Palagruža Archipelago in mid-day, on every first day of the month.

After that, regular monthly ritual followed. The boat would sail around the northern tip of the island and into the sheltered beach on the Italian side, the only part of the island with accessible coast and possible anchorage. The captain would steer the bow and moored the boat through buoy metal ring, secured by a stone block. Lighthouse keeper and boat crew would switch on a humming tackle engine, that would start a ropeway. One basket after another, the old wiry mechanism would lift supplies: milk cartons, sugar, coffee, flour, rice. And then, finally, the newspapers would go up the tackle. They would arrive, neatly packed, as always, just slightly soaked by the sea below the deck. Two packages, a monthly dose — thirty issues of the Slobodna Dalmacija.

Ante Baut and myself were there for four months. During these four months, I witnessed always the same monthly ritual. All of us — lighthouse keepers, their families, workers and archaeological teams — watched news on TV every day, checked the Internet and read portals. We knew up to the last detail what was going on over there. That is why, when newspapers arrived once a month by the delivery boat, we would shove them, carelessly into a corner, as a technological relict, a collection of dead news. I was the only person on the island, who cultivated passion for that pile of paper. As a hardcore paper lover, I would swallow greedily, in just a few hours, a month of parallel lives from the other side — a month of analyses, columns, stories, car sections and satiric supplements.

That is what I did. But, not Ante Baut. Ante Baut did not watch news, did not listen to radio, did not read portals. Ante Baut used the Internet only to send e-mails and nothing else. Ante Baut would wait for the old newspapers to arrive once a month. Nevertheless, he would not rush to read them, like I did. On the contrary. He would line them up issue by issue, as they were printed, and then he would take them to his room and put them on a wooden night bed stand. Then, on the first day of every month, his unusual ritual started. Every morning he would get up, made himself a Turkish coffee, sit on a shady terrace in front of the lighthouse keeper’s house and opened a newspaper for that day. Every day he would read one issue, in turn, not caring that the newspaper he was reading was one month old. Ante Baut lived in that kind of space — parallel with ours, but running late for thirty-one day.

Everything was same on that particular occasion. As the delivery boat was leaving, the workers were reloading rice and beans, and I got hold of newspapers. Baut stood aside, carefully brushing the coin with dedication to the Greek God. I knew that he would not come to the house until I read all the papers, commented on them with the workers, after which we would fall silent and put them aside, on a sideboard for him to take over.

While Baut was brushing the tabernacle, the workers were preparing brodetto and loudly discussing the news, I was reading the papers that came by boat. I swallowed them greedily, rushing from one issue to another, voraciously chewing scandals, affairs, communal problems, polemics on culture and social gossip. In an hour I gulped down half of monthly bundle, when I came to the obituaries page in the issue from the eighteenth of July. I saw something I did not want to see. I saw Katarina Bui’s obituary.

Among lines of obituaries of old women with village scarves and old men with outlaws’ moustaches, among the faces of anonymous people to be buried on that day in Šibenik, Lovreć, Rogoznica, Sutivan — I noticed a well-remembered face. The face of Katarina, my and Baut’s colleague, the most beautiful girl at the Faculty of Philosophy in the eighties. Katarina Bui, who walked through the faculty halls in hippy moccasins, carrying Hesse and Marcuse under her arm, while her straight dark hair wavered around her. Katarina, who dropped her archaeology studies, opened an antique shop in Torino, lived there for decades, in a parallel, faraway, beyond-the reach world — world far away from Yugoslav wars, flags and nations, poverty and episcopal epistles. But she lived far away from us too, our archaeological daily toil, red dust under our nails.

The face in the newspaper was her face. The face of Katarina Bui, that Ante Baut had been in love then and — obviously — remained in love with her forever.

After long and serious illness, she passed away at the age of 59, so it said. The burial of our beloved deceased will be…, it said. Instead of wreaths, we kindly ask you to donate to the Oncology Clinic. We kindly ask you not to come to pay your condolences, it also said. And bereaved family. And a photo: not indecently old, but not recent enough to break the spell of Katarina’s beauty. The photo showed her with long, dark hair and cheekbones that make the person look intelligent. And her beautiful eyes, same as I remembered them.

I folded the newspaper and put it back on the bundle. Then I took the bundle to its place, Baut’s night stand. And then I went back to the temple, to join Baut, all covered in red dust as he was peeling away dirt from a votive bowl. For a moment, but only for a very short moment, I was tempted to let him know the news. But I refrained from it, of course. I could not bring myself to it. In Baut’s world, Katarina was still alive. Let her live, I thought, for another eighteen days.

In the days to come, everything was going as usual. Baut and myself continued digging, with our noses diving deep in red soil, that stuck on our sweaty backs. Every morning, Baut would get up before me, made himself a pot of coffee, lighted a cigarette and picked the next newspaper. The first one, then the second one, the eighth, and then the thirteenth. Days passed and I envied him more and more each day for living in blessed unawareness, in another, parallel, better world. In a world in which Katarina Bui had not died yet.

And then the morning of the eighteenth arrived.  

Naturally, I slept restlessly and not well the entire night. Before the dawn broke, through thick, stone wall of the Austrian lighthouse, I heard Baut getting up, his smoker’s cough, I heard him washing his face. I heard him put the coffee pot on. Walking towards the terrace. I was waiting for the morning sun to reach the right angle, to break through the shutters into my room. I listened and eavesdropped on Baut, and then, when nothing was heard for a while, I knew it was time for me to get up.

Because, at that very moment, when I could hear nothing from the terrace, when Baut sat down and definitely started reading the paper for that day, the moment for which I had been preparing for eighteen days arrived.

The moment, when I had to get up and get dressed, arrived. When I had to go out to the terrace. When I had to approach the man, sitting under a trellis.

To approach him, shake his hand and say two words that I had been practicing for eighteen days. The moment arrived when I had to say something I wish I had heard from somebody else, but that somebody was not there.

My condolences. That is all I am going to say. Only that and nothing else.

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