Suzana Tratnik (1963) is a writer, translator, publicist and sociologist with MA in Gender Anthropology. She published six short stories collections Bellow Zero, In One’s Own Backyard, Parallels, Things I’ve Never Understood on the Train, Two Worlds and Reservation, two novels My Name is Damjan and Third World, a play and four non-fiction books. In 2007 she was rewarded with a national Prešeren’s Fund Prize for best fiction. Tratnik has translated several books of British, Irish and American fiction, non-fiction and plays.
By Suzana Tratnik
Do you remember that back then it was only a few minutes after midnight? It was actually Saturday and it would have been quite justifiable to say: “Tomorrow is Sunday.”
You had a very restless hand, drawing funny little people on my arm, and I couldn’t put myself together. But the trouble I had putting myself together wasn’t that ordinary, not the kind of trouble most people would have while sitting on the train and having someone drawing funny little people on their arms. I couldn’t concentrate on anything at all. I didn’t hear the train rattling nor the warm whistle of the coffee from the open flask; least of all was I aware of the taste of the salami in our sandwiches. I tried with the funny little people, but under your hand they were running all over, folding themselves and falling down. I took the red crate out of the rucksack (we had only one rucksack and one sleeping bag––do you remember?). And then we let funny little people jump on the crate. They were so restless. Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit now, but I do remember very well that they––the funny little people––and the crate were enchanted.
The ticket inspector was checking our train tickets. His glance over his glasses told us that he’d figured out where we were bound for. (You do know that some people enjoy their ability to understand just everything.) In that moment the only things we had in our mind were the red crate with funny little people and the taste of coffee in our mouth. (You do know the taste of coffee after a sandwich with overheated salami.)
The sandwiches and coffee were rapidly consumed. Out of the rucksack we also took Travis the cat. He lazily stretched and, catlike, jumped onto the crate and lay down. By doing so he trod on some of the funny little people but that was inevitable as we couldn’t had left Travis the cat at home. Immediately you started to draw new funny little people on my arm, and Travis the cat started to purr. “Why do you chatter; so much, Travis?” you said to him. You were always saying he was chattering while he was purring.
Then we invented a game of sounds. We imitated sheep, horses, funny little people, cows, and Travis. “Let’s imitate people!” you said. You imitated people, you talked and talked, gesticulated wildly, the words entangled, and all of a sudden you grew pale. “That hurts!” you said. “Let’s imitate fish.” And we imitated fish. Usually people don’t do that on trains. That was why we were traveling a few minutes after midnight, because usually people don’t travel at this hour and then you can imitate fish as much as you like.
Travis jumped off the crate at the next train station. It was his time.
You said that you wanted everyone to get out at this station so that you could go on drawing funny little people on my arm while I went on imitating fish and that time would stop.
Then we imitated the time that has stopped.
(Translation Suzana Tratnik, English edit Elena Harap)