THE STATE OF NORMALITY
By DOINA HORODNICEANU
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© 2002 Doina Horodniceanu
I don't remember anything about the days that followed Victor's death except for an acute sense of absurdity and depression. Sure, Mr. X or Y, writer or painter, who besides landscapes and monsters painted His and Her portraits, he deserved to die too. Let's shoot him, why not? We mourned him a lot. We still do. For a day or two we were not able to think or talk about anything else. We had his image in front of our eyes, we heard his voice all the time. But we will forget him. I was waiting for a sunny day to go to his grave.
It was Christmas day. Ioana and the kids were still in the mountains. Home all day long. Nobody called me, I didn’t call anyone. My solitude was more profound than ever.
I wanted to find and kill with my own hands the brute that shot Victor. Of course I never did. I had other concerns and problems.
In less than a week I found myself back in jail. Funny enough, it was the same political prison I was in ten years ago. This time for being part of the oppressing mechanism that put me in jail then. To make it short, due to my activity during the last ten years, I was now considered a criminal against human rights. So, there I was in the presence of three or four trusting boys as usual, with different ranges. Hard to say who was who since they used fake names. There was a major a little bit overweight with the appearance of a good, soft man; another one was a younger, more cultivated captain, thinner, with an open face. A lieutenant that I still can see once in a while in his office downtown. Sometimes, a very young guy, thin, nervous, erudite came around. He was supposed to be the intelligent one. The one that had to make sense of all the nonsense.
“I’m sorry I have to retain you, sir. All I can do is to speed up the interrogation process.”
And he kept his word.
All of them were very polite. They weren't sure how all these would finish, and they were right. I was worried, but I wasn't angry or sad. I was happy everything came to an end. I was sorry for my kids though; they had to endure the stigma of having an "old Securitate" father.
Left alone in a cell without a bed, just with some straws on the cold floor and without being able to close my eyes during the first night, I recalled my whole life, searching my conscience for one small reason to justify my actions, my lack of ambition, my indolence. My quest was in vain.
Between interrogations I had plenty of time to meditate:
'Look how interesting,’ I thought. ‘After you have lived half of your life, you find yourself at this point when you ask yourself: What am I doing here? How did I get here? How did you get here, you that used to be such a typical boy, a child the way most of the kids during those times were. I can't say I was very similar to kids these days, but I liked to play and to wander around my neighborhood. I enjoyed reading books that usually were above my age level, I liked theatre, movies, arts generally speaking, and I had no interest for the social-politic. I was born in a theatre and I think this had a very big influence on my future development. I think it shaped my soul and my mind. I lived there until I turned twelve and my father died. My father was the bookkeeper of the Theatre. That building wasn't an architectural monument but it had its own charm. It looked like a white, giant ship with the board at East and the round prow to the Senate Square.
I remember when I was seven or eight years old I was invited to a Christmas Party at one of my richer friend's home. I don't remember too many details, but I remember his father's image I looked at shyly. He was wearing a dark blue sober suit and he was very friendly and polite to me. He congratulated me for the good results I got in school (I was the best student in my class) and then he asked me if I liked the Christmas tree. It was the most beautiful tree I had ever seen. Tall to the roof. He showed me the electric candles (the way they went on and off) and then he told me to look for my present under the tree. I was very nervous, but I found it: it was a small roulette. It was very beautiful, with a little flap that you had to pull and that would move the red ball, running through the ten small holes. Obviously such a present for an eight-year-old boy was bizarre. But I think the old man was some kind of a prophet... It's true; the hazard dominated my entire existence. The difference between what it was and what it could be reminded me very often of the final jump of the red ball, from a point that seemed to be given to the next one if not to a complete opposite one.
Not everyone has a chance to spend a part of the childhood in a mysterious castle. Because this is what the Theatre meant to me, especially in the night with its shining lighted advertisements. After the third beat of the gong the strange transoceanic became a fairytale castle where the stories themselves came to life. And I was just a little spirit haunting all the rooms, the hallways, the attic, and the basement. From my window I used to watch the silhouettes of men and women beautifully dressed, walking on the large boulevard or pausing in front of the store’ windows. In the winter, it was delightful to lay on my bed, in front of the long windows and watch, fascinated, the show of the walking boulevard playing on my ceiling while the fire was burning in the fireplace. Through the curtains, the light-nebulous shadows were moving into my room like in a Chinese theatre. Walking shapes most often automobiles with their own lights sliding on the ceiling as in a developed film. The building was one of the first that fell under the rolling pin of the demolishing hysteria but I preserved in my painful memory places, moments, and feelings. I see, I hear, I feel everything that's gone for good but not for me. I can still smell the tasteful cabins’ furniture without opulence. The smell of good tobacco penetrated into the carpets, the furniture, the wallpaper and the curtains. The delicate scent of the French perfumes, make-ups, and powders, the fragrances of silks, cashmeres, and other fabrics as well as the mahogany and the good quality tapestry.’
So, a good question one might ask me in that investigation room would be:
'How did you get here, Mr. Negulescu? What were you looking for?'
Nobody asked me this, though. It was the thirty-first of December. The last day of the year 1989. The same last day as one year ago, two, three years ago. When did they go? They seemed so difficult, so foggy, so unsure… And they passed. They passed and we are still alive. Any personal computation lost its meaning in front of this year’s events. It was the last day of the year and I was ashamed to be sad. It was the year that freed us. Besides all the sorrows, all the sufferance, all the disillusions remained only one fundamental truth: we were free. I thought about Victor and it was painful. All the rest melted in regrets and hopes. Somewhere, very far away laid our small, insignificant lives. It was the last day of the year when they asked me:
"Did you ever turn in one of your colleagues, or friends?"
"I'm not trying to defend myself. I don't want to be forgiven, not even excused. I just want to be fair. For the last ten, fifteen years we have lived in a society where we looked for the enemy not just around but even inside us. The statistics said that one out of three people were informers. So the enemy was all over: in the walls, in the fireplaces, in the tie's knot, in the floors, next to us in our beds and very deep inside us without realizing it. We had to fight it. The one hidden in us more than anything else in order to eliminate any kind of doubts. That "Dubito ergo cogito". So you would never know, when they would ask you for information, if they knew already, if they were testing you, or if you were asked to turn one in.”
However, Tudor showed me once some pictures he took in a mental institution where the political prisoners were incarcerated. Nobody had ever made it out of there alive. From the very beginning I had doubts about the connections that allowed him to penetrate there. In less than a month a big scandal erupted. Articles in the foreign press about the treatment in the political asylum. High level meetings followed the incident. The discussions continued three nights. We used to start in the evening and finish in the morning. This is why we refer to them as the September Nights. The most important thing there wasn't to punish the traitor (you could even kill him) but to make him admit his crime. In our rush after the enemy secluded inside us, we were looking not to kill the body that sheltered him, but to cure it. Accused were mainly the administration of the hospital for allowing the information to slip out. I, being on the committee of investigation and since we were all there to incriminate, to express doubts, and to swear, I made the wonderful gesture of bringing in and showing them the photos. So, I revealed in public the act of courage that my friend had the innocence to share with me. All the security jumped all over him. I saved Tudor's skin, emphasizing the fact that he showed the pictures to me and he did it out of patriotic sentiments. It turned out there was no connection between my friend and the information that leaked out. However Tudor faced long nights of harsh interrogations, all the intermediates were imprisoned and nobody has heard anything about them since. This is one of the unforgivable faults of my conscious that I will never be able to fix.
To be Continued...
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