NICHOLAYEVICH

Once, I was known as Kulyaba Andrey Nicholayevich. Now only the patronymic survives and I am called Nicholayevich. Whatís left of me is sick, a 56 year old man who looks 65. Yet they say a man is not judged by his looks but by how he feels. If thatís true, then I am older. I feel 70.

Just eight years ago I was a professor of philosophy. I helped a colleagueís son get a job at the university. In return I got a bottle of cognac, a few candy bars, and a 14 year sentence for bribery.

Sometimes, I wonder if any of my students wondered what happened to their teacher. Where is that cheerful, quick-tempered, fireball Kulyaba, the one who, one day, fell off the earth and was never heard from again. I don't know. I've never gotten a letter. I was confident I had a personal rapport with my students, but now I see I had nothing. I was just a little man stuffed with knowledge, an ordinary book worm, and my disappearance was no great loss for the temple of learning.

At an early age I could argue the theories of Hegel and Kant till the morning light. I soared throughout time and universes. I threw open doors to other dimensions with my learned mind. I never knew then there was a dark dimension nearby where people lived like zombies. I didn't know how easy it was to stumble and slide into a parallel dimension where the library was where criminals played cards; where a university professor is forced to write homework for his guardís kids, being sure to make a few mistakes so the homework would look believable.

I wish, my students could see me. It would teach them more than all of my lectures added together. Just let them see me as I am, a shadow who canít catch up to the others, who goes to the mess hall alone, who begs for a second helping of gruel, and then drags himself to his cell with a few small pieces of bread hidden in his pockets.

One of the purposes of philosophy is to prepare man to understand and deal with reality. Yet somehow I appear to be the least prepared one here. Everyone else here knows how to survive. Where to get cigarettes, tea and warm clothes. I still don't understand where to get these things. Hegel never mentioned it.

Another purpose of philosophy is to prepare man to face death and that angers me because I cannot accept it. I refuse to leave this place through the crematoriumís chimney. I refuse to die in a nightmare. I am one hundred percent positive that one sunny morning I will step out of jail and walk far away, walk far away through the fields and rivers. I can see this day in my mind.



 


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