A Celebration and Some Potatoes without Big Mistakes

The days of this week were all alike, same as the heating stations between the blocks are alike, those on which it is written Down with Iliescu!

I had a long walk - the no umbrella option, since the stormy wind had tried to turn it over a few times, and a small dog even bit it. The umbrella, I mean.

I decided to give up and I gave up, although, I knew, the consequences of giving up could be much subtler than anticipated.

The heinous weather cooled my forehead a little, cleared up my thoughts, but the fight with the stress factors around me I lost still. Cohen's sadness looked to me like mere bass, compared to the shark that was swimming inside me, this time without any connection with the approaching of my birthday.

Once upon a time a reason for joy, at other times an occasion for assessment and melancholy, this year it was welcome with aristocratic indifference. It did not return the favor.

The phone rang first thing in the morning with wishes from all over the country where my friends were spread, but Iulia came before lunch, with chrysanthemum flowers, with that unique and special joy on her face (interface, wonderful to sight, of her luminous soul with this gloomy universe to which she could be a president, given democracy and free elections), with a monkey on a card, a monkey that looked exactly like the one that a blond, good-looking boy, good-looking in that ostentatious way that stimulates girls' desires and grimaces from all the other people, had taken for a walk on a summer day, on the stone streets of the old town Sibiu. The monkey had been educated to pull the top edge of any dress - T-shirt or top - worn by a female presence, while the boy, with his eyes in the said bosom, was telling off his partner with a friendly air. The girls did not mind, it was a funny meeting on that torrid day - even in the mountains, as funny is, Iulia had written to me, on the back of the card, that finger that escapes from the stocking, when the world seems at its saddest and most sober.

There was also, in the small package, an audio tape, recorded especially for me and a challenge to karaoke, but first we went into the warm kitchen, to prepare a soup and roast the fish in the oven.

While I was peeling the potatoes, Iulia found it was suitable to tell me her favorite joke once again, the one with the Frenchman in a restaurant in Anglia who wants some rare steak, so he orders: "I want a bloody steak", and the waiter asks him: "How about some fuckiní potatoes?"

And because she was washing, at the same time, the fish, I reminded her about the party where there were served the small fish from the aquarium of the host, who had had the bad inspiration to go buy some cigarettes. The recipe: a small fish, alive, between two mini-slices of bread.

"Do those potatoes have mistakes?" asked Iulia, seriously, and when I laughed she realized and started to laugh together with me. "That's because I spent all morning proofing your book", she added and started to laugh again.

The potatoes were healthy, without major mistakes, hence they found their place in the soup pot, and immediately after the fish landed in the oven, the karaoke competition started, in my room.

"Do you want to begin?", she asked.

I turned her down, lacking the courage, so she started, with Stand By Me - Ben E. King, one of my favorites.

The next one was Love is All Around - Troggs, and my debut was shy. Too shy. I didn't move at all. On So if you really love me, come on and let it show, I thought of Miruna and lost my way, and on I need someone beside me in everything I do, I stopped, as if in front of a mirror that had sprouted brusquely from thin air.

After the first round, Iulia was nine thousand points above me. And I had to imagine that what followed was Mrs. Robinson - Paul Simon, one of her favorites. Weíd like to help you learn to help yourself, was singing Iulia, and my thought full of hope, but unbelieving - a combination that I know so well - went towards Lucia, the one whom I don't know yet, but to whose competence I link some of my expectations.

I hadn't realized how hard it was to sing Thank You - Dido, although I had always liked I want to thank you for giving me the best day of my life. Same as and then you call me and itís not so bad.

After the second round, I had a deficit of twenty-three thousand points. Iulia was laughing, and I was starting to make out a future when light was possible.

Daniel drinks his weight/Drinks like Richard Burton/Dance like John Travolta, now - it was Iulia's turn and this 'now' crushed me. I hadn't even listened yet to this Getting away with it/All messed up/Thatís the living - James, but defeat was taking shape more and more clearly, so I uncorked the bottle with church wine and I poured into glasses. I don't really like to lose.

"Happy Birthday!", said Iulia and I don't know what she was finding so funny, maybe exactly the fact that she knew I did not like to lose or the thought of the following tune. She had recorded the tape, especially for me, she knew what was coming next.

"Happy Birthday!", I knocked and drained my glass.

The new song started and I understood immediately why was Iulia feeling so well. I am saying only: 99 Luftballoons - Nena. In German. It was my turn. Iulia was slapping her knees and her face had become red with so much laughter. My attempts to follow where in vain.

After one more round, when she sang with all her heart On an island in the sun/Weíll be playing and having fun (Weezer - Island In The Sun), and my share was All we want is some success/But the chance is never around (Morcheeba - Part Of The Process), there were fifty-five thousands points between us.

The gap grew to eighty thousand, after Iulia: Donít worry, donít hurry, take it easy (Laid Back - Sunshine Reggae), and me: Iíll be in butterfly mornings/Butterfly mornings/And wild flower afternoons (Hope Sandoval - Butterfly Mornings). I don't think it is necessary to explain why.

We stopped to listen together to Tom Waits - Watch Her Disappear.

The competition was over. I had lost clearly, but the shark was not far from my territorial waters, so I can say that, with the same clarity, I had won.

A little while later, the first guests knocked at the door.

I received presents and I received words that expressed thoughts, that expressed feelings. A special gift came to unblock a barrier.†

(Cornel Mihai Ungureanu in magazine Mozaicul)