Life is like a roller coaster. There are rises, falls, twists, and turns we cannot always anticipar. There are people who are constantly getting on and off and there are also others who stay to enjoy the whole ride. Fortunately, I’ve been surrounded by familia and friends my entire life so I consider myself to be a very lucky persona.

Perhaps it’s the way I am, so amazingly friendly that I’m likely to fit in everywhere I go. I can easily adaptar to any environment, situación, and even people – which sometimes works in my favor. I’m always seeking a way through when that seems imposible for others. And the truth is that I believe – no matter the hardships I have faced along the way. Because we cannot escapar problemas, we are doomed to fall at times; there are battles we are forced to fight; there are failures we are designed to learn from and sometimes there’s no other alternative than to start over. I remember someone telling me once that “no one starts off being excelente.’’ So in the end, the roller coaster will rise again, and this time the ride could be even more enjoyable.

So far, my ride has been pretty interesante. I’m thrilled by the many people who keep arriving and making a big impacto on my life. Every time I start afresh somewhere I’m easily liked. But work is definitely something new for me and my girlfriends who recently graduated from college and all became profesionales. For some of them the change is going to be very dramatic because somehow they are not used to making a living by working. We were always the bebés in our familias, some with better incomes than others, but all spoiled in our own way. As for me, it was clear from the very beginning that my parents couldn’t afford all the things I needed or wanted. That’s why I started to earn some money when I was still in college and somehow I enjoyed that kind of independencia económica. It’s something my girlfriends haven’t experienced yet. Anyway, expectativas are really high in the workplace. A new period has begun for us, although we are all aware of the poor salario we will receive. I know it’s going to be hard for us and for once, we are going to be in our parent’s shoes and understand their wise mensajes about saving money. I never had a clue before and neither did my friends.

Regardless, I feel happy because I’m going to work as a traductora in the only Convention Center that Camaguey has. Camaguey is not one of the most famosa cities in my country but there are many atracciones and valuable facts that make it worth visiting. Yet, I’m pretty sure I will never earn as much money as other traductores worldwide. Profesionales Cubanos are aware of the significant diferencias between us and other countries when it comes to salario and still we are eager to estudiar and be the best profesionales possible. That’s why working and not making the kind of money I want is not considered to be something bad as long as I’m doing something I enjoy. That’s what I keep repeating to myself: “Pat, it’s not how much we have, but how much we enjoy that creates happiness.” That is my filosofía of life.

(to be continued…)

In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)

Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey

January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan

February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asryan

March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez

April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Toni Wallis

May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko

June: A Girl Pedaling – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas

July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk

August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido

September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández

October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino

November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake

December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva

Background – Context

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

More work by Marilin Guerrero Casas

Crossing the Uncertain Path of Life – Marilin Guerrero Casas (transposing emblem)

Emotional Estabilidad: The Key to a Happy Life – Marilin Guerrero Casas (transposing emblem)

Balance – Marilin Guerrero Casas (transposing emblem)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: Cuba – Through the water – Chandler Cruttenden (Unsplash)

Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

We rested on the open veranda drinking coffee and enjoying the picturesque panorama from the house on the hill.

“See the cottage there?” – Rita pointed to a tile roof across the street from Bukin’s future house. “Some moskvichi built it a few years ago. Built, and now they are selling it. They’re leaving Moscow, as many of them do now, applied – I heard – for permanent residency in the States… or in Israel – I don’t know for sure.”

The house was indeed pretty. I’ve seen cottages like this in Cyprus. Tile roof, little stucco ship on the mansard’s fronton.

In the meantime, Rita put her coffee cup on the table and briskly got up. The black SUV, which I had already seen, emerged from the bend in the street.

“Well, well, mister professor,” she chuckled, “seems like now it’s your turn to pass a test. So get ready, alright?”

This time the big black car brought not only Kolya Bukin, but also a glamorous-looking young lady, a head taller than him and twice as young. The Deputat introduced her as his secretary and assistant-translator. Wasting no time, the young lady got down to business and assailed me with questions in English, rather fluent alright, but still stuck somewhere at school level. By her appearance and manners, she didn’t make the impression of a mere secretary at all, acting with utmost confidence and, for the most part, never bothering to fully translate what I said to her boss. Inventing my story as I went along, I explained UNESCO’s plans to purchase this plot for the further archaeological excavations with the prospect of having a kind of popular tourist site here.

My young interlocutress very casually inquired about the funds I would employ for such a large-scale plan. I shrugged and put it all off with a jest that I was never going to pay for anything. As for the Copernicus Foundation, I continued, its funds were enough to buy not only Kolya in person but the whole city counsel of Kolyas as well. She smiled back in a labored manner, assuring me that she appreciated my subtle Texan humor. Still she didn’t translate this last phrase either – just wished us well and hurried back to the SUV along with her boss.

“Great job!” exclaimed Rita, watching the car drive away. “You did it, didn’t you, the university professor? For a moment even I believed that you were an American. If you want to know the truth, I didn’t understand even half of your words. As for that of Kolya’s… well, how do you find her? Not so good at English, is she?

“Community college plus couple of years’ practice in a school for juvenile delinquents – that seems to be it.”

“And you, where did you graduate from?”

“The Military Academy in Kiev. The Foreign Languages Department.”

“So why didn’t you stay in the military?”

“Was in the service, for four years. I’ve got a splinter in my leg… those sunny southern countries, you know. And after – a hospital, retirement and all that. Why do you ask – you prefer military men, don’t you?”

“Ah, that’s why you limp, I see,” – she obviously ducked my question, and then commented with a smile. “At first glance I thought you kind of grazed your foot with new shoes.”

Well, I too had a comment ready for her so I coughed, clearing my throat:

“There was lots of work with those frescoes, wasn’t there?”

“How do you… From where…?”

“Artemis the Huntress has your ring on her finger. You fool no one, dear miss! Forgery – is a fine art all right! Still, molded paperboard as fresco wall… deserves respect, for sure.”

Rita pretended to be utterly embarrassed:

“Are you, interpreter guys, all so observant?”

“No,” I said, “it’s the military service. You better tell me why on earth this man needs your plot of land, of all things? He obviously can afford to buy any adjacent property.”

“Which he already did. My idea is that he wants it for reasons of privacy. A person in his position doesn’t like it when there are too many eyes watching. Privacy’s the most important thing; that’s their rule of thumb. Or maybe he just wishes to have some extra profit from the opportunity that drops ripe into his hand – buy it from granddad on the cheap, and then sell it to you dear.”

“I am quite positive,” I said, adopting the official tone, “that UNESCO, whose interests I represent here, will not be interested in such proposal. Actually at the present moment, its representative is interested in quite another question –where is your mama?”

“Doing her work, together with my dad. In Africa. ‘Doctors Without Borders’ – heard about them?”

“Where exactly in Africa?”

She named the country.

“Okay, we will deal with that problem too.” I said. “By the way, I have some plans to go to the south coast of Crimea for a couple of days. To Sudak, to be exact. Have a friend, a major from my former unit, at the local military sanatorium. He receives medical treatment, that’s what they call it there. And on my return we’ll settle the issue with Africa and your mom. Or – want to go with me? It’s already high time for me to be gender incorrect and pay for gas… and for the treat.

“Sorry, Igor, but at the moment I can’t. I have some very pressing matters here.”

Rita called me on the third day:

“Dear Igor Pavlovich,” she pronounced solemnly, “my grandfather and I invite you to the ‘housewarming’ party. The matter is, we have bought that house – the one with the ship on the fronton, do you remember? I hope you have nothing against staying in mansards?

I have dreamed about this all of my life, to live in mansard with a stucco ship and a view of the sea. But I have news for you too — don’t shut off your phone today. My mom will call you soon.”

“What? Your mom?”

“Yep, I talked with her half an hour ago. And, if you want to know, she gave her consent. She seemed to like you on the phone. I hope you won’t disappoint her at the personal meeting.”

“What meeting? Where?”

“In Africa, as a matter of fact. She was invited to the Presidential Palace in the country’s capital, and the president gave me the most flattering account. After which we talked personally on the government line. Haven’t I told you that their president studied at our academy? In the parallel course? As a matter of fact, he is a crown prince, but his people elected him as the president, for greater legitimacy. He invites us to be his special guests. He sending his plane for us on Friday. But until Friday we still have free time.

She was silent for so long that I thought we got cut off.

“Hello? Rita? Can you hear me?… Are you serious about all this?”

“How could I not be? After all, you want to speak with my mom, don’t you?”

At last she laughed, and I heard relief in her words:

“You tell me! You want to speak with her terribly!”

In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)

Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey

January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan

February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asryan

March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez

April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Toni Wallis

May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko

June: A Girl Pedaling up the Road of Life – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas

July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk

August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido

September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández

October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino

November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake

December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva

Background – Context

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

More work by Gennady Bondarenko

What You Sow Does Not Come To Life Unless It Dies – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)

Twenty Plus Years – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)

Hybrid War – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo:  Izmail, Ukraine – On the river – water fox (Shutterstock)

Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

by Gennady Bondarenko

Another exit from the highway – and we were at the place. The small cheburechnaya had no parking lot so Rita left her car along the young cypress row where a few vehicles were already parked. The grill house itself was barely visible behind the trees, but you could definitely tell it was there by the smell of open fire food. The crazy chirping of cicadas that occupied nearby juniper bushes filled the air. The hot waves flowed down from the white cliffs into the blazing azure sea. I pictured a pile of chebureki on a white plate, a bowl of ayran with a minuscule minced fennel and a cup of a hot Turkish coffee in a brass holder.

“Here we are… Well, who says you’ll really have to pay the money? The same thing with the house… it will not be you who buys it. Kolya Bukin – he will buy it.”

“And who is this dignified person?”

“A businessman. Deputat. A crook, to put it simply.”

Tucking away chebureki, I got a grasp of the situation. Rita’s grandfather lived almost on the seashore in an old house with a view of the Karantinnaya bay and the golden cupola of the orthodox Sobor at the Chersonese cape. In reality, there was little time left for him to admire the landscape: some the deputy, Bukin, got a residential allotment for construction on the adjacent plot. Rita’s old man was offered a choice: to take money for his house and yard, where the deputy planned to build a swimming pool, or to find himself living in a stone pit surrounded by the five meter high walls of the Bukin estate…

In the meantime, the excavator at the construction site had pulled out a stone plate, which, it seemed, covered the entrance to an underground shrine of the ancient Chersonese sites. The shrine itself with all its priceless artifacts was situated on the land that still belonged to old man. UNESCO developed an interest in these findings and held out the prospect of further excavations on this very promising historical ground…

“Is it real interest… Are they serious?” I asked.

We were returning to the city on the same road and at the same speed.

“Yes, they are!” exclaimed Rita, thumping her hands on the wheel. “For sure they are interested! Igor, have you still not understood the whole thing? UNESCO – it’s you! And you are interested, aren’t you?”

“But of course!” I answered, immediately pleased to notice the transition from the formal Igor Pavlovich to Igor. “And even very much so. And you, will you please watch the road? Don’t forget that you’re driving none other than a UNESCO emissary in person! By the way, why me? No one here to pass as an American? Nobody knows English?”

“If you think Sevastopol is a big town, you are mistaken. It’s not. Some local connoisseur of English quite possible may be among Bukin’s acquaintances. Or a friend of his friends. Or just a face seen somewhere or other. But you – you are quite a different story. An outsider, unknown to anyone, a real alien.

“Thank you very much for the alien,” I grumbled. “If I recall correctly, just a few hours ago my position was considered to be a candidate for prospective husband.

The next morning Rita and I met at the object, in terms of construction foremen. Judging by the basement groundwork, the people’s representative was indeed inclined to erect a real khoromy.1 I pulled out my camera and began taking shots of the construction work, Alexander Ivanonvich’s house, the sea, Sobor and Bukin’s laborers. At the same time, I made a busy face, showering Rita with questions, all in English, of course. At least, this was my idea of how an American professor would behave. Sort of Indiana Jones light. My arrival apparently made the foreman anxious.

As for Rita and I, we went down to the underground shrine through a rather wide breach in the foundation trench wall. Rita switched on her lamp so I could take some shots of the ancient frescos. When we reappeared on the surface I saw a huge Toyota Land Cruiser nearby; some stocky man was getting out of it. Seeing Rita and I, he quickly headed towards us already flashing a happy smile. When he reached us, I saw that he was one of that well-padded breed, with a diamond pin in his necktie, not to mention a watch in massive gold and three signet rings on the thick fingers.

“Hi, Rita! Zdorovo,” – he turned to me and offered his hand. “I’m Bukin, Nikolay Ivanovich, a deputy of the Sevastopol city council.”

“Hello, how are you?” I answered, trying to be as reserved as I could.

Still smiling Bukin, measured me with his eyes and spoke to Rita:

“Your boyfriend? Amerikanietz?”

She shook her head:

“No, and yes, an American. Professor from Texas University. UNESCO representative, if you want to know. Came to see the underground findings. Quite possibly, they will want to build a memorial site here. Tourists, and all that.”

“Well, well… tourists!” – Bukin clicked his tongue thoughtfully. “Money laundering, that’s what it is called, my dear Rita. Don’t I know them inside out, those Americans? Isn’t he a bit too young to be a professor?”

Rita shrugged her shoulders.

“Usual thing there. You reach thirty – and you’re already a professor. Another system, that’s what they have there.”

“System… I understand,” he said thoughtfully, then cheered up again. “Well, good luck, my dear neighbors! See you soon!”

He waved his plump palm and went back to the black SUV. With a bang, the car shot off and disappeared from view.

“Where’s he going?” I quietly asked Rita, this time in Russian.

“We’ll know soon enough. As for us, let’s stop by my granddad’s house and have some coffee. Granddad too must be back soon. He went to the city on business, but is eager to meet you.

(to be continued …)

Notes

1. Estate

In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)

Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey

January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan

February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asryan

March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez

April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Toni Wallis

May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko

June: A Girl Pedaling up the Road of Life – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas

July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk

August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido

September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández

October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino

November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake

December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva

Background – Context

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

More work by Gennady Bondarenko

What You Sow Does Not Come To Life Unless It Dies – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)

Twenty Plus Years – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)

Hybrid War – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: Sevastopol, Crimea – Chersonese lighthouse – Roden Wilmar (Shutterstock)

Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

by Gennady Bondarenko

As I found out ten minutes later, the wallet flew out of my vest when I snatched it on the run. The waiter who seemed to be Rita’s acquaintance called her, and she dialed my number. Everything is wonderfully simple. My money came back to me, all by itself, along with a good mood – and above all, after saying good-bye to the girl and the wallet, both were returning. Everything seemed to be back on track. It was the right moment to invite my lady savior to dine.

“But you just came from the café, didn’t you?” – Rita laughed. “Though I don’t mind actually. I suppose that you, being ne mestnyi, vote for some local flavor? Want to drop in a Crimean Tatar place for chebureki? Not a romantic dinner, those turnovers, I understand… but in return you’ll get you fair share of authenticity. So – your treat, my ride, okay? Let’s stay gender correct, as they love to say in the places you’ve come from. We’ll have more of a business lunch. I have a kind of business proposal for you…

We were still in the city limits as I noticed that my new out-of-the-blue bride never paid any attention to such nuisances as speed limits or passing rules. Riding out to the Yalta highway, she ignored them just as the speedometer needle never fell below 120 km/h.

“Nice car,” I commented, trying not to lose a conversational thread, “except perhaps an expensive one. Kind of a present, is it? Or a reward from your business?”

“Yes, you are right. It is a present,” – she nodded, and my mood sank. Presents of this sort were definitely beyond my means. “My dad bought it for me. And no – I have no business… well, far from it! I am an artist. That’s what I do for a living. Some painting… but mostly design work. And you…by the way, what languages do you translate from? No mention of this on your business card.”

“English, of course. Well, and some Eastern languages too.”

“Interpreter? I mean, oral translation or written?”

“Written, for the most part.”

“Mind telling me something in English? Recite some kind of poetry?”

“Poetry, you said?” – I was taken aback and even didn’t try to hide my surprise. “What kind of poetry?”

“Any kind, whatever you want. Main thing is, in English.”

“Why she had to go, I don’t know, she wouldn’t say,” – I tried to improvise something on the run but wasn’t sure if she’d find my improvisation funny, “I said something wrong…”

But she laughed and for a moment averted her eyes from the road casting a teasing glance at me:

“Enough, enough! A lullaby, wasn’t it? Bet your dad sang it to you when you were a lil’ babe and didn’t want to go to sleep? But never mind – you indeed speak the language all right. The matter is… for the next couple of days you will be an American. A professor… well, no, you won’t pass for a professor – simply a young scientist from the USA. The emissary of UNESCO and the representative of some Copernicus Foundation.”

“There is such, isn’t there?” I asked mechanically.

“Of course there is. Funds the restoration works on the Chersones archaeological site. Ten million dollars… or maybe even twenty? That’s not the issue, actually. What matters most is that you’ll help my granddad to sell a house.”

“What granddad? What house?”

“My granddad, Alexander Ivanovich by name. His own house. You’ll be the buyer. You’ll agree on one hundred thousand dollars.”

Now was my turn to laugh:

“For you – for your eyes only, as they say – I’ll agree to be an emissary of UNESCO or even MAGATE, if you wish so. And a house in Sevastopol would be useful to me as well. But there’s a little mismatch that ruins that beautiful picture – I don’t have those hundred thousand…”

(to be continued …)

In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)

Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey

January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan

February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asryan

March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez

April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Toni Wallis

May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko

June: A Girl Pedaling up the Road of Life – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas

July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk

August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido

September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández

October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino

November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake

December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva

Background – Context

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

More work by Gennady Bondarenko

What You Sow Does Not Come To Life Unless It Dies – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)

Twenty Plus Years – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)

Hybrid War – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo:  Falysh, Ukraine – Silhouettes – Andriyko Podilnyk (Unsplash)

Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

by Gennady Bondarenko

Twenty minutes passed, and I had run out of cigarettes. Reaching into the pocket of my vest, I suddenly realized — or rather sensed —that my wallet wasn’t there. I searched the other pockets but with the same result. There were credit cards in that wallet and some nine hundred-dollar bills, all that was left of a translator’s fee I’d got for a finished book. I rummaged through my pockets again and dug up some 12 hryvnas with change. There was nothing I could to but feel utterly helpless, among all the romantic scenery of downtown Sevastopol, as I sat on a bench under planes and watched the sea. I did so for some time, vacantly gazing at distant toy-like ferries slowly moving to Severnaya bay and a few pleasure boats, coming and leaving the Artbukhta. Life was going on — that easy laid-back life of a Crimean seaside town. Still, sunbeams’ playful dance on the waves, the whitecaps left behind by the cruise ships were promising nothing extraordinary or threatening. Nothing spoke of trouble, so with a sigh I tried to summarize my current situation.

Had I lost my wallet or had it been stolen? It wasn’t very important for now. Its total absence — that’s what mattered. It was indeed a “big fat minus” for my situation. Still there were some “pluses” too; this included the return ticket on the very same train back, which was still in my bag in the hotel room. I had paid in advance for the day’s lodging so spending a night on the street did not await me. I would re-book the ticket for tomorrow. The only money left was enough for coffee and cigarettes.

It occurred to me that I could make a call to Kiev and ask the folks in the publishing house to transfer an advance to me without going into detail about what happened. All the more so since I expected a big order next month. But my mood had changed altogether. The sun, the sea and the girls in their summer dresses were not pleasing my eye anymore. And not because of the money I lost – I was annoyed by a holiday that had been spoiled so abruptly and mercilessly.

The melody on my cell phone unexpectedly cut off my brooding; the number was unknown.
“Good afternoon, Igor” said the handset with a pleasant lady’s voice, “Because you are Igor, aren’t you?”

“Yes, you are right,” I agreed, trying to pretend cheerful and even added sort of jokingly – and no need to be so official, ma’am: Igor Pavlovich will be okay, for the sake of simplicity. And who are you, may I ask?”

“My name is Rita. And one can only wonder that you don’t recall me. Because someone asked me to marry him no more than an hour ago, don’t you remember? But now I changed my mind: I won’t marry you.”

“But why?” – the conversation had taken such an unexpected turn that I blurted out the first thing that crossed my mind. “Because…?”

“Because of your habit of throwing around money.” – the girl who called herself Rita made me freeze up. “I mean losing your wallet and whatnot. You have to be more careful, especially when sami wy ne mestniye.”

“Rita…” I started. “Do you want to say that you’ve found my wallet? Want to return it to me, don’t you?”

She laughed:

“Alas, but being a good-mannered girl I have to. As to ‘found it’ – one doesn’t have to be a detective to find your wallet. By the way, where are you now?”

I looked around searchingly for something to use as orientation.

“Okay, stay where you are,” commanded the girl. “I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

“Rita,” I shouted into the headpiece. A surge of excitement welled up inside me; I was enthusiastic and just didn’t want to let her go. “Wait a second, don’t cut me off! Tell me please… e-e-e… my phone number – where on earth did you get the number from?”

She audibly sighed as if talking with some dumbhead.

“Your business cards were in that wallet. And there was a phone number on those cards; do you want to tell me you carry someone else’s business cards by the dozen, do you? Okay. Just stay there, I’ll be right over.”

(to be continued …)

In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)

Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey

January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan

February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asryan

March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez

April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Toni Wallis

May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko

June: A Girl Pedaling up the Road of Life – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas

July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk

August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido

September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández

October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino

November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake

December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva

Background – Context

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

More work by Gennady Bondarenko

What You Sow Does Not Come To Life Unless It Dies – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)

Twenty Plus Years – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)

Hybrid War – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: Odessa, Ukraine – In the rain – Vitaliy Holovin (Shutterstock)

Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

By Gennady Bondarenko

It was a hot May in Sevastopol  even for that southern spot of Ukraine, this spring was unusually hot. No wonder she chose the rear table of the open cafe terrace, hiding herself from the blazing sun. The girl was writing something in her thin notepad with a pencil  or rather drawing, or sketching, judging by the jerky movements of her wrist. Time after time she closed the notepad, put the pencil on the black plastic cover, pondering something, then opened it again to continue drawing. As for her age, she was in her mid-twenties. As for the rest, she was blonde and she was – as Zoya Petrivna would put it, my employer and editor in the publishing house where I worked as a literary translator – just perfect!

How I would appreciate it when my translations were acknowledged, even incidentally, with such praise. But this time, it was just the one word from the whole great and mighty language of Shakespeare and Lennon. She was the rare beauty, and a moment later it occurred to me: now she will stand up and go away, and I will regret this day as my biggest failure. It had been a week since I turned thirty-five and the prospect of spending the rest of my life blaming myself loomed large. So I took my cup of coffee in one hand, pack of cigarettes in another and headed to her table.

“Hi!” I said, and took a seat opposite her, not waiting for an invitation. “I apologize for imposing myself on you. Sami my ne mestnyye1 though I hadn’t missed the train, and even have my ticket back. My house… well, my dacha really burned a while back, but I already fixed everything. And I have no ill children urgently needing an operation… and healthy ones too. But still there is something I wanted to ask you…”

She raised her eyes to me, but then immediately shifted her gaze to her notepad:

“Please, go ahead,” she said.

“Marry me, will you?”

For a moment she looked at me intently:

“Okay,” she said, “I agree. But first talk to my mom.”

She briskly shut her notepad, slipped it into her purse, got up and headed out of the café. I pressed a ten gryvnas bill under a saucer and rushed after her. As I passed my chair, I grabbed my vest: Somewhere near, a dozen steps away, a car alarm was already beeping. The fender lamp of a brand new Volkswagen Golf gave me a mocking wink. She already had the handle of the car door in her hand, was opening it.

“Wait, wait a minute,” I said, “but where is your mom? You know, I have a pressing matter to discuss with her.”

She shrugged:

“How should I know? She’s grown up already, and I don’t control her.”

My blonde sat behind the wheel and turned the ignition lock. The engine – now of all times – worked with a half turn. She lowered the window and waved to me.

(to be continued…)

Notes

1. “We (ourselves) are not locals” is a traditional approach adopted by con-artists, especially sham “refugees” in Russian-speaking counties (author’s note).

In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)

Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey

January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan

February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asryan

March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez

April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Toni Wallis

May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko

June: A Girl Pedaling up the Road of Life – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas

July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk

August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido

September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández

October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino

November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake

December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva

Background – Context

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

More work by Gennady Bondarenko

What You Sow Does Not Come To Life Unless It Dies – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)

Twenty Plus Years – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)

Hybrid War – Gennady Bondarenko (transposing emblem)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: Kiev, Ukraine – At the cafe – Oskar Zhitnitsa (Unsplash)

Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

by Toni Wallis

I travelled to Portugal, the land of my ancestors. I speak the language but the accent soon gave me away. I am taken to be an immigrant and I sense apprehension in the questions of inquisitive strangers: “How long will you stay in Portugal? Are you here on holiday or do you want to live here?”

I stayed for five months, and made four friends: a Mozambican studying medicine in Lisbon, a guy from Timor-Leste who didn’t seem to have anything to do during the day but was always free to hang out, a Romanian garbage collector who sent money home to his family, and an English-tour guide who moved to Portugal and spent his wages on rent and weed.

For five months, I was an outsider among outsiders. We met at church and became friends out of necessity. We shared our stories and got drunk on cheap wine. We got together a few times a week to soften the hardness of a life lived at the edges. In this group of misfits, I belonged. In this group, each one was an individual with a name – Barbara, Jomé, Dario, Jomi. Alone, we were just immigrants who had come to take someone else’s job, place a burden on social services.

Nothing held me to Portugal and I soon moved on. Germany was my next stop to work as a volunteer. The other volunteers came from the USA, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Germany, Switzerland.

I was the only African. And I was a disappointment. The first words that came out of the Mexican’s mouth were: “Dios mio, we thought you would be black! They said you came from Africa.”

And so began a long year of having to explain my origins to every new disappointed person who had hoped for a black volunteer. In South Africa, I was too white to be acceptable. In Germany, I wasn’t black enough!

Years later, on a backpacking adventure, an Argentinean customs official refused to let me leave Argentina and step onto Brazilian soil. How could a white person with a Portuguese name and who spoke Spanish possibly have a South African passport?

Instead, he showed me into an empty room with a table and two chairs. He took away my passport and said that he needed to search through their database for wanted people and to check my passport for forgery. He had no desire to listen to my explanation that I truly was South African.

Half an hour later he was back. Flanked by another guy, probably his superior.

“Where were you born?” the second man asked me.

“South Africa.”

“Date of birth?” I gave it to him.

“How did you come to be in South Africa?”

“I was born there.”

“This isn’t a joke, you are in serious trouble.”

“Why? I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Why do you speak Spanish so well?”

“I’m a translator,” I answered.

He seemed surprised. “They don’t speak Spanish in Africa.” Actually, they do, I wanted to tell him, in Equatorial Guinea. But that probably wouldn’t help my cause at that particular moment!

And so the questioning went on. He asked about my parents and where they were born. Why they came to South Africa. How long I had lived there. What I was doing in Argentina and the reasons I was crossing into Brazil. The interrogation lasted about 45 minutes, but it seems that I either convinced the customs officials that I was who I said I was, or they just ran out of questions.

They finally let me continue on my journey, but I was reminded once again that I didn’t belong. My skin color was wrong. So were the languages I spoke. Quite simply, my very being was out of context.

I have come to accept that I will probably always be out of context. My name, my skin, my accent and the languages I speak betray me. They betray that my identity is one of incongruity and homelessness in the world. The place that gave birth to me accuses me for the injustice of centuries. The place of my ancestors fears me as just another African immigrant coming to take their jobs, their men, and live off the system. The in-between spaces of the world, themselves once colonized and now free, have no frame of reference to understand me.

After many years of having been a nomad in the world, I find myself at home again. Without delusions now. The nameless faces condemn me, the politicians make me their scapegoat. The ninth or tenth generation white South Africans with whom I should share a cultural heritage shun me. In the midst of all this, a community of people whose very skin embodies a miscellaneous harmony of language, culture, history, and race welcomes me.

The colored people of Cape Town have made me feel at home. They have become my mother and father who include me at their table. They are the precious sisterhood where woundedness is healed and where hearts find a home. They are my brothers who day-by-day erase the pain of a boy who once told me I was too white to belong in his world.

This is where I belong for now. I have found a place in the land of my birth. Perhaps one day I will find the peace to once again call it home.

In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)

Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey

January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan

February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asryan

March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez

April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Toni Wallis

May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko

June: A Girl Pedaling up the Road of Life – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas

July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk

August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido

September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández

October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino

November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake

December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva

Background – Context

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

More work by Toni Wallis

Living for Today – Toni Wallis (transposing emblem)

Walls and Resettlement – Toni Wallis (transposing emblem)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: Cape Town, South Africa – Cityscape – Gray Kotze (Shutterstock)

Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

Thirteen years have passed since those youthful days of dashed love.

Meanwhile South Africa came of age. At 25, this youthful democracy on which I had placed so many of my hopes and dreams still hasn’t learned to look beyond skin color.

Some of the born frees (born after 1994) have so much going for them. They never knew apartheid and they grew up believing that their dreams could come true. They have managed to study, are making their footprint in industry, medicine, economics and they are slowly moving up in the world. These are the South Africans I have fallen in love with. They represent everything that is wonderful about living in a multi-racial country. They are open-minded, they are hopeful, they are full of the energy of the potential that life offers them.

But they still represent a tiny minority. The majority remain impoverished, poorly educated, unemployed and unemployable….and angry. They believe the lies the politicians tell them: they haven’t advanced because white people still keep them down. While it’s true that the wealthy elite are mostly still white and big business needs transformation, what the politicians forget to tell them is that government corruption has syphoned money allocated to better schools and economic opportunities into the pockets of the very politicians who promised them a better life for all.

And so, my white skin remains a liability. I had hoped that as I grew older and South Africa grew wiser, that I would learn to become more comfortable in my skin.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Some days I want to rip off this skin and cut out the tongue that speaks in the polished tones of English private school education.

When I walk into a room full of strangers, I often feel that some of the black people in the room judge me by my appearance and my accent. White. Nearing middle age. Conservative. Highly educated. Rich. Racist. Because I can’t possess only some of those qualities. If I am one, I must be them all. And therefore I must be despised.

In some white circles, especially in small, rural dorpies (towns), the same judgement earns me a privileged place at the table with disgruntled boers (white farmers) who hope to find a sympathetic ear as they talk about how things were better in the good old days, before the blacks took over.

In situations like those, I feel ashamed to be white. It’s clear that my generation of South Africans didn’t deal well with the transition from apartheid to chaotic democracy. Rabid white racism still exists and whenever a white person rants about the number of black people on a beach, or calls a black police officer offensive and derogatory names, it makes national headlines. In many cases, legal action is, rightly, taken against the perpetrators.

And every time it happens, I feel the eyes of judgement on me. Accusing me.

I want to scream back: “I’m nothing like those people. Why do you judge me, without knowing me?”

Thato, one of my black friend once told me: “You feel bad if people think you’re racist? Now you know how we felt, how my parents felt, how my grandparents felt. Your people looked at us and assumed we were ignorant, thought we were little more than apes, thought we were good for nothing but to be their servants. No matter what we told them, your people didn’t believe us. It’s your turn now.”

I don’t want to justify myself. I just want to live without needing to. But as time goes by, that hard armor of pretending not to care begins to wear away.

In my student days, I had a place where I could escape – a close-knit group of four as multi-colored as the South African flag. We represented the heady hopes of the late 1990s and the dream of the rainbow nation. Today, we’re scattered all over the country, but try to see each other from time to time. Whenever we get together, it’s a homecoming. Each can be themselves, without judgement. It’s a safe space where we can speak openly about anything.

In this sacred space, we give voice to our deepest thoughts, our silent reservations, our frustrations at the state of our country, our fears for our children’s future. Some of what we say would be strongly judged in our respective communities. We disagree, we discuss, we argue, we say things we’d never dare to say in any other space.

After a few bottles of wine, the differences of opinion and politics are forgiven and forgotten as we fall into a state of nostalgia.

“Do you remember teaching Alicia to drive in Sebokeng?” Nandipha asks. We collapsed into giggles, trying to imagine what it must have looked like to an outsider. A white girl in the passenger seat of a beat up old car, with a colored girl behind the wheel trying to drive through the streets of Sebokeng, a dusty, impoverished black township on the edges of Johannesburg, all while trying to dodge stray dogs and toddlers playing in the street. In the back seat, Nan was clinging to the back of the passenger seat, looking positively terrified!

We were spending the weekend at Nan’s place, and my car became an opportunity to teach my friends to drive. Nan and Alicia took turns practicing how to steer the car through the crowded streets. Other than a few shaking fists, nobody paid us much attention. I wonder if today, someone would call the police on us and accuse of being racist and trying to kill black people!

I also have not been inside a township for many years. I just don’t feel safe. Instead, I feel eyes of judgement and hatred. Is my gut feeling correct? Or is there a hint of racism in my sense of insecurity?

Or perhaps it’s the fact that at the heart of it all, I don’t feel at home in my home country. Where once I felt that I was a beloved child of this rough and beautiful land, now I feel that I am not welcome here anymore.

But where else can I go? Where do I belong?

(to be continued…)

In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)

Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey

January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan

February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asryan

March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez

April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Sarah Leah Pimentel

May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko

June: A Girl Pedaling up the Road of Life – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas

July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk

August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido

September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández

October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino

November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake

December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva

Background – Context

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

More work by Toni Wallis

Living for Today – Toni Wallis (transposing emblem)

Walls and Resettlement – Toni Wallis (transposing emblem)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: South Africa – Pearly Beach – Sincerely Media (Unsplash)

Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

“Ja, ek weet. I know. We grew up very different,” I said. “But South Africa has changed. The color of our skins shouldn’t matter anymore. What matters is that we have fun together. We share the same interests, have the same values. We’re good friends, and we could be more,” I said, trying to reason with Shakil.

“It won’t work,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone.

“Why not?”

“Your parents will never accept me.”

“How do you know? My parents never really got the whole apartheid thing. It was different in Angola. That’s why they sent me to Catholic school, the only ones brave or stupid enough to defy the government and accept children of all races. They don’t believe in that crap and neither do I. I see people. I don’t see their skin. I don’t see your skin color. I see you,” I told him.

“That’s the problem,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I retorted.

“You don’t hang out with your own kind. All your friends are black or colored or Indian. Don’t you have any white friends?”

“My friends are like our rainbow nation,” I joked. And then retorted a little more defensively: “And I do have white friends!”

“How come I haven’t met any of them?” Shakil asked.

He had a point.

I’d never deliberately kept my white friends from Shakil. But when I got people together for a braai (barbeque), I invited people I knew would get on with him. It hadn’t occurred to me that I’d never invited any white people. Now, I realized, he felt as if I was somehow ashamed of him and didn’t want my white friends to meet him. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The real issue was that I never felt completely comfortable around my white friends. All of them were ninth or tenth generation South Africans, and with the exception of one friend whose parents had been anti-apartheid activists, most of them had struggled to adapt to the new, multicultural South Africa. They still saw black people with suspicion and felt that a black-run government would, sooner or later, turn South Africa into just another African disaster. As we neared the end of our studies, many were talking of emigrating.

I didn’t share their views or their politics. Even though I also held a Portuguese passport, I had no intention of leaving. I might only be a first-generation South African, but this was home. This was where I belonged.

As time went on, I began disassociating from my white friends. It was just easier than constantly arguing about politics or dealing with their disillusions. It was easier than feeling judged that I didn’t hold the “right” views, whatever those might be. I just didn’t belong in that world.

In contrast, my colored friends welcomed me into their homes and their lives with such love and warmth. I met their families, I stayed over in their homes and ate biryani – a popular hybrid Cape Malay and Indian rice and mutton stew – and koesusters, a spicy fried dough rolled in syrup and coconut. I loved their accent and their code switching from English to Afrikaans, their deep sense of humor, even in the face of adversity or disaster, and their pragmatic and jovial approach to life. These were all the things I loved about Shakil.

I realized that I’d lost myself in my thoughts and had stopped listening to what he was trying to say to me.

“Maybe you think you’re ready for this,” he was saying. “But South Africa isn’t and if we get married and have kids, they’ll have a tough time at school, being teased about their parents. And I want to marry a colored woman. I don’t want to waste your time,” he said with a tone of finality.

And that was it.

Shakil and I remained friends for several years, until he finally met the woman who would become his wife and the mother of his son. Yes, she was colored.

(to be continued…)

In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)

Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey

January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan

February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asryan

March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez

April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Sarah Leah Pimentel

May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko

June: A Girl Pedaling up the Road of Life – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas

July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk

August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido

September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández

October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino

November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake

December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva

Background – Context

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

More work by Toni Wallis

Living for Today – Toni Wallis (transposing emblem)

Walls and Resettlement – Toni Wallis (transposing emblem)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: Hillcrest, South Africa – Illuminated  – Mike Saunders (Unsplash)

Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed

by Toni Wallis

“I’m sorry, I just can’t do it. I can’t date a white woman.”

His words left me cold. Shakil and I had spent a lot of time together and we’d become good friends. After nearly a year of friendship, I’d hoped that there could be something more between us.

“What difference does it make that I’m white?” I asked, with a mixture of indignation and surprise.

“Don’t take it the wrong way,” Shakil began, looking awkward. He paused, wiping the condensation from his bottle of Castle Lager, trying to find the words. “It’s just that you and I come from different worlds.”

That much was true. Shakil had grown up in Port Elizabeth, an industrial coastal city a few hours east of Cape Town. His mom, a single mother, had struggled to raise her two sons in the dying years of apartheid.

As a colored woman, the name given to people of mixed race in South Africa, the regime killed her dreams before she even realized that it wasn’t her place to dream. The Bantu Education Act, which meant blacks received an inferior education, and the social constraints of being a woman in her generation meant there were very few opportunities to study further and most of the jobs available to her were menial ones. She had married young, a way out of poverty, but soon after her second son, Salie, was born, her husband left to find work in another town and never came back. It was a struggle to make ends meet, and there were times when she would go hungry so that the boys didn’t have to.

Shakil and Salie had spent the first part of their childhood in a segregated neighborhood and even though apartheid ended in 1994, everyday life wouldn’t change for a few more years, so they continued to attend the under-resourced and overpopulated high school in their neighborhood and missed out on the opportunities that their white counterparts had. They didn’t dream of going to university after their Matric year and looking for a job was the only way out.

Unlike me. Born just three months after Shakil on the other side of the color line and the other side of the country, in the economic and intellectual capital of South Africa, Johannesburg, my story was very different. My family had arrived in South Africa a few years earlier as refugees, part of a wave of some 500,000 white Portuguese who fled Angola as a bloody civil war broke out in the aftermath of its colonial independence from Portugal. They trekked from Angola into Namibia before being rescued by the South African authorities.

Upon their arrival in South Africa, my parents had first lived in the spare room of a Portuguese family who gave them free lodgings until they could get on their feet. Even though they didn’t speak English at the time, they found work easily enough: my mom as a shop assistant and my dad starting out in a steel factory, working his way up from a smelter to a sales manager by the time he retired 30 years later.

Growing up, there were never any luxuries at home, but there was always food on the table and my parents sacrificed many nice-to-haves so that I could study at a private school and receive some of the very best education available in South Africa at the time. My excellent primary and secondary education opened the doors to university studies on a full scholarship.

(to be continued…)

In the Middle – An International Transposition (Fiction)

Introduction to In the Middle – An International Transposition, edited by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey

January: Forgetting – Turkey, by Seyit Ali Dastan

February: The Unreal in Real – Armenia, by Armine Asryan

March: Catching Water – Argentina, by Javier Gómez

April: Unwanted – South Africa, by Sarah Leah Pimentel

May: House with a Stucco Ship – Ukraine, by Gennady Bondarenko

June: A Girl Pedaling up the Road of Life – Cuba, by Marilin Guerrero Casas

July: The Last Day – Poland, by Pawel Awdejuk

August: Through my Hands – Venezuela, by Veronica Cordido

September: Amelia’s Euphemism – Spain, by Jonay Quintero Hernández

October: Until Love Do Us Part – Uruguay, by Alejandra Baccino

November: A Journey to the Edge – Lebanon, by Rayan Harake

December: I Used to Smoke – Russia, by Kate Korneeva

Background – Context

Peripatetic Alterity: A Philosophical Treatise on the Spectrum of Being – Romantics and Pragmatists by Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

La Syncrétion of Polarization and Extremes Transposée, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2019)

The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2018)

L’anthologie of Global Instability Transpuesta, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2017)

From Wahnsinnig to the Loony Bin: German and Russian Stories Transposed to Modern-day America, (eds.) Angelika Friedrich, Yuri Smirnov and Henry Whittlesey (2013)

More work by Toni Wallis

Living for Today – Toni Wallis (transposing emblem)

Walls and Resettlement – Toni Wallis (transposing emblem)

Emblems and stories on the international community

Perception by country – Transposing emblems, articles, short stories and reports from around the world

Credits

Cover photo: Durban, South Africa – Peeking out – Kyle Cut Media (Unsplash)

Source: The Codex of Uncertainty Transposed