Ahead into the past

Step, step, step.

His feet were carrying him forward - there where he has once spent ten years of his life - ten long years … Here he came out of a next street’s turn and stopped - sighted joyfully and with a relief.

Yes, he has come at the long last - after ten years of separation he returned back to his native school, to people who have given him so much - helped make the first steps, supporting and encouraging him …

So, he has come, returned to his memoirs in reality. Only after ten years of separation life has finally granted him this chance. After all, he was just a little child when he once crossed this threshold - small helpless one, needing protection and aid of others … now he could defend others himself. Approached a school building - and almost instantly was plunged into a joyful and carefree atmosphere of childhood - the time which he spent in a work, and not entertainments. Entertainments … he smiled. A pure waste of time - burning the precious gift of life, a substitute for idlers. And he wasn’t such a one - like a lot of other men he knew. He distinctly remembered for now how he has spent this time working … nay, not in that silly cramming, but clever study instead - and learned to find a joy in that.

And others … other men did other choices - theirs. Someone - one close to his, someone completely different. Big and small, important and not quite so. Nay, important ones - there are no things insignificant. They built their own life - everyone his own way - as they desired, as considered it necessary, as it was convenient for them. In a word, everyone was walking his own path - they had the right.

Someone drank beer and smoked cigarettes. Somebody endless played football, spending his time for all day long on a stamped asphalt of a stadium. Some crammed thick correct textbooks. Shortly, everyone was going his own way he has chosen.

A step, and another one, and lots of more steps - rising on old ladders of an old building. First, second, third floor … stop. 

He will first meet his former class teacher, and then the rest of them. A knock at the door - and a painfully familiar, yet considerably grown old woman’s face. A warm smile on his face - and the woman answers him with the same. She recognizes him and welcomes, obviously glad to meet him - and so does he. 

A conversation starts - a long talk which, it appeared, will last for an eternity. He was talking about those ten years of his new life, as well as of old school one, - the way he understood and felt it for now. That conversation lasted and lasted - he was speaking, and she was carefully and attentively listening to. And a vice versa a short time after.

It became late then - and they have said goodbye. He promised to come back to school from time to time. He indeed returned the upcoming day to meet with other teachers. That was the smallest deed possible for him to thank them for what they have once done - to remember them … and sometimes, at least sometimes to visit again.

And the time to leave came once. To return back to his institute in a different city. A last farewell waving of hand - and in a way. In a way.

* * *

Knocking of iron wheels. Measured rocking of train’s apartment. A whistle of wind through a slightly opened window. Sleepy passengers. Somebody’s fluffy cat, making his impressive strolling through a salon.

- Barsik, - he called. - Come here.

But the cat only slowly raised a tail, turned his body and started moving in the opposite direction. A funny being.

Now he was returning to the town when he has graduated from the institute and has been working. A next stop … a methodical voice of the driver … entering and leaving passengers. A face - this familiar face … one of his school friend. The man was wandering directly towards him- with some sort of unseeing and roving glance he was scouting the surroundings … a tired face of emaciated man. Here’s the man sat down nearby and hasn’t recognized him at all - yet they have studied together for such a while! Studied at one school …

- Ivan, - he called. - Ivan, hi. Didn’t you recognized me ? No ?  I’m Pavel. We have studied in one class! Have you truly forgotten?

- Pavel … Oh, yes … hi. Hi, - repeated Ivan and looked away to face the window.

Heart of his missed a bit and compressed painfully. What’s that, what has happened?! Not like that, in a totally different way did he image the meeting of friends! Has something dreadful befallen? He has to find out!

- Ivan, are you not glad to see me? What’s that with you, Ivan? You don’t look like yourself. Where has this cheerful and sociable guy whom you once were gone? I know, I am assured that you are still that one, just a bit depressed, right? You are simply tired after all, yes? Come on, tell me a bit about yourself - or let me tell you about myself. Let’s remember the past and our old good days. Aye? Ivan, Ivan, wake up!

And he has shaken him by shoulders.

Stop … no need to … shaking. Sss…stop …, - hardly moving a tongue he murmured in reply. - I recognized … y … you. Leave … leave me be … with my … p … p … pain. Don’t in … inte … interfere, I b … beg you.

- But what, what has happened?! Ivan, you know - I have never abandoned you in trouble, never - and never did you, we have always aided one another, each and every time! You couldn’t forget that all, couldn’t … I would not believe that! Do you hear me - I dare not believe that you have forgotten!

- The w … wi … wife abandoned me. And work … was … fired - Ivan’s words finally reached Pavel’s ears.

He sighted. And when people finally learn to concern life’s circumstances easier and not to give up before them? After all the life simply opens a new blank page, where the writings of their life is to be imprinted - a next stage of life. Why’s bitter about that? One must be able to say goodbye with no insults and part ways - easily. It’s necessary to be able to learn vital lessons and overcome barriers - no growth and evolution is ever meant possible without it.

He overlooked his friend over again. All right, looks like the time has come to use heavy offensive means.

- Divorced with a wife? Have been discharged from the office? What sort of nonsense is that?! And you have become limp? Like a wet mitten?! But you will no doubt find a better job! And talking of the wife - she’s not your property, right? She has made her choice - accept it, accept no matter how cruel in relation to you it could look. It’s not rigid - it’s you perceive it as such for you have become too attached to her and started to consider her as own property. She’s a free person and has made her choice - the one she deemed necessary. With her good luck!

He wasn’t completely assured that his speech will be apprehended and comprehended at once. He had a different main goal for now - to stir up a friend. And thus he continued speaking - parried ridiculous and eccentrical attacks, inspired him, convinced that everything is in his powers. He thirsted to help his friend … wanted that he finally learned to help himself and had no more need for aid from the outside.

They were talking - and his friend was crying. He started to cry when they began talking of his life and analyze it. He cried of former dreams and hopes which have not come true. Cried of a pure and crystal love which he desired to find - and which he couldn’t … for he did search outside, while it was necessary to seek in own heart.

He was talking of how he has come under the influence of former friends who couldn’t be considered as such - how he started drinking. How he didn’t has enough willpower and stopped short, has given in and started falling into the abyss. How the wife, no more reconciled with constant binges of her husband has thrown him aside and left for another man … departed without even trying to help. How with his own hands did he tore and crumbled dreams of family happiness, of mutual love - and how began to go to bars and night clubs. How he possessed a new woman each new day - a woman for a day … something pleasant to lie in bed with … not a person for him. How he tried to interrupt his life and start another one, but always couldn’t find enough power inside, for he has ceased to believe in him different - and has already given himself up as a bad job. 

He was speaking, and his friend was listening to. They took lessons which Ivan should have taken a long time ago. Were talking about a choice he has made - a wrong … not the best one - and of a choice of different nature. A choice of life instead of death, a choice of happiness yet not sadness - a choice of joy in place of grief.

For a long time they have been sitting together - and under a stream of warm, powerful and convincing words his friend finally calmed down. Believed in himself - and an unshakable conviction to change his life by all means reflected itself upon his face. He’s a strong one. He’s capable. He will do that. Most certainly will.

Warm words of gratitude … happy smiles. A farewell.

- Farewell, Ivan!

- See you, Pavel!

Knocking of wheels. Measured rocking of the train. A cat, gracefully moving through a salon. He was approaching his city. He greatly hoped that he has managed to aid his friend … so greatly hoped.

They were approaching a city. Life was opening a new blank page in the book with his own writings.