Thirty-One

We were in a wintry landscape with the Siberian man. Broad daylight. There was nothing around us. Nothing could be seen, nothing could be heard… It felt as if the snow was the frozen echo of the bright blue sky, and we were submerged in this dazzling silence.

Then we could hear a soft murmur growing into a roar. It stopped, it started again. My heart sank. I looked at the Siberian man, he was worried, too. “We go that way”, he said “as fast as we can. or faster”. It was not easy in the deep snow. Every step was a struggle. But we kept on going.

We reached the edge: we were on a plateau. A distant world below us, far, far away. The earth was vibrating under our feet, maybe some kind of avalanche was coming.

“We go”, said the Siberian man. He jumped onto a small landing just below the edge. I followed.

In front of us was the vast, white abyss, and behind us there was a cave. We entered. He lead me the way, and we went deeper and deeper.

Suddenly, I noticed that there was someone in front of us, a woman dressed in white, gently glowing like the moonlight. From the way she moved, I guessed she was very old.

“Who is she?”, I asked the Siberian man.

“Be polite”, he replied.

I was perplexed. What did he want me to do? I felt like a child. “Be polite”. I never knew what exactly adults wanted me to do when they said that. A lie is a lie, truth is truth. What is “polite”? Then, years later, I told a man how I never figured this out. And he said “You don’t get it, you don’t get it. So what. Darn politeness. you are kind and you care. Those who don’t feel it, well, there’s plenty of space around, they can just walk away. Politely.” And we laughed.

The old woman turned around and came to me. A powerful presence. She smiled and put a finger on my temple.

“He means be quiet. In there, too. Hush.”

I shut up.

“Good girl” – she said. I saw from her mischievous smile that she knew exactly how irritating that sounded, she did it on purpose. I got even more curious about her, I wanted to ask questions, but I understood from the glances of the Siberian man that this was not the time. We were in her realm now, and we had to get going, there was probably a long journey ahead of us. And so we set forth in total silence.

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