Snežana Bukal
Hide-and-seek in Wertheim Park

The girl leans her arms against the age-old oak tree and counts up to one hundred. And no more than a language that a child rather sings than speaks, with it's strange musicality, compelling some passers-by to stop and smile.

Another, younger, little girl, wearing a blouse and cyclamen-pink slacks, and a woman, their mother, run cutty-corner across to the verge of the verdant circular path of parkland, where flourishing herbage and tall trees cast deep dark shadows. They hide under one of the shrubs, trying to hold their breath, intoxicated by the sweet smell of early simmer's earth and flowers.

The elder girl shouts: Sto! and turns around. While listening to a bird announcing itself high in the crown of a tree she wonders which way she should turn; than decides and moves towards the bushes into which a few minutes ago her mother and younger sister had run. She leaps over the wide white sheets of paper that they, lying on the broad green lawn like 3-winged stars, had painted on using their favorite colours: alisarium crimson, titanium white, cobalt blue and permanent violet, which her mother calls 'eternal violet'.

The bigger girl runs towards the bush, the sun on her back and in her golden hair. But mother in leading the younger girl by the hand had rediscovered a long-forgotten memory: a reminiscence that she is to analyze later on, that same night in the private silence of her bed, in the semi-darkness of a strange room. She tries to leave the bush as invisibly as possible. The elder girl spots them for just an instant in the corner of her glance - movement in cyclamen pink and gold, and screams: 'I sow you'

For these are the rules. Such is the game. Its essence is in announcing the finding. And only when victory is declared, not a second before, the rush may start. Finder and found must dash to the old oak. The littler sister runs toward the wrong tree, but her mother and elder girl run to touch its dark age-old bark almost at the same moment. Then both of them, laughing loudly, lie down for a while beneath the huge azure sky.

'That was enough' says the mother ' Let's go home.'

They collect the paintings, colours and brushes. At the entrance of the park, they rinse their hands and the brushes in a small fountain. The mother has to use all her might to keep them from the water. Finally, they are on their way home again. The littler sister proudly displaying her painting before herself. The 'big' sister, imitating her, parades her mother's painting. They walk in single file, talking loudly.

And one after the other they trek like desert caravan in the evening under the low sun, passing the square which opens to views in several directions: to the left the wind fills the sails of the seventeenth-century schooner which lies for ever at anchor before the Scheepvart Museum; to the right, a sequence of bridges beneath which, in dark green canal water, ducks, herons, gulls, swans - white ones, black ones- live together. Next, for as far as eye can see, is a cinnamon-tinted wavy line of old houses, with huge bare windows. In front of the Café Labyrinth the mother exchanges a long glance with the-man-who-always-sits-there.

'Like an oak tree' she muses, before they all will, just as one glides from one dream to another, disappear into the shadowy street.

August 1992, Amsterdam

Copyright Snezana Bukal
Translated by Copyright Charles McGeehan