Dying Agata

Chapter SixIt's barely after midnight. Door number 415 opens. I get out and the door remains unlocked, wide open even, behind me. There is no one at this late hour to hear me and even if it were, why should I be afraid when I look like a leaving visitor, and not like an inmate. Now it's very late, it's even late for a hotel and I'm going to a place where I don't want to go, and I don't even know where this place is I don't want to go to. However, I do know that I definitely don't want to stay here, and this is a natural reaction if I take into consideration the fact that tomorrow I might see "the box" again. I have grown tired of seeing the box suspended in the middle of the room. I've been seeing it for so many years now, whenever I'm alone and naked, crouched in my bed, shivering, when it's almost midnight and when the emptiness in the room is so cold that my hands and feet become cold as well, and cold shivers ooze over my face from the box… I get on my toes to see what the box is hiding, I cannot reach it, I'm getting dizzy, I can smell damp wood and candles. I suddenly jump and I hang with one hand to the edge of the coffin, which almost overturns. For a moment, I'm just hanging down, I get a deep mark in the palm of my hand, I stumble in veils, so many veils that I nearly choke. There are so many people, faces without a voice. They all lean over the same thing. I too want to see it – I begin to scream: I want to see, I want it, I want it. I start jumping up and down but I can only reach the big and the little flowers, white flies caught in the white spider web lace, the veil that is hanging over my face and my lips. I can hear a loud roar in my head, the same, over and over again. It's not music, it's not even the squeak of my fiddlestick. It is the cold of midsummer, a wave of coldness, which comes from above and emanates from the planks of the box. My father lifts me up. And suddenly I can see her! Agata is a white doll buried in white feathers. "Look at her, she is healed," I scream, I call out my joy, "they took the bandage off her forehead, no more illness, no more," I shout. But it's not all that simple, and only I know how to wake Agata up when she's playing, and she keeps her eyes closed especially for me. So, I grab her hands and try to stretch them, but I don't know why everyone became quiet and moved aside crossing themselves, and even Agata is fighting me. I don't understand why but I can feel her straining herself. I fight her. They don't let me, I begin kicking, I hold on tight to the edge of the box: "There are too many flowers, Agata doesn't like flowers," I shout, "there isn't enough room for Agata," I scream, "but the lacquer of the wood is so shiny, it's a pity you're not looking at it, it's a pity, it's so shiny Agata, and cold just like your hand!" My father's shoulder is warm. I float downwards, always downwards, I have to go away. It's an abyss, my abyss stalking me. I'm all wet. The urine soaks my skin and bakes it; I'm heavier now that I'm wet and so warm between my thighs. I can hear but I can't see, I can't hear but I can see, it's like a game, I feel like laughing. Now I can hear again people stomping around me. I'm being dragged, I can see, I can see again, I'm being taken away. It's a procession with crosses and so many legs ready to pull me. They are pulling me. I slowly go forward. I'm going too slowly, they're stumbling, the box is too far away. "Agata," I shout, I can't reach her, they make me stop. I begin to walk again behind some horses. They keep stopping. Again, I cannot see. When I get out of the darkness, it's still night and my bed is in its usual place. There is a fissured metal layer on my eyes, it's only the blinds, I can see again. I'm coming back to life, why shouldn't I come back – I'm thinking – and stop lying to me because I know everything! I cry a loud cry on my living flesh: Agata, my Agata…my dear, dear Agata… I feel how human it is to cry, I can feel the valleys without a beginning or an end on my salty, "scabby" neck. The blue blanket burns my skin; its silk is so heavy. It's Agata's blanket. I feel her cooling my lips, coral and turquoise. I hold her tight in my fist under the blanket, afraid I might lose her again. There are whispers all around. Agata's bed is empty! It's well after midnight. Artur's door, number 308, is a floor down, on another hallway. I look at it only for a minute, I don't stop, I don't want to stop, not here and not now, not now, not yet, now it doesn't matter, tonight Artur doesn't matter. I have this feeling with no particular reason at all and how wonderful is the freedom of not having to have a reason, of not having any reason. I feel a mixed perfume. I crouch, I stick to the wall, I gasp strangely. I'm frightened, I can see again everything I see when I smell perfume around me: the same plant, the flower pulled down into the grave like the hair that wouldn't let itself be pulled from the worm skin of a newly dead child, lying on his grave. I start searching the possibility of escape inside me – it happened to me before – I find it, running away is close at hand, the escape, which I invoke for the thousandth time, quickly, alone, with the smell of perfume in my nostrils, with my eyes shut, at regular pace. The phantasmagoric escape in which I run away, I run like crazy, anywhere, no matter how far, I run so that I can see myself running. It's that kind of running away that one can inject oneself with whenever needed, as a self-defense mechanism. Now I can see a road going up, I don't know where it's going, or even if it's the right way. This road is scattered and rather incoherent from a certain point forward, near the highway, between the trees and hypnotic mists. The road is like a mouth from which you can see dripping, in a continuous vomiting, enormous mortuary ribbons, stained and heavy with water, tangled and winding. Yes, it's good this way, the bronze of the oozing letters is drowning limbs and broken heads, come on… climb the little stairs… yes, I found the little stairs of a trailer belonging to some mobile circus. They're all dead, the dead are embracing one another! And I was the only one alive and naked, wearing nothing but a scented, linen shirt, a steaming, barefoot child getting out the trailer door and stepping on the corpses. Even though I'm so light I can still feel the rigidity of those little heaps, their frozen joints, that crack and turn to dust under the weight of my little body. And I see myself disappearing for a moment, lifted up in the air and then coming back to earth, hysterical, heading a pack of hungry, slobbering dogs. And I'm the one who stirs up their rage by lifting up skirts, unveiling chests and bellies with black and blue scum, and everything, this whole nightmare only from the need to punish myself, to exorcize myself, to reach extreme paroxysm and nausea and fear now and here, on the side of this hallway, of this hotel hallway, and not tomorrow, on the other side, there, in the cemetery! The door that opens at number 310, next to Artur, frightens me. I see a little hand waving outside, delicate, with small, feminine bones, surrounded by two gold bracelets. Two for the same wrist. This hand was alive and sensuous, waving and calling, with little fingers that gently squeeze on my elbow. It was Xenia's perfect teeth and large smile. Xenia Romanov's head is like a little, alluring nest, hung on the side of the door. No word has been spoken! I enter into the strange room, identical with mine. Nothing can stop me now, not one thing could stop me now. The darkness is vague and populated by some moist, cannibal breathes. I sense an imprudent noise, the hypothetical movement of a prehistoric male, out of control. The gleam of a cigarette. There were exhalations, the smell of hungry, waiting tongues, unbearable pungent smell, but more and more pleasant for me, more un-bearable! I walk. There was nothing to hold me back now, no protest before this unforeseen shelter for one night. When you're a woman and you feel it's impossible not to be a woman, just like now, when you can't go forward, but you can't go back either, because everything must happen sooner or later. I must admit that I have longed for the one night stand strategy, only one night, the "at least once in a lifetime" strategy, in my fantasies, without telling anyone, without asking any help, without openly admitting it, waiting for everything to happen on its own one day, without me influencing it, as it did. Now here are more pairs of arms (six of them), more robust and technical than me, which make me feel safe. They do everything for me, so much better than I would. I feel two little hands tickling me, unbuttoning my shirt; the chains scratch my tiny breast, making me shiver. Two bracelets on one wrist. I can also feel four big hands, down on my buttocks, lifting me up and moving me, supporting me in an absurd way, so absurd and brutal, always in a different place, as if no place was good or comfortable enough. I'm being pushed between my groans, in the stomach, on the stomach, in this space that almost suffocates me. I keep losing and finding swollen organs, I can't pull back anymore, the traffic is continuous, hysterical. I don't know if I have reflexes anymore, I think I'm sick, I'm getting dizzy as I'm swaying in the moonlight.I'm making mistakes. I touch the tip of the fleshy stems, whose mobile heads blindly search for the internal circulation, their hot shelter. They have found me! I pull back, way back, all I want is to sadistically delay the moment, because it won't take long, it cannot be long until we meet. And it's happening right now, sooner than I thought, with a scream. I help and boycott them at the same time in their effort, by lifting my hips in the air, constantly moving from one place to another, more confusing and counterpoint-like, causing on purpose those breaks of the male clay. This presupposed negligence made one of my partners very angry, because I was doing it out of egotism and amusement, because I like doing it, testing and provoking their potency, delaying as much as I can the moment, when I feel my pelvis so far away, dislocated and lost. My snail sole is rolling, painful and hot.I stop. I can do this. I can always order myself to stop in order to listen right now, and to breathe at the same time with the vaginal summons, of my involuntary throbs, that threaten to disappear into thin air. It's the pleasure of stopping before the pleasure, the long, persistent pleasure, without any words or guilt, without the obligation to declare it and confirm it over and over again, endlessly: "Yes, yes, it's so good… yes…"This is my invaded body, the slim abandonment and the fake indifference. The simulated rest and relaxation. It's the intense pleasure, the most intense, the one that you cause, the pleasure that is stolen from you, without your approval or concentration.I can hear a voice in my ear mechanically irrigating my pleasure, biting it into tiny bits: "This is it… this is our night, our only night with… with you, do you hear… the only night, doll, there will be no other… do you hear me…" maybe Mr. Romanov's voice, who knows, I couldn't tell exactly. I also can't tell if he's the one pouring into me right now, smelly pleasure and foam, strong scent of chalk, and so much fleshy foam belonging to two men, splashed over my thighs when they got out of my body. My wish for now was that they should never get out of me, that they should get out as late as possible, and I wished for it all, only tonight, even for one night, which I would latter cynically call "my innocent night". This night is an appropriate substitute, until morning comes, if we think about Artur, and we'll always think about Artur, especially about Artur and his non-existent eyes which can see, and his non-existent ears which can hear, and I'm choosing the erogenous angles from where I can imagine him with me, in me. It's compulsory that I imagine this because I only want him, while he's not at all far away, he's close to me, in the other room. It seems I can hear him getting up, working his brushes and his paints, his China ink and his cardboard paper, everything behind this improvised wall, a tool of these improvised, secret, enveloping pleasure.I get up before daybreak. Sweated from my sleep I get up, I go to the window and I can see. The curtain and the wind are blowing, yellow on my neck and tired shoulders. I'm burning!Suddenly the fog clears out, it's migrating, and it stops somewhere, really close. I can't see where immediately. Now I see, it stops above the cemetery, always above the cemetery. And with the fog, as usual, I can also see in the corner of my eye, as if to justify its presence, Agata's grave, clear and suspended too. A reminiscence of my coming back to life on my childhood mornings. "Dying Agata (Polirom, 2004) by Dora Pavel (b. 1949) is an intimist novel with a feminist orientation. It crystallizes as the confession of a young woman sensitized by a psychological trauma. Augusta Degan writes a letter to her psychotherapist, Artur Cadia, with whom she is in love, revealing her inner life after four years of therapy. The subjective manner becomes even more obscure when the text incorporates the dialogue between Augusta and Artur from the perspective of the classic, omniscient and omnipresent, narrator." From this novel (awarded the Romanian Writers' Union prize, in competition with "heavier" authors), "our fledgling prose writers may learn the lesson of making literature on deviant sex without becoming vulgar or commonplace." (Marius Chivu)

by Dora Pavel