Blesok no. 24, January-February, 2002
Prose


Birds of the Sky

Vasile Andru


20. Rain, cold, tenacity

    I haven't met Tofana for a few weeks. I suddenly met her on Wednesday evening near the Enei church; she was just coming out.
    It is cold and drizzling and Tofana is frozen. Tiny and huddled up, a bird of the sky soaked all over.
    She is shivering and shrinks her shoulders under an old coat.
    She tells me that everything has come to a standstill but, with God's help, she will soon leave this place. How soon? She doesn't know, but with God's help, she hopes to leave next month. Where?  
    She doesn't know yet, but with God's help, she hopes it will be Austria, Israel or Belgium.
    She says that she goes to the Coral Temple, to the big synagogue every Friday evening. So that the Jews there can notice her, and adopt her. She breaks open the gates of the temple, besieges the Mosaic religion; she has started to learn Hebrew and Yiddish; she always has a manual on her.
    She has taken no decision about the Adventists. But she still goes to their meetings, regularly; they have a very good opinion about her piety and devotion.
    Faith, calculations, agonic weighing of situations – all at the same time. I saw she was capable of dedicating herself to one religion today and to another one next day, constantly serving the same God Who impersonates all the religions. I also saw how enslaved she was by her obsession of leaving the country, of getting visa AT ANY COST, feverishly grabbing any helping hand, rushing to any gleam of light that could facilitate her emigration.
    Her candour and obstinacy might be confusing. Even if she went to the Temple to negotiate a visa, she forgot her goal when she was inside the temple and lived the rhythms of the loftiness; she was seized by amazement, the songs and words she could not understand touched her and she came to a state similar to a trance. Only in the end, when she was out, in the street again, she remembered she was chasing a benefit.
    She was incapable of hypocrisy and yet, she was unconsciously a hypocrite. She was not able to deceive God as God was for her the same everywhere: in the church, in the temple, in the prayer house of the Adventists and only a cultural fear made her sometimes wonder whether she had, nevertheless cheated anyone. Cheating God was out of question, she might have cheated some soutanes, some rites, some priestly hoods, but not God.
    I don't ask her anything. But the person who is not asked, speaks out on his own.
    Tofana: “I was with Jacob to Sinaia. Jacob forgot Romanian. He was here for one month. He promised to help me with the visa, but his departure time was approaching and he did not help me. So, we went to Sinaia. We were climbing in the cable railway cabin. When the cabin started moving, I asked him why he did not help me. How can I help you? He said. Marry me formally, so that I can leave. And when we were high above the precipice, I told him: “You either promise me you  will help me or I'll push you out. He got scared. I scratched him badly to convince him he was in my hands. I forced him to swear he would help me; if not, I'll push him into the precipice. He was white with fear, he was trembling. I think he won't put his leg in a cable railway cabin again all his life.
    I kept quiet. She said:  
    “I'm coming to you tomorrow. I'm asking you earnestly, give me the certificate of the Center of Oriental Therapies. I promised the Indian embassy I would show it to them. There are hopes they will allow me to go to India. I told the Indian ambassador that I did healing with a famous Mr. Mario, known by the doctor of the Indian embassy. Please, understand, I must make him trust me, I must show some documents to them. To these people only documents, stamps are important. Give me the certificate!”  
    “Stop yelling, please.”  
    “One day you should tell me about Buddhism. Who is greater: Christ or Buddha?”  
  
     ”Christ is God Who learned to be a man. And Buddha is a man who learned to be God. Christ is the emperor, Buddha is the emperor's friend.”  
    “You can reconcile the Romanian clerics and the whole Asia with this explanation! she says.
    “Happy are the peace-makers!” I say.
    “I see. But now you should do something concrete for me. Concrete, not just words. Help me.”  
    “I can help you provided that you continue your work. Come to have another lesson tomorrow.”  
    “I don't want, I can't concentrate these days, I have too many problems to solve. I want you to give me the blue framed attestation with the stamp of the vanished institution. Can't you understand that the Indian embassy is going to issue the visa to me? But I have to show them the letter, to gain their sympathy. Give me a certificate!”  
    “Stop talking irrationally. When something gets into your head, you grow deaf and won't hear anything. I have no certificate.”  
    “Yes, you have. Yes, yes, yes. You will lose nothing if you give me that paper.”  
    I don't contradict her. She sees that people claim papers from one another, open doors with papers, shut one another's mouths with papers, dig social galleries with papers. They cross the street swimming in papers, they cross the ocean swimming in papers. They legalize their inequality, wickedness, even their theft with papers. She thinks: “If one needs a paper to open a door and one needs an axe to break a door open, then paper is the honest civil replica of the axe.”  
    At the same time, her insistence on my giving her the certificate of an institution abolished by the ideological censorship raised my suspicion.
    To put an end to my suspicion, I tell her:  
    “Come tomorrow to carry on our work.”  
    She says:  
    “I won't do any training. I don't want any more slow psychotherapy. I have no patience. Your exercises are good for prisoners. I have told my parents to stop paying you. I'm fed up with it. I'm not capable of anything, not even of this. I'm not going to learn anything. When I want to pray, I go to church, to temple. This is all I know. Summon the staff of the methodological center and the stout chairman and take my tests away. After all, your signature is enough. If you won't give me the certificate, I'll scratch the blood out of you. You are like all the embassies put together. You prevent me from going abroad. My visa for India depends on you.”  
    “I'll ask Sorin tomorrow to talk to the Indian ambassador for you. He knows him. His talking to the ambassador makes two certificates, not one.”  
    “I feel like strangling you. Why is this paper so important to you that you don't want to give it to me? I would have felt I'm strong in front of them!”  
    “Good-bye!” I say heading for the door.
    At that moment she gets panicked.
    She starts insisting again; to stay one more minute, not to leave her because she will be again seized with despair… She tells me to forgive her.”  
    “Don't get angry with me, but I lose control when I think that my passport validity will expire soon and I haven't got a visa yet. Oh, God, I'm still at the starting point! I cling to the Indians, to the Jews. If only they accepted my request of converting to Judaism… I would certainly solve the visa problem. Jerusalem is the place I'm dreaming of.”  
    “A restaurant or a monastery there!”  
    “That's right.”  
    “If you go to India, what will you do there?”  
    “Same thing: a monastery or a restaurant, a singer.”  
    It's cold. She shivers in her shabby coat. The precarious condition of the bird of the sky. The birds of the sky have an indifference of their own, a free life; Tofana doesn't. It rains and snows over a bird's nest. But when the sun shines, it shines there more than anywhere else.
    I left her visibly strained. I don't remember to have seen her so aggressive before. I was thinking again that she had two different faces: one of piety, the other of impulsiveness. When you saw how pious she was, you would presume she was capable of all the good feelings in the world. When she was aggressive, you felt you were better than her and than the world fallen pray to neurosis. It's drizzling outside, it's cold.
    Friday followed, then Saturday.
    At 1.00 p.m. the telephone rang. But I left it ringing. It rang long and in distress.



21. The chain of witnesses

    In the tube station, lots of people, vociferation.
    Two 'militia' men are trying to immobilize a man. Two more 'militia' men turn up. They grab him, hit him, drag him away. The man tries to pull himself out, shouts, he is hoarse.
    He clutches the metallic edge of the balustrade and holds tight. He blows it with his fist, probably to warn people around, to seek help.
    He seems completely lost, bewildered, fearful, hopelessly panicked. The ruffled hair of the eternally sacrified. A broken lip.
    The 'militia' men pulled him away; they drag him to the end of the corridor. They disappear.
    Tofana is asking:  
    “Where have they taken him? Have you seen his desperate face?”  
    “Yes. I'm going to see what's happening.”  
    “Hurry up, help him, don't leave him there, poor man. He should know at least that there is one witness.”  
    I ask an officer what has happened. He answers that the man is riotous and that she knows nothing else.
    “But where did they take him?”  
    “To the subway police station, at the end of the corridor.”  
    I'm on my way there. The officer, solidary to the 'militia' men tells me:  
    “Stay away! Mind your own business. It's dangerous to interfere.”  
    I find the 'militia' station. Underground. I'm not a brave person; therefore, I enter there with a tug at my heartstrings. Darkness, rocks. A typical space of terror. A 40 watt bulb, a door. The officer on duty stops me. I show him my journalist card. I'm thinking: “I've seen such blockhouses only in the German films.”  
    I say categorically, just to take courage:  
    “Press!”  
    “What do you want? Say, comrade, what do you want?”  
    “You sequestered a man a few minutes ago. I want to know what is going on.”  
    “This case is none of Press's business.”  
    “I know what the press business is. Please, don't tell me what the press assignments are. I've been working as a journalist for ten years.”  
    “Go away, comrade, I don't have time to waste on you.”  
    “Please…”  
    “Leave now if you don't want to get into trouble.”  
    My hearts is bouncing. I'm not a hero, of course. These people won't get intimidated by my card. Nor will my physiognomy convince them. On the contrary. In their eyes, my beard plunges me into the category of priests or of non-conformists. In their eyes, hair means either a cleric or a revolted person.
    Even for the large masses of people hair has the same meaning; but masses avow these two categories. One day, on a bus, a gentleman I did not know whispered to me: “Do you know what significance I give to the fact that a lot of intellectuals are bearded? National mourning!”  
    In conclusion, my facial aspect makes me a suspect for the 'militia' men.
    Another 'militia' man came in. He looked at my card, turned it upside down again and again.
    I draw their attention to the mention written on it:  
    “The owner of this card shall enjoy all the rights and legal facilities in front of the party and state bodies.”  
    I recite the two lines to them stressing the words “party and state”, the mystical words of our times, the secret of subordination and general stupidity.
    Party and state – this sanctified fright is my only aid in the darkness of the subway 'militia' station. I say:  
    “Call the head of the station, please.”  
    He refuses. He says:  
    “Show me your authorization for investigating this case in particular.”  
    That's absurd. A written authorization for investigating a case that occurred three minutes ago!  
    I say calmly:  
    “My card is worth three authorizations. You have read I am supposed to enjoy the facilities and the aid offered by the party and state bodies… Besides I'm not here to investigate the case but to stop that captured man's physical maltreatment.”  
    Meanwhile, I hear muffled sounds coming from a room next door. Somebody was beating someone else. I shiver.
    Cadenced steps. A lieutenant comes in.
    I introduce myself, I thrust my card into his eyes. I show him the magic formula: “the party and the state”.
    He says:  
    “I'll ask you to leave immediately. Who gave you the right to come in here? Nobody is allowed to! You have broken a law!”  
    I say:  
    “I represent the press and you are breaking a law you are not aware of. I won't leave before you let the Press see what is happening to the sequestered person. If he is charged with anything, surrender him to the justice. But don't ill-treat him, don't mutilate him.”  
    “We don't brutalize anyone. We don't sequestrate people. We just retain people for investigations. Leave this place at once.”  
    “Tell me your name and the name of the detainee.”  
    He utters something about my mother. I frown and say:  
    “I will inform the Press Division about this case. Good-bye.”  
    I am about to leave.
    He turns from a severe into a permissive person. He might have thought that still… I might be backed up by someone… and I might be only the spear peak… and you never know how long the spear might be – that spear backing up a man who dares to enter the darkness. So he finally says:  
    “Let me explain to you.”  
    He gives me some formal explanations. He says that the man is a provoker, that he has aggressed the order, which is a crime and that he seems to be drunk, but “we shall investigate all these details.”  
    The head of the 'militia' station knows that he will have to get out of the subterranean station one day. He is an officer, he has steps to climb.
    “I would like to see the condition of the sequestered person.”  
    “That's all! You exceed your assignment. Good-bye!”  
    On the platform, Tofana is waiting for me. She is pale.
    She is glad to see me. The train had just left the station clearing the platforms; the station seemed larger. I noticed a civilian watching me, without trying to hide.
    Tofana asks:  
    “Could that man see you?”  
    “No, I was not allowed.”  
    “It would have been great for his tonus. If only he could have seen you. So that he might know that someone caught a glimpse of his condition. That he is not alone, in the hands of those beasts. This is the most terrifying thing: they isolate you away from any witness, any sight. The ultimate torture is not that they kill you but the fact they kill you in a terrible isolation”.
    “Yes, they isolate you. They bury not only your body, but your deeds too. If a victim is killed under the eyes of the people, death is an offering. Priest Popieluszko had a useful posterity as they failed to rob him of his fame!”  
    Yes, modern times do no longer crucify victims under the eyes of the crowds. This is the subtlety of the crime: to rob the victim of the exemplary title of martyr. Thus, modern times add a new cynicism to the old cruelty.
    “It's good that at least the 'militia' men know there is a witness who will keep an eye on them, says Tofana. I was thinking that one day something similar might happen to me… adds Tofana. If they grab me and I am alone… no witness… and they will squeeze me into a subway gallery or in a subterranean hole… into these labyrinths… into a cellar… with no one knowing about me. I'm so afraid of it. I've always been afraid of it. I wish I could flee from here. Escape. Leave. Go away.
    She started crying and cried on and on.



    

* * *
  

    That was the last time I saw Tofana.
    Next day I asked maestro Sorin, who had a good relationship with the doctor of the Indian embassy, to intervene for Tofana's visa. Sorin went, found out, talked. They told him that the named Tofana Melidon had left an application long before but she did not come up later on; she did not come either on the fixed date to fill in a questionnaire of immigration and that they cannot issue visa through correspondence… that they have a feeling that the applicant did not show real intentions to settle down in India.
    That, like many other Romanians, Tofana seemed to be petulant and pessimistic, alternating renunciation and impulsivity. She seemed not to know how to follow her interest, blocking in a strange torpour the energy that she couldn't turn into fury. This was what Sorin had found out from the embassy doctor.
    A national conference followed, where the Shoemaker said that emigrants were “traitors” and that we should tighten the crews. The frontiers would be tightly closed.
    I wanted to tell Tofana to go quickly to the Indian embassy where the doors were open for her and where she could find sympathy. I looked for her everywhere. The dome was empty. Nobody knew where she had left. One or two tenants from the opposite block of flats still remember her.

* * *

    One November night Tofana rang me up. It was cold and wet. It was past midnight. The call came from a strange world.
    She tells me it's her birthday. She tells me she is with Mehmed. That she was with him to a restaurant and that she is wandering now. And that she will leave him right away, in no time, if I don't take a taxi and come there!  
    She also says it's cold. That she has frozen standing there. That her shoes are full of water. That she moved from the dome to a garage. That she is shivering with cold.
    She says: “I stand near a cold and damp wall while talking to you over a cold metallic phone and Mehmed drives me crazy with his questions: 'Whom are you waking up at this time?' and I don't know what time it is, maybe today, maybe tomorrow.”  
    I wish her many happy returns of the day. I tell her that the Indian ambassador will meet her on Tuesday at 11.00 a.m. I wish her luck.
    “Come quickly, she says, please, come, I'll immediately leave Mehmed. I'm in the Rosetti Circus, it's cold, I'm near the Plafar shop, please, come. I would like to have a drink but all the pubs are closed. Come, I'll tell you the position of my visa, I think I'll leave with God's help. I've got serious promises from Egypt. It's raining heavily. It's my birthday; oh, God, what a sad day. Mehmed pulls my arm like an elephant. Come and I will leave him at once. Please come, please.”  
    I tell her I won't.
    And Mehmet keeps pulling her arm like an elephant. And she cries in the receiver: “I'm cold and I'm 27!”  
    “I wish you many happy returns of the day, Tofana!”  
    I wait for her to hang off the receiver.
  
    This was our last conversation. I have remembered her as she was on that night, for a long, long time. Standing near a cold wall, soaked and shivering with cold. Then I remembered her eating an apple. Crossing herself down to her belly. Pushing the man out of the cable railway cabin. Staring nowhere like an abulic person. Huddled up, shivering with cold in her broken, full-of-water shoes. Ready to fly, hands spread like wings. I figured her stepping into pools of water in her worn out shoes. And by her side, a guy called Mehmed, who pulls her arm like an elephant. With whom her Suffite initiation can start: her new convertion or just a feast at Nang Jing restaurant. A Mehmed who may be a new mystical horizon or a new image of her failure.
    I crumpled the sheet of paper I had written on: “All those who wish to know God's will, have to kill theirs, first.”  
    The fall passed away. Winter is coming. It's snowing today. I'm waiting for a call from Tofana to tell her that she is still waited for by the Indian embassy. But Tofana gives no sign. No sign, for two months.
    A mild winter. My little girl, Dana hugs me; she says: “Papa, winter is my friend, frost is my friend, snow is my friend.”  
    There followed sleet, congresses, extra-pages newspapers. Always extra-pages. And no sign.



22. It occurred in Bucharest, on the planet Earth

    “Stop the engine!” cried a man gesturing.
    A man in an overall, a worker runs to the tractor cable tied to the jagged wall of the villa.
    “Stopped!” he cries.
    But it is too late. The mechanic had already received the signal to start, the engines were running, nobody could hear the voice of the alarming man. The mechanic stepped on the pedal: the huge tractor jerked. Pulled down by the cable the wall cracked, moved, turned over, and made everything crumble. A terrifying roar was heard. The earth shook under the feet.
    A cloud of dust. Next come the firemen's vehicles, water jets wet the debris to clear the air so that the excavators and trucks can start working.
    The alarmed worker's voice is heard again:  
    “Hey, fellows, I think there was a man in this house. You have crushed a living man!”  
    All the equipment stopped working one by one.
    The worker explains waving his hands. He says that at a certain moment he seemed to have seen a man moving inside the building. He says:  
    “A bearded guy, a shabby fellow.”  
    “Are you sure? When? Where?”  
    “So it seemed to me. I couldn't see very well from afar. But there was a shabby man standing near the window. I've seen him before, walking around; he avoided us and used to sleep summer here.”  
    “Yes, have you seen him of late?”  
    “Yes, a guy beginning to get bald, a drunkard or alike, they say a doctor or something like this, a scholar, crazy, I think. If that was the man at all. He may be the one. A homeless guy. We were driving him away but he used to creep into and sleep in the evacuated houses.”  
    “Doctor Sandu, maybe?”  
    “Maybe, maybe not.”  
    They started looking for him. Teams were formed to clear away the overturned walls. They worked systematically, rummaging around.
    Foreman Pavel Manolache turned up. He was desperate but he wouldn't show. He pretended not to know anything. He was spurring his workers:  
    “Come on, guys, you who worked with the victims of disasters before, in the earthquake times. Come here, you who have such an experience.”  
    Pavel had got his experience by working with the clearing teams after the earthquake. But one day he said that had been an insignificant experiment as compared to the fury of the demolitions.
    They rummage in the debris. They carefully lift the concrete in the beams. Perhaps he's still alive somewhere squeezed between two beams. Perhaps he is blocked under a wall edge. There have been cases before. As they cleared the debris away, others were loading it into the trucks.
    “Maybe he was not inside”, said a worker hoping to save their faces.
    But at 4.00 p.m. a soldier found among the ruins one hand, one arm.
    The right hand from elbow to palm.
    The 'militia' man made a report.
    When I reach there I find the place full of people. They are still gathering. The sun sets down and people keep gathering. It is the same sight as when Sandu Tariverde told me pointing to the petrified crowd: “They seem to have come to my funerals”.
    It's cold, it's a snowless March. Lit candles are everywhere.
    I elbow my way through the crowd. I come closer to the place: a piece of linen on which lies a human hand.
    Foreman Pavel sees me. He introduces me to the forensic doctor from the Medical Legal Institute and to the 'militia' man. They asked me whether I could identify the body.
    Sandu Tariverde's hand. One can see the bruise of the cudgel blow he got during that night when the church was pulled down. I told them:  
    “Yes, it's doctor Tariverde's hand.”  
    They asked me to keep in touch with them until the final confirmation of his identity.
    “Do you know any relatives of the victim? Who else can we contact?”  
    “He doesn't have any relative. His ex-wife lives somewhere in Dobrudja.”  
    It was settled that I should take care of the decease certificate.
    “If only we could find a coat, some documents, perhaps the identity card”, says the 'militia' man.
    “He didn't have any documents! I tell them. He didn't have an identity card, either. His documents are just one sheet of his identity card and his doctor's diploma; they are at my place.”  
    “Bring them to us, please”, he said.
    “I will.”  
    They searched until the night fell. But no other remnants of the man's body could be found.
  
    The people around surround me and look at me with a respect I do not deserve. I realize that echoes of Sandu's sacrifice bring credit to me now. Once Sandu told me that he owed me a lot, at least for the last ten years when he had no salary. But what he gives back to us now obliges us all and all our successors.
    They ask me:  
    “Who was the man? What did he do? What kind of doctor was he? Why did he sleep here? Was this his house? Did they demolish his house and he refused to leave the place? Did he commit suicide as a protest? Where did he live?”  
    I say: “He lived in all the houses that were to be demolished. From one end to the other end of Bucharest. He carries, thus, with him, everybody's penitence. But he didn't think of that. Maybe he couldn't bear life any more. He just couldn't.”  
    A woman is weeping.
    Did Sandu Tariverde look for this particular end, where irony and defiance were emphasized by a tragic significance?  
    A 'militia' man comes closer and tells me:  
    “You would better go now. We must clear the place.”  
    That was Sandu Tariverde's funerals. It was a simple and solemn watch. The news spread around. People come and go. A pilgrimage to his right hand.
    People come, stay for a moment, looking fascinated at his right hand. Some of them stay there, whisper to one another. It's getting dark.
    They continued to search for him the next day as well. Nothing else of his body could be found.
    That was Sandu Tariverde's end. The report says “accident of work”.
    I think it was a choice. He found that particular way to make his scream heard. I don't want to idealize him. But this end reflects his style.
  
    A man, I know nothing about him, gives a different account. He says: “Sir, the man came as drunk as a lord; it wasn't the first time when it happened so. He went in and fell asleep. Sound asleep. I've heard he used to sleep in the evacuated houses, in-between their evacuation and demolition. The workers barely took notice of his sleeping there. Of course they checked before starting to pull down a house. But today that man wanted to sleep more, and they didn't notice him. It was an accident, sir. They pulled the house down over him.”  
    There were some who did not believe this version. You mean he slipped in though he saw the bulldozers and all the other vehicles ready to start?  
    “Yes, sir! Says the man I know nothing about. One could have cut a log on him when he was drunk. He wouldn't have got up.”  
    Sandu Tariverde's existence seems to me a replica of our tragic and comic times. A replica of this harsh history of ours. His whole life is a replica of our times. I don't know if it is the best replica, but I'm sure it is according to the times.
    In rest, everything is possible. He might have been sound asleep while the bricks were falling onto his head and the engines were roaring. He might have been awake and terrified, as the worker who had caught a glimpse of him in the window had said.
  
    It's morning. There are few people around. Many of them came back during the next day and night. These ruins cherish the dust of Sandu Tariverde's body. They lit candles. They felt he was one who sacrified himself for all the others. They feel stronger. Sandu's body is mixed with the dust and the debris. The entire Mosilor Road is founded on a human sacrifice.
    I see him, I remember him. He shakes his head as if “It doesn't matter!”, he smiles. He lived with the feeling that his life was as it should be.
    Sometimes, when he was very tired, he wondered whether he had failed or not: but that was the effect of certain comparisons, the pressure of certain mentalities, the echo of some insults. But generally speaking he lived on the border between defiance and freedom. Sometimes, a short illumination gave him the satisfaction of his superiority, the awareness that all of us lived a farce.
    Other times he was incapable of acknowledging his superiority and a remnant of mental enslavement made him regret certain professional failures.
    Or, out of a sense of contradiction, he said that he was Abel, the nomad with no herds. He said: “Cain's race has disappeared and Abel grows more and more neurotic every day.”  
    Three days people came and lit candles in Sandu Tariverde's memory all over the place of that demolished house. On the fourth day, topographers started to measure the place and soldiers to dig for the foundation of a supermarket.
  
    I cannot tell you anything about the end of the second bird of the sky, Tofana. Sandu Tariverde got mixed with the dust of the town. What about Tofana? Where is Tofana?  
    It's been a long time since I haven't heard from her. Where is she? This book itself can be a probe thrown into the silence of the world: “Give me a piece of news about those who disappeared, people!”  
    First, I thought that her long absence confirms once again her typical conduct. It's her style. She won't give any sign for weeks and then she will rush into the silence of the town and make a mess of the precarious order as the monkey from the Chinese story did.
    Winter has gone. Spring has come. No news.
    Today I remember the scene at the subway station when a man was caught by two 'militia' men, two more appeared and dragged the captive to the basement. I was trembling, but I made up my mind to interfere. Tofana told me: “Yes, there should be at least one witness to this capture… I fear that one day the same might happen to me. I fear I might be alone when they catch me.” I remember: it was dark, the subway 'militia' station, I was scared, but I knew I was protected – somewhere, on the platform, among the people, I had a witness. I entered the basement to be a witness. The chain of witnesses is, after all, our historical experience beyond time. Our memory.
    That was a nerve-wrecking evening. I defended myself with a card. The photograph of a bearded man. The party and the state. In the beast's paws. “Your people have sequestered a person. I was present when he was captured, it was brutish and degrading. I will speak to the Press division.” It was an efficient intervention. But for it, the young man might have been deadly beaten. When she saw me coming back, Tofana said: “Yes, press people still have a voice in this country. If only they would use it.” Then she continued: “Oh, God, where will you be when they grab me?” I told her: “Stop living with this obsession. Don't make a neurosis of persecution. Keep your self-control. You haven't done anything wrong. And, after all, you have an emigration passport.”  
    Then, silence.
    A thought crosses my mind: to go to a few embassies to find out if she got the entry visa. I knew that she had applied for visa to 32 embassies. I could have started in alphabetical order with the countries she hoped to get visa from. But how shall I make such an investigation? Who will let me do it? These are insurmountable difficulties. First, the Romanian guards, who won't let me in. Second, the suspicion of the foreign embassies who will wonder why I make such an investigation. Everyone is suspicious in this world.
    There's another hindrance. Besides the 32 embassies I know, Tofana might have applied for visa to some more during the time she didn't call on me. I can't find out what doors she knocked at after our last conversation.
    I can't fathom the jails either.
    I'm thinking to contact the International Organizations for the Human Rights. I have a friend – a sailor – on a commercial ship; I'll ask him to take a complaint to the Western countries.
    Is she in jail? I wonder. Tofana was afraid of this perspective. The validity of her passport was about to expire and she was afraid she would be again at the discretion of the Romanian authorities. She was afraid of the decree no. 153 and of more than 100 other decrees. Did she learn well enough the exercises of resistance and the secret key that might help her easily endure the extermination regime in our jails?  
    Maybe she managed to leave. I can imagine her in this hypostasis: getting on the plane with her luggage of 25 kg – the wanderer's suitcase.
    “Good enough, she said. 25 kg… the great apostles wandered with empty hands and one pair of sandals. But I'm not worth of that simplicity. I'm not worth of anything.”  
    I imagine her leaving, flying. Breathing freely that she broke loose from her country's cage. Free. I imagine her reaching a big city of her rebirth or perdition. Singing in a bar in steams of alcohol and smoke. Or dressing a nun's robe in the Holy Land. There is so much life in her that hasn't been lived yet. That is why I've always seen her exposed to two opposite devouring flames, a pray to her instincts and a pray to her spirit.
    I imagine her traveling by the planet trains, permanently fretting, looking for her complementary half and not getting it. Obsessed to protect her virginity: her fear, her world war. Or, giving birth to an illegitimate baby and putting it on the steps of a cathedral and running away from the place… Fleeing into the world… Praying in foreign churches with the feeling that it's a sin to pray in somebody else's church: too naïve to examine the bond between religion and God. And always missing important meetings, staring at closed gates, living in a precarious eternity…
    Out of everything I can think of her, true is only this: she has no sense of time, she measures time not in hours but in Sundays. She is in a mental hebephrenic state, in a continuous half-trance. Owing to this feature of her mind I feel her now returning to nothingness – not to dust as Sandu Tariverde. She returned to that debatable nothingness which is subtler than dust (Time?) – and which is our genuine origin, the genuine substance we were made of, long before the succession of the illusions send us onto what is called planet Earth.



23. Life is an exchange of sacrifices

    It's another season. It's another year. Mosilor Road has been almost completely re-built. When you walk along it, you feel like saying to yourself: “this is another town!” A person who does not know the history of the place, who would come here overnight or who will be born here will see the nicely painted façade and will believe that the façade is the very reality. Memory turns pain into information and thus life is bearable, universe is bearable.
    Those who will be born after us will expiate the cruelty of history and our cruelty with their candour, by fracturing memory.
    Grass and trees have grown over the wounds. The ground has been leveled over the demolished houses, white blocks of flats have come up.
    The finishing works have come to a standstill, because of shortage of materials, the blocks are not lived in. Lots of white, unfinished, empty blocks of flats.
    Today we also pass by the place. A bus crosses this deserted district and stops in bus stops where nobody gets on or off.
    I am together with my little girl, Dana, we are coming from the airport. The plane didn't take off today either, because of the fog. Tomorrow we'll start afresh. Dana says:  
    “Papa! What if it is foggy at the airport all our life? I want to go there everyday and a 'militia' man to check us and us to wait for a clear sky… and in the evening to come back home.”  
    My little girl will leave for the West, for good. She will grow up there, she will adopt that world's life style, she will enroll in a school in one of the world cities.
    “Why are this blocks empty? She asks. Where are the people?”  
    She holds my hand, we go home. She has a reflex of fear in this deserted district, she squeezes my hand and presses herself against me.
     “Papa, I'm glad it's foggy and planes are not flying. I'm glad I sleep in my bed with my polar bear and with granny. I wish the planes flew neither tomorrow, nor the day after tomorrow, but I'm glad mammy called me to her. I want to go her. Why aren't you also coming? Aren't you afraid of staying here alone?”  
    “Human beings adjust and live. Fear is meant to give you strength.”  
    All of a sudden she stops and ask me seriously:  
    “Whom will you marry if anything happens to mammy there in France and she dies?”  
    “Nothing will happen to mammy, dear child. Mammy will not die…”  
    “But if she dies, whom will you marry?”  
    Mother's symbolical death is the unconscious punishment the child gives her for her absence, for her departure! God, how precisely words can reflect suffering… the child loves her mother so much and the former's love is the latter's punishment. Our child will punish us for her love and we will live with the punishment and this will be our drama on the planet. The three of us will live with the punishment as both he who punishes and he who is punished suffers, this is the chain of causality we can't get out of.
    “Come on, papa, why don't you answer me? Whom will you marry if mammy dies?”  
    “In the first place she won't die. In the second place I won't marry. I have my own path…“  
    “But if you ever marry please don't marry a foreigner. Will you promise me? Marry Mica…”  
    Mica is her granny, obviously.
    So she has spoken out all her inner conflict on which her entire life will be built.
  
  
    Fog. It's the third foggy day. The plane won't fly.
    We walk in silence. Dana doesn't like when I keep silent. She hates talking to herself.
    “Papa, I would like to tell you what God did on the third day of creation! She says, knowing that she can capture my attention with this sudden approaches of religious topics.
    “All right. Tell me.”  
    “On the third day He commanded the grass, the grass seeds, the trees, the trees seeds and… you!”  
    She laughs. There's so much sorrow in this place and her laughter purifies the world.
    “You are right, I say. You don't know how right you are! I mean we all, thanks to the hidden memory, date back to the beginning of creation and have a relationship to its end.”  
    “Papa, do you know what I think? That tomorrow it will be foggy again and no plane will fly, not as long as we live. Fog is my friend. Mica is my Mica. The polar bear is my friend. Papa, if I were to buy you I would pay 3000 planets for you!”  
    This is the biggest price ever paid for me. And that was the moment when our relationship was perfect. What good friends we were at that time! “Positive Oedipus”, her mother used to say professionally, satisfied, from afar.
    The street is empty. One day will be the last day.
    Sandu Tariverde's dumbness and Tofana's disappearance are rehearsals for the last day.
    Night falls over the white, moonlit and empty district. We see the grass, the trees commanded by God today, on the third day, and night comes and the fourth day is slowly coming  – when God commanded the sun. So that man's body can come into the world in daylight. Soul has been able to subsist anyhow, since the beginning of the world; but man's body has a history, and its history commences on a sunny day.
    Sun will be commanded on Wednesday.
    We are home, we go in.
    I'm writing this now. Dana is sleeping in her bed with her polar bear. I look at her in her sleep, I would like to stroke her in her sleep, only in her sleep as our parents also did to us.
    I ask her, in my thought, to forgive me. I ask her to forgive me because we'll part with each other. Though it will not mend anything, it will not heal the wound of her separation from her father. My dear child … with two countries, with parents scattered on the planet.
    And when one has two countries, one will always miss the inner Country. He who has two countries has no country.
    And when one loses one's country before one gains the planet, one is in a tunnel of sadness… which one has to go through together with a  purified person.
    She will always miss half of the world. And she will not know the name of her revolt. She will not know the name of her non-adjustment, the tiny key of the conflict will be deeply buried. She will get angry with her parents, she will reject them, not knowing that this is the very expression of love – that love is greedy of the object of love, greedy of the physical presence, otherwise it is pain and punishment. All the three of us will live with our punishment while seeking the key of the conflict over seas and oceans. And all the wisdom of the world will become futile till the guilt is reabsorbed.
    I take a glance again at the sleeping child hugging her polar bear.
    It's midnight. I sleep four hours, I wake up. It's foggy outside, but we'll go to the airport again today, maybe the fog will dissipate. Our duty is to be there. Dana says she will remain in the country's fog for ever and that no plane will take off, we'll be lyrical and confined to the fog. Her mother will be forever waiting in the Orly airport at 1.00 p.m. watching the Arrivals screen.
    I enter my daughter's room. She is sleeping, her little face is serene. Free, setting off to the free world. The day is breaking and the rhythms of my body are ascending. Adaptation is highest in the morning.
    This is why I find the strength to tell her the truth: both the fog that keeps you here and the sun that will let you fly have their share of chance and frustration. The fog will let you stay with your father, the sun will give you back to your mother. On one hand, you lose something, on the other hand, you have a reserve of salvation, let us find support in the little good of the vast evil. You will always miss half of the world, half of your home. One half of your soul and body will forever suffer without knowing why it suffers and the compensation will be rejection, revolt. Your love will also have the strange form of the punishment till the time when mysterious flames burn the pain.
    It's 7.00 a.m.
    “It's time for you to get up. We are going to the airport!” I say.
    She gets up, gets ready. She quietly does whatever she is supposed to do. We set off, hand in hand. We go to the Otopeni airport. She holds her polar bear in her arms. There is fog all over Romania. Fog is our friend… It is the fourth day.




__________________________________________________________
created by