O povestioară grozavă de-a lui Gro Dahle, din volumul „Hvem som helst, hvor som helst”. În engleză și în norvegiană. Sau invers.
Elvira on the pillar
When Elvira made her first decision, she held onto it. She could decide not to eat sweets for a whole year and go with the decision. She could decide to travel up and down Norway and succeed. She could decide to eat a whole bicycle and also make it happen.
Regarding the bicycle, this was a major task she undertook in her youth in order to restrain other urges and needs. It was a red ladies bike of a famous brand. With a net in the rear. And it certainly took some time. At first, she ate the smallest screws. When the pieces were too big, she had to use a hacksaw for help. And she spent almost a year with the frame. But she placed all her honour in finishing the job. Through stone, metal and glass. Through wind and rain and hail. She was steadfast, perhaps stubborn and headstrong for sure. But there was something more. Elvira had something special that no one really managed to point out what it was. It could, of course, have been a head injury. Such things are not easy to tell.
One afternoon in May she took her most important decision. On the way through the park, she decided to stand on a pedestal. There wasn’t a finer pedestal in sight. A grey fluted Doric pillar. But the decision plunged into her like a hen. She said to herself aloud:
‘Yes, I will indeed. On this pillar I will stand for a week.’ Then she pulled a green painted bench away from the square by the fountain, sat with her back against the pillar and climbed up. She stood there like frozen. A victory over the park. Temper and obsession. Red face and half a smile. It was almost possible to see the blood pulsating through her carotid. One week she stood like that. Her mother brought her food. Tea in a red thermos. Bread and goat cheese. Three times a day the mother came with food, crying with her cheek against the column’s cold shoulder. ‘It is madness’ cried the mother. And even though she tried to force her daughter to reason with her tears, it made matters worse. Elvira decided to stand there for another month. Madness or bravery. ‘Do not cry, mother,’ she said firmly, looking at the bell tower on the other side of the park. ‘I cannot help it,’ cried the mother.
It was Pentecost time and a peaceful air on the pillar in the green misty park. She saw children going by in sneakers. She saw craftsmen in blue overalls. She saw lovers kissing and lovers arguing. Old ladies in blue dresses with white dots. Nothing escaped her eye. She was closer to life than ever. Midway under the tall birches she saw light flow. And it was in such a moment that she decided to stand on one leg only. In honour of the cranes, herons and flamingos in captivity or freedom. A balancing act. A masterpiece. And the sick came to her with prayers and prostration. She looked at all of them with gentle eyes. It was something so divinely gracious that those who were gathered around the pillar had to bend their necks in awe. Sometimes the sick got well, and sometimes they didn’t. And those who got well came back with hallelujah and told about the miracle and the healing. This made Elvira well. And she decided to stay on the pillar throughout the summer. She became part of the park. And they honoured her by placing a flowerbed around the pillar. The mother was not allowed to lie against the pillar and cry, but was relegated to a more discreet pillar some distance away.
The summer went by. Grey weather and sunny. And Elvira stood on one leg on the pillar and looked at the people. At the trees. At the birds and gulls. At the clouds high above. And when people asked her for advice, she answered with wisdom. ‘That which is good, I always right,’ she said, ‘and what is not right is as such because it doesn’t know what is right.’ More and more came. There was a whole crowd around the pillar each day. Many were visitors. And they had just as many questions and demands as the gravel on the paths through the park. ‘When will I die?’ or ‘Will I ever have children?’ or ‘Which horse is to win tonight?’ But Elvira answered them calmly one by one. ‘Everything is as it is. Nothing is as it seems.’ This made people peaceful and everyone who had visited Elvira bore his fate with greater confidence than before. She was a solace. An oracle in the park. At bishop meetings she was declared a saint after some discussions. Church took her to itself. This inspired Elvira and she began to fast like the good people of old did. A victory over the body. And she asked for a pair of scissors and cut her hair off like Joan of Arc. Thanks to the fasting, the problem with faeces became more manageable.
When autumn came, she was still there. People came to her with woollen clothing and wind jackets. But she refused them with gentle gestures. A rumour started that she shone. And once the rumour was out, everybody saw it. She was shining.
But if it was really her, or if it was the reflection from the large illuminated advertising vis-à-vis, it was hard to say. But people wanted her to shine, and she shone. And all who wanted to, saw it. In the dark November and December evenings, the needy sought refuge by the pillar. Then she sang with a slender voice ‘Blue, blue buck of mine’ and ‘A wild duck swims quietly’. And all who came, found what they wanted to find. Faith, and hope and love.
In three years, Elvira was known worldwide. The municipality surrounded the park with a high, but beautifully crafted wrought iron fence and perceived and entrance fee. There was much controversy about this. Who owned Elvira? Who owned the trees in the park? Who owned the sun and the moon? Elvira became more and more at one with the pillar she stood on. More stone than flesh. More of a statue than a body. One morning in September, the pillar stood empty. It was the park guards who discovered it on their rounds. And Elvira was not in the park. Neither under the pillar or in the trees.
After the disappearance, there was much speculation about where Elvira was. The Church held on to its own version, that she had been taken by God almighty and was sitting at his feet in heavens. Taken up just as she was, cleansed of all the worldly things after three years on the pillar. Others said that she had settled in Gudbrandsdalen and ran a small farm in Follebu where she sold eggs and goat cheese. Yet others said they had seen someone resembling Elvira standing on a pedestal in Milan, and considered that she had received a better offer. Those who knew Elvira before, said she had taken a new decision and was probably trying to swim across the Kattegat or go across the South Pole. There came people who tried the pillar. They stood maybe a day or two. Some up to a week. But it was never the same. Only Elvira was worthy of the pillar. No one else. Instead they raised a statue of her, in pale grey marble, that was so vivid that it was as if she was still standing there alive. People made pilgrimages to see it. Especially when some claimed they had seen the statue cry.
I saw Elvira in the park in the time she was standing there. I felt her eyes on me as I walked past. Felt that she saw in me, through me. A tingling through the back. And I knew that she saw exactly who I was. Every lie. Every fake apology on the phone. Everything I had stolen in the shop: the green shampoo bottle, the knitted sweater, the rust-red tights, the set of cake forks. And I felt ashamed, felt ashamed. Her gaze in the back of my neck like scissors. Until the day I knelt in front of the pillar and admitted everything with a bowed head. My envy, my urge to speak ill of others. When I looked up at her, she had the sun in the back and shone like an angel. Sparkling. I could almost see the wings.
When she disappeared, I was one of those who attempted the pillar. Three hours I stood. An intoxication. I felt a warmth through the crotch. A flow of strength. And I thought that if I stood here for two months, I will be able to stand here as long as I want. I raised my head, straightened my neck, stretched my arms out like a swan. But already after ten minutes I had to drop them down the side. And after an hour I thought that if I just kept on this one day, the next would go a little easier and so would the following. I stared into the clock tower and saw the minute hand counting time with infinite slowness. I thought of food. Of oranges and apple juice. A big roast lamb with garlic and cream sauce. I thought of moving. Bathing, swimming. I thought about what was on TV that night. Whether there was a nice movie in theatres. I looked at the faces of those who were under me. Was I pretty? Did I stand correctly? Did they like me? After two and a half hours, I began to doubt. It worked itself in my legs and I had to constantly shift from one leg to the other. After three hours and two minutes, I got a terrible stomach ache. And I found no other way but to leave the place. When I came back, the pillar was occupied by an older man with checkered socks.