A short story for reflection on values.
—Translation of my short story written in 2009
It’s a Friday evening in autumn, and the bustle of a small town is gradually subsiding. Only in one apartment, the voices of a young couple are growing stronger. “Risotto! Risotto again, are you serious? Week after week, always the same. It’s unbearable. Can’t you make pasta or something else? There are a million dishes! But no, it has to be risotto!” – “You know we have to save money, so I cook with leftovers. You don’t have to keep shouting at me,” the woman defends herself from the kitchen. “Nonsense! All talk, just talk. We’re not that bad off to prevent me from having a decent meal once! I can’t believe it!” The words fade as the man walks from the kitchen to the hallway. “In the end, I don’t have to cook. You can do whatever you want!” – “No one asked you to, not me. NOT ME! But it’s pointless.” Shoes, coat, keys, the door slams shut. “I’m not running away; it’s self-preservation. Otherwise, I would have to hit her,” the man justifies his actions while leaving the apartment, hoping that some fresh air outside will clear his head a bit. The woman stands forlornly with a knife in her hand by the kitchen counter, and the old wooden cutting board slowly absorbs the surge of tears. The first big argument? Rather one out of a hundred, but she has stopped counting.
“And I won’t turn around out of spite,” the man keeps repeating in his head as he walks away from the house. “I won’t give her that satisfaction. I can already see her glued to the window, waiting for this.” He adjusts his coat and heads towards the city center. He couldn’t get the argument out of his mind. On the contrary, more started to accumulate, older ones. His anger and frustration only intensified. He lost touch with his surroundings. “Is it worth it? Is it worth all these constant arguments? I’ll just pack my things and leave. But then what? How do I move on? Just throwing away all those years, it’s impossible.” His inner conflict was interrupted by the sound of an ambulance passing by, heading towards a small crowd nearby. It was a kind of relief for him. He quickened his pace to find out what had happened. “Poor thing. The roads are filled with drunkards today,” he overheard an elderly lady standing on the edge of the group said. At such a late hour, there weren’t many people outside, so he didn’t have to push through the crowd to get closer to the center of the commotion. “There’s nothing more we can do here,” one of the paramedics evaluated the situation as he leaned over the lifeless body of a young woman. The man looked at her face, and perhaps due to the accumulated emotions, he saw the face of his own wife. At that moment, a chilling fear ran down his spine, his heart and breath stopped, the entire world stood still for him, and cold sweat started to trickle down his pale face. He had never experienced anything like it before.
“Sorry,” apologized a young man who accidentally bumped into him while leaving (he probably had seen enough) and thus snapped him out of that horrific moment. How long could it have been, a few seconds? It felt like an eternity. He looked again… “No, it’s not her. It’s not her,” he reassured himself. Slowly, he began to grasp what had actually happened. The terrifying experience of losing a loved one. “Never seeing her face again, never hearing her laughter, never feeling her touch. In the end, I would even miss her stupid risotto. Damn it! We argue constantly over trivial things; it’s crazy… we can work it out, we can deal with that because I love her! I couldn’t bear life without her. Thank God,” he swiftly turned around and almost ran back home; rushed up the stairs. “Honey, I’m sorry, can you hear me?” he called from the open door, but with a softer tone. The kitchen was empty. “Can you hear me? Where are you?” Not in the bedroom either. The bathroom light was on. “Honey, I…” he opened the door and lost his speech at the sight before him. The bathroom floor was covered in blood, and his wife’s hand hung over the edge of the bathtub. In the other hand, a bloodied kitchen knife. At that moment, a chilling fear ran down his spine, his heart and breath stopped, the entire world stood still for him, and cold sweat started to trickle down his pale face. The floor collapsed on him, and everything faded into darkness.
Slowly, he begins to regain consciousness. All the feelings remain. The cold, his shirt soaked with sweat. He slowly opens his eyes. It’s the start of a new day, and sunlight finds its way through the blinds, casting a glow on his wife’s beautiful dark hair as she lies beside him. The bed, the blanket, the pillow – “It was a dream, just a damn dream. Oh Lord, but it felt so real,” a few tears escape his eyes. “I love you,” he whispers, pressing himself against his wife and embracing her tightly. “I never want to experience that again, never! I can’t lose her – not over risotto or any stupid thing like that.” Ideas for changing their relationship begin to form in his mind; there’s something that can be done, calmly discuss everything, no more arguments. He can change himself a bit; he can handle it! He actually had the luck to go through such an experience in a dream and fully realize its impact.
Do you think he changed his approach, and their relationship found a harmonious path? Perhaps for a few months. Within a year, they got divorced. And why, you ask? Because one forgets fast. Those who are fortunate enough not to experience loss firsthand but realize the value of what they “have” – health, family, a partner, friends, and more – can appreciate them more and change their approach in time before it’s too late. However, it is necessary to constantly remind oneself of these values because one forgets fast…