A Meeting

“The story is dedicated to the memory of my cousin, Arshak Akimyan”

The cold door of the house was knocked on restlessly and alarmingly. Dressed in thick coat (aid from Italy) and a sport cap I opened the door. At the door stood a pale-looking unshaven pal with a woman over fifty. They examined me attentively. The woman’s look seemed familiar, her eyes reminded something sad.

  1. Come in, – I said and let them in. The woman entering the room whispered to the fellow’s ear, -That’s him.
  2. Your face seems familiar. Perhaps, I have treated you?
  3. Yes, – said the woman, – and how.., moreover, you have saved my life.

I recalled thousands of cases, but being unaware, with hand gesture I tried to find out.

  1. - Do you remember Leninakan maternity hospital? , – said the boy, trying to specify and untie the entangled situation, – your brother showed us the way to the house. I noticed the woman hiding gently her arm – there was no hand a little upper the wrist.

I remembered, realized and became numb…

- Let me hug you,- said the woman, – she embraced me and cried bitterly, I have found you eventually, I have dreamed about you thousands of times, I have talked to you, I have prayed for you…
Standing silently, paralyzed and confused, I realized as in an instant, these strange and at the same time familiar people appeared at home making me feel awkward. And I remembered…
My memories transferred me to the destroyed Gumri-Leninakan maternity hospital which was demolished to the ground by the December 1988 earthquake, burring dreams and hopes of thousands people. I crept under the debris to pull out my blood-covered aunt. Under the ruins in one of the corners I heard a heavy mourn. I lit the torch in the direction of a sound. A woman persistently begged for help.
- I will come back, mother, wait for me, – I said and moved towards the saving light.
- I will give you all I have, sonny, – exclaimed the woman covered with mud and lime.
Outside my friend asked me not to go back to under the ruins. “There are still tremors. If you go there, you risk not coming back. The debris is constantly going down, descending”.
- I promised, I can’t, – I said and rushed through a manhole, shouting and calling in anticipation to get a response, so that I could find my way in the dark I was moving face downwards in hope to find a spicy place to turn and get out.
- I am over here, brother, take me out.
When I came closer I asked her to get hold of me.
-I can’t, my hand…
I put light and saw her hand and fingers trapped under a huge panel, the hand was already black and swollen. What shall I do? I thought it over… I took a folding knife out of my pocket, approached the woman firmly, and touched the bruise. It felt like a gall filled with hard substance. “Do you feel it?” I asked. “No,” she answered turning her glance towards the uncertainty. Easily, like cutting a cake, I dissected her hand, a little bellow the wrist, wrapped her in a randomly found piece of cloth, and brought her out of Hell. Outside, the French surgeons were skillfully performing their job. I took a deep breath. The life of that unknown woman was rescued, even in this horrible way, but the only one…
The picture in my mind was over. I became sober. The woman in front of me was Aghun and her son Hamik. They came to invite me to have khash (Armenian dish made of beef feet), to celebrate our meeting. They toasted to me, praised my heroic deed, and used  to your humble servant more and more “incompatible” to the occasion words.
As for me, I sat silently, smiled guiltily, and thought: “I made this woman a cripple, having deprived her of the hand.”

Translated by N Mnatsakanyan.