Ivana Dobrakovová


translated by Julia and Peter Sherwood

This translation is available from Jantar Publishing.

Reprinted with permission.

For minutes on end I stare at the three-dimensional butterfly on the screen. I turn the mobile in my hand so that all its transformations, shades of colour and nuances come to the fore. It’s fluttered its wings! And now it’s wiggling its antennae! I gaze at it as if it were a spiral in which I am losing myself, a vortex that runs deep, sweeping me off my feet and dragging me along, I spin around and fall down,

What day, month, year is this? when’s my shift? morning or afternoon? am I lying in bed while somewhere in the main building they’re looking for me, cursing me, badmouthing me for being irresponsible? is a resident waiting for me somewhere, incapable of turning over, having lain motionless on his bed for hours now, his eyes wide open in distress, have they forgotten about me? is that possible?

I ask Drago but he just rolls over, I don’t know anything, let me sleep, what’s got into you today?

What’s got into you today?

I’m throwing up, bent over a bowl. I feel the gastric juices in my mouth, a sour taste, I vomit up a sticky liquid, it comes out with great effort, I haven’t been eating, my stomach is empty, yet I keep retching. I hear someone brushing their teeth next door, suddenly Yasmin puts her head round the door, are you all right, Blanka? should I tell them in the office that you’re not feeling well? would you like to take the day off?

I look at her in horror, I even forget to wipe my mouth and think: just go away, you’re one of them too, get the hell out of here, you hate me too, stop putting on this show, you Algerian bitch, you who’re always laughing,

All morning there are moments when everything goes black, everything starts to spin, if it weren’t for Drago, I would collapse in a heap on the floor of our room, but Drago is always here, Drago always catches me, pats me on the cheek, sprinkles water over me from a bottle to bring me round, you’ll be fine, it’s just an attack of nausea, everything is all right, I’m here, I’m with you, don’t worry Blanka, you’ll climb out of it,

In my head a parade of faces, one after the other, my childhood friends, classmates, acquaintances, they fill the room to bursting, soon there won’t be enough place for them between these four walls; everyone who has ever hated me and mocked me behind my back, laughed at my naiveté and childishness; all the people who grew up before me and learned how to play the game, how to deal and receive blows,

My classmates who used to sit together giggling all the time, the hours I spent trying to figure out what was so funny, but now I know: it was me, it’s always been me; or the girl from next door who used to unnerve me with her incredible stories, I swear it’s all true, it was my dad who damaged the swans in the fairground and made them tip over, he’d sneaked in at night, she would tell me on our way from Horský park with a deadpan face; and I believed her, of course I believed her,

How could I have been so blinkered for over nineteen years, totally blind and so self-satisfied at the same time,

But in fact, I had nearly done it a few times, I nearly managed to cross over to the other side, surely depression is nothing but a clear mind, an understanding of the real state of affairs, each time I got closer to this knowledge, to the boundary between childhood and adulthood, I would start to thrash about, scream at the top of my voice, no, I don’t want to, I can’t do it, I’d rather kill myself, anything but this, and so each time they calmed me down with medication, numbed me, swallow this, wash it down with some water, all those antidepressants, anxiolytics, suppress, suppress, back to childhood if there’s no other way because my entire body, every cell rebelled against adulthood,

I’m convinced that my family back home know what’s happening to me, that’s why they sent me here, to make me face up to it at last, with no way out, without medication that would just take me back to square one, to make me I finally break out of this vicious cycle, undergo a baptism of fire like everyone else, this is my last chance of going through depression all the way to recovery, to adulthood,

Because that’s bound to happen if I stand firm, if I don’t give up too early, a rebirth, a perfect transformation, a new lease of life, and this body that’s temporarily out of my control can become a real weapon if I learn to take charge of it; I’m sure it will be capable of things I can’t even begin to imagine now,

The way I used to bump into a wall with my eyes closed when I was little, longing to be like the ghost of the fabled white lady, to be able to pass through walls, all you have to do is concentrate, all you have to do is believe that it’s possible, but in fact I’d never really believed it, only now I know that it really can be done, that my body is capable of it, a body controlled by the mind, a body tamed,

My cousin, sitting in the kitchen in our flat in Jančová Street near Horský park and says, this is a flower, I touch it and my fingers feel that it’s a flower, I smell it and know it’s a flower, but what are my senses, who’s given them to me, how can I be sure they’re not deceiving me?

© Mullek and Sherwood