While the Shark is Sleeping

Free While the Shark is Sleeping by Milena Agus

Book: While the Shark is Sleeping by Milena Agus Read Free Book Online
Authors: Milena Agus
back, in Zia’s spot, there was another woman embracing him and resting her head against his shoulder.
    So Zia went and sat on the stairs of the judge’s house and waited for him for hours, staring at a spot in the air.
    ‘Why?’ she asked him, bursting into tears. ‘Why?’
    The judge didn’t defend himself. He didn’t invite her up. He sat down with her on the steps and begged her to stop crying because he, too, had a lump in his throat. He put an arm around her shoulders. That was the worst part. He’d always given of his best to all the women in his life and had felt himself vanish into nothing like a soap bubble. How many women had left him? He could no longer remember. But all of them, that’s for sure. A pain he never wanted to feel again.
    This time, if Zia were to leave him, he would fall on his feet. Because he loved the other woman, too, and thanks to her, Zia saw him as strong and loved him, and thanks to Zia, the other woman saw him as strong and loved him. The world belongs to the strong, as she well knew, having seen her sister die.
    ‘Stay. I beg you. Accept me, my love. Even this worst aspect. Take me in. You promised. We drank to this.’
    But Zia ran off and when she reached our place she began dashing around the house hitting her head against the walls and saying she didn’t want to live any longer and she wanted, once and for all, to crack open her head and her body that were no use to anyone and that no one wanted and no one ever would. Then she threw herself onto the floor and didn’t wash and wouldn’t eat for days and days.
    Nonna would come over to our place to see her daughter; gasping from the walk up the stairs, she seemed to get older every day. She would pull up a chair and sit down to look at Zia curled up on the floor and she would list all the good things to eat that she’d brought for her. She said yes, these were terrible times and you couldn’t make sense of anything any more. The hunger she’d experienced back in her day was better than Zia’s hunger now. War was better, because at least then you knew who to blame it on. First the Americans. Then the Germans. Even if the bad guys changed, at least you knew who they were at any given moment. Whereas now, who could you blame? It was obvious that the judge was a poor fool too, immature, just like Zia; after a day they’d thought they were in love, when actually they didn’t even know where love begins or where it ends. Like our father, who knew all about God, love, good and evil and had abandoned his children without a penny. Like Mamma – a frightened rabbit, she, too, was without a conscience. Falling stupidly from the balcony when she knew full well how weak she was and how often she got dizzy spells. Now there were no good guys or bad guys. You didn’t know what to expect, how to live. Even God seemed confused, and she would not be going to church any more, she wasn’t even going to pray. War had saved her fiancé and peace was killing her daughters. Back then they’d fled into the country to survive the hunger, but there was no escape from the hunger of her daughter.
    But in that prison of hers, without water or food, Zia didn’t say, ‘That judge deserves a kick up the arse,’ nor did she ever say it after she got up off the floor. She had truly loved him and had been grateful for those days spent as a wife.
    Now that nearly a year has gone by, she often says that it doesn’t take much to be a wife and it’s not true that she’s not cut out for it: ‘You get taken around on the scooter, you cook some pasta sauces, you make love and you get under a nice hot shower with your husband. A lot of people complain about marriage but I thought it was beautiful. The happiest period of my life.’

22
Zia becomes a mother
    ‘It doesn’t take much to be a mother either. A lot of women complain constantly about their children, look at Nonna. But I never have anything to complain about with you two. Being a mother is

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