Galia

Just a few internal wanderings, and already Galia is spiraling into the clammy, naked thoughts that have become her plague. Caught in a swirl of fear and regret, she knows where she is headed, down the well-trod path of could haves, should haves, and if onlys, her destination being the damning how could she let this happen?

BY Vesselin Edrev, Age 13

When Galia was five, she watched the lady behind the counter rest her finger on the scale when she weighed cheese for the customer at the front of the line. The lady would not do this to Maika, but she would do it to a woman with a thin coat and scuffed purse. Galia knew what the shop lady was doing. She stared at the thick finger resting on the scale until the lady caught her watching.

The line leading up to the counter was long, and people looked cross. The lady looked cross, too. “Why don’t you wait for your mother outside?” she said. “Here’s a piece of lokum. You can eat this outside.”

Galia understood she had done something wrong. The finger was large, and from where she stood, head just below the counter, it was not difficult to see. But no one else noticed it. She shouldn’t have noticed it either.

Maika transferred the powdered sweet from the shop lady’s thick fingers to Galia’s palm. “You wait right outside,” she said, nudging her towards the door. “Don’t go anywhere.”

Outside, another girl was waiting for her mother, only she had moved beyond the door and was talking to a hairless dog standing in the square. “Can you see, Krastavitza? How many fingers am I holding up?”

Krastavitza could not count the fingers, but clearly he enjoyed the attention. His tail wagged and his whole body wagged with it.

Nibbling on her square of Turkish delight, Galia wondered if the dog was really named Krastavitza. Cucumber was just the right name for the tubular dog. She wondered if all dogs were so round beneath their fur.

“How many fingers, Krastavitza?” The girl was holding up three fingers.

“Come on, Krastavitza. My fingers are getting tired.” The girl was starting to sound angry. Krastavitza cowered on the ground. “I said, how many fingers?”

Though the girl had been very small, she loomed large in Galia’s memory. For when she named the hairless being who wandered the square “Krastavitza,” she gave the dog an identity. And when she called Galia her imaginary friend, at once Galia understood her place in the world.

“Three,” Galia blurted out.

The girl clapped her hands, and Krastavitza jumped up and barked. “Very good, Krastavitza. Now how many?”

Galia waited for a moment, giving Krastavitza a chance to answer on his own. “Two,” she finally said.

“Good, Krastavitza,” the girl said. “You are very smart.”

“Petya,” a woman called sharply. It was the woman in the thin coat. Galia wondered if she was poor because she spent so much money on cheese. “Are you talking to that sick dog?”

“No,” Petya said, scrambling to her feet.

“Then who are you talking to?”

Petya looked at Galia, and even though they appeared to be close in age, Galia withered beneath her gaze. “I was talking to my imaginary friend,” Petya said.

“That’s not what I saw,” the woman said. “Haide, Petya. It’s time to go home.”

The girl joined her mother, and they set off down the square. Though the girl had been very small, she loomed large in Galia’s memory. For when she named the hairless being who wandered the square “Krastavitza,” she gave the dog an identity. And when she called Galia her imaginary friend, at once Galia understood her place in the world.

It was less a revelation than it was a recognizable fit, the way Krastavitza’s naked skin sheathed his tubular body like a fine suit or the way her sneakers felt, so nice and light on her feet, that after a few minutes, Galia could almost forget them — the shoes, and even more, the feet inside them.

For, by the time Galia met Petya in the square, she’d already glimpsed her own irrelevance — in the chemistry set that sat on her shelf, the telescope poised at her window, the typewriter centered on her desk. When these things appeared in her bedroom, she did not know what to make of them — only that Maika and Tati expected her to put them to use. She filled the chemistry vials with buttons from her mother’s sewing box and played the typewriter the way she’d seen a man in the square type on his accordion, no matter if she could not lift it from the desk. She played and sang along to the taut, clicking noises she produced, until her mother got concerned and put the typewriter away.

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