TE21 Serbian Moments

Nana Ekvtimishvili

The Pear Field

leans it against Narcissa’s shampoo bottle and shaves using that, or takes his razor and bowl to the gatehouse and shaves with the mirror there. So Tariel limps out of the school grounds, disconsolate but convinced there’s no point protesting. He simply opens the gates and walks back home to where Narcissa and Gubaz are waiting for him. Meanwhile, Lela bids farewell to the five-storey dorm block and the room she’s called home for the past few years. The only reason she’ll have for going into the main building now will be to use the toilet. Shegoes intothegatehouse, sitsonthebedand lightsacigarette. Tariel has left a large cut-glass ashtray on the table. Lela taps her ash into it. It feels strangely satisfying. Irakli comes in and sits on the bed beside her. Lela gives him the last bit of her cigarette. Irakli is nine and has been living at the school for a year. He doesn’t remember his father. It was his mother who brought him here. At first she put him in a children’s home in central Georgia while she stayed in Tbilisi for work. She kept in touch, although contact was infrequent. It was hard for her to get away. Then a year ago she brought him to Tbilisi. He was to board at the school from Monday to Friday and spend the weekends with her. But the weekends passed and Irakli never did go home. When he first arrived at the school, Tiniko asked 202

Lela to look after him. He seemed happy enough, following her around while she showed him the ropes, and Lela found him to have both quick wits and a quick tongue. As a rule, Lela felt closer to the children who were more or less ‘normal’. She helped the slow kids too, when the need arose, but she kept her distance. When Lela and Irakli go outside they see Vaska and Kolya sitting on the bench under the spruce trees. ‘I’m going out,’ Lela says to Kolya. ‘Can you open the gates if someone needs to bring their car through?’ Kolya nods. Lela thinks she sees Vaska’s smile widen, no doubt because she asked Kolya although he can’t even walk properly and they both know that Vaska works the gates much better. Lela and Irakli go round to the block of flats next door. It is almost identical to the dormitory block: a white, fivestorey buildingwithgreenspaceonall sides, someofwhichnowhouses garages. The residents herewere the first to call the Residential School for Intellectually Disabled Children by its nickname, the School for Idiots. Both buildings were constructed in Khrushchev’s time: one was earmarked for housing, the other was designated an auxiliary building and became the school. They go up to the top floor and ring one of the doorbells. Mzia opens the door.


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