Listening to Joe Cocker on a German Radio Station


When I was beating him at chess, my dad would complain that I played ugly. Mean, he said. If he was winning, I was not very bad either! Few days after I was admitted at the Faculty of Mechanics he died, so when I came to Craiova, full of high Engineering ideals, home was emptier and sadder.

Our little garden was still brimming with raspberries and flowers, snails were hiding in the jasmine bush on the fence (how come I never thought to tear off their eyes?), but the wood shed (empty, otherwise), the summer kitchen and the house even were showing conspicuous signs of old age.

Occasionally, my mother was pausing from doing the laundry, ironing shirts and handkerchiefs - or even flowers for Corina's botanical album - and she was sitting next to me on the steps in front of the house. We were smoking together a Cismigiu (she was the one who taught me how to avoid to inhale).

"You, Geta, hurry, the coffee has swelled out of the pan", we would hear the frightened voice of our neighbour.

Or the serious one of a child: "You, daddy, youron?" "Youron, you!", was approving with royal deference the man.

"Where are you going, Gaz?" yelled my mother after our tomcat starting towards the attic inhabited by pigeons.

"To work!", would answer a passer-by from the street beyond the tall fence.

I would tell her that Reagan and Gorbachev were to meet at Reykjavik, she would answer that in a few weeks we would be allocated a flat and this was the source of all our differences.

The most beautiful girl in town was living in a block of flats, next to the Botanical Garden, but to the theatre I went by myself, with two tickets, and the whole of the show I glanced from the corner of my eye to the empty place at my side.

At lectures I would sit next to the Iranian Ibrahim, who from a line of the Maths professor: It was noticed that the derivative of function f(x) equals e to the 2x can be calculated as follows..., would write down only It was noticed, which was in any case more than the Syrian Mahomed. That one did not like to write, he was always sharpening a stick with a pocket knife.

In the practical demonstrations, the practice Dean would introduce us in the mysteries of pure Engineering. We would hide behind an oven, in the forging department of the factory the heat was disconcerting, the guys were counting movies seen on the Serbian Television, Sebi was singing Go Johnny go moving as if he were holding a real guitar, he would ask me if I had listened to Grass through hair - The other words, I would tell him that I had the LP and we would sing together while Rila was telling us that there was a guy in the student residence who sold videos and had Madonna's clip - Like a Virgin - reason for him to be melancholy, because he had never met a girl who could have been described by this attribute, we were going to football matches, Lung would land at Fofana's feet, battered buses were taking us to pick apples, where again we would sing, get drunk and smoke like Turkish men, and in the meantime we would take those damned exams, see bad movies, read newspapers full of falsities and try to understand how the world was and how you could pass a philosophy exam with two ducks and as many bottles of Drobeta brandy.

A flat we were allocated only one year later.

I remember the cold, the hunger, the tinned fish and white nights when I would draw with a Skribent geometry set all sorts of car parts listening to Joe Cocker on a German radio station.

On top of the horse-pulled vehicle that was carrying part of our stuff, under curious scrutiny from those neighbours who had not rushed into the deserted courtyard to collect the aerial, the building materials, sack-fulls of useless things, to uproot the rosebushes or the few young trees, I knew that I would never be an Engineer.

My mother was probably very upset because of this, I was still thinking about that meeting in Iceland, and I did not dare to talk to her about a journal for which I hoped one day to write freely, like a butterfly.

"Who would be, then, the child with the broom?", I wondered while the driver whipped the horses and our old district was left behind. [...]

(Excerpt from The Steps in Front of the House, LiterNet Publishing House, 2002)