THE STATE OF NORMALITY
By DOINA HORODNICEANU
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© 2002 Doina Horodniceanu
The water leaking from the street light spoils the pages of the diary and now the words are illegible. I try to dry them using my sleeves but it doesn't do too much good. I decide to give up and try to find a warmer place for the rest of the night. I find it. It’s a fancy nightclub; I used to come here pretty often in the past.
I take the inventory of the customers. First of all, the band that’s playing is first-class. They are all young with beautiful muscles, long hair, unshaved, with tattoos. I continue the inventory: the cause-effect world. Some of our new rich businessmen, very arrogant; none of them with their wives. A few models, local music stars, a famous designer, another one with a fifty stars passport. Foreigners, playboys, to make it short people with money that can afford to spend the monthly income of a worker in one night. Expensive fragrances, elegance, distinction and refinement. A singer shows up to impress us with her good physical condition. It's in fashion right now to shake on the stage as though they are epileptics. I imagine the sensation. The lights shut down; the candles on the tables are lit. The music stops. It's quiet like in a concert house. On the stage, a cone of night-blue light imprisons a goddess with a perfect body. Her back, her shoulders describe the most fascinating, exciting movement. I study the expression on her face. It's natural, absent, impenetrable. Everything she does is absolute dialectic. Her arms are as gracious as a swan's neck. Even Tchaikovski would be satisfied. In my opinion, this is talent. She is an artist. I ask for the bill and leave slowly. I tip the doorman at the entrance. The rain stopped. I feel real pleasure breathing. What a wonderful night. Beautiful as a travel advertisement. You would not believe that there are computers, faxes, NASA, miners, civil wars... A night that reminds you to be romantic. A silver lake a stone bench and a willow-tree. A bent bridge like a cat's spine and a real woman's body in your arms. What am I doing? I'm dreaming with my eyes open.
A loud group of drunken miners walking to the train station (they probably got lost) brings me to reality. They remind me of that morning, five months ago when I was assigned to organize the demonstration in the honor of our beloved President. The people began assembling in the same Market Square. Huge crowds faced the phalanx of army troops in their tanks with Securitate behind them blocking the way to the Central Committee building where the President was supposed to deliver his speech. Rumors then began circulating about the General who allegedly had been forced to commit suicide by the President because he had refused to order his troops to fire on rebels in the mountains.
Later on, when everything escalated, I looked all over for Marta and the rest of my friends. I was sure they must be somewhere around; but I also had orders to complete. It was the first time in my life when my thoughts turned to God and I started to pray. "Please God help us all!" I searched all the prisons around the town, asking for their names. I ran on the streets, I phoned, I told everybody, using my rank, that they were very important witnesses and I needed to be informed as soon as anyone finds anything out about them. I checked the morgue too. In the front of the building, hundreds of people were waiting for their turn to go in. There were so many missing people, so many unidentified bodies. The number of victims was unknown, a list of the deaths was an absurd idea. I looked at every live or dead body. They were nowhere. Vanished. A doctor took the bandages off a young man who bent with pain. A big hole in his stomach as big as a fist, pulsing with coagulated blood. On the streets were tanks and troops. Some buildings have been evacuated. On the spot where a soldier, died some candles were burning.
I tried to control myself, to wait with tranquility without hysteria, without desperation for an answer.
The following morning, the sun rose over the city. It was a red sun, wet with tears, the tears of parents, brothers and lovers of those that yesterday fell under tanks and bullets. While the night was still fighting the daylight, the bodies were picked up dead or alive, thrown into big trucks and carried to a mass grave. Did they think even for a moment what would be after? After their strength and power leaves them, after their wet clothes freeze on them and after the bullets bite their flesh? I don't think they did. The streets and the buildings have been carefully washed using the same ice-cold water from the fire hoses. Ignoring the tanks, the military and the security armed forces, people from all over the city gathered in the same spots they had been the night before. In front of the Department of Agriculture, soldiers, not older than nineteen, with their faces turned to the street, formed a straight line. Women from the crowds yelled at them:
"Why did you shoot? Shame on you! We could be your mothers!"
At the end of the street two tanks covered the middle of the road. The buses tried to pass them, with chagrin. People walked sadly but firmly. They began assembling in the Market Square once more. A loud roar approached. The soldiers, with empty eyes, took their shooting position. The tanks at the edge of the street moved, followed by others, they retired under peoples' ovations. Gradually the crowd began to chant 'The army is with us!' and to mix with the military arrayed against them, offering the soldiers bread, cigarettes and chrysanthemums. Small, yellow, sad smelling flowers from poor, worried and especially afraid people; afraid of what the next day could bring.
I never felt so acutely and simultaneously that I’m a finished man and at the same time desperately wish to stay alive. I still had the ability to be happy, a certain elan, an enormous faith in light, in serenity, in life; a certain ardor, an incredible desire for love. And all these died. A curse followed me. Communism was a plague that sometimes shaded my personal unhappiness, but the revolution brought it up, emphasized it, and kept it alive as a bleeding wound.
As the demonstrators swarmed up onto the unresisting tanks and fraternized with the crews, the Securitate forces withdrew towards the site of the previous day's speech. Around noon the President again appeared on the same balcony and attempted to speak, but people began booing and throwing objects at him, forcing him to back off quickly inside the building. At this point the crowd surged in through the main doors and past unresisting police. With the people just a few meters away, the President, his wife and several others managed to escape by helicopter from the roof. The chopper took the Dictator to his out of town villa. The plan was that from there they would proceed to an air base nearby, where a waiting jet would take them into exile outside the country. Halfway to the air base, however, the helicopter pilot feigned engine trouble and landed beside a highway where the two Securitate officers present commandeered a passing private car. The party then drove on to the next city, where the President and his wife were arrested and taken to a military base.
Men and women followed them along the road, passing fields covered with snow, villages with poor houses, dying cows and horses. All these scheduled to be destroyed by the end of the year.
To be Continued...
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