THE STATE OF NORMALITY
By DOINA HORODNICEANU
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© 2002 Doina Horodniceanu
I think I fell asleep for a while. Maybe half an hour?! I check my watch. It's almost one o'clock in the morning, Tuesday morning. Let's go back to her memories:
1 May, 89
It’s Labor Day and we have five free days. I am at Portitza. I live in the same house as usual, I got my old room. In front of me is the same sea changing in thousands of colors and shades, and moods.
In the morning, the first thing I saw was a blond girl running down the beach in white shorts and tee shirt shining in the sun. She might be an ugly one (and actually she was, I know because I met her later at the village’ Bodega) but to me she appeared the symbol of youth and freedom, the spring, the morning itself.
We are all here; Ioana, Petre, Victor and Tudor. We went fishing, then I walked barefoot on the beach. I broke a willow branch; I tore a pampas stalk as sharp as a sword. I jumped, I fought, I got home late, burnt by the sun and running a fever that carried the breeze and the seaweed smell, the sun and the salty water; the few hours of freedom on the beach.
I remember that trip. I returned refreshed, restful, calm, tanned, displaying my vacation air that I used to be so proud of. Five days of free life under the sun, without any pressure, could still change me. I wasn’t as old and tired as I thought I was. I was still able to react in front of life. I considered myself in agony but no, no, I was still alive, able to pull life together. It didn’t last for too long. Back in Bucharest I returned to my apathy, shredded life, to my failure. It was just a short break.
And my love game was one of the most stupid tortures. It was humiliating, dangerous and senseless; but I wasn’t able to give it up definitely. I knew it wasn’t taking me anywhere, it could not take me anywhere, but I kept boarding the same boat with a mixture of imposture and faith; as if it was for the first time. After all, that vacation was ridiculous.
Saturday, 30th May
Marta, I, Marta, declare:
I don’t know why I haven’t written in this Diary for so long. Maybe because I am sick of myself and I don’t want to pay so much attention to me anymore, to the absurd reality of our lives. We read books, go to the theatre, we have the strength to laugh. Today was the opening night of Victor’s show. The portrait was successful. By now copies of it will hang in every public room of this country. Sometimes I have the feeling there’s no relationship between our misfortune and the dictatorship. That our lives are on a parallel plane. We talk, argue, joke, but He is always there, powerful, dangerous, indifferent to everything else except his wishes. Victor was so embarrassed and depressed. I didn’t tell him what people were talking about. I’m worried about him. I hope he will not do anything stupid. An artist is weak. Hypersensitive, so very weak.
Marta, I, Marta, I had read the book “Hunger” and I didn’t like it. It filled me with disgust and curiosity. Strange enough I still can not understand the feeling of hunger even if I have lived in the country of hunger for the last twenty years or so. Besides the “hunger” of someone who remains without food, day in and day out – how could I know what that means to a person? I have never known how it is to be hungry – grandma’ was always there with good food. I can not eat enough to satisfy her. It is the obsession of these people. The stores are empty, but the people’s refrigerators and freezers are overfilled with food. No matter what it takes, they will spend a whole day standing in those huge lines to buy food that will never be enough. When you visit someone they give you the best meals they have and you have to eat it all if you don’t want to hurt the hostess’ feelings. About the spiritual hunger of the mind, I would not save any of my efforts or money to satisfy my curiosity. So I returned the book to Petre and told him
“I don’t like this book.”
“Wow, let me see; why not?”
“Because I was never hungry for anything.” I wasn’t able to tell him more than that. He is hungry; he is always hungry for everything. Hungry for love, power, money, everything.
Yes, she is right. She used to say: "The difference between animals and human beings is the ability of the latter to procrastinate." Well, I do postpone all the time. I don't like to make any decision - I would postpone indefinitely, but not the hunger.
When I try to pour some whisky, all the bottles are empty. I ran out of cigarettes too. I check my watch: one thirty in the morning. I should still be able to find some open bars. I pick up the raincoat because it has started to rain and leave the room. Rain and darkness. The city has a strange aspect of loosing itself under the night’s curtain. On the streets the sleepless, wet dogs bark. Thousands of dogs in a city of dogs. I keep walking. I don’t care about the puddles and the gaps on the sidewalks. Some windows are still lighted and you can see people moving and hear voices. I always liked to stare at the windows and imagine people's lives, their professions, and their hobbies.
I buy a bottle of brandy from a street vendor and I go to the Central Park. I breathe all the park's fragrances. Nowhere else in this world is the spring more cozy than here. I know at least one thousand people that would say different, but for me this is it. I am a big city kid. I grew up playing on the sidewalks and in the parking lots. I had neither grandparents nor cousins in the countryside. For my mom to go out of town meant boarding a train, checking in at a hotel and sleeping at a different address than the one registered at the police station. In other words instead of playing Bridge at home for free, she would spend a great deal of money for a room in one of the mountain or the seaside resorts and do the same thing. But this is not what we are talking about.
I lay down on a wet bench under a tree and I open my bottle. My shoes wear strips of dead grass. Someone in the dark wobbles across the road parallel to the river walk, plants his feet, and swivels his head to make sure he is not watched. As if! Most every minute of the last thirty years. I pull out my binoculars and set them up to see better. On infrared the man is a forest fire sending him up above the branches of the park's stunted trees to demand oxygen. A wind gusts down the river, carrying moisture off the water. The man begins to take on a glazed luster, his hair becoming frosted and plastered in the direction he pulls it, his face becomes pallid as even the red of the wind on his cheeks is bled out. I zoom closer - what a scope - the man looks wild eyes, finally reduced to the same animal they all are. It is clear to me that I will soon have to get acquainted with some other lad because this one's less than ragged wool overcoat weighing him down he won't have a chance even when he chickens out after clawing his way to the surface the second or third time. My one regret is that I probably won't be able to see over the embankment to count the bubbles. I reach into my pocket for another drink.
The man bends towards one of the dwarf magnolia trees, which looks wretched cowering in the wind dreadful at the prospect of being vomited upon. His head lowers, his right arm starts to move rapidly perpendicular to the tree. The uppermost branches of the magnolia begin to shake. He plants his left hand just above his head on the trunk of the tree and begins to exert force away from his body while his right arm works away. The magnolia begins to lean, then topples. Well I'll -- I straighten up. Through the scope I see the man's sneer flash all wattage at the street and the closest building fronts, glancing past mine. The man clicks closed a small pocket saw and, taking hold of the trunk, begins to drag the wretched tree towards the city center leaving a trail of leaves, pink and white petals. I leave my bench and walk to the Market Square. Sitting on the round Fountain dominating the whole plaza I allow myself to be washed by the rain and by the water coming from the fountain. The rain cleans the remnants of blood and hair from the earlier fights with the miners. It was the same square, only five months ago when the hunger woke these people again.
It is a limit farther than that the events are stronger than people, stronger than their initiatives, or than their desiderates.
To be Continued...
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