— Translated from the Bulgarian by Olga Nikolova

Something did happen once, however. Or, to put it differently, something went out of control once.

Because of his calmness, Boris could often join a small group of classmates walking together part of the way back from school. Since he could accommodate both their conversation and his own thoughts, his classmates, tame enough, accepted his silent presence. He nodded, replied in monosyllables, and smiled if necessary so they would not consider him a complete stranger. Besides, for some inexplicable reason, he looked like an athlete; he was as fit as other boys would be only with much exercise. One day he took part in a group fight and that, once and for all, confirmed his right to be there, doing nothing.

There was a girl in the group who, despite his resistance, drew his attention. He could not explain the phenomenon in any rational way. The girl wore a pleated skirt, spread out like an umbrella over legs as thin as walking sticks, and that was that. Boris never looked at her, but was somehow constantly aware of her position or movement, which he felt like a spatial relation he could not overcome. He rebelled against this awareness which was forcing itself upon him, mobilized all his strength to destroy it, but it remained intact, as if some part of his mind, insusceptible to reason, kept registering the girl’s presence. Perpetual motion. She was there, she was not there, she was approaching, she was moving away, tick-tick-tick—the skirt with the little legs.

His record of warmth-waves expanded like a file. The information, most of it monotonous and unvaried, kept accumulating, and Boris felt he now lived with it, as if it was his second heart.

A year passed, and then another. The girl stopped wearing the umbrella skirt, but he never even noticed. He was collecting the data of her movements, her appearances and disappearances. An oscillogram. Until one day she vanished from his life.

Late one evening, having wandered through the streets for a while, he saw her walking up the front of a white house. With her skirt and her thin little legs. Like a fly, like a bee. He saw her and that was that. He blinked in the moonlight, but he still saw her. She climbed to the eaves and continued over the roof, reached its top and disappeared on the other side.

Boris stood motionless in the silence. It never crossed his mind to run to the other side and watch her descent. He knew she was climbing down the other side. And so he left, carrying with him the image of the girl walking down the back wall of a white house.