Words and Tools


She liked words, I liked tools.

She liked nouns, I liked screws. She liked verbs, I liked trowels, she liked prepositions, I liked hammers, she liked articles, I liked nails. She liked pronouns, I liked nuts.

In my work shop there was everything: an anvil, pliers, carver, scissors, hammer, pick axe, saw, trowel, grater, auger, driller, press, file, nails, awl, measurement tape…and yet I had no particular job.

In her head, she had verbs, nouns, prepositions, pronouns, syllables, prefixes suffixes…and yet she was not a linguist.

From her words I like the most the ones that indicated tools while she only liked the names of my tools.

It is true that we were different, but that difference shouldn’t be the either an occasion or a reason for fight. If each one of us minded their own job perhaps we would still have been together. However, it seems that even God could not dispel the stubbornness from which the unlucky ones or clumsy ones suffer.

The people say stubborn like a mule, but they make a mistake because they should say stubborn like a human because the donkey is not stubborn, it is the only animal that dares not to obey human orders. On the other head, the humans have no one to measure their stubbornness with. As a matter of fact, Koneski had written something about donkeys, but I don’t remember where and when.

Let’s get back to my problems.

When we walked along the street I often bent down to pick a nut if I saw one, just in case I needed it. I would put it in my pocket. She would take out a notepad from the pocket writing down the name of that nut. If I met someone fixing their car, I would stop and curiously look at the engine. She would write the make of car first and then the words she heard while the car mechanic and I had a conversation.

When I stopped in front of a tool shop window counting in my mind everything I had and the things I needed to buy in future, she would take out the pocket notepad making a list of all the nouns she would see in the window shop in front of her.

Her so called word ordering habit seemed unusual and a little bit absurd, if I might say. On the other hand, my interest in tools must have looked like a repetition of the same old things.

I was trying to prove to her in vain that with tools you could make something, while with words you could only make games. She always had a clever answer in favour of her words which left me confused most of the times.

Our reckoning started one night when we were calmly walking along the Vardar bank side, transfixed by the multifarious city lights that mirrored themselves in the murky water. I mentioned quite randomly and just to make small talk that Skopje wouldn’t have existed if the tools were not invented. She retorted that if the words were not invented, I wouldn’t be able to imagine or name and least of all build the city. I wanted to laugh hard, but I did not show that.

I continued arguing about something that she obviously was not ready to accept as truth.

“Can you, -I said to her, say that the city is a city if it wasn’t built with tools?”

“Can you show me the city then, if its boundaries are not determined by words?”

“Yes, but it still exists.”

“It doesn’t exist before you name it.”

I was not aware of it yet, but we were trying to build a city of words and tools.

As strange as this might seem we were not children then, but we had entered middle age as well.

The previous talks ended by her leaving for a couple of days or weeks to attend some seminar or congress, at least that’s what she said. In the meanwhile, I would lock up in my work shop, making closets, wardrobes, chest drawers, cupboards, tables and other paraphernalia. Then we would meet again, each one determined that theirs was the right way of thinking.

However, this time she did not go to a seminar nor I made another bit of furniture. We decided to prove to each other once and for all, who was in the right. We gave each other a week in which each one of us had to make something, either from words or from tools. Something that would be persuasive enough to make the other abandon their outlook on life. It was easier said than done.

Each one firmly believed that the other did not stand a chance. I, for one thing, thought that even if I made the tiniest of things, like a jewellery box for example, it will still be something that can be touched or seen. Something real. She can’t bring me something made of words that I can hold in my hand and use it for something. I was almost happy in my sweet expectation of victory.

I went home and closed myself in the work shop with the enthusiasm only a beginner could have.

I took the trowel, but I dropped it. I took a grater, but I let it go again. I took nails to hammer, but I left them. I didn’t know what to do. I had no idea, whatsoever. Nothing came to my mind, nothing spectacular that would help me confirm my vanity, nothing authoritative or indestructible that would remind the future generations of my existence.

Thus, I spent a couple of days racking my brains, wondering as to what she could be doing or whether she had an idea.

To be honest, it was very probable that she had had an idea, but the thought that the idea will not have decent realisation also comforted me, because I could make anything immediately.

I took nails, shovels, nuts, bolts, plaster and cement and I put them around me, but nothing creative occurred to me. I can say that ideas even went away from my head.

All of a sudden it crossed my mind that the best thing would be to make my first wooden jewellery box which would be enough.

What’s wrong with a wooden box for keeping jewellery, sweets or other precious things?

Sad but courageous, we met each other at an abandoned military field which was the most appropriate place for expostulation of our broad opinions.

She came empty handed, as I had already imagined.

It was more than obvious that she had lost.

I was sure that regardless of what she might say to me with words, regardless of what kind of noun and verb string she came up with, they will only be a string of words that the wind would carry to space, never to return them again. There, in space, they could do whatever they wanted.

I proudly took out the jewellery box and gave it to her. Then I asked her whether she finally was convinced that I was in the right.

What really made me wonder was that instead of feeling remorse for her unbalanced statements, she was happy and cheerful like never before. She nodded as a sign of approval all along of the thing that came out from my tools, but yet something was wrong, a certain feeling of unrest was creeping up to me. I asked her what she had made of words. Without uttering a word, she moved about twenty meters back and pointed to a middle-aged man with a moustache who was waiting for her. She said that the man who was waiting for her liked notes: minims, crotchets, quavers…and went to him.


Where, on earth, have you seen a city built of words and notes?

This post is also available in: Macedonian