Trafika Europe 1 - Northern Idyll
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199

On the waterfront, cold and hoarse, familiar to everyone in

the city (having seen him so many times), playing his

accordion, his fingers mechanical, the music as numb as his

ashen, bristly cheek, but making a living (it was a good site

with plenty of people, handfuls of change tossed into his

bag like trash). Children crowding by the railings –

interspersed with parents – gleefully bumping into each

other, crumbling bread for ducks (by the crossing under the

bridge). The ducks swam up to the riverbank, clambered

out on to the embankment faced with rock, rats scurrying

among them to nobody’s surprise; a swan shoved its head

down into the water, looking like a big snowy mound.

Really he was Alik (“Albert” in his passport), but friends

called him El. Having two names is good, at least I like it. A

girl asked (in all seriousness) “Is El short for Daniel?” and

her innocence was so delightful and plausible that for a

time, while they were together, he was Daniel for me and

for that Vika. Later, when he dumped her, or rather, just

left her, exiled her from his presence, Daniel was forgotten

and fell away.

I don’t think El could really love women, he didn’t know

how to do it. He loved the situations, the eventfulness of

love, the motivation and seriousness of it, but he was just

not that bothered about girls: their eyes or their lips, their

waists or shoulders, their temperament, their souls, what

actually made them them, they were not events (just

material), Alik had no opinion of them at all, and it was not