days are neutral from this point of view, moments of vulnerability also occur
and then it is not a joke!
We went downstairs and headed towards the tram
station. Rain was looming. The black clouds that had appeared over the edge of
the Town had moved to the opposite side, wary or postponing to show what they
were capable of.
We got on the tram, at the end of its route, and we sat on
chairs facing each other. Behind Iulia, a few steps further, a woman was
sitting who looked a lot like Diana, my colleague from work, about whom I knew
that she was living in this district. I was certain that the woman was her
mother or perhaps an aunt, the similarity was striking. I thought I saw Diana
heading towards such a body, towards similar worries and identical lines and I
felt unsettled. "What were you saying?", I asked Iulia. I had not
been paying attention to her, the image of old age, towards which we flow, had
absorbed me. "When I arrived in Town, coming back from Scandinavia, on the
station platform there was an white-haired uncle who carried, in a basket,
tomatoes for selling. It was night, few travelers had got off the train and he
was egging them on to buy, he was asking for two thousands lei for one kilo. I
was coming from the world of supermarkets, with huge prices, of potent,
sophisticated customers, with refined tastes and when I saw this poor man
dressed in clothes that were tattered but clean, this man who had worked from
spring to September to plant his tomatoes, water them all the time, take care
of them, to sell them now on a few coins that were barely enough to buy him a
bread, I started to cry. I couldn't control myself, the meeting with this
incredible, naive simplicity of people from home, after what I had seen on the
other side...", said Iulia. "A world heading for extinction", I
said, affected to a certain extent, for I had felt her emotion.
We were both silent, for a
The tram attendant was
putting on lipstick, watching herself in a small mirror, waiting for the
departure time. A shop assistant, former floor neighbor of mine, before I moved
into The House with Elephant, was smoking in front of a kiosk
selling soft drinks. "She got married, for the third time. She is on
probation with her mother-in-law", had said about her that morning another
woman who was living on the same staircase, without me having asked any
question. An old man carrying a trumpet and with a towel emerging from the
pocket of his crumpled coat had got off a battered bus. He was returning from a
The tram had started, it
was swaying and creaking below the passageway. "These birds are like rich
people who live on the Spring Street", I told Iulia after a while,
pointing to a few of them, beautifully colored, who were going to sleep in the Puskin Park. "There is one thing to have a nest here and another to live in the
poplars in the courtyard of the Electroputere plant!"
signaled Iulia with her head towards a crowd of people who, one after the
other, were taking photos with the bride, dressed in her traditional white
frock, in front of a restaurant. A young kid who was sitting in the tram, next
to a bearded man, exclaimed enthusiastically: "Daddy, Daddy, look, a
bridegroom!". Iulia looked at me, I returned the look and we burst into
laughter. "Do you think it was a little girl or a little boy who hadn't
noticed the bride?", I asked you, in my mind, same as I told you:
"Did you read Blecher?", while we were passing in front of the street
tables with old books for sale.
We got off the tram at the
University and we crossed the street to the theater, walking up the path with
The gulls were drawing
circles above the Art Galleries, and a little further, on the sky above church
Mântuleasa, two gliders were floating lazily. I thought of Maria, she had taken
some classes once upon a time, I would go with her, now and then, at the
aerodrome I would lie in the grass and watch how the small, yellow plane was
pulling the glider after it, setting it free only when they had reached a
height of six hundred meters (I was studying the theory with her), then the
large circles, the landing, but most of all how her cheeks were blushing when
she was coming towards me.
We went to a concert,
Gabriel was playing Dvorak, I knew the chords, I had listened to him
practicing, in the past evenings, in the neighboring room. I had followed with
interested how music was becoming more and more familiar to him, how he was
befriending it as the evening of the performance was approaching and, from my
listener position, the same thing had happened to me too. Matei came to greet
us during the break, an old friend, not exactly close. He suggested that we
went to drink something in a quiet bar, after the show. We agreed.
A pleasant man, not a
stranger to that delicacy of eternal aristocrats. He told us that he was going
through a rather difficult time, he had earned himself a depression after
splitting with his girlfriend, at her initiative. I was listening with fits of
sympathy to his stories: how he had left her the photos, the movies, the CD
collection, the teddy bears. It was obvious that he had kept his thoughts, his
attention directed towards her, that he loved her and the feeling was echoing
in void, she had refused to participate any longer.
"Let me tell you a
joke!", he said, at one point.
"Up in the sky there
were two little angels. One of them was in the mood for a fight, the other was
not. «You stay on your cloud and I stay on mine», says the first angel. «And I
tell you: Come share my cloud with me! Then you answer: I won't! And we argue!»
«Fine», says the second angel. «Come share my cloud!» The other: Hop! Jumps on
this one's cloud. «What have we talked about? Let's start again! When I ask you
to come on my cloud to say: No! And we fight! Deal?» «Deal. Let's do it!» «Come
share my cloud!» That one: Hop! Lands on the cloud of the belligerent one. A
new round of negotiations ensues and they try again. «Come on my cloud!» «I
won't!» «Then I am coming on yours!». And: Hop, lands the rowdy one on the
While all three of us were
laughing, Matei added: "My girlfriend used to tell this joke really
Then he sipped a little of
"I don't know what
happened!", he added.
I could feel his sadness,
his nostalgia, the wish to return to the intimacy they had once built for
I needed fresh air and I
pretended that I was going to make a phone call. I walked and I thought about
Maria. It was raining heavily, on the sidewalks. On cars, on roofs, on leafs. On
It no longer hurt that she
had left, I missed what I used to feel for her, I wanted another woman to take
her place and for this to happen without delay. Some guarantees that I was not
going to wait in vain would have been soothing too.
The rain had soaked my
shoes, the lower rim of my trousers, I was feeling my feet wet.
("I don't want any
filter between me and reality", had said Harald, a few months ago, while
we were heading towards a garden where Iulia was waiting for us. A rain like
this had surprised us and he had turned down the umbrella I was offering to
him. We had drunk beer, all three of us, we were the only customers in that
pub, we hadn't stayed in the garden, because the wind was knocking food lists
and cutlery from tables, the waitresses were folding the table clothes
hurriedly. And while we were talking, I had had a call from Maria, who was at a
party. "We sort of got tipsy!", she had said, in a good mood. On my
face had probably appeared the joy with which I used to speak to hers in times
past, because watching me Harald had started to sing Love is in the air.
"Iani has packed his baggage and is going back to Moldavia?", he was asking Iulia with a smile, while humming on).
I had walked as far as the
Town Hall, I looked at the phone booths: "Come and see how pretending
turns into confessing your feelings!", I told myself, rummaging after the
card, in the pocket of my shirt. I called on the fix phone and she picked it
"I am sorry that you
did not love me. More would have connected us than the chats on messenger and
this ambiguous friendship"
"Exactly what you
heard! And I miss you"
"If you lived with me
every day, you wouldn't miss me anymore!"
I was laughing.
She was laughing.
"I called your
mobile, a little earlier, but you didn't answer"
"My mobile doesn't
work. I forgot the charger in the Town, but my brother is bringing it to me on
Sunday and I'll go back to my little one!"
"About time!", I
was making an allusion to the fact that I was shorter than her boyfriend.
We were both laughing. In
other times I would have been certain that we were thinking about the same
We stayed for around ten
more minutes, after I came back to the bar, then we all left. We separated from
Matei in front of the puppet theater, and I took Iulia to the tram station.
We waited. She was
obviously thinking about meeting her colleagues, she was going back to work
"It is like I am
going at school for the first time. I feel sorry, I feel glad too, and there is
also a curious sensation, I don't know whether people will welcome me or will
be upset, perhaps?"
"You'll find out
She got on the tram and
waved at me, smiling, and I walked towards The House with Elephant.
I watched it reassured,
from a distance. I was already feeling at home here, the atmosphere was
relaxed, the loneliness comfortable, I had escaped the impression that I lived
in a world of nervous, passionate, biased judges, created especially by C-B,
but also by Florin, in the years when we had shared the same roof,
communication blocks, frustrations. I opened the iron gate, I bent down and I
smelled the queen-of-the-night flowers grown between the stone entrance steps.
I stroked the dogs, avoiding however the hugs that they were offering; they
were wet. Then I was walking along the corridor. At its end, I unlocked the
door to my hermit-like room. The rain was knocking into the huge window.
I opened the umbrella to
let it dry. My fingers found the tape with Neil Young, and the index pressed
'play'. I lit a candle shaped like half an apple, I switched off the light
bulbs. I lay on the bed, looking up, and a few more moments passed until the
beginning of the first song: Harvest Moon. I sang along, thinking of Maria: When
we were strangers/I watched you from afar/And when we were lovers/I loved you
with all my heart.// But now it’s getting’ late/And the moon is climbin’ high/I
want to celebrate/See it shinin’ in your eye.//Because I’m still in love with
you/I want to see you dance again/Because I’m still in love with you/On this
Then, waiting for Unknown
Legend, I thought of you and, when its time came, I sang aloud, without
caring that my aunt was hearing me, if she was not already asleep: Somewhere
on a desert highway/She rides a Harley-Davidson/Her long blonde hair/flyin’ in
the wind/She’s been runnin’ half her life/The chrome and steel she
rides/Collidin’ with/the very air she breathes/The air she breathes.
I switched off the player.
I could not avoid the
loneliness, but the silence could be broken. I had Maria's phone number. (There
are other things that set you apart: she loved me, she doesn't run away, she
participates). She was not asleep.
"How many times did
"Is this what doesn't
let you sleep? To one thousand meters, just once. Now I would be a little
afraid. I was not at afraid when I did it. Why is it that we start to be afraid
from a certain moment on?"
(Excerpt from The Sock
of The Blues Singer, novel to be published)