You are not guilty for what you did, but for the way you did it
Winter has come and the first snow falls on the mountain villages. Nicotiana and her Atan stay on the railway platform waiting for the morning train. He will get to work at the mines, while she has other plans. The train comes. They hug and go each one to its own job.
"Bye, Nicotiana!" I say as I get into the old wagon.
"Bye! Take good care of you!"
These trains, they look like if they've been through war. People stay on wooden benches, with missing woods. The walls are scratched... while this train trembles on overused and unrepaired, deformed rails. Moving at best with 20 km/h.
The village remains behind, as the train passes through snow. The valley gets more narrow. A few km upstream, there is the last village, Ganymede, with its own train station. Nicotiana must have signaled that station that the train is coming. Oh, Nicotiana... Such an unusual girl. I must confess I've never seen in my whole life anyone like her. She sure is pretty. Small, when she hugs me her head stays at my chest. Short, but a bit chubby. Not fat. Just perfect. Her eyes are dark, so dark... black. Just looking to them can get your mind twitched. A small nose and lips a bit wider then other women. Herr shoulders are lower then usual. Such a gorgeous girl! I must envy that I found her. Never ever dreamed in my whole life that such a girl would come to my life.
And her feet. She has so beauty legs. She has style. The feet, covered with a layer of pantyhose, are what I love to see at a woman. I could watch her feet for hours. Guess that for the first time in my life, I am in love. Today she was wearing black tights covered by leggings, a black an white knee-long dress and booties. She showed me her feet and amazed me more then ever. Wearing both pantyhose and leggings at the same time is something rare.
Ganymede station comes. The train stops here. A woman comes and signals the train to depart. A good friend, Turgai, climbs from here. He is not born here. He came to work at the mine with his wife a long time ago. They came from the Land Of Nomads, which is over the big river. Once there were nomads in the plains. Today, people live in villages. Like here, there are many different tribes, with strange traditions and many spoken languages. There is one main difference: almost all nomads are Muslims, while here, in the Land Of Mountains, people are official Muslims, but also go to the church and practice idolatry.
"Welcome, Turgai", I say once I see the old man approaching my bench.
"Feel happy, Atan", he says. "Do you have a cigarette? I forgot mine".
"Feel welcome", I say as we both light one.
"Is Nicotiana ok?" he asks me as he lights the cigarette.
"Yes. She never attacked me again", I say as I take the first drag.
"Why are you so sure? She almost killed me!"
"You are a stranger to these mountains. People here follow strict moral laws. Unwritten laws", he says. "It was all your fault for all what happened".
"Jesus, man! he almost killed me. And for what? For a cigarette?"
"Was it that hard to smoke?"
"I never imagined that she was so serious and will try to kill me. I was just trying to push her, to see when will she give-up".
"Never", says Turgai, blowing a loud of smoke. "People from the mountains never give up. Even with the price of their lives. If you continued to oppose her, she would have killed you".
"Turgai, sometimes I feel like I am a prisoner there. Like I am her pet. And I am afraid she will attack me again".
"Do you love her, Atan?"
His words almost make me stop breathing. I watch the landscape. The train stretches through the narrow gorge. I see the river encased between the black cliffs. The engine struggles to climb this steep grade, making a sound like crying, as the wagons tremble on these rails.
"I love her!" I say. "I love her and she is the only woman in my life that I really loved. Only that I am afraid for my own life. Nobody ever tried to kill me before".
"What is so funny?"
"You know Amir? The second day I arrived in the mountains, he held a sword at my neck. And guess why. Because the first day, he offered me a up of coffee and I refused. It is considered a great offense to refuse something. And you refused her cigarettes. This is the best thing she has. She is obsessed about smoking. And you just declared war to her".
Yes, I know Amir. He lives in Almathea, the next village and station downstream from us. He looked such a polite and friendly guy. I think about what a strange world I entered into, as the train reaches a small depression, surrounded by forest. Here is Europa station. One more station and we are at work. A teen comes from the station and signals our train to go.
Now comes the most impressive part of the railway. From here, the valley is so narrow, that the railway hardly squeezes inside. The railway is dug in the stonewall. There are also two tunnels. But my mind is not here, in the train. I keep thinking at Nicotiana. Will she ever attack me again? Will she kill me one day? I love her. But should I trust her? What if she really is insane?
The train passes the last tunnel. For two minutes, we are in complete darkness, only the light of a few cigarettes can be seen. Finally, the gorge ends and we see how the valley opens. Here are the mines. Io station, the last one. The train stops with a long creak, followed by 3 short whistles. Time to go to work.
"If you are afraid, don't leave her", says Turgai. "She loves you".
"Do you think this?"
"Yes, for sure", he responds. "But even if you were her brother or even her mother, she will kill you if you stop smoking".
"Do you think she would?"
"I would", he answers as he steps out of the train.
Well, I rarely enter the mine. Usually, I stay outside, but now I need to get in. I need to direct the portable drill to take samples where we found copper. Before they enter, miners stop and prey that they will return alive. The mines are by far not secure. Well, a long day awaits me...
All goes well, until at some point the portable drill stops working. Now, I have nothing to do. I take it out and ask Turk and London to repair it. They will need the rest of this day for repairing. I stay and do some office work, until there is nothing left for me to do. I will head home with the noon train. Nicotiana will be surprised to see me earlier.
As I go back, I keep thinking about her. I love her. I loved her from the first moment I came there. I have in mind her combination of pantyhose and leggings and start to feel for the first time a fetish for her smoking. For the first time in my life, I have a girlfriend that will not run away from me, will not exploit me for money and accepts me as I am. As a sfenist. But in the same time, this woman almost killed me. And for what? For the fact that I refused smoking? It is like there are two persons inside me: one that wants to be with her and one that wants to save my life.
I light a cigarette in the train. I think about the tights I wear, hidden beneath my trousers. She is the only one that knows. Her feet are also covered, like an atmosphere covers a planet. And she might be smoking right now, as I am. No! I will not leave her! But I need to make it clear that she will not kill me.
The train arrives in Callisto station and I jump down on the platform. Only that I don't see her. I find another woman, of similar age, with long, black hair, with a yellow fur coat, jeans and boots. Her face looks somehow similar to Nicotiana, but she is not the same person. She signals the train to depart.
"Nicotiana?" I ask. "I am Atan".
She shows me a path over the river, then says in her language: "Up at the shrine. She is praying".
I don't understand all, but I know where the shrine is.
"Who are you?" I ask.
Her younger sister.
"Is she ok?" I ask again.
"Up at the shrine. She is praying", repeats Cemis.
I hurry to the shrine.
I hug him and let him go in the train.
"Bye!" I say as I signal the train to depart.
"Bye! Take good care of you!" he says.
Once the train departs, I go to the village, to call one of my sisters, Abida or Cemis. I trust them more then my parents. I really need their help. So, I hurry to get to one of them. Cemis still lives with my parents and is home. I call her.
"Hi, Ana!" she says with a smile. "Lon time no see!"
"Hi, Cemis! Want a cigarette?"
"Can I refuse you? After all, you taught me how to smoke".
"Cemis, I need a bit of help. Please, come to my place at the rail station for 3 hours".
"Sure, sis. But why?"
"I don't want my parents to hear".
"They took the horses to change their horseshoes, they are not here".
"Cemis, just come to my place".
"Ok, just wait me to write a note to our parents".
As Cemis comes to the station, we sit on the bench. I light one cigarette and give her one.
"Cemis, you've been the closest people to me", I say. "I can't sleep. My shadow doesn't leave me! It is like I've done a terrible sin!". I take a deep drag and exhale. "It is about my friend. You know, when I almost killed him. I attacked guys that wanted to make love with me. You know well. But he doesn't want to do anything bad".
"Ana, you did what you had to do. Refusing your gift is like cursing you", says Cemis, taking the cigarette to her lips. "You know the unwritten law. If I were you, I was supposed to do the same". She takes a drag and exhales. "Only that I couldn't do what you did".
"Yes", I say, shaking the cigarette to remove the ash. "But he doesn't know the law. But on the other hand, I insisted over and over, to make it clear for him he has to smoke".
"Did you plan to do what you did, or you got too angry?"
"I planned something, but never imagined he will refuse me", I say, as Cemis starts playing with her long hair. "Well, I think I am guilty, because I was looking more to my ambition to convince him smoke, then to respect the unwritten law".
"Then you are guilty. But not to the law. You are guilty against the law of freedom".
This scares me so much that I start shaking. The law of freedom? The law that not even gods dare to cross? The law of freedom says that nobody can decide for another one, except when you have to save someone's life. You can show someone the path, you can even force someone, but you are not allowed to decide. "If you did this, Ana", says my shadow, "you are cursed".
"Oh mine", I say. "But I didn't put the cigarette in his mouth. I asked him. Yes, I scared him so much that he pissed through his pants".
Cemis laughs. "Oh mine... That sure scared him to death".
"Cemis, my shadow says that I committed a terrible sin I don't know. Maybe this is it, I crossed the law of freedom. I need to do something".
"Ana, if you did this, you know what to do".
"Yes, Cemis. This is why I asked you to stay here. I go to the shrine".
I leave her in the station and start climbing. With these booties on the fresh snow, it is not easy. Usually, I need about 20 minutes to climb through the forest, but on this snow, I need over 40. I fall few times, I keep slipping on the snow. Snow gets in my booties and wet my feet. As this happens, I think about him, about his pantyhose fetish. I love him. I do. But I must respect the unwritten law too. "Come on, Ana! Focus", I say to myself. "You must do something" says my shadow.
I reach the shrine. It is a large block of rock, with bizarre sculptures. Also, someone placed a long time ago an icon there, that now is hardly visible. Only in these mountains you see different religions living in peace. Nowhere else in the world.
I kneel on the snow and feel the cold through my leggings.
"What should I do?" I say loud.
I start to confess everything: how I broke the law of freedom, how I almost killed him, how I had a sense of pleasure in my eyes. I am crying like a child. How could I do such things? Had I other choices?
"No. You are not guilty for what you did, but for the way you did it", I whisper. "I am guilty for the way I pressed him, not for the reason I did it".
This stops my tears. I blow my nose, take the tears away and light a cigarette. I feel so much better.
As I still stay here, I hear something coming. Wolves? No. It is him. He came up here, for me. We hug and tears are back in my eyes. Oh, my body is almost paralyzed of coldness. I hardly move my wet feet.
"Nicotiana, it's ok. I am here to help", he says.
The man that I was about to kill? Now wants to help me? We slowly move back to the village. My feet keep on slipping one the snow, but he helps me at each step.
"Why did you go up there on this weather?" he says. "You could fall and die".
"Because I needed", I answer. "And now I have the answer".
"About what I did to you. That I almost killed you".
He looks at me with a bit of fear.
"I am not guilty for what I did, but for the way I did it", I say. "Please, wait a second".
We stop as we light a cigarette. And I continue.
"I don't regret that I convinced you to smoke. If I regret something, is the way I did. Please, forgive me from almost killing me".
He looks at me surprised and says:
"Nicotiana, I forgive me. But please promise me that you will never ever try to kill me".
"I swear. On all the gods I know! Except for one reason. You know it".
"If I stop smoking?"
This question shocks me. "I will", I answer with half of my voice. "I know I scared you and almost killed you. If you want, you are free to move to any other house, to return to the mine or to go back over the sea", I say almost crying.
"No, I will not go, Nicotiana, as long as you will no longer try to kill me".
"You forgive me?"
"I forgive you. But please, understand that I know nothing about the unwritten law. Tell me first, each time I make something bad".
"Thank you for forgiving me and understanding me".
"There is something else I need to say..."
He stops and waits a long time.
"I will never leave you. I am here to help. Now that I know I am not your prisoner".
"You never were... and you will never be".
We return to the station. Cemis got worried and thought to run and tell my parents if I won't return until the evening train. She made fire in the house for us. So good, we are cold as ice.
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