Mirela Ivanova







Close at Hand

For Zou



Even though she was here only for the conference, for three days counted down to the last breathless instant, she finally got up her courage to write the letter. It was also time shelooked lovestraight in the eye. She found beautiful yellowish sheets of paper and an envelope with the hotels logo in the brochure folder in her room. She wrote a draft during the first night and put it away in her handbag, read it twice, once during the coffee break after she had presented her paper, and then inside the withering emptiness of the last tram she took back to the hotel after a noisy dinner with her colleagues. She was amazed at how she had preserved her large, beautiful handwriting. “Perhaps because I am still old-fashioned,” the thought crossed her mind. She believed that once handwritten, words acquire some spiritandemanate their own energy.

My dear Ivo,

I used to love writing letters, responding to letters and did so once, when I imagined I had all of times infinity at my disposal I clung to the utopia of that parallel, more meaningful and deeper life, I liked to foresee, analyze and invent it, I felt free and different amidst words and allowed myselfsuch lavishness of mind and intuition, whileimagination often took me to the very impossible horizon of sharing. I was even surethat I would become a writer, while now I am merely my dads most precious dream-come-true. This is exactly what my dear old dad had wanted most: for me to become a doctor, because he was a doctor, in other words, his complete continuation, delighting him with grandchildren in my prime, actually no, he always used the term“sweet little grandchildren.” And here I am, Associate Professor Kamelia K., in a white coatwith a stethoscope in my left pocket, with agrown-up child I raised myself and two biographies – before and afteryommu- nism – stitched together somehow or other, two specialtiesandthe crowding pain in front of my consulting room. Dad would be happy,if he couldseeme from somewhere in the hereafter, with the many flowers in my room, he would also take pity on mefor the hard time I am having and my puffyeyes stuck together with exhaustion in the evening, and for falling asleep dog-tired even before the shivers of self-pity, doubt, various kinds of solitude and despair all start creeping over me. The week before I left, I decided I ought to tell you during our next lunch flooded with wine and cheerful laughter that I was in love with you, that I have loved you throughout all of these seventeen years, if not more… I do not recall if we met after my getting married and divorced or before, but only in youdo I recognize my inspirationfor living. Or else the daily meat grinder that whirls me awake at six a.m. would have annihilated my nature. A few mornings ago I was in a sour moodalreadyin the crammed shuttle, and thenl spilt my coffee which I had gotten from the machine in front of the medical center. It was as if I spilt over some tension onto the ten patients, clustered in the niche in front of my office. Before lunch I conducted examinations and filled dozens of pages with names and diagnoses of human painwhile waiting for your call, but instead of you, my mother rang me worried, she was running a temperature and if she got sick now who would look after her mother, my eighty-year-old grandmother who had been bedridden for about a year and a half, then my daughter called crying, she had fallen on the sidewalk in front of her high school, her knee was bleeding, her tights were torn and she did not have enough cashto get a cab home, could she possiblyget a cab and come to me so I could pay for it, then bandage her leg and give her cash for new tights and anothercab, “of course, Til be waiting for you, please dont cry, you re allgrown up, in two months you U be graduating” and then I remembered her as a little girl with scraped knees and a smile that never left her little face, waving to me from the top of the jungle gym, and you turning your head away, scared to look at her and this picture filled me to the brim as much as the thought that she has already been accepted to a university in Arizona and will be leavingvery soon, and without hesitation I let female patient number 13 in, left her to wait and went out, it was past 12:30 p.m., I wanted to grab crackers, get some coffee and drink it instead of spilling it, and borrow some money from the administrator, as my daughter was to arrive any moment. A friend was patiently waiting for me in front of my door, she was the only one who had not taken the liberty of disturbing me on this crazy day. I had helped her some time ago and now she was back from Italy wanting to give me a gift. On themiserablestaircase where we hid to have a smoke, I managed to tell her briefly about my hellish day andshe laughed and took a blouseout of her bag, the silk flowed along her arms and stopped at a large and beautiful mother-of-pearl button and this was the only thing I could hold on to that day, the next days and inthis repulsive reality. It was your text message reminding me of our lunch on Friday the 15th at 1:15 p.m. that brought me back to my shoes and got me on my feet.

Dear Ivo, we are getting old while always just missing each other in thisdelightful way. I have been repeating this to myself right here, at each step I havetaken, as I imagined your jerky walk along with my running around you, and how I would be telling you about the city during our lunch, and I do not want this, I want to live it with you, to see it in the shining green deepness of your eyes, to touch you and kiss you in the hotel room, and elsewhere from now on, because I have loved you for seventeen years, if not more …

Kamelia got to the airport a few hours earlier, checked in her luggage and sat down in a coffee shop to re-write the letter. It seemed to her unfinished and she froze in the noisy loneliness of the place, squeezing the big mother- of-pearl button of her blouse with her left hand. She wished she couldthink up the ending with one sentence alone, to name that very impossible horizon of sharing, where she would finally be loved and desired.

As she was sealing the envelope, Professor Lumacci from Naples came to her table and took a seat without waiting to be invited, kissed her hand and started talking about her paper as an opportunity for a future project between them, why didn’t she come to work at his clinic for a year or two, he was all beaming with joy, as though singing a Verdi aria. Tearing the draft letter to tiny pieces, Kamelia awoke from her stupor and carefully, almost on tiptoe approached the meaning of the proposal she had just heard. As if for the first time she looked at Gianfranco who was offering her a glass of Prosecco beaming and almost fervently,and burst out laughingat his loquacious and melodious toast to their future.

He saw her off and they waved at each other for quite some time, exhilarated by the Prosecco and their old-fashioned shock at the fact that they did not want to part for as long as two months, after which she would land at Naples airport and he would meet her there.

The letter lay on the table in the sealed and unaddressed envelope with the hotels logo. A waiter looked at it and even opened it. He did not understand the large handwritten lettersso he took it to the bar. At midnight, as nobody had asked about it, he dropped it in the paper recycling bin. In this place, they had been collecting trash separately for a long time.













Mirela Ivanova

(May 11, 1962, Sofia) is a poet, prose writer, translator and journalist. She has written seven books of poetry, a collection of eleven poems and eleven short stories, and a collection of short stories {AU Stories Are for You, 2014). She has won many national and international awards. Her latest book All Stories Are for You was nominated for the annual Helikon award for contemporary Bulgarian prose.


Already established as one of the emblematic modern poets in Bulgaria and Europe and a laureate of multiple national and international poetry awards, Mirela Ivanova has surprised readers with unexpectedly vivid prose. Having penned seven books of poetry, in 2009 she published an extravagant two-genre book, Slow, divided between eleven short stories and eleven poems. Slow, written in the International Artists’ House Villa Concordia in Bamberg, has garnered great interest, having had two Bulgarian editions, and some of the short stories have now been published in prominent German-language literary magazines and anthologies. In early 2014 Prozorets Publishing House published a dozen new short stories by Mirela Ivanova under the title All Stories Are for You.



Stone Wings – poems, 1985

Whispers – poems, 1990

Lonely Game – poems, 1990

Memory for Details – poems, 1992

Disassembly of the Toys – poems, 1995

Eclectics – 77 poems, 2002

Word by Word – articles and comments, written for the Deutsche Welle media, 2002

Slowly – poems and short stories, 2009, 2011

Love – poems, 2012

All Stories Are for You – short stories, 2014

Books published in German

Listen to the Way to the Earth – 1994, die Horen, Bremerhaven (poetic anthology by

six Bulgarian poets)

Lonely Game – 2000, Wunderhorn Verlag, Heidelberg, translated by Norbert Randoff

Reconciliation with the Cold – 2004, Wunderhorn Verlag, Heidelberg, translated by

Gabi Tiemann

“Bermuda-Dreieck.” Erzahlung. In: Thomas Frahm (Hrsg.), Gegenwarten.

Bulgarische Prosa nach 1989. Duisburg: CHORA-Verlag 2015, S. 132-150

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