Bernard Jan is an author – a novelist and a poet – a reviewer and a translator. His first books have been written at the beginning of war in Croatia in 1991, amidst the air alerts and illusory attempts when he wanted to believe and think that life is normal, that everything is alright with the world. In his lifespan he has written and published five novels, two novellas, one book of poems and an essay in Croatian. A World Without Color is his first book self-published as e-book and paperback in English.
The absence of scars on my hands and arms can trick someone into believing everything is all right, that I didn't get myself into trouble. Yet, the trouble is their absence. For, a brief pain, preceded by a sudden sting and followed by droplets of blood on the wound before it crusted, is not a physical one. It is still there though masterfully concealed.
Each memory is like a swift move of a sharp claw that leaves a red trace as the wound opens and fills my soul with a sharp cocktail of blood and tears. Cheers! So you never forget what you had and what you are missing now.
Eleven years have passed, and the world is still without true colors. A few days or weeks of happiness occasionally burst with the sudden explosion of the colors of the rainbow. But every rainbow fades and leaves the sky in one color, sometimes with different shades.
This is how my life is. Painted in shades, missing true colors. Because memories cannot replace the real thing. Memories can't replace you after you are gone, wrapped up in your cloths and carried away in a plastic bag....
Promises are hard to keep but the promise I gave you was the promise that saved me. I didn't have another animal after you nor I think I will have it. I can cuddle and play with our two office cats, stroke their fur this way and that teasing them, but it's all on a conscious, rational level. Life put us together, in the same place, maybe to test me or not, I don't know. But the spark that fired up my life when I brought you home 26 years ago isn't there when I'm with them.
You were a thief who stole my heart before we'd decided you'd stay with us for good. You were the master I served unknowingly, and I was happy to take that role. Although I like to think I saved you, you were the one who saved me and my family.
You—my little furry muse.
Then... and nine years later, I reopened my wounds to that same experience while working on my English book. I thought it would be easier, with the passage of time, but I surprised myself with my capacity to accumulate so many tears. The pain and the suffering, the vivid memories, the sounds of you purring, cooing and meowing, it was all there again in full bloom and bright colors. Like it happened yesterday.
I saw you sitting in my grandma's lap as we all watched a TV show or a movie in our living room, me with a book in my hands. Next time I looked you had stretched yourself on a carpet by my armchair. Not a few minutes had passed and you were in my lap, exploring it with your little cold feet for the best spot to curl up in. Once settled, you purred vigorously and loudly, winking and squinting with pleasure while I stroked you under your chin and behind your ears, sharing kisses with you by planting the tip of my nose onto your wet nose. I miss the comforting vibrations you radiated through my legs and stomach; gosh, I loved that feeling!
I also miss the sight of you when I unlocked the door and came home. I smiled and you greeted me with your little dance around my legs, looking up at me with unfeigned affection and devotion as I stroked your back before taking you in my arms. We belonged to each other, didn't we?
We belonged to each other when I played music on a CD player or on the radio. I'd been working on my stories and you slept relaxed and satisfied under my table, keeping me company in silence. My muse for happiness, my muse for inspiration and all the goodness and beautiful words that poured out of me into the true and fictional worlds I've created.
Too many stories will remain untold, so many words unsaid and unshared with others. I keep chasing them through my mind like when my mom, dad and I chased you when you hid behind a two-seater each time someone rang at the door. Someone strange and untrustworthy. We had to remove the two-seater and drag you out even when the air was clear from danger. Once you felt safe with us, we continued playing with a rope or aluminium foil we bundled into a ball for you. Our champ of agility and speed!
You still inspire me, you never stopped inspiring me. My smiles, my tears, my longing, my pain. Like a beam of goodness in a world without color. Like a ray of hope in days, weeks and months of loneliness, agitation, fake smiles and indifference.
Years have passed, years are passing by. But you stay. Now and always. Here with me. In my mind, in my blood, in my words. In A World Without Color, a story I wrote as yours and mine legacy. So everyone could read about you and get to know you.
So everyone knows what you mean to me.
I love you, Marcel. I always will.