LitLink: From DUGE RUTE by David Szalay, translated by Paula Jurišić

Vozim duge rute. Od Oradea do Udina. To je uobičajeno. Devet stotina kilometara u svakom smjeru. Dvaput tjedno. Odradim to. Jedan dan me nema, drugi dan sam tu. Ponekad prijeđem i više. Francuska. Engleska. Petodnevni kružni izlet, Engleska – barem. Spavam u kamionu. Dok se budim, potreban mi je koji trenutak da se podsjetim gdje sam. Trajektni terminal u Dunkirku. Ili logistički centar u Udinama, na rubu grada. Ili neko odmorište, negdje. Francuska. Njemačka. Neko odmorište negdje. Ima ujutro taj časak kad odšetam do odmorišta i ubacim kovanicu u utor da odem na zahod. A i pod tuš, ponekad. Ponekad imaju i tuš. Ako vam se da. Potom i obrok s prženom hranom. A vani možda kiši, ili je pak sunčano. Možda je ljeto, a možda i zima. Svejedno je. Tu je tek autocesta. Ne nazire joj se kraja. Sjedim ondje s rukama na volanu, pred očima mi je sat za satom, dan za danom. Godinu za godinom. Kao što rekoh, vozim duge rute.

Ne rade to svi. Ne voze svi duge rute. Imaju nešto od čega se ne žele odvojiti. Imam i ja nešto. Nije da nemam. Samo mi odvajanje ne pada teško, to je sve. A plaća je znatno veća kad odrađujete međunarodne. Kad vam plaćaju svaki sat u danu, pa i onaj koji provedete spavajući – ili ne spavajući – u malenom odjeljku u dnu kabine gdje se nalazi krevet. Ima taj maleni odjeljak u dnu kabine gdje se nalazi krevet. Nastojim ga održavati urednim. Postane sumorno ako se prepustiš, ako prestaneš mariti. Sreo sam pokojeg tipa, vidio unutrašnjost njegove kabine, bilo je otužno. Teško je steći prijatelje kad živiš tako. Hoću reći, na dugim rutama. A većina nas samotnjaci smo po prirodi. Tu i tamo sretneš istog tipa, dakako. Zatekneš se na nekom odmorištu i ugledaš kamion poznatog tipa pa dok parkiraš razmišljaš ne bi li mu trebao kucnuti na prozor, pozdraviti ga. Jer iako ga poznaješ, ne znaš ga dobro. Možda si ga nekoliko puta, bog zna gdje, i sreo. Ono golemo odmorište izvan Milana? Da, bit će da je bilo ondje. Stvar je u tome da nije ni bitno gdje. Svejedno je.Ta su mjesta sva ista. Možda ste pripalili koju u sjeni nekog od kamiona jedne od onih ljetnih večeri kojima, čini se, nema kraja, poput kukaca u travi oko odmorišta. Za takvih večeri neki od momaka uz kamione postave sklopive stolice pa ondje sjede tek u bermudama ili nečem sličnomu, čekaju da padne noć. I ponekad započnete razgovor, ako vas je nekoliko ondje. “Onda, kamo ćeš?” “Zbilja, bio sam ondje prošlog mjeseca.” “Nikad bio.” “Ne želiš onamo, stari.” “Znaš onu postaju izvan Toulona?” “Total?” “Ne, mislim da je Shell.” “Tako dakle.” “Znaš, ima ta cura…” Pa tako čavrljate dok sunce ne zađe, a prednja svjetla i dalje bljeskaju autocestom dok se povlačiš u kabinu spavati – ili ne spavati. Ležiš ondje u mraku pokušavajući dokučiti što to ne štima u tvojoj glavi, kao kad pokušavaš pronaći nekakvu industrijsku zonu u gradu u kojem nikad nisi bio i misliš da si se izgubio, ali još uvijek nisi siguran. Tako se ponekad osjećam dok ležim ondje, u mraku.

Vrlo često u takvoj situaciji pogledam film.

To činim i te noći kad mi netko pokuca na vrata kabine. Pomislim da to mora da je jedna od onih cura – jedna od onih cura što obrađuju odmorišta. Nema biti tko drugi. A ja baš i nisam raspoložen pa ignoriram kucanje, no ono se ponavlja pa ustanem iz kreveta i otvorim vrata.

Nije jedna od onih cura.

Tu je neki tip.

“Sve u redu?” kažem. I osjećam se pomalo glupo jer na sebi imam samo prsluk i hlače.

“Zanima li te prava lova?” upita me. S ovog je područja, gdje god to bilo. I miriše na novac, taj tip. Novac i proizvode za učvrščivanje kose. Oči mu svjetlucaju u mraku poput vode. Od onih je prema kojima si sumnjičav dočim izusti nešto takvo. “Zanima li te prava lova?”

“U zamjenu za što?” pitam.

Stoji ondje i promatra me.

“U zamjenu za što?” ponovim.

“Putnika”, kaže.

Potom primijetim tog malog u mraku podalje od njega. Bit će mu deset godina. U sportskoj jakni, podignute kapuljače stegnute oko lica. A vani je poprilično hladno – osjećam to sad kad su vrata otvorena, a ja u prsluku i hlačama.

“Ne bih smio”, odvratim.

“Nije riskantno”, tip će.

“Da, riskantno je.”

“Zar te ne zanima koliko nudim?” upita.

“Koliko?”

Tada mi kaže.

“Ne”, odgovorim. “Sad provjeravaju sve. Imaju toplinske senzore, sve.”

Smije mi se kao da sam debil. “To nije istina. Tko ti je to rekao?”

“Tako sam čuo.”

“Nije istina”, odvrati. “Kažem ti.”

“Svejedno ti ne mogu pomoći”, kažem. I zalupim vratima.

Nastavljam s filmom koji sam gledao u svojoj kabini. Superheroji ili što već. Jedan od tih filmova. Ali više se ne uspijevam usredotočiti. Samo nesvjesno buljim u ekran. I razmišljam, zašto su morali to učiniti? Zašto su me morali tako uzrujati? Sve je bilo nekako u redu. A sad sam potpuno uzrujan. Nije mi dobro. Znojim se kao stoka. Zaustavim film i sjedim ondje nekoliko trenutaka. Zatim uzmem tabletu i ugasim svjetlo.

Te noći usnem san. Za stolom sam, nasuprot sestre. U stanu smo u kojem smo živjeli kao djeca iako više nismo djeca, odrasli smo. I govorim joj nešto o tome kako želim smršavjeti, o dijeti na koju planiram.

Ona će potom: “Ali ti si mrtav.”

Ja odgovorim: “Nisam mrtav.”

“Da, jesi”, ona će.

I odjednom sam, shvativši da je u pravu, u strahovitom šoku. Mrtav sam.

Jeza me ne napušta ni nakon što shvatim da sam budan. Ležim ondje u skučenom prostoru u dnu kabine gdje je krevet. Moje sestre nema. No jeza je još uvijek tu, još me drži, iako sam već otvorio oči.

Vani se baš razdanjuje. I nekako je maglovito.

Nakon što sam odjenuo nešto, napustim kabinu i prošetam do odmorišta pustim asfaltom.

U odmorištu nema nikoga. Sve je prazno. Potpuno prazno. Nakon nekog vremena, vidjevši da nitko ne dolazi, kroz izmaglicu se vraćam do kamiona.

I tada se sjetim tipa i malog od prošle noći.

Jedna od onih stvari za koje se zapitaš jesu li se zaista zbile. Ili sam i to tek sanjao?

Razmišljam o malom, kako je samo stajao ondje s vlastitom sjenom.

Duhovi. Tako mi sada djeluju.

Svi su drugi kamioni otišli, što je čudno. Siguran sam da su maločas bili ovdje, kad sam otišao do odmorišta. Poprilično sam siguran u to… Sada vidim tek bijelu izmaglicu. Ne razabirem više od nekoliko parkirnih mjesta s obje strane kamiona, možda je još netko negdje ovdje. Potresen sam, osjećam se nekako bestežinski. Stojim ondje nekoliko sekundi, osvrćem se oko sebe, ne vidim ništa.

Samo što tad nešto i zamijetim, ili barem tako mislim.

Sivi pokret u magli, to je sve. Kao da je netko ili nešto ondje. I ta se polusjena pojavi. Sitna. Neodlučno zastane. “Zdravo?” kažem “Ima li koga?” Glas mi je čudan, kao da odzvanja samo u mojoj glavi, ne u vanjskom svijetu. “Tko je to?” Sjena i dalje samo stoji ondje. Uputim se prema njoj, i dok hodam, ona krene prema meni i tada razaberem o kome je riječ.

To je onaj mali od sinoć.

“U redu”, kažem. Potom, jer zaista je čudno da je sam na stanici uz autocestu: “Gdje je tip s kojim si bio sinoć? Tu negdje?”

I zaista se čini kao da moj glas nema zvuka.

Ipak, izgleda da me čuje.

Odmahuje glavom.

Vrlo je, vrlo blijed. A usne su mu iste boje kao ostatak lica, vezice kapuljače čvrsto stegnute oko njega.

Kažem “Gdje je onda? Nije te tek tako ostavio ovdje, zar ne?”

“Samo te ostavio ovdje?“ upitam gotovo ljutito.

Pa tko bi učinio takvo što, tek tako ostaviti dijete na ovakvom mjestu? Na mjestu gdje se mogu dogoditi svakave strahote.

Osvrćem se oko sebe u nadi da ću nekog ugledati, nekog tko će se za nj pobrinuti. Nema nikoga. Tek magla posvuda. Više ne vidim ni odmorište. Nema ničeg.

Stojimo ondje još koji čas. Ne znam što bih.

Gledam na sat – čudno, više ne vidim kazaljke, samo brojeve u krugu. Ne znam što bih o tom mislio.

“U redu”, kažem naposljetku. “Trebaš prijevoz?”

Mali oklijeva, kao da me se boji.

“Ne brini se,” kažem, “neću ti nauditi.”

Uđemo tako u kamion i ja pokrenem motor, i pokušavam naći sporednu cestu. Iz nekog razloga nema znakova. Naginjem se preko volana pokušavajući razabrati štogod u magli. Naposljetku se spojimo na glavnu cestu, to bi mogla biti autocesta – vjerojatno i jest, no čudno je što nema prometa. Baš nikakvog. Potpuno je prazna. Pitam se je li državni praznik ili nešto slično, gdje god se nalazili. I to je čudno – gdje smo uopće? Koja država? Besmisleno pitanje. “Gdje smo?” pitam malog. “Je lʼznaš?”

Ne odgovara.

Samo sjedi ondje, zuri u pravac s kapuljačom i dalje stegnutom oko lica, i imam osjećaj da će vožnja trajati vječno.

By David Szalay

Translated by Paula Jurišić


I do long distance. Oradea to Udine. That’s the usual. Nine hundred kilometres each way. Twice a week, I’ll do that. One day out, one day back. Sometimes I do further. France. England. Five day round trip, England – at least. I sleep in the truck. Waking up, it takes me a second to remember where I am. The ferry terminal at Dunkirk. Or the logistics centre in Udine, on the edge of the city. Or some services, somewhere. France. Germany. Some services somewhere. There’s the bit in the morning where you walk to the services and put a coin in a slot to use the facilities. And showers, sometimes. Sometimes they’ve got showers. If you can be bothered. Then a plate of fried food. And it might be raining outside, or it might be sunny. It might be summer, or it might be winter. It doesn’t make much difference. There’s just the motorway. It never seems to end. Sitting there, hands on the wheel, it comes at my eyes hour after hour, day after day. Year after year. Like I say, I do long distance.

Some of the lads don’t. They don’t do long distance. They’ve got things they don’t want to be away from. And I’ve got things. It’s not like I don’t have things. I just don’t mind being away from them, that’s all. And the pay’s that much better, when you’re doing international. When you’re getting paid for all the hours in the day, even the ones you spend sleeping – or not sleeping – in the little space at the back of the cab where the bed is. There’s this little space at the back of the cab where the bed is. I try to keep it tidy. It can get depressing if you let it go, if you stop caring. I’ve seen some blokes, the inside of their cabs, and it’s depressing. It’s hard to make friends in this life. Long distance, I mean. And most of us are basically solitary by nature. You see the same lads sometimes, course you do. You arrive at some services somewhere, and you see the truck of a bloke you might know, and you wonder as you pull into your space if you should go and knock on the window, say hello. Because although you might know him, you don’t know him well. You might have met him a few times, god knows where. That massive services outside Milan? Yeah maybe there. The fact is, it doesn’t matter where. It doesn’t make any difference. Everywhere’s like everywhere else. Yeah, you might have had a cig together standing in the shadow of one of the trucks on one of those summer evenings that seem to go on forever, like the insects in the grass all round the services. On evenings like that some of the lads set up folding chairs next to their rigs and sit there in just a pair of shorts or something, waiting for it to get dark. And you sometimes get talking, if there’s a few of you doing that. ‘So where you going then?’ ‘Oh right, I was there last month was it.’ ‘Never been there.’ ‘You don’t want to mate.’ ‘You know that services outside Toulon?’ ‘Total?’ ‘No Shell I think it is.’ ‘Oh yeah.’ ‘Well there’s this girl right…’ So you get talking for a bit, until the sun goes down, and the headlights still going past on the motorway as you get back in your cab and go to sleep – or don’t go to sleep. You lie there in the dark, trying to work out what it is exactly that’s messing with your head, what it is that’s not quite right, like when you’re trying to find some industrial estate in a town you’ve never been to before and you think you’ve probably lost your way but you’re not sure yet. That’s what it feels like sometimes, lying there in the dark.

Quite often, in that situation, I’ll watch a film.

That’s what I was doing one night when I hear this knock on the door of the cab. I think it must be one of the girls – one of the girls that work the services. There’s no-one else it could be. And I’m not really in the mood for that, so I’m going to just ignore it, but then the knock comes again, so I get off the bed and open the door.

It’s not one of the girls.

It’s some bloke.

‘Alright?’ I say. And I feel a bit stupid, cause I’m just in my vest and pants.

‘Want to make some serious money?’ the bloke says. He’s a local, from wherever it is we are. And he smells of money, this bloke. Money, and slick grooming products. His eyes are bright in the dark like water. He’s the sort you get suspicious of immediately when he says something like that. ‘Want to make some serious money?’

‘What for?’ I ask.

He’s standing there looking up at me.

‘What for?’ I say again.

‘Passenger,’ he says.

And then I notice there’s this kid, standing a bit away from him in the dark. Like, ten year old kid. Wearing a parka, with the hood up, tight round his face. And it’s quite cold out there now – I feel it with the door open and just in my vest and pants.

‘I’m not allowed to do that,’ I say.

‘There’s no risk,’ the bloke says.

‘Yeah there is.’

‘Don’t you want to know how much I’m offering?’ he asks.

‘How much?’

And he tells me.

‘No,’ I say. ‘They’re checking now. They’ve got heat sensors, everything.’

He laughs like I’m a tit. ‘That’s not true. Who told you that?’

‘It’s what I heard.’

‘It’s not true,’ he says. ‘I’m telling you.’

‘Well anyway I can’t do it,’ I say. And I shut the door.

In the cab on my own I keep watching the film I was watching. Superheroes, or whatever. One of those. I can’t keep track of it though. I’m just staring at the screen without actually seeing it. And I’m thinking, Why’d they have to do that? Why’d they have to upset me like that? Everything was sort of alright. And now I’m all upset. I don’t feel well. I’m sweating like a bastard. I stop the film and just sit there for a bit. Then I take a pill and turn off the light.

 

That night I have a dream. I’m sitting at a table, across from my sister. We’re in the flat that we lived in when we were kids, though we’re not kids, we’re like we are now. And I’m telling her something, about how I’m hoping to lose some weight or something, this diet I’m thinking of doing.

And then she says, ‘But you’re dead.’

And I say, ‘I’m not dead.’

‘Yeah you are,’ she says.

And I get this terrible shock as I realise that she’s right. I am dead.

The cold horror of it’s still spreading through me when I notice I’m awake. I’m lying there in the cramped space at the back of the cab where the bed is. My sister’s not there. But the cold horror of it still is there, still spreading through me, even after I’ve opened my eyes.

It’s light outside, just about. And sort of misty.

When I’ve put some clothes on, I leave the cab and walk to the services, across the empty tarmac.

There’s no-one else in the services. There’s just no-one about. No-one at all. After a while, when no-one shows up, I walk back through the mist to where the truck’s parked.

And that’s when I remember the bloke with the kid, from last night.

It’s one of those things – did that actually happen? Or did I just dream that, as well?

I think of the kid, the way he just stood there with his shadow.

Ghosts. That’s what they seem like now.

All the other trucks have gone, which is weird. I’m sure they were here before, when I went over to the services. I’m pretty sure they were here… Now there’s just this white mist everywhere. I can’t see more than a couple of spaces either side of my own truck though, so maybe some of the others are still here, somewhere. I’m still feeling shaken, and I’m feeling sort of weightless. I stand there for a few seconds, looking around, not seeing anything.

Except then I do see something, or I think I do.

A grey movement in the mist, is all it is. Like there’s someone there, or something. And then this sort of shadow appears. Small. It stops, like someone hanging back. ‘Hello?’ I say. ‘Someone there?’ My voice sounds weird, like it’s only sounding in my head, and not in the world. ‘Who’s that?’ The shadow just stays there. So I start to walk towards it, and as I do, it starts to move towards me as well until I can make out who it is.

It’s the kid from last night.

‘Oh alright,’ I say. And then, since it does seem odd that this kid should be at a motorway services on his own, ‘Where’s the bloke you were with last night? Around is he?’

And it really is like my voice isn’t making any actual sound.

Still, the kid seems to hear.

He shakes his head.

Very, very pale he is. And his lips are the same colour as the rest of his face, with the draw-string of the hood pulled tight around it.

I say, ‘Where is he then? He didn’t just leave you here did he?’

‘He just left you here?’ I say, starting to get angry.

I mean who would do a thing like that, just leave a kid at a place like this? A place where all sorts of terrible things might happen.

I look around, hoping to see someone else, someone who can deal with this situation.

There’s no-one. There’s only the mist everywhere. I can’t even see the services now. There’s nothing.

We stand there for a while. I don’t know what to do.

I look at my watch – and it’s odd because my watch has no hands now, just the numbers in a circle. I’m not sure what to make of that.

‘Alright,’ I say finally. ‘You want a lift then?’

The kid hesitates, as if he’s scared of me.

‘Don’t worry,’ I say, ‘I won’t hurt you.’

So we get into the cab and I start the thing up, and try to find the way to the slip-road. There’s no signage, for some reason. I’m leaning forward over the wheel trying to see through the mist. Eventually we merge onto a major road, that might be the motorway – probably is, but what’s strange is there’s no traffic. None at all. It’s totally empty. I wonder whether it’s a public holiday or something, wherever we are. And that’s another strange thing – where are we? What country? The question just doesn’t seem to make any sense. ‘Where are we?’ I ask the kid. ‘D’you know?’

He doesn’t say anything.

He’s just sitting there staring straight ahead, still with his hood tight round his face, and I’ve got a feeling this motorway’s going to go on forever.


David Szalay (1974) was born in Montreal, Canada, and moved to the UK the following year where he has lived ever since. He published four books and won several literary prizes. His collection of short stories, All That Man Is, was short listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2016. He has been named one of The Telegraph’s Top 20 British Writers Under 40 and has also made it onto Granta magazine’s 2013 list of the Best of Young British Novelists.

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