Member of the Writers’ Union of Uzbekistan
One day, in the fall, I went to the city park to calm my nerves, to admire the fall of leaves, and there I accidentally met a woman named Chakida. She worked as a park cleaner, and doesn’t look a day over forty-five, cheerful, freckled, with a fish mouth.
— Do you like our park, young man? — she asked, stopping shuffling her broom for a while.
— Yes, ma’am. Your park is very beautiful. There is silence around. The paths are strewn with maple leaves. What a beauty, Lord! What a quiet fall of leaves!.. If I were the owner of your park, I would tell you not to clean the paths strewn with fallen leaves. — I replied admiringly. When she heard my words, she laughed merrily. Then she sat down next to me and asked about who I was, where I was from and who I worked for.
— I am glad to meet you, Chakida. You are sociable, cheerful, with an open soul. I too, like you, work as a simple worker at a poultry factory. A security guard, that is, — I said. We sat next to each other on an old bench and talked for a long time. Before saying goodbye to me, she asked for my home address and phone numbers. I, a fool, without thinking about the consequences, gave her my address. She thanked me. Then she said: — It turns out we have kindred spirits. I want you and me to remain friends for life.
Days passed. One day, on the night shift, when I was sitting in the guardhouse, someone knocked on the window. I look, and it was Chakida. I opened the door and she went into the booth. Not knowing what to say, I stood at a loss. Suddenly she threw herself into my arms and burst into sobs, shedding tears. I say:
— Chakida, what’s wrong? What are you doing?! Stop it, now!.. Are you crazy?!…
— Yes, yes, I’m crazy! — she said, greedily kissing me anywhere and bolted the door, turned off the light and pulled the curtain over the window with feverishly shaking hands.
— It turns out that I was a fool who fell in love with you then in the autumn park up to my ears and at first sight! Day and night I think only about you! For God’s sake, don’t reject my love! — she begged, kneeling in front of me.
-Chakida, you are much older than me and you have a husband, family, children. I’m only 18 years old. Come to your senses, open your eyes before your family collapses.
— My dear. How can I open my eyes if they are already blinded by the radiant sun of your love! I don’t love my husband and I never have! I only love you! If you reject my love, I will take a gas can, pour gasoline on my clothes, then, striking a match, I will burn myself, leaving a suicide note saying that I loved you madly, because I can’t live without you in this world!
Looking at her, I said nothing. I didn’t know what to do… Then Shaitan himself confused me and we sinned. Then we lay talking in the dark.
Chakida began to talk about her past:
— When I was young, I was a very beautiful girl. I worked with my friends on cotton plantations. One day a guy, a tractor driver named Madamin, fell in love with me, and I didn’t love him. I rejected his confession and tore up the letters he wrote. But he begged me to spare him. Poor guy, by March 8, with a bouquet of beautiful flowers, he brought precious material that was in fashion in those days
Naturally, I did not accept these gifts. Then Madamin put the gifts on the ground, took a match from his pocket and burned them. Then he said:
— I swear to God, I will love you all my life and not get married for the rest of my days. Goodbye, Chakida.
Saying these words, he crossed the field and left. I watched him until he disappeared from the horizon. I felt sorry for this guy. — She started crying. — I thought maybe he would come back. No. He didn’t show up again. After passing the time, the pity that I experienced turned into love. I began to miss him. I suffered. I really wanted to see Madamin. But he was nowhere to be found. Hoping to find him, I asked many people. One of them said that he abandoned everything and went to his mountain village called «Caravan», which was located in the neighbouring republic. I would have followed him, but unfortunately I didn’t know his exact address. At that time, matchmakers came to our house and my parents gave me in marriage. Of course I resisted. Before the wedding, I was introduced to the groom. I see a normal guy. I agreed. Father blessed us in front of the respectable people of our village. Then, to register, I was taken to the registry office. I almost fainted there. I see that the groom is not the one I met, but a completely different person. He was wearing a nylon shirt, a worn-out skullcap on his head, and chrome boots with long tops on his feet.
I didn’t know what to do. There was no turning back. My father was an evil man. Fearing my father’s anger, I was afraid to stop the wedding. I had no choice but to obey my fate.
Lived, gave birth to four children. I worked day and night to feed my family. My husband didn’t work. He was ill with chronic hepatitis. I remember lying with my husband in the same bed and sleeping. I woke up from my husband’s groan. He was crying in the dark. I was scared and asked,
— What’s happening? Does your liver hurt again? Why are you crying? I’ll get the pills now.. Then my husband said:
— No, don’t. It’s not my liver that hurts, but my soul. I dreamed about my first wife Raisa… Hearing my husband’s words, I was petrified. It turns out that he was married before me and had two children. He hid it from me, and what was worse, he loved and couldn’t forget her. Well, I think he’s a bastard.
I couldn’t sleep until morning. Years have passed. But, paradoxically, I also did not forget for the moment about Madamin, who loved me from the bottom of his heart. Last year, a group of people came to the city park where I worked to relax. When I talked to them, it turned out that they came from the mountain village «Caravan». Hearing that, it was like my heart got stuck in my throat. When I came to myself a little, I asked the Caravans if they knew Madamin the tractor driver. I even drew a verbal portrait of him so that they would remember him faster.
— Yes — they said — We know him well.
— Yes?! — I was delighted — and how is he there?
The caravans looked at each other from the beginning, then said: — He recently died of a heart attack. Madaminbek was a rich man. But for some reason, he didn’t get married. Poor guy, died alone…
— Really? — I said, and the broom fell out of my hands… Having finished her story, Chakida began to cry.
I stroked her hair and calmed her down. She left in the morning. Days passed. I also began to feel a great need, which is called boredom, and so we began to meet in each of my shifts. On one of these nights, Chakida came with a huge suitcase and her children. I was surprised. Then she said:
— Your dream has come true. I’ve come for good. Divorced my husband. Now we will be together forever, my dear. No one can separate us.
To tell the truth, I was frightened by these words and stepped back. I told her:
— Chakida, don’t get me wrong. If my father hears about this, he’ll bury me alive, you know. We can live as before, but we can never get married! My loved ones will kill me.
After these words, Chakida sat down on a stool and cried for a long time. — Where should I go now? Stupid, divorced husband. What will happen now? Lord…
an hour later, Chakida went outside and left. Days and months passed. I haven’t seen her for six months.
Finally I got married. During the honeymoon, my wife asked us to go to the city for a walk and take pictures together. I agreed. We went to the city. We walked around , took pictures. After lunch, my wife expressed her desire to ride the carousel. We went into the park. I saw Chakida. She, wearing the rough gloves of the builders, was still cleaning the paths strewn with fallen leaves, thoughtfully shuffling with a broom.
When she saw us, she froze like a witch with a broom in her hands. I greeted her and introduced her to my wife.
— Congratulations, — she said, sighing sadly.
My wife and I moved on. When we got to the top of the carousel, I looked down. Chakida, still looking at us, was standing at the bottom. When we came down, she was not in the same place she was standing. The second time I went to the city, for some reason I wanted to go to the park and see her. But, the park workers told me that she was no longer there. It turns out that she left for her village. Taking her address, I went to the village where she lived. There I heard the terrible news that Chakida burned herself and died in an ambulance.
The city of Brampton, Canada.