Aleksander Beciri – Grumpy Old Men

Aleksander Beciri is an Albanian living 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 translated from Dutch to Albanian ‘Aan de Rand van de Wereld: Michel Houellebecq’ (‘On the Verge of the World: Michel Houellebecq’) in 2015. He is also the author of the poetry collection ‘Faje Njeriu’ (‘Human flaws’) published in 2008 by Skanderbeg Books. Some of the short stories in this book: ‘Transformed’, ‘What’s over there?’, ‘The Old Shoes’, ‘One And a Half Meter Distance – Sex’, and ‘Suus the Cat and Maurice de Haan’ have already been published on The Galway Review.


NOTE: ‘Grumpy Old Men’ of Aleksander Beciri is a short story from his freshly published book by Galway Academic Press: ‘The Bastard’. The book is about frictions and tension fields between ‘being’ and ‘willing to be’, trying to remain young while getting old, between hi-tech advancements of the new millennium and emotional-intellectual struggles to catch up with; entanglement of sense and senselessness of life itself. However, a kind of remedy to these discrepancies & confusing ‘collisions’ might be engineered by not always taking seriously; neither ourselves nor the ones possessing such a tendency, making the lightness of our existence a bit more digestible, according to the author of ‘The Bastard’.


Grumpy Old Men

By Aleksander Beciri

The only moment when I thoroughly took the time to look at my own mirror image, focussing on the other me was the one when it was too late. Remains of youth were become memories and a few forehead wrinkles looking more like scars, marked the triumphalist entry-march of the second half-time of a middle-aged man. Not funny things had already started to happen, and my body did not always obey the orders of my will, at least not as fast and as agile as it used to do years ago. Maybe that is why I tried to defy my own limits. Starting at first by training a football-team of youngsters and when even that became physically challenging, playing football-referee offered me an anti-aging remedy. At least that is how I for a while could fool myself. The party did not last awfully long, when on a slippery day, running backwards on the grass-pitch, a plastic bottle thrown by the fans of the home – team, hindered the back of my right foot, my body got out balance, the gravity did its work compelling me into falling ugly on the ground. I might even have passed out because when I gained conscience, colours of shirts of both teams and the growing sound-siren of a coming ambulance were the first things I remember. A half hour later, the white blouses of the hospital informed me about the injury of a couple of vertebras on the lower part of my back. Prescribed intensive physiotherapy and two crutches should keep me going. As far as the rest is concerned, I should keep in my mind that I am not the youngest anymore, thank you very much. Stupid doctors!

***

Once upon a time, mankind used to have goals and ideals to getting pursued, sacrifices were made to keep alive dreams and visions. In key defining moments of the history there were always brave men and women whispering and visualising a deeper meaning, a further purpose, a greater good than life itself, worth fighting for. That was what kept us going as a human race, until recently when suddenly, the whole life-motto got replaced by: keep breathing! One can think, such a simple task is not much to ask, is it?

Only within a couple of days the entire world changed because of one tiny virus. Panic reigned the supermarkets, empty shelves became day-panoramas, toilet-paper and head-ache tablets became the most scarce-commodity. Not necessary tools to keep breathing but…

The surviving animal instinct but humanized and sophisticated, left no space for misunderstanding of our own basic fears, of our own origin. No matter how civilized we want to pretend we are, thousands of years of evolution got challenged by our primitive, behaviouristic nature.

***

It was one of those day a man does what he has to do, when on my crutches I decided to be strolling to the market and buying my own killing doses of thirty – three years addiction, my portion of strong tobacco.

-Don’t do it! It is overcrowded downtown. It is not wise, on those crutches. – my partner drew my attention.

– Let the old man be! He is falling apart; didn’t you notice? Be happy he moves at all! – my teenage daughter could not help it, by giving her unasked opinion at peculiar moments.

Without any training and in a considerable amount of pain I dragged myself forwards, what for me was pretty much harsh to endure, for the rest it was a comic view. Tottering like a duck I found myself amongst a huge mass of people forming a long queue in front of the supermarket. Moving at slow motion and witnessing trolleys fully overloaded with provisions was confronting. There were not the normal groceries and daily foodstuffs people were caring out of the store, no, it was more than that, including a lot of dry and conserved food. Meanwhile these people are trying to survive I needed only my damn – addiction stilled.

As always there is somebody smarter than the group under such circumstances, someone who immediately propagates a conspiracy-theory, who claims there is not such a thing as a virus, and all of this is a hoax.

It had passed a whole hour and when I almost reached the bench where tobacco products are sold, he appeared. Pushing his way forward, yelling and bullying everybody, a bald muscled man around sixty, wearing a pair of shorts and a red T-shirt with the inscription ‘Power to the People’ on it. The very people he was pushing around did not react at all and let him perform what he already was performing. It seemed nobody was daring to challenge him. Until he stood right behind me. At first, he made an attempt to catch me in from the left side, without success. In a feint move when he thought he had been clever by passing me from the right flank I could not help it anymore. One simple uncontrolled move of one of the crutches of the limping man I was, touched his left leg, the man went out of balance tumbling down like a bag of sand. Instead of lying there and waiting for medical attention he stood immediately up, a bloodstain on his lip, and without any hesitation he started calling me names. It was not pain, the man was wrestling with that very moment, it was shame in front of all people he had been playing badass all the time. He became even more aggressive until the group he had harassed embraced my side of the story, that it all happened by accident and that me myself, the man on crutches was in pain. People caught him away right where he belonged; on the back of the queue.

I bought my pack of tobacco, went outside, rolled a cigarette and lighted it on fire. White circles of smoke floated on the air. Why did I do it? Was it a revenge on the bullying man, or was I just jealous of him who even though ten years older than I was, he was more dynamic, healthier, and fitter than me? Grumpiness of the age was most likely to be the case.

 

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