Aleksander Beciri lives in The Netherlands. He is a civil engineer engaged in circular building and environmental protection. He is also author and translator. Because of his knowledge of Albanian, Dutch, Greek, English and Italian he has been involved into various multilingual translations. He contributed to the translating/editing of ‘Kruis van Vergetelheid’s (Cross of Oblivion) by Flutura Açka (2014) and translated from Dutch to Albanian ‘Aan de Rand van de Wereld: Michel Houellebecq’ (‘On the Verge of the World: Michel Houellebecq’) by Martin de Haan (2015). Aleksander Beciri is also the author of the poetry collection ‘Faje Njeriu’ (‘Human flaws’) published in 2008 by Skanderbeg Books and he has written two short stories: ‘Transformed & What’s over there?’ and ‘The Old Shoes’ (The Galway Review 2016).
One And a Half Meter Distance – Sex
They are colleagues, freshly graduated, intelligent and talented between twenty four and twenty six years of age, called in on a temporary basis to help in the frontline of health working where we learn to and live and struggle with the uninvited guest, the bloody Corona-virus.
While entering the school yard they quit laughing, as though I ruined their party. Hesitating,a bit uneasy, I approach them and ask:
-Please, just pretend I am not here and go on!
-It was about my ex-boyfriend- answered one of those young colleagues.
-What about him?
-He keeps on stalking.
-That’s not kind.
-Not kind? I find him annoying, nasty! – she made her point very clear.
-I really do understand. Love and obsession sometimes look alike, stand in each others way. But anyway, there is something else just crossing my mind at this very moment. You stand here in front of me, eight young ladies and two young gentlemen and I am fifty years old, double of your age. Actually, I feel a bit embarrassed, so I am withdrawing my intended question.
– Of course you may ask anything you want. No embarrassment whatsoever!
They really encouraged me on proceeding with whatever crazy idea that had captivated my mind.
-How do you do it?
-Sex on one meter and a half physical distancing. For me it is a mission impossible.
-Actually, it is not such a silly question.
The youngest colleague throws a lifebuoy, my gratitude immense. The two young males buried their heads in the sand. Under no circumstance did they want to be part of this derailed conversation. The other seven girls looked first at each other and then fixed their glance at me. The subject didn’t leave them indifferent. Still I felt I had to rectify my position.
-I am just curious, that’s all. If my interest is of a prying nature and my intonation sounds in anyway as inappropriate, please consider it as not asked.
-There is nothing wrong with your question. As a matter of fact you are not the first to ask. The government has been often confronted with it the last couple of months.
-You are kidding, right? You don’t ask the government those kind of questions do you? – I didn’t believe my own ears.
-Sure, we do ask such questions. And by the way, here is the announcement of the National Institute for Public Health and Environmental Hygiene. Grab my smartphone and enjoy the information concerning the new guidelines; Read!
Indeed, there it was, simple and plain: ‘Considering that the lack of intimacy could cause tensions among youngsters which threatens their wellbeing the RIVM (the Institution) has issued adjusted guidelines. Now you may have sex provided you have a steady partner who follows the rules. The whereabouts of the sex-partner however, should be traceable…’
-I will be damned!!! This is a joke and a bad one, right?
-No, there’s nothing funny about it.
Racked with confusion, disoriented and self-pitying, a nagging old bastard mourning the runaway of my own youth, I thanked the group, said goodbye and left them to their own values. My loyal bike finds implacably the way back, rolling over the stone-paths, finally bringing me home. Without succeeding to process what was happening I switched the TV on.
Eight o clock National Television-News, Channel 1, Sunday 17th of march:
‘Hundreds of surrogate-babies in Ukraine wait for their western surrogate-parents to arrive. Covid – 19 pandemics and closed borders have created a dangerous gap, the birth-mams possess no longer the rights or the obligations to take care of the new-borns. With the clock ticking, the situation gets more and more desperate and the amount of babies without parents keeps rising according to the maternity-home director in Kiev… ‘
At a certain point I thought I had caught Corona and this was a side-effect of the virus tricking my brain but fortunately the next morning the same news was repeated by Euronews. Almost identical, only updated. ‘The number of surrogate-babies stranded in Ukraine has surpassed one thousand’.
The concept ‘surrogate-parent’ was something I was pretty familiar with but never before had I had heard of ‘surrogate-babies’.
Suus the Cat and Maurice de Haan
While approaching the end of a joyful day, there was a vibration in my pocket and then the cell phone rang, drawing my attention. The number was unknown. I still answered it.
– Hello, how can I help you?
-This is the Metropolitan Police, department of Cats and Dogs, my name is Joyce.
-What can I do for you Madame? – I asked, slightly shocked.
-It is your cat, Suus, that I want to talk to you about.
-Well, Suus the cat is a free spirit and nobody’s property, not even mine. I only take care of her when she needs it. Anyway, what has she done again? She didn’t end up in the cell, did she?
I really thought someone on the other side was mocking me.
-I am calling because there is a lawsuit almost being filed.
-Madame, my battery is almost empty. Will you be kind enough to call me in about thirty minutes when I am home?
-Okay, and I strongly advise you however, on taking our conversation more seriously.
Whistling and cycling home, in the highest levels of a good mood where even such a weird conversation only added to the joy of my day, I decided to follow my father’s advice. May his soul rest in peace. As though my old man had travelled to the Far East he used to say: ‘Not holding on to what goes away and not pushing away what comes to you could be a key to sporadic moments of happiness.’
‘Whatever happens, today is my day’ I tried to whisper to my father’s soul ‘and nobody is going to ruin it’.
Arriving home my smart phone vibrates again, then its downloaded Scorpions ringtone ‘Wind of changes’ followed.
-It is Joyce again from the Metropolitan Police and it is still about your cat, Suus.
-So, this is no joke at all. In that case I am coming to meet you.
-No sir, you don’t understand the gravity of the situation. We are deciding on what happens next. We are coming to you.
-You mean, ‘You, like in plural’? How many of you? You mean by police car, sirens and that kind of stuff?
-You are pretty talkative sir. My colleague and myself are coming to you in a police car and there is nothing you can do about it.
-Please lady, stop! I am coming to the police station and if it makes you feel better you may handcuff me. It is ridiculous sending two officers to my house. Has the police nothing else to do nowadays? Catching crooks or something like that? See you in twenty minutes! – obviously irritated I pushed the red turning-off button.
I reached the station sooner than I had calculated and there she was on the doorstep, this gorgeous creature, deep blue eyes, dressed just tight enough to accentuate her being a beautiful woman and just wide enough to accentuate the lady she was.
-Good evening! There is no chance is there that your name is Joyce?
-Please come inside! – her intonation professional. I was left with no choice but to follow her into her office.
-What is the wrongdoing of my cat?
-The manager of the Cinema has filed a complaint. Suus is there as an uninvited guest and brings pheasants and rabbits there ,half dead, half alive. He can’t take it any more.
-Heh! Now I get it. But please I would like to be the lawyer of Suus just for a little while and in her defence I would say that until now she was their favourite cat. The employees loved her. Suus was an attraction for them and she received great attention, water, milk and love. The movie goers really thought she was part of the Harry Potter corner show. She probably received even 3D glasses to watch 3D movies! I went on, maybe a bridge too far, confusing reality and fiction.
-That is what I meant sir when we spoke on the phone as well. You don’t take my word seriously enough. I represent the cat police.
-Cat police? You mean like animal protection police? Has Suus been assaulted?
-No, I am talking normal police, department of dogs and cats nuisance and you are an awful interlocutor. I would like to agree on a plan of action,
-Plan of action? I have told Suus frequently to keep her instincts under control but she doesn’t always listen carefully. There could be a language barrier.
for-I swear to Almighty God but this is the last warning sir! Are you going to cooperate? Did you know that the Cinema manager has even suggested euthanasia for your cat?
-Jesus, no!!! Of course, I am going to cooperate. I will do whatever it takes to keep Suus alive.
-Finally, we are getting somewhere! – said the beautiful officer called Joyce, while making notes of our conversation.
I agreed to pretty much everything that the lady police suggested, I was the listener, she taking the lead, when Suus jumped onto my lap and affectionately treated me to lots of soft head caressing ‘strokes’ just like a cat does when she misses you.
– Ah you poor little thing. They loved you at the movie house until they realised you were just a cat with cat instincts when you offered them fresh pheasants and rabbits. Only then did they realise your true nature and kicked you off their territory for who you really are. Don’t worry, we are still together…
Without realising that time was passing while I was lost in conversation with Suus, I arrived home before I knew it. I fell like a stone on the couch, grabbed the remote control, and together with her I surrendered to my own addiction the ‘eight o clock news’. I really didn’t care anymore which was fake news and which wasn’t. I just needed my dose. There it came:
‘4 July 2019, Evening News:
The Frenchman Maurice de Haan is taken to court. The tourists are fed up of him. Turmoil in the village of Saint-Pierre d’Oléron and all over France. Maurice keeps everybody busy on a high state of alert. What first was just a local village issue has now grown into a national happening. The petition supporting Maurice has been signed one hundred thousand times…’
I really needed the pictures to understand that the subject, dominating the breaking news at that very moment was a rooster who forced by primal instincts of his nature, at 06.00AM sharp every single morning began his crowing. Tourists from the capital city spending a week per year on holiday at the rooster’s fishing village (yes, Maurice was born and raised in Saint-Pierre d’Oléron) are not happy with him waking them up, singing the same damn rooster song. He does not give up either and so there is a ‘Stand-off in a court of law, humans, and nature facing each-other’.
-The world is going crazy, don’t you think? – I asked Suus.
She nodded and I immediately knew on which side she was going to stand.