Saturday, 26 December 2015


A snowflake slowly slides down from my forehead. Like a child on a slide. With joy and restlessness.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Honest-Minded People by Vlad Mușatescu

Octav was at home, a little drunk, with the bottle and the iron next to him. He had singed his corduroy pants and now he was crying with tears as big as cantaloupes.
Doru, quick of apprehension, examined the breeches and, looking at me, he said:
’They’re fine, really! They smell of sheep’s hair, but it doesn’t matter. Come on, pop Octav, everybody’s waiting...’
’Dodoru, mmmy ffeett are shacking... Because of all the emotion!’
’No, because of all the wine!’
Asking me to help him, Doru put Octav in his trousers, I arranged the tie at his neck and put his frock coat on, after which we carried him to Doru’s car. On the way, coming out of his alcoholic melancholy, Octav told us:
’I forgot my shoulder straps. What if my pants will fall off?’
’You’ll be sure to keep them up with one of your hands, and that’s it!’ Doru darted at him.
And Doru was right. All the time that Octav had stood next to Onglița, during the time the snuffly priest conducted the ceremony, Octav has kept his arm under the frock coat, looking like Napoleon Bonaparte. Mamamoașa, beaming with joy, could not make out why Octav looked so haughty.
Doru and I, bestmen, were standing stiff with candles in our hands, as if we were squires at the court of a great king. I was so focused on pop Octav, waiting for the climax, when the trousers would fall down, that I didn’t notice that all the wax was dripping on the low seam of the coat and on my trousers.
When it came to the exchange of rings, Octav forgot about his pants. And, kissing my mother at the firm comand issued by Mamamoașa, I think I was the first one to see, knowing what would happen, the slow but certain falling down of the corduroy pants. Not even pop Octav really realized what was going on, because when the whole thing was over and directed himself towards aunt Mili, to adequately kiss her hand, he tripped over his fallen pants and, remaining only in wollen johns, that fortunately covered him up to his ankles, he fell at the witness’ feet, rubbing the floor with his nose. Even though there was still some alcohol in his cells, at the last moment he was spry enough to clench the low steam of the dress that Mamamoașa wore. Who quickly found herself without the back part of her luxurious dress, disentangling with noise. Hearing it, Mamamoașa realized the disaster, and yelled at Moișeanu:
’Titi, get in the rearguard!’
The withdrawal of the witness was a solemn moment. Titi, walking very close to the back of Mamamoașa, led her to the bedroom, where the changing of clothes took place. During the reverse gear footsteps, taken at double command, she told me:
’You, child, come. You must change your clothes since they are so full of wax!’
’ Mamamoașa, I can promise you that I haven’t even touched the honeycombs in the store room’ I ensured her, holding my hand on my hear and having it stuck to it due to the wax.
’Fool, I was referring to the wax from the candle!’

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Smile, please!

Illustration by Cristi Vecerdea-Criv
She loves me... She loves me not...

(At ease! Let's laugh!  by Cristi Vecerdea-Criv, published in 1990 at the Military Publishing House)

Sunday, 6 December 2015

The handle

A metallic creak broke the silence in the house. I slightly turn my head to the entrance door. It’s a familiar sound. Somebody standing in front of the door is pulling the handle. But not the one from our door, but the neighbor’s.  I sit there still and smile. As I always do every time when, in a horror movie, a door handle is presented, moving up and down. The tension does not rise with the music. At least, not for me. When I used to live in my parents’ apartment this metallic sound could mean only one thing – one of my grandparents was in front of our door.  Since they lived in a village, they couldn’t make out the concept of locked doors. So, every time they came to visit us, they would pull the handle up and down, being convinced that the door will finally open and that they could enter the apartment. It was no use my mom explaining them that we, the people living in the city, feel the need to lock each and every lock our door has and, moreover, that the poor spring of the handle suffers badly after each struggle it endures. No use, like I’ve written! Not even to convince them to knock at our door. But, it is true, that they had kept their right to yell my mom’s name when in front of the door. They knew that it would always work. And not only in the village. But also in the town. Especially, for people living in houses. 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

About Petre

I've known Petre a long time. To be precise, when I was 7. I had made acquaintance of some of his kin, but meeting him was special. Peach, pencil, peacock, plum, parrot, purse, peanut and others had been presented to me, before, but only by means of sound. Thus, it was high time we met face to face. That is, me facing down towards the piece of paper, and Petre written on it. Until I managed to correctly pronounce it, I kept repeating "Pietre" (stones in Romanian). But I succeeded. And ever since, every time I hear the first name Petre, it gets me dreaming about a rocky valley of a river.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Smile, please!

Illustration by Cristi Vecerdea-Criv

(At ease! Let's laugh! by Cristi Vecerdea-Criv, published in 1990 at the Military Publishing House)

Friday, 6 November 2015


Nowhere in the world the rain falls as it used to while I was in my grandparents’ house. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever get the chance to hear once more that linear and mysterious clink. That solid drop on eaves, dripped afterwards in a liquid icicle, performed at the same time with the sound of a thousand needles stinging the leaves and flowers in my grandmother’s garden. Every time it rains, my ear draws itself closer to the window, perking in order to break the secret code. The land is moist, but not due to the rain. This time, I’ll try using my sight in order to discover the secret. 

Monday, 26 October 2015

The haversack

Like any child, I too went through that period when you think that the pencil case, the fountain pen or even the shoes you wear tell more about who you really are, and what and how you think don’t make any difference. Well, such a period seems inevitable! What I don’t understand is how it happens that some adults still find themselves living in it. But I let myself get carried away.  
The other day I saw a camo haversack and it reminded me of the one I had during the secondary school. It was moss green, and the handles and straps were coral red. All in all, a wonder! I was so proud to have it. My colleagues still had backpacks or had gone to student paper cases, but I was camouflaging. Well, as much as one can camouflage oneself wearing red.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

'Fathers and Sons' by Ivan Sergheyevich Turgenev

Some things will never change, and amongst them the eternal dissension between generations, which is beautifully depicted in the novel “Fathers and Sons”. What impressed me the most is the fact that Turgenev chooses to present it in antithesis with itself. For there always were elder people that disagree with the ideas of the young generations, and elder people that praise the enthusiasm of the young generation. Both situations occurred and will keep occurring until the end.
I subjectively interpret the last depiction of the novel as a fragile victory of the later. But regardless of the seeming winner, quirk of fate is what dominates us all.

‘But think of his upbringing?’ expostulated Arkady. ‘Think of the period in which he has lived his life!’
‘His upbringing?’ retorted Bazarov. ‘Why, a man ought to bring himself up, even as I had to do. And with regard to his period, why should I, or any other man, be dependent upon periods? Rather, we ought to make periods dependent upon us. ‘

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Smile, please!

Illustration by Cristi Vecerdea-Criv


(At ease! Let's laugh! by Cristi Vecerdea-Criv, published in 1990 at the Military Publishing House)

Friday, 16 October 2015

„The case of Mrs. Predescu” - Petre Bellu

Before writing about this thrilling book, I would just like to shake off the indignation that grasped me. I bought this book from an antique shop. I must say, at first, I had doubts whether to buy it or not since the cover made me think of one of Sandra Brown’s books. But I bought it. And read it. Reading it, right until the end, I was convinced that it must have been a woman writing it, using a male pen name. It wouldn’t have been the first time. Then, I browsed google and found out that this man really existed. Only a few Romanian antique shop sites showed me some book titles of Petre Bellu, amongst which the most controversial of his works, „The defender may speak now”. But that was all the information I found. Two Spanish sites bring praise, though, to Petre Bellu. Browsing them I found some information about his life and his works. It impressed me the most to see that there were comments of Spanish speaking people that put the novel amongst the most precious „jewelries of the realist literature”. What about us, Romanians? Well, there are few mentions of his name in Romanian. Scribd  site seems to put at our disposal the novel „The defender may speak now”.

Petre Bellu (1896-1952) was born in Roșiorii de Vede, into a poor family, and he spent his childhood in Bucharest. His first novel, published at Ig. Hertz Publishing House, „The defender may speak now” (1934) brings him fame and also the hatred of the famous writers of those times. In the foreword to „The case of Mrs. Predescu” (1935), Bellu gives thanks to Panait Istrati’s support, but also to the publishing house that edited his first novel, being that it had a lot to suffer after it.
„The case of Mrs. Predescu” has at its centre prejudice and social roles. Those imposed by others, and also those imposed by ourselves. Bellu makes a minute description of the feminine soul, but also of the male soul, of the expectations of the parties and their position regarding the requests of the society.
The novel „The case of Mrs. Predescu” was republished in 1991 by Marius Publishing House, which no longer exists. But if it weren’t for its efforts, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure to lose myself in these extraordinary pages, and I would have found myself even more ashamed to discover that, somewhere in Santiago de Chile, people talk about a great Romanian writer that I have never heard of.

Excerpt of „The case of Mrs. Predescu”:
"I want nothing to know about the world! If the world condemns me, so be it!... I want to do it all, against the world. Moreover: I want to get back at the world. What does the world want with me? It wants me to rip off my heart and give it to it, as a satisfaction for its approvals and disapprovals?... Well, I won’t do such a thing! I ask people to leave me alone, and stop giving me advice. I don’t need it. In my heart and mind, I have a more complex and sincere world, with whom I take counsel together when I need it.”

Friday, 9 October 2015

Norman Manea – “October, eight o’clock

As a rule, people like to believe that roads are covered only by directing oneself forward. One changes sceneries, gains experience, courage etc. What sense is there in looking back?! Moreover, what sense is there in going back?! Even if it is just picturing oneself back in time.

Well, there is a sense. And it gets clearer and clearer by each and every story one reads from this book. For me, “October, eight o’clock” and “Requiem for fools and beasts” by Augustin Buzura represent cold showers to the consciousness. Anyone afraid of catching a cold, don’t be! When in a warm place, the risk is totally neutralized.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Weather report

It’s a gloomy weather. It’s gloomy and it rains. It’s rainy and foggy. This fog reminds me of Kogălniceanu. Not the politician. But the village where my grandparents lived. My grandparents sitting on the stoop within their curtilage. In the curtilage, Azor is barking. It is barking and weaving its tail. We are standing in line, exchanging embraces and cherishing the happiness of the encounter. Encounters as rare and fragile as smoke. Smoke comes out of chimney stacks, and the air around us smells of crushed black grapes, and the tip of my fingers, imbued with stum, shiver with cold. I rub them against the back of my hand, but they dance sticking and unsticking to it, and then sticking to it again. Again!

Monday, 5 October 2015


The wet nose of a hog
Clearly proclaims the coming of fall.
It’s cold and a promise I shall make
Starting from tomorrow, a song I will sing to lucerne.
Full of blue flowers, it doesn’t know
That us, the others, in turn and senselessly bear fruit.  
We dream, and we do not give guerdon
And we bathe only on Monday.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Stephen Clarke - "A year in the merde"

Visiting a foreign country and living and working in a foreign country are not one and the same thing. At first glance, living in a foreign country seems a Bohemian experience. It is. But it’s not only that. Some of the aspects of living abroad seem sometimes to be small scenes of an absurdist play. Somewhere in the book, Stephen Clarke mentions that no rights are available in an institution's waiting room. I could not agree more given the experiences I had in my country of origin, but also in other two countries.
“A year in the merde” is a simple and funny story about a British man’s cultural shock when moving to Paris, accepting an interesting job. Out of the many things that took him aback, I must admit that I share his consternation regarding the way French people make somebody’s acquaintance by exchanging kisses on both cheeks. That is a lot of personal space to offer, at first sight, to a stranger! Especially, when they are saved (the kisses) for family and friends. True, the French aren’t the only ones that do this. Spanish people have the same manner of making somebody’s acquaintance, too. Hum, would it be the case of a forgotten courtesy rule?! Well, if there is an explanation for it, unfortunately, it is not unveiled within the book.
The moments when the main character speaks with French people and their difficulties regarding English vocabulary and pronunciation are transcribed into English, making it impossible not to laugh. 

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Augustin Buzura - Requiem for fools and beasts

This book cannot be retold. Maybe just read and reread. I found myself in it, and also some fragments of images from my childhood, but also from grown-ups' stories. The tremble that comes upon the reader while, page after page, advancing into the book can only be compared to a short-circuit.
One humble recommendation for Univers Publishing House - reprint, please!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

I'm green

I'm green like an unripe apple, thirsty for rain after heat.
I’m green like a semaphore, hurrying to transform itself into red.
I’m green like a pond, covered entirely by spirogyra.
I’m green, but I sail under false colours, waiting for you to ignore my blue skim.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Smile, please!

Illustration by Cristi Vecerdea-Criv
Equity is my motto

(At ease! Let's laugh! by Cristi Vecerdea-Criv, published in 1990 at the Military Publishing House)

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Let's make provisions!

I was six years old at the fall of the Communist regime. I didn't have the chance to stand in queues and I didn't join the pioneer movement. But I clearly remember various things being switched off, like energy, heath, water, and I also remember how happy I was when receiving an orange. Just imagine how I felt when receiving chocolate!
Reminiscences of those time can be noticed in my need of always making provisions. One never knows when one runs out of things, so it's better to salt away is a kind of leit-motif for me. This is how I may explain the fact that four years ago, when my nephew was only turning two, I bought him clothes that fitted a six years old. I looked at them, in the store, and I told myself that they could be a little big, ignoring the label that stated the age. Better larger than smaller, I told myself, and I left the store happy. We laughed for years of my purchase. Four, actually. Finally, this year my nephew was able to wear them.
Today, I realized that one can keep learning and making progresses. That's how I did not buy my nephew a blouse that needs to wait for four years in order to fit him, but only three.
Better to have than not to!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Honest-Minded People by Vlad Mușatescu

I was really glad to find again this book. It is the most beautiful ode that Vlad Mușatescu dedicated to the people that inspired and helped him throughout his life. I hope there are a lot of honest-minded people out there!

I wanted to leave, when he suddenly asked for help, which was to read the final draft of the manuscript. A thing that I delivered with real delight and abnegation. Without, actually, doing him a big favour. Considering that I, literally, ruined his text, changing the poet's name, which was annoyingly repeated in all its length. Therefore, I corrected it wherever I found it to be in excess. And reduced it to P. Sandor. Which sounded lovely. And even saved some space.
When he noticed that I destroyed his manuscript by distorting the reality, Iancsi-baci grabbed his hair. Which wasn't so much, after all. And told me as gently as he could, at that time:
"Muș, you such an idiot! The poet Petofi, surname, and Sandor name... What for devil we to do now?"
"No problem! I will fix everything... Keep calm!"
"Impossible! You with I cannot calm..."
In a week, from morning until evening, I redid the manuscript. I re-typed all the pages that I corrected. Having the best and noble intentions at heart. How was I supposed to know that Hungarians recite their names backwards, like they do when they read the names from the gradebook?! It seemed abnormal. But, in order not to offend Iancsi-baci's national feelings, I didn't say a word. Well, just like Romanians always say: every bird sings its own known trill."

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Let's laugh!

I love antique shops. Probably because they cater to my need of keeping a little the past into the present. Every time I visit one, I leave the shop satisfied and content with discovering a book or an author that I would not normally find in a regular bookshop.
Here's my latest

(At ease! Let's laugh! by Cristi Vecerdea-Criv, published in 1990 at the Military Publishing House)
Published in 1990, the drawings from this book easily seem to fit the present, be it military or not. 
(And be careful, darling ... don't make a move while in front line)

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Excerpt from Chapter 5 - Fairytale-like anniversary (The Three Jolly Tiddlekins, by Vlad Mușatescu)

'Pop Tilică, tell me, please, how can one recognize a poisonous serpent?... '
Scratching his nape and giving it a little thought, our friend answered:
'Well, dear child, to give you a simple answer: if a serpent bites you and you live longer than 30 minutes, than it wasn’t poisonous! If not, then you can no longer find out, and frankly, there’s no reason to it... Do you understand?'
Tiddlekin Babacu nodded somewhat satisfied. Then, in a bout of curiosity, Pop Tilică asked Babane, the eldest of the Ostrogoths:
'And what are you studying in school these days?'
'Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Foreign Languages, French, English, and now Advanced Algebra... '
Amazed by the many things that Babane was studying, Pop Tilică exclaimed:
'Good for you! And how do you say 'good afternoon' in that algebra?... '

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Mommy, Eme doesn't know how to turn on the TV

I'll be modest, sincere and straight to the point. My nephew is wondrous. 
Since he was a little boy he started reminding us about a face of dignity we forgot it existed. He never does a thing just because someone tells him he has to or because 'it's the nice thing to do'. You either give him some arguments, or you leave it alone! And I must say that those arguments must be good. He's skittish, stubborn, and stands out from a crowd of adults when asking if he could help. He's turned 6 glorious years and juggles already with two foreign languages. I might as well admit it - I'm proud of him!
But most of all, I like the glow in his eyes when I give him an answer to one of his questions. The way he looks at me has serious repercussions on my self-esteem. I remember that some time ago I was trying to teach him how to snap his fingers. He was fascinated about the sound that I made using my thumb and middle finger. I am older, and then this is somewhat a certainty that I can do things that he cannot. Yet.
On a Sunday, we were laying on the couch (after trying to put together some puzzle pieces), and my nephew remembered it was Scooby time. Considering that he did not know how to turn on the TV, he asked me – the eldest – to work the magic. Surely I’m not the most nontechnical person in the world, but once they started to use two remotes for a TV set, I found another reason not to use it anymore. But I told myself that I should at least give it a try for the sake of my nephew. And I did. Two tries. And then I pressed a button on the second remote. A red light flickered from the TV set, but the screen remained as black as ever. If at the beginning, my nephew gave me a somewhat trustful look, when I pressed a button on the second remote, it was clear to him that I was ‘the eldest’ only when it didn’t come to the turning on of the TV set. Still, he quickly overcame the disappointment and concentrated on finding a solution. Making towards the kitchen, he called out to his mother:
‘Mommy, won’t you come?! Eme doesn’t know how to turn on the TV.’
It seems that the time of glory ‘I’m and adult and I have answers to your questions’ might soon come to an end. I got to be quick about it and teach him one more important thing. Namely, how to blow a bubble with chewing gum.

Monday, 8 June 2015


Excerpt from Chapter II of the novel 'The Three Jolly Tiddlekins' by Vlad Mușatescu
'Have you asked for the check? Perfect... Three coffees, fifteen lei...'
'Well, there's only two of us!' I tried to determine him to come into contact with reality.  
'No way! I see three, therefore you are three...'
Aunt Ralița, wanting to put an end to it, paid the amount, fearing not to start a quarrel with the drunkards, and turned to leave. Still, having a golden heart, she asked the maitre d'hotel: 
'How will you get home, dear, being so exhausted, if I may say so?'
"I've got a car, ma'm! Utomobile, presonal proprety...'
'Good for you! But today, I think it's better if you took the bus!' tanti Ralița advised him.
'No can do! Impossibel, as the English would say...It doesn't fit into the garage!' said the maitre d'hotel, wiggling like a mast in the storm.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

I want it all. And I want it now!

Whenever we arrive to the conclusion that there is only one thing missing that hinders our happiness, panic sets in. Looking through the holes in our neighbour's fence, we realize that the piece missing from our puzzle is the neighbour's stunning display. And bang! Over the roof goes our desire to obtain as soon as possible what we see in the display. But the exact replica. Or, to be modest, it wouldn't hurt if we obtain a better replica (so as to take revenge for the hole in the fence).
In a nutshell, a piece will always be missing from our puzzle. I have everything, but I don't have kids. I have everything, but I haven't found my match. I have everything, but I don't have a job. I have everything, but I don't have enough money to go on trips. I have everything, but ... And what if we could juggle with this sentence?! I don't have kids, but I have everything else. haven't found my match, but I have everything else. I don't have a job, but I have everything else. I don't have enough money to go on trips, but I have everything else. I don't have ..., but I have everything else.
It's though keeping calm when your inner self is a child that squirms on the floor, hysterically crying over a lollipop that is in the hands of another kid. A responsible parent would never grab the lollipop from the kids' hands and hand it to her/ his hysterical kid, squirming on the floor. It's a matter of principle.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Furdui Iancu is everywhere

It's easy to lose yourself while walking through the streets of Tyumen. The cherry plums are in bloom, and the smell accompanies one from one corner of the street to the other, having one sole rival - music. Small speakers throne high from the poles, murmuring sweet arias. What can be more enchanting than to walk under blooming trees, listening to Frank Sinatra?!
Yesterday, though, a change occurred. I was waiting for the extraordinary transformation of red into green, at the crossroads, when a deep voice interrupted my daydream. For a short moment, I thought that it was a song sang in Romanian. The singer's voice was similar to the one of Furdui Iancu's; the same vibrant sound and, I imagined, the same facial expressions. Who is Furdui Iancu? Well, I'll tell you what's written in my registry - my mother's favorite folk music singer. Probably this explanation doesn't do much for you, does it?! Inevitably, I arrive to a conclusion - every country has its own Furdui Iancu.

Monday, 4 May 2015

The Three Jolly Tiddlekins by Vlad Mușatescu

Today marks 93 years since the day Vlad Mușatescu was born. I couldn’t let this day pass by without celebrating his memory. I have learned that experiences turn into memories and they are the most precious asset we’ll ever have. Dear master, I want to thank you for all the smiles your books have given me! Each and every one of us can be the character of a comedy, we just have to stop taking ourselves so seriously. I smile therefore I evoke you.
Excerpt from Chapter I
Finally, after killing, in cold blod, the last of the mosquitos flying around my flat, after unwillingly listening to the noise of trams, buses and all other means of transport making their morning rounds, I was waiting for the Sandman to come. My eyes were focused on the screen of the clock, just to make sure that the Sandman arrives on time. And he did. Around nine thirty.
Just one tiny detail, it wasn’t him. Somebody else was knocking at the door. And doing it with such force and obstinance that I thought for a moment that the building would fall down. As a matter of fact, had this person use the doorbell, I would have been more satisfied. Because it was out of order. To be exact, it was so from the moment that my aunt Ralitza forced her finger into the place were the button was missing.
              ’Who is it? ’ I asked in a sweet voice, even though I was boiling on the inside.
                ’Well, who do you think it could be? It’s me, Ralitza, your aunt! I have been yelling since seven o’clock, and you don’t hear me... ’
Of course, I urgently invited her in. I was afraid the neighbours would lynch me. Extremely intrigued, I immediately asked her:
 ’I don’t get it, aunt Ralitza! If you have been here since seven o’clock, why haven’t you knock at the door, instead of yelling? ’
My aunt squinted at me, and then explained:
’Al, sonny, it’s not human what is happening with you, and neither with this building you are living in... At what door was I supposed to knock since I was stuck in the elevator? I was blocked between floors, and just five minutes ago I could get out...’
Jiggered by what I was hearing, I asked aunt Ralitza to excuse me for a moment, until I got dressed. When she, benevolently, agreed and gave me a piece of advice:
’Listen Al, sonny, it would be perfect if we went into the kitchen after you got dressed... Due to so much excitement, I could even eat expanded concrete.’
’All right! We’ll do that... And what is your heart’s desire?’
’Well, nothing complicated; just something to eat... Some sandwiches, let’s say five of them, with cheese or bacon, and a glass of water...’
’Don’t you think it’s a little too much? Maybe you should keep a diet, like I am...’
’Mhm! You might be right. Then I’ll have the sandwiches, without the glass of water!...’

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Like a wooden table in the middle of a rapeseed field

Pebbles are gritting under my shoes. I learned that it is better to look down before you take careful steps. I have been told that it is a sign of resignation. It is not. I was so much impressed with Harap-Alb's story that I am taking all precautions in order not to crush my luck. One never knows when one is faced with a challenge and one is in desperate need of an ant's or a bee's wing.
Left, right, left, right. Things that never change surely do give you security! I clenched my fists within the pockets of my jacket and moved forward. 

Friday, 24 April 2015

I, the Student

I came back to an old status. I am a student. It seems Lenin's famous indication 'Learn, learn, learn!' has had a greater impact on me than I expected.

As I was running to and fro, between my house and my school, making sure to always carry with me a pen, a notebook and the handbook, I found my reflection in a window shop. It was amusing since it was the same reflection I had seen years ago when I was an undergraduate, running between the dorm and the campus. The top knot bun reminds me that some things never change. The rest of the things?! Well, they enhance or they don't.

Friday, 17 April 2015

A Pledge

A leaf fell right on the tip of my left green shoe. It was the same yellowish brown I had been seeing for the past 31 autumns. I stopped and glanced at the beautiful color combination. Fall always made me feel brand new; it was the spring for the buds in me. Something new and exciting was always expecting me at the arrival of fall. I have been moving around, changing apartments, cities and now countries for at least 6 years, that packing seemed like an ordinary activity, mostly like watering the flowers in the garden. I picked up the leaf and a mild scent of moist filled my nostrils. I remembered Bucharest. It was the fall of 2012 and people’s spirits needed lifting; being that the head of the state could not be unseated. A lot of skeptics doubted the democratic republic, but I was sure that a lot had changed since the fall of communism. People were no longer afraid now; they had a voice.
After the first month living in a new flat, I noticed some bizarre sums added to my administration costs. Since the owner of the flat suggested that she should come and present me herself to the administrator, I thought it won’t hurt to wait and ask the administrator myself for the explanation on that given occasion, which arrived soon as I had some problems with the washing machine that needed to be replaced.
So one afternoon I met with the lady in order to see the administrator, who had his office in the building next to the one I was living in. She entered the access code and we were granted the entry. We took the elevator until the penultimate floor, and then we took the stairs for one more floor. A queue of three people was nicely arranged in front of an open door. A desk was stuffed at the entrance and behind it a grumpy frowning man was sitting. He had the look of a hungry eagle, hovering around a corpse, waiting for the perfect time to attack, while the victim – a poor old man – was begging for mercy. I took it that the grouchy man, playing hide-and-seek behind his big pair of glasses was the administrator, Escu.

“I told you over and over again”, he shouted disdainfully and his bushy eyebrows seemed to be able to cause hurricanes, “you need to hand me the water quota until the 5th of the month”.
“Yes, I know. I’m sorry”, the old man replied in a squeaky voice. “But, you see, I was away visiting my daughter for three weeks and …”
“I don’t care!” Escu’s voice thundered forth and his wide shoulders seem to rise menacingly. “Who am I, your priest?! I don’t care about the explanations, I care about the quotas. You have not handed them to me until the approved date so this month you are going to pay more. Next time, be more careful! Go now, you’re keeping the others waiting!”

And that’s when I knew it. The flat owner was not making a courtesy introduction; she was standing at the courtesy of the administrator. I was shocked to see that everyone was waiting in line, quietly accepting that others are victims of this bully, who might also become their bully, too. When it was our turn, I thought I caught a glimpse of the owner’s shaking hands. I refused to give into panic. I was an adult, not a child scared to have forgotten the homework at home and terrorized at the thought of a bad mark.

“This is Ann, my new tenant”, said the owner in a tremulous voice, “It is her first month here.”
“Ah”, exclaimed Escu with a honeyed voice.
“Yeah, well, you see”, I could feel the owner giving in to the fear. “Ann and I have some questions regarding the administration costs. I mean, they are a little bit high, comparing to what was declared.”
“I know you think highly of my services”, replied Escu in a plummy voice, “otherwise, I would have been terribly offended. Does the young lady have a copy of her ID?”
“Yes, I have”, I stated in a toneless voice. “Here it is. But before leaving, we would really appreciate it if you could explain the costs. For example, what are these household expenses that you included in the list, next to administration costs? For me it seems like they are the same. Why do we have two amounts for the same service?”
“What are the expenses?” asked Escu, and I felt his blue eyes burning me down. “You see, young lady, one of these days you, youngsters, must get it into your heads that we are not as irresponsible as you and we don’t claim money just for the fun of it. Household expenses are the result of taking good care of the building in which you are living.”
“There’s no need to yell. I can hear you very well from where I’m standing. I did not mean to offend you; it’s just that the owner and I are entitled to an explanation.”
“Entitled?!” he hissed. “This idea of democracy has turned you all into fools. Listen here, missy, I do my job properly and I am not going to have you giving me a lecture about it. I have been doing this long before you were even born. You, people, should learn your place.”
“Mr. Escu”, I tried to talk as calm as I could, but my voice came out squeaky and brittle. I discouraged easily when someone yelled at me, and I feared that my weakness was now exposed. “I treated you with nothing but respect, and the questions I addressed you don’t question neither your knowledge nor your equity. It is my civil right to know what I am paying for. No one accused you of wrong doing. We wanted just some explanations.”
“And I gave them to you, miss”. He sounded like a winner, and the fact that he now called me miss was a clear sign that he knew I was defeated.

Terrified, the flat owner went through her purse and pull out her wallet. While I was being yelled at by the administrator, she kept her head down. I don’t know if it was because she felt ashamed that she did not react, or because she was trying her best not to infuriate Escu. Suddenly, I felt alone. It seemed like I was mad to even think that this was not the proper way to address a person. And it got worse. The flat owner took out from the wallet the amount of money to be paid. I felt small and a strange feeling grew inside of me, like some kind of weed was growing fast around my neck, suffocating me. I tried to encourage myself thinking that in a funny way I was witnessing a real-life Tom and Jerry episode, the one with Jerry’s cousin dressed in a striped black and yellow jumper. The flat owner would be Tom kissing Jerry’s (Escu) tip of the shoe whenever he whistled. It wasn’t just as funny, though. Escu was satisfied, he had just been validated by the flat owner. He was looking down at the money and counting them. I couldn’t see his sly eyes, but I knew he was enjoying another victory. He was undisputable.

“Good bye”, Escu answered the flat owner.

A slight grin appeared on his face. We were leaving him there, just like an ancient god, absolutely unattainable. When we turned to leave, I saw that a new queue was formed. I suddenly recognized the look on their faces. I had seen it before. It was the “you’ve upset the teacher, and now he is going to give us bad marks” look. I guess change is always frowned upon, even by those who would mostly benefit from it. I never intended to win something out of that confrontation, but I have never expected to find that the world of adults is also graded. I pledged myself never to forget that we are as free as we let us be.

I gently put my other hand on the yellowish brown leaf, and felt its moist for a while against my closed hands. Such a sweet sensation! I felt a gentle wind in my cheeks and closed my eyes for a moment. There are no barriers! Not unless we put them around us. I have never broken that vow, and so help me, I’ll never will.