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  • Writer's pictureLeon de Leeuw

Ivan, the man by the pond

After having ignored his alarm clock for over 5 minutes, it was time for Ivan to get up. No matter what a man did, each morning waking up takes something from him. Whether it’s waking up to make breakfast for the family and bring the kids to school, to report for work or to take care of animals.. To first hug your wife and say good morning and then leave the sheets. To each his own. Ivan had lived through many hard mornings, just like this Tuesday when he woke up to a day that seemed the same as all others.

‘Oh lord why’, mumbled Ivan as he turned on the light on his nightstand. ‘I don’t.. Whatever..’ Nights are cold in this part of the country and Ivan had to pull open the window that had frozen to the frame. It felt to him like pulling off a band-aid, like the end of a soothing night in privacy that harshly and without mercy turned into another morning. He wanted none of it. ‘But what’s a man to do..’ Ivan thought. He put on his night robe and didn’t bother to make the bed. Nobody to keep the house tidy for anyway. Ivan stumbled to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. He yawned for what seemed like a minute and slowly brought his jaws together again. He lit his first cigarette and watched the smoke crawl over the ceiling.

Ivan had all forgotten what he had dreamed about and he hadn’t remembered any dream since his wife left him. His nights were just a blur that he hoped would end as soon as did his days. There was little sense to it all, at least that’s how Ivan saw it. It had been so cold in the living room that the water Ivan poured was too cold to drink. It caused him a headache. Ivan had a rough shave like he always did. He chose to focus more on the left side of the face as he had done the right part yesterday. He’d always get bored after doing the one half so he couldn’t be bothered. It eventually evened out but his face always looked like a patchy field of dying grass.

‘I don’t even know how I get through my days at that cursed place..’ Ivan thought to himself. He was referring to the light bulb factory he had sold his hours for a mere simple man’s living. It had bored him to tears from the start as there was no variation at all. The only difference through the days were how bad his shaved looked and how many spoonfuls of sugar he felt like putting in his coffee. He’d quite had enough of it but felt his responsibility to at least pay to keep the heating running, as winter was coming. Every day again, Ivan had found a reason to turn up and let his boss walk over him again. He never worked fast enough, his boss was never satisfied with the number of light bulbs he stocked a day. Even if it would be a thousand shipments and the whole world and for all Ivan cared the whole universe would be lit with the damned bulbs, it wasn’t enough.

The boss, named Miroslav, had held a grudge towards Ivan ever since he spoke up about the shortened break hours. From then on his minutes were measured and so was his output; the number of boxes he piled up and wrapped in plastic to be then shipped to wherever. Ivan couldn’t care less even if they were shipped straight to the devil. He’d want to be home. As he had spent his morning already overthinking the dread of it all, it suddenly dawned upon him ‘what if I don’t go? What if I would do as I please all day? No, I should at least have a reason to abstain from working.. I am not sick and should not act like a sick man. I don’t want to call it on myself.’ Still, Ivan couldn’t let go of this idea. After all, though cold, the weather was still bearable and relatively sunny. He could do.. Stuff he wanted? What scared Ivan was that he didn’t know what he wanted. His life had revolved around the early waking hours and the late nights gulping down his soup and tearing and eating pieces of bread. There was little else going on in his life.

Even though Ivan resented leaving the wooden house to make his way to the bus stop, he put himself to it and put on his woolen socks and then his tall leather boots. He left the heating on slightly so not to have the pipes frozen and walked downhill. Birds were singing in the frosty morning and Ivan felt the cold air penetrating his lungs. Eventually Ivan waited at the bus stop with the other workers whose faces looked just as depressed as each morning. There was no place for Ivan in the bus stop so he waited next to it. The bus driver was one of the few people he could get on with. They had daily, pleasant conversations. Little did Ivan know that the driver called Stan would help change his day. And so Ivan hopped on the old bus that very slowly drove down the village main street, on the way to the industrial area in the nearby town. ‘Today I just don’t feel like it anymore, I just can’t bear the thought of turning up..’ said Ivan to Stan, whom steered around some potholes. ‘So you don’t go’, said Stan. ‘But how does that work?’ said Ivan hesitatingly. ‘You tell your boss to find another guy to bother and you just walk into the woods or something, enjoy some time for yourself.’ Ivan thought he had something going here and strongly aligned his thoughts to Stan’s. As all the workers got off, Ivan asked Stan if he could drive another round with him. Stan was up for this and so dropped Ivan off at the edge of the forest. ‘Do you know what you’re doing? Don’t lose yourself in there, the nights are cold..’ Stan said. Ivan clicked his tongue and got off the blue bus that drove farther down the muddy road.

As Ivan entered the forest, it didn’t even come up in him to let his boss know he wouldn’t turn up. The light bulbs could count themselves for all he cared. Ivan had no orientation of the forest as he had never been in this part of town before. He just kept walking and far away he heard some loud shots. The hunters had woken up as well and were probably tracking down deer. Ivan felt like a little kid, sitting at a small pond he discovered and looking at his own reflection in the water. He looked happy and fulfilled and noticed himself carrying a wide smile whilst staring at the face of the water. As he continued his walk around the lake, he lit a small fire from a pile of wood that had halfly burned up. ‘It must have been left by some hunter, there are even matches.’ Ivan started singing a song about early mornings and felt the peace and quiet around him. Eventually he realized that this could be one of the best days of his life.

He kept strolling through the forest and eventually, with a loud bang, his foot got stuck. Ivan didn’t feel anything until he looked as he had already fallen down onto the grass. It was a hunter’s trap that had been covered in branches.. He had not thought about this and screamed out of fear. As he couldn’t rid himself from the tight rope around his limbs, he kept lying in the grass. It didn’t hurt much but Ivan realized the danger of him being out in the cold, with nobody around..

This was not the only realization he had, it dawned upon him that he had experienced one of the best mornings of all his life just by listening to his heart. He had never been more afraid and happier at the same time. The tears were rolling down his cheeks. And so he concluded, with fear and regret of his previous mornings, that even though he’d have to spend the night, he could at least count the stars. And he would count all of them, just as he counted the light bulbs through all other days.

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