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Tainaron by Leena Krohn, 1998

Mail from another city

© Leena Krohn

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Tainaron - Mail from another city





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The great window - the seventeenth letter


It was evening once, and I was a child, out in the street. All the lights were on, street lamps, shop windows, car headlights; and I was standing in front of a toy shop. You know the shop; it is still there, in the centre of town, and you must have passed it many times, or perhaps you have even been inside it in the days before Christmas.


That window! It was lit with prodigal brightness, and along the glass flowed glistening drops; a rainstorm had just passed over the city and everything was clean, never before seen. In front of the dolls, cars, balls and games, immediately behind the glass, a large selection of marbles had been set out in the shape of the petals of a flower. Some of them were transparent, others brightly coloured, others as white as milk.


I had never owned any marbles, and their glow captivated me; I admired them for a long time, but all of a sudden, from far away and without warning, the terrible knowledge slid between them and me - that one day my mother would die.


When this pain hit me, I was looking at a particularly beautiful shimmering blue marble, and something happened: it changed. Its colour did not vary, its size was the same as before, and it remained steady in its place; but all the same it was quite different from before. Something had fallen away from it, something which only a moment ago had made it desirable, the most important thing of all. The marble was no longer of value; it was merely junk, and there was no longer anything in the entire shop window to interest me. It was as if stage spotlights had been extinguished in the middle of a performance and a curtain had been drawn from earth to heavens in front of all the magnificence, a curtain whose name was VOID.


Even the street in which I stood was now a strange street in a strange city; but I went on standing in the same place. A vague desire for knowledge forced me to make an experiment. I wanted to see whether I could make the marble change back to what it was before. Gazing at it unwaveringly, I began to struggle to disperse the thickness of night which, unseen, dominated everything I looked at.


I did not believe the darkness, I said, it is not true; and soon it was indeed not true; it paled and lifted like a night-mist. And the marble glowed before me, lovely as ever.


But then I understood that the plenty of the shop window, all the jewels of its treasure trove, were only a tiny foretaste of what life would bring me with both hands - no, a hundred hands! a thousand!


And I have never left that shop window. I stand and stand, I look and look at how it shines, and goes dark, and shines again. There is night and there is day, and I see both hell and heaven through the same window.


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