Pavel Vilikovský

The Thrill is Gone

translated by Magdalena Mullek

This translation first appeared in Books from Slovakia 2019.

Reprinted with permission of LIC.

It’s a matter of getting through an ordinary day. For example, it could be a matter of buying bread. Let’s not set any obstacles in our path; the store is nearby. It’s right around the corner; it’s a summer evening with a light breeze, a neighbor in front of our building is wearing shorts. The store is nearby, it’s large and empty, there’s plenty of bread on the shelves. It’s still a matter of buying bread.

We could, for instance, put together a list of small pleasures. We could look forward to today’s newspaper, to a cigarette with the neighbor, to the crackling of the warm crust in the paper bag, to walking by the liquor counter, where we could feast our eyes on the bright labels of the bottles, or on the flowery scarf the store clerk uses to tie up her hair. For a brief moment we could imagine she’s our wife, and bask in the idea. Outside the store the sun is shining, and when we lean forward, we catch a glimpse of a castle in the hazy hot air. We could even pretend that we went up to the castle — it’s a nice view, worth the walk — and we just happen to be buying bread. Along the way. We could tell ourselves that, we could even believe it. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that this whole time it’s still a matter of buying bread.

It’s demeaning. If it only affected us, we could act freely, turn around, and go hungry. We’d survive. We could, though that’s a different matter, buy a sandwich on the way to the theater. Without giving it any thought. Eat it then and there. But that’s a different matter. There’s a vegetable stew for dinner, and the wife has to pick up the children from preschool. The tasks have been divided. After that it’s a matter of buying bread. Let’s not talk about the poor sod who has to go all over town looking for white bread from Čalovec. Let’s not say that it’s raining, the store is closed, and the other store has a long line at the checkout. Let’s not say that the bread hasn’t been delivered yet, that they only have yesterday’s bread. The store is nearby, it’s open, large and empty, the shopping basket is right there. It’s still a matter of buying bread.

It’s a matter of looking at our watch and saying: My God, it’s already four-thirty! Why God? Why already? It’s a matter of life and death. We weren’t counting on that.

© Mullek and Sherwood