THE STATE OF NORMALITY
By DOINA HORODNICEANU
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© 2002 Doina Horodniceanu
I pay for the drinks and leave without another look around. I don't want to go back to the office, but I can't stand the street scenery either. These miners that occupied the city with their rudeness and crazy smiles make me sick. They are black angels spreading fear and terror.
I decide to fight the journalists one more time. I make it back safely. My office is five by five and four meters high. A big chandelier is hanging in the middle. It has a lot of mahogany, too.
I feel safe in here.
I’m so popular, it’s hard to imagine. Everybody is looking for me. My dear wife wants me to call her at once; the kids left me a message saying they have something really important, Marta conjugates the same verb, the miner’s leader wants to see me at once, and my boss is waiting for me in his office.
After I check on the kids (all they want is money) I decide the last message should be the first, and I enter the boss’s office. He gives me such an abstract, long look, I feel like introducing myself. On his desk is a city map. Next fall I’ll take my hat off in front of him, with respect. I can’t do it now because it’s in the closet – the hat I mean. I have to admit - I’m very impressed. He is full of energy. I don’t think he slept more than two hours last night and he looks absolutely neat, not even one wrinkle on his suit. He has also had time to study the map carefully, considering the number of signs in different colors and shapes that cover it. Arrows, crosses, circles, initials. Well done! Two initials correspond to each sign: the place and the person in charge. However this didn’t help him too much. Lots of work and noise for nothing. The miner’s army turned out to be a really bad idea. We have a lot of victims, some deaths, the opposition is on fire, foreign press, Constitution, Human Rights, European Parliament, “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name…” and so on... He drives me crazy. They produced this disgusting, terrible mess and now I have to clean it up. They want the miners out of town as soon as possible and let’s forget the whole story. How can anyone forget since there are dead people (old and young), teachers and students raped in the classrooms and during the exams, burnt buildings and so on. How can we forget? And why? I’m so mad I can not even speak. I get out without a word. Back in my office, I try reading the reports. It’s disgusting. I can’t do this anymore. With only one short move I clean my desk, throwing everything down and I go back to my friends’ files. I open them one after another.
Look at all these people! It’s enough to pick out one name, one person almost at random and see how his own existence is mixed with all the others’. Starting with one incident to another one, from ramification to ramification; I start with Emil and I get to Matei, Ioana, George, Marta, Tudor, Victor, Nadia and I and through Nadia back to Emil where the circle closes. But I can start anywhere and take any direction, with different people, different lives having their own intrinsic importance and still all of them will be part of the same social system. For the first time I realize how far the range of my own life, as banal as it is, extends. I see how reality can be so much stronger than fiction, and how anything you could find in a three-hundred-page novel is ridiculously unimportant compared to just one of our gestures. It’s enough to recall a name and tens of other people, facts, adventures will show up, activating thousands of small wheels, parts of this mechanism called society, that only today I begin to understand.
Tudor, for example, he is the worst! His pictures, however, are very good. We have plenty of samples in this folder. He is superb, with blue eyes, sweet pink cheeks like bonbons. The kind of guy that can open any door just by smiling at it and the smile will be returned too. Some kind of mama’s boy, but mom doesn’t know what her son does. I wish to be like this. He is too expressive though. You can read the synoptic map of an atmospheric disturbance on his face. I learned these important words from the Weather Channel. I have no idea what they mean, but they sound great. He has a perfect actor face - it talks by itself, with the mouth shut. Sometimes he has the nebulous aspect of an anticyclone field - which would get dispersed fast enough.
Yeah, some kind of genius, yeah, a drunkard. My job made me alert. I always wondered about him and Marta. They seem to be just friends, but how can you know? Well, I think I know; but still, always around her... And his success with women, yeah; - no; I don't think so! Still, one night I met them right in front of Marta’s house. It was one thirty in the morning and they didn’t invite me to join them. I didn’t even see her too well because of the darkness. I wasn’t able to distinguish what dress she was wearing. I talked very indifferently and I actually had the impression that I didn’t care anymore. But after I left, all my memories, my hopes and my wounds woke up. Yeah, Tudor's women... How many mornings like this?
You can hardly open your eyes, the tongue is heavy and the mouth is sour. Your whole body hurts. Jesus, where am I? Little by little you start to remember... Outside the light is gray, and it's so damn cold. Trying to find one of your socks under the bed, there's a lot of dust and dirt. Forget about it, one will be enough. You are finally out, in the hall. It is of course the tenth floor, and the elevator doesn't work. By the third floor when the freezing cold hits, you remember the gloves. Forget them too. Drizzle. The thermometer lashed to the outside of the window by two strands of fraying packing string reads minus five degrees. Cold, stumbling, nose leaving a trail of snot as if a snail had crossed your lips. You must feel the wind abstractly; as if your legs are made of the cotton of your pants and your legs’ proper exit is only a vacuum for air to rush up. You can not even remember her name... Finally, the first tram shows around the corner. You get in but the broken doors will never close. The wind is blowing in the empty tram.
Five marriages, two of them to the same woman, all of them at church with wedding rings. He pays five child alimonies. Separated right now, fourteen known addresses in the past ten years. Erratic Taste in Women. Significant Decline in Quality as Late Middle Age approaches.
One year at the Academy of Arts. Lush. Another year at the University. Beer must have enjoyed that period of Tudor's maturing, copping looks at art chicks, two fingers and the thumb of his right hand scattering the evidence of his sandwich to pigeons.
The spring following our first meeting at Portitza, we went out on a rainy night. He wanted to go to a performance, not just to one but to two or even three if possible. He claimed he would not have enough patience to listen to a whole concert from the beginning to end. So we first went to the Radio Concert Hall and then to the Athenaeum. At the Radio, they were playing Beethoven’s Trio NR.1 for Violin, Piano and Cello op. 70 and at the Athenaeum we listened to Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. If it were only for the fact that I was supposed to show up at two major concert houses during the same night, I found it excessive. But I think the right word would be show off and not show up because our entrance in both edifices made a strong impression. There was no one who would not turn his eyes toward us. Tudor was wearing a pair of blue jeans with a black turtleneck and high, black boots. I tried to convince him to put on something more decent but I didn’t succeed.
“Why do you want me to change my clothes? It’s cool and I’m very comfortable this way. And my boots, they are very comfortable too. The Romanians, they don’t know how to dress. They are too classy, too stiff. Look at the foreign movies or magazines; they are always very casual, as if they spent their whole lives in the living room. Why can’t we be like this?”
It started to rain again. A cold, penetrating, spring rain.
From the Athenaeum we crossed the street to the National Palace where we listened to Schumann - The Fourth Symphony. An overfilled hall with men in dinner jackets and women in evening dresses who turned their heads to look at us. We were all wet. The water was pouring down our clothes, leaving wet trails behind us. I was a little bit uneasy but at the same time I was amazed and even proud of my friend’s relaxed attitude. I expected to be thrown out any minute. I told him not to talk during the performance, and at least from this point of view he behaved. That music, what a richness, what a happy easiness, how youthful. A myriad themes and musical ideas. Each of them could be a concert in itself, a symphony. Innumerable sounds have been thrown together with a magnificent negligence, with generosity.
We spent the rest of the evening walking down Main Boulevard and sitting down on the sidewalk in front of the Athenaeum. The rain stopped. I thought he was insane and certainly this is what the pedestrians thought too, but now I believe he wasn’t actually crazy – just a little too extravagant, or maybe too artistic.
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