The winters in Bratislava are a sight to behold. It might be because of this magical scenery that 420,000 Bratislavans are able to get through 0-degree winters with relative ease by comparison to the rest of Slovakians. Across the country, four hours away from Slovakia’s capital, the inhabitants of Kezmarok have a different perspective. While the scenery can be appreciated for some time, every day it is the same. For lack of a better word, it can turn the fervor of one’s soul cold. One can let the conditions of Kezmarok beat them into submission, into a defeatist acceptance that life will forever be this way, leading to a life of an hour of escape at the rink, and finding warmth only in pubs. Zigmund, a 35-year-old native of Kezmarok, who hardly ever left the city, had succumbed to this dreadful existence, and like many others was just waiting. Some good days; some bad days, but ultimately, just waiting for it all to end.
There was a time where Zigmund’s existence was not so putrid. A time where hope prevailed against the nihilistic nature of Kezmarok, where Sunday mornings meant Church at Baptisticky zbor and not Bloody Mary’s at Bondra’s, where the game of hockey meant competition and not the pub before the pub, where creativity had the doors swung wide open, begging to be walked through, and not slammed shut by misuse of time. In this time, Daleka was his. Somebody he could call his, and that she could call hers. Daleka, perhaps naïve, bought-in to Zigmund’s dreams with full belief. How long can one maintain belief without result? Would a Christian believe until the end of their days without seeing the hand of God at work? Even Job eventually saw the results of God’s work despite despair. Whatever one’s answer might be, for Daleka, belief without result was a hopeless endeavor. Naïve no longer, she hadn’t a choice. On a cold January night in Kezmarok, a half-awake, drunken Zigmund lay on the living room mattress, for there was nothing like a couch in their wretched apartment. One-fourth of a bottle of booze lay beside him, and a tearful Daleka knelt down next to him. She knew this was something that should have been done long ago, but she fought for what she believed in. With not an ounce of belief in the man she once loved, she spoke her last words to him. “My heart be with you always, Ziggy. May the Lord one day resurrect the man I fell in love with. Amen.”
Zigmund awoke in his essentially empty apartment to it unfathomably emptier. He polished off what was left of his bottle, and shattered it against the cold brick wall. Hunched over, he murmured to himself, “Možno to ukončím sám.” Kezmarok had officially become victorious. A grueling aspect of life. The pain of knowing the poor circumstances of one’s life are that of his own making, and the pleasures of life we owe to God and others. The ascension of Zigmund would not come promptly. Daleka made existence bearable for Zigmund. He thought so anyway. If he could only retrieve Daleka and convince her that change is coming, it could become bearable yet again. However, calls, texts, and letters to Daleka would fall on deaf ears, and so Zigmund descended into the pit of repudiation that so many others in Kezmarok have. Off to a joyless job behind a desk that does not cater to any of Zigmund’s abandoned skills; off to Bondra’s to surround himself with like-minded people, none of them that anyone in their right mind would like-to-mind. Back to his cold mattress, on the cold floors of his cold apartment, inside of those cold four walls. Back into the pits.
Daleka’s departing prayer remained floating in the cosmos. This is the power of prayer. It is out there and it will be found, it will be answered, eventually, usually not in the way we suspect it will. You’d be surprised how little it takes to pull somebody from the depths. A prayer, a smile, a single care to give, or perhaps, somebody struggling to the same degree or worse than you, struggling worse than Zigmund, but with hope, with gratitude. Zigmund is slouching on a park bench, finishing a pint just before sundown, wallowing in his acceptance of defeat. Picking up his head from its pathetic, drooping position, he saw a woman leaning on a fence overlooking a Cathedral. Sniffling, it sounded like. As she spun her head around to leave, her blonde locks majestically drifted through the air, representative of wind flowing through a white-sand beach, and her ocean-blue eyes were revealed to Zigmund. It was as if a sunny California beach had been brought to Kezmarok, a place that has frozen many souls. Ziggy quickly dispersed of his alcoholic beverage, almost embarrassed to have had it in front of whoever this was, and popped in a frozen stick of gum. As the woman was walking past Zigmund, he pitifully reached out a hand as if he were a homeless man about to ask for change, but it sufficed to stop her withdrawal from the park.
“Yes?” asked the woman.
“Forgive me. I know this may sound piteous, but I must know your name,” said Zigmund.
Any other day, she would meet this question with an eye-roll. For whatever reason, perhaps because of Ziggy’s acknowledgment of his own weakness, she obliged.
“Nadeja,” she said.
“Will you be here again someday, dear Nadeja?”
Nadeja, maybe instinctively, wanted to give Zigmund an opportunity to speak up the way that he used to, although she knew nothing about the Zigmund of yesteryear.
“Not if you have plans to stalk me,” she sharply replied.
“No! It isn’t that, dear Nadeja! It is not that at all! It’s just that.. It’s just..”
Nadeja cut him off to spare him any further embarrassment. “I will be here again tomorrow, my strange friend. Please don’t make me regret informing you.”
Zigmund took one last glance into Nadeja’s ocean-blue’s, she gave him a slight smile, and slowly vanished into the dark night of Kezmarok..
The Ocean-Blue’s of Nadeja: Night 1.