Across The Border

THE CLASS TEACH' "You don't fool me, Ghiţulescu! You've got Kents, bless your wallet! Throw one over, 'cause I'm poor, my mother's unemployed and keeps me only on shots of glucose, she has no food to give me. Come ooooooon, please!" Ghiţulescu covers the pocket where she keeps her cigarettes and pulls a secretive face. "Shhh, hands off! Hash. There's hash in here. And it's bloody expensive!" Then she bursts out laughing and gets generous again. I don't think I have to tell you that this is also staged. I'm gonna stop counting them from now on. But where would we be without these scenarios that we imagine and like to follow? She never saw hash in her life, at least as far as I know, I don't think I would have missed it. This is a provincial town, what can you ask for? Her father might have been nicking morphine at the hospital from the cripples' ration. One time, Palade smoked marijuana when we were camping. A guy from Bucharest gave him some. He puked. He said he didn't feel anything. Anyway, this guy also smoked toilet paper once. And fir needles. He rolled them in a piece paper and dragged away. Like a convict. The smoke was like burned tires. You're wasting your throat, I told him. Anyway, what would these people do without cigarettes. What would they talk about. What would they miss. What would they be afraid of. "Watch out, the class teacher, fuck!" There's a staircase at the end of the hallway and a bald little man on the staircase. You can actually only see the bald spot as he's stooping down with his head bent. And his back. To the toilet. Let me through, will you? We're safe in the bog, whatever they say. We even closed the door behind us. I got unlucky. I got a cabin with a huge fresh piece of shit. If he comes, we'll tell him we were relieving ourselves. All at once; we're constipated and we sympathized. Anyway, I can bet the teach' doesn't have the guts to come in. There was this thing a while ago and no teachers ever come into the bog anymore. Some time ago, we had a headmistress, Whale. She was called that because she was shaking her ass like a whale and her voice sounded like a trumpet full of spit. Like frogs croaking during the mating season. I can't remember her talking normally. It rattled your brain. And she was so utterly daft. A French teacher. She would come up with such gems, you wanted to cross yourself. The coolest one was once was during class, when she said "Jean d'Arc savait pisser." I don't know what she was thinking. The girl probably knew how to weave. Tisser. Anyway, you also need ample knowledge if you want to… micturate, scientifically speaking. Everyone who's stupid is also mean. It's the law of compensation. For example, Whale wouldn't let the guys smoke in the bog. I don't smoke, but I think smokers are much nicer than the rest. I spend a lot of time with them. That's why my parents start smelling me, when I get home. I don't smoke, people, what the hell, do I have to swear? Can't we trust each other? I really don't understand why they are discriminated against. Even in the States, letting faggets march around in the street and consigning smokers to the roof tops?! This lady would barge in on the guys smoking in the bog. Older guys from Saddam and Horse's year told me. She'd barge in just like that. Gotcha, creeps! It's embarrassing having a woman barge in on you in the bog. Maybe she had a dream; anyway, I don't want to be a prick. One time, the guys kept watch and when she got in, she found them with their willies out for air. What can you say to that? That's why they were there! You can imagine how it was for Whale eyeing that. After that, she systematically avoided the bog and probably cracked down on her voyeuristic inclination. That's why the class teacher… oh my god, he just got Pensioner. The fool had just gone out to talk to someone and he came right his way… "Listen, Macovei (this is Pensioner's real name), what are you guys doing here? Having a coffee?" Listen to the idiot talk! Coffee! It would be a neat idea to bring your hand mill to the bog. And one of those portable tables and a couple of fisherman's chairs. Pensioner's stuttering. No! Not us! What does he mean, us, he's on his own, the idiot. He's blowing his cover. He's blowing our cover. This happened to me before. I was hiding from Gogu in Pipe's garden. So here comes Gogu looking for me, I don't know why exactly, we were playing or something. And then Pipe comes, too, happy he was part of the whole thing. That someone was taking notice of him. What's up, Gogu, are you looking for… are you? Gogu's eyes sparkled. This guy knew something. He didn't even have to question him any further, 'cause Pipe went on in the most unconvincing way. I really don't know! I haven't seen him, what! Can you tell me what this guy Iul lukes like? Or Iulian, 'cause that's how they knew me back then. Anyway, he's not in my garden. Bang! He served it on a plate. He didn't want to give me away. It just rolled out of him. This is apparently called a failed act. I read this somewhere. No, I didn't, who am I fooling. I saw this show where they said that in crisis situations, you spill out exactly what you're trying to hide. Especially if you're a bit daft, like Pipe. Or like Pensioner. Fortunately, the teach' is stupid. He's only thinking about maths, not even good maths. He doesn't get subtlety in Romanian. He doesn't realize that "us" doesn't mean only Pensioner. Now this guy's trying to take him for a ride. He's saying his mother's ill. He had to stay and massage her, apply compresses. That's why he was late. His father is on a delegation in Şomcuţa Mare. As far as that? Yeaa. "Who's been smoking in here, let me see, Macovei, blow!" My god, the way Pensioner's mouth stinks, the teach's gonna choke. And end up in hospital. "Hmm. You don't seem to have smoked!" I bet Pensioner did that thing: you pretend you blow but you actually drag. Otherwise, his yellowish cavities would've sent teach' away on a stretcher. He's still in one piece. Unfortunately. I can see his reflection in the window. He has this weird squint. His eyes cross-legged, on top of one another. You can't even tell where he's looking. Is this true, X? he asks and looks towards the desks in the middle. I sit by the window, that's where I like to sit so I can see better what everyone's doing. But he says he's talking to me. It's bad, cause you can't make faces at him. You never know what he's staring at. One of his eyes slides to the side. I think this guy can see all around. More than a normal person. "You think I'm so stupid, ha?" He always does this. We go noooooo, but I'm thinking that if you're sure that someone offends you all the time, that they call you stupid around the clock, that everything they say to you are offences, then, my brother, you've gotta be certain you're an idiot to start with, no? And teach' is a major idiot. He's forty and his old man's still kicking him. I was in his neighborhood when I saw him come with his car bumped in and his old man starting kicking the crap out of him. The old man – an old communist. Thick-naped. An idiot, the teach', what the hell. I mean he's an idiot for preaching to us. That we shouldn't drink. I don't even drink much myself but when I hear it from him, I feel like getting totally wrecked. Then he goes, when I was your age, there was only a couple of people who had a tape recorder. I don't get it. And then he says, you'll find out how life is when you get drafted. As if you need to prepare yourself all your life in order to do well in the army. I bet he was everyone's fool there, everyone was taking the piss out of him. Squeezing the water out of the toilet bowl with his laces. I think he suffered a shock in the army and it's obsessing him… "Come to class, Macovei, we have work to do!" Hasta la vista, baby. I can finally get out of this stench. Now I understand the cleaning ladies. Man, they should give them a fat toxicity bonus. Let's get out. The sun's come out, too, look, what a beautiful day! "There's no such thing as an ugly woman, only a man who hasn't had enough to drink," says Beam, as a rough bird passes us by. "Guys, you remember when we did the beauty contest?" That's right, man, we had planks and all and held them up to the chicks that happened to pass us by. Honorary president of the jury – Beam. The birds were pretending they couldn't care less about the grade. But they did. As soon as they passed, they started with did you see how much he gave me? They either got too big for their boots or they shrunk like dry peas. They started smiling, they pumped up their tits. Did you hear that, he promised he would take me by force! I think we always depend on other people's opinion of ourselves. And it's not ok. On that day, we set the mood of every girl in school. Really, if we hadn't had classes now, if we'd been free, I wouldn't've seen how cool the weather is. I would've gotten bored. This day would've been no fun. We can only enjoy stuff by comparison. We don't enjoy stuff ourselves, we're obsessed by other people. I mean, I'm not happy 'cause it's a nice day, that's crap. I'm happy I don't have to sit in class with those idiots and have to stand teach'. You're only happy when you're out of trouble. There's no such thing as pure happiness. Beam's father was saying once that we're complete idiots, we can't enjoy stuff. Even when we get drunk, it's like to spite someone. If I really think about it, there was only one time I was so happy I lost notice of myself. It was winter. It was a grey, ugly morning, if I remember well. When I woke up, there was this buzz. I don't know how to tell you this, but I could hear everything more acutely. And there was a rough smell, you know? And I swear I knew then that it had snowed. You don't have to believe me, but snow has a distinctive smell. When it snows, it smells. I pulled a coat on me and went out. I wasn't cold at all. And the frost was actually nice. I made a snowball and threw it in a cherry tree with rugged bark. The snow was spongy, it didn't come together so well. I made another snowball and I threw this one just anywhere. I don't know why, but I was happy that instead of plunging into the snow and making a hole, that snowball just rolled away nicely and didn't mess anything up. The snow would not stick to it, its shape did not change. It was simply gliding. There was no one in the street. There were only some thick truck ruts and some footprints, a sign that someone had been here before. No lights in the houses either. All of a sudden, a kid came out in the street. I can tell you his name, but it doesn't matter very much. What was interesting was that the kid was naked. He'd run away from home. His mother had come out to the gate, unsure whether to run after him or not. She couldn't find anything more intelligent to say that, "You're gonna catch a cold!" She called him by his name, then looked around, as if to intimidate potential witnesses. The kid was strutting down the street. Then he looked like he was riding a horse, I don't know how to explain. He was shaking his head. He couldn't believe you could be so happy. I realized later that he was strutting because the snow burned his soles. Paralela 45, 2002 Sorin STOICA: "I was again in hospital without something good to read. I was reading about a poll in some newspaper, about young people who no longer read today… to me, the grave thing is not that they're not reading any more. This is only a natural consequence. Something else is grave. I don't want to sound bathetic, but I have no choice. In order to like reading, one must also like a bit to live, or have had some existential dilemmas… something ought to have happened to you that gave you food for thought, like, hey, what am I supposed to be doing here? Yet, the little ones live cartoon lives, and I'm afraid they don't actually like living. They don't know a damn thing about the world they inhabit… the world was born 20 years ago. They lack the curiosity to know other human types, and live like members of self-sufficient tribes." (Diary, Polirom, 2006)

by Sorin Stoica (1978-2006)