from Requiem for Fools and Beasts That day, Estera did not come to the stadium, but the following two evenings she was there again; however, I did not pluck up enough courage to speak to her, and after overtaking me several times, she kept running about three hundred meters ahead of me, a distance I didn't even try to recuperate for fear of being ridiculed. At night, while in that confused state between wakefulness and sleep, her features came to my mind clearly – her thick, auburn hair, tied with a yellow silk scarf, her slender body and long legs that seemed to float over the track – and her creeping into my memory bothered me, especially as my imagination assigned her a few extra features, and even a soul structure similar to the woman I met in prison, all this eventually making me feel I really needed her. But once I had reached this surprising conclusion, I started to fear new complications, and self-pity kept me from going to the stadium that evening – something I found utterly ridiculous the following morning. I therefore overcame my fears and found her there, running casually, but anxious as I was, I did not have guts to go down to the track right away, and I would have probably stayed in the stands had she not summoned me discreetly with her hand – something between hello and come, follow me – while she was passing by. I had no choice, and I think I've never been more excited than when I let her overtake me. 'Hey, jailbird,' I heard her calling me in a very sure though warm voice. 'You've drained your batteries rather foolishly, and now I guess even your soul is aching, not just your muscles!' 'How do you know about jail?', I inquired with the air that we had known each other for centuries, and she burst laughing: 'I asked! How else would I know? If you'd come to jog in the mornings, you would've probably passed unnoticed. But in the evenings, at night, when everyone goes to their families, and you keep running your guts out, something's not right: you either aim at a title or you've done something wrong! It wasn't difficult to find out who you are, for everyone knows or allegedly knows your story… Small town, few stars. A modern outlaw, a guy who insisted on making himself justice, although he knew he had no chance – precisely in our national tradition… That's quite something, especially as there was a woman involved too, and women are never right. For we stand for sin, temptation, the root of all evil. I'm sure even you've wondered who is this crazy woman who, all by herself, until late at night… and so on and so forth. They say of such creatures they simply beg to be raped… Unfortunately, I have a lot of tutoring to do, chores, a job, as I have to make a living, so there's no other choice: it's either in the evening or not at all!' 'Frankly speaking, I'm quite interested in you, but I've asked no one. Out of shyness', I added most naturally, and she started laughing: 'How many more years would you need to spend in jail to get rid of shyness?' 'For your information', I snapped, 'you should know prison emphasizes shyness! Which would give you the right to take the initiative…' In reply, she gave me a long, guilty kiss, and then stood before me, head down, as if waiting to be punished. 'There's no reason to be sad', I told her. 'If that's how you react when you are or feel guilty, I wish this feeling never left you.' 'Shit happens', she whispered rather embarrassed, then beckoned me. I followed her closely, but the distance between us increased gradually; I made no effort however to reach her, I simply followed her from a distance, hoping she would make the next step too, which she did when we left. 'If you're heading for the town center, I'd be happy to lean on your shoulder', she said pointing at my motorcycle, which I had taken back from Visarion with some difficulty. 'Don't worry, you're pretty safe with me, there's no man to claim me at the moment. Moreover, I have no intention to marry in the near future. Not to mention that I used to be a sportswoman – national team, eight hundred meters, fifteen hundred meters – so I'm physically fit, I can manage a brawl with any would-be lover of yours you don't want or with any funny little woman who might mistake you for one of her men. I'm mean with policemen and taxi drivers. Instinctively, like dogs. This was the first lesson on me. Any questions?' 'Yeah, where to: street and number', I tried to mimic her matter-of-factness. And what if we get lost?' 'In principle, it would be only fair to discuss that possibility too', she remarked, 'it's just that I wouldn't want it to happen tonight… My father panics if I don't show up around the time I said I would. Rapes, catastrophes, provocations, accidents, everything a lonely father would imagine when his beloved daughter is late. I don't like to cause anxiety. Some other time, if you go on with your training, we might also schedule a getting-lost session, although I don't know what we could do: the town is appalling, and as to pubs, I'm scared, to be honest, I don't have guts to enter them… I guess it was much more cheerful and certainly much cleaner here during the Second World War. Now, the town looks as if it's just about to be deserted. I don't know what's going on, but it looks depleted of life, light and real people – not this bunch of confused apparitions. Surely, I've no doubt it's the wrong impression. The fact that I feel alive doesn't mean the others are dying or already dead. People are uglier, dress badly, and everything normal and natural seems to happen only underground. And the funny part is we all talk about the same two subjects: what the Couple[1] does, and what we can't do. Even I keep telling myself I'm normal and I behave correctly, but when I come to analyze my feelings, I'm seized with doubt. What am I to believe? I keep running and running, and strangely enough, I no longer feel the effort, running no longer gives me that feeling of happiness for having squeezed my powerlessness of yet another hundred meters, and yet another hundred, I run and I seem to float over the track, I no longer feel my lashed muscles, which I stretch beyond my limits, I no longer feel any comfort in beating myself, I go on like a fool, feeling no satisfaction, no fatigue, no pain, I run just to keep myself busy… Now – I have no doubt about it – I'm thinking differently, like a loser, like a former… sportswoman! I have visited a few countries, I could have settled in one of them; moreover, I could have tried another branch of sport, something bringing more cash, but I didn't do that. I could have been somebody today. My country, my birthplace and other such big words in which I believed foolishly kept me from doing it. And now, look, I persist in running like a fool… What's the use of talking about it anymore?! I don't know why I'm telling you all this. You've got quite enough problems… It's perhaps because I haven't talked openly with anybody for quite some time, and maybe because I trust you, who've been recently released from jail…' 'It's for the first time that I hear something like that', I told her truly taken aback. 'Jailbirds are quite the other way round… We only have a past, not a future. Long ago, this used to happen to me too: I kept storing thousands of events, phrases, thoughts, and mainly question marks. And I used to cram them in my memory until I felt there was no more room, until pain became unbearable. And when tension reached its peak, I told everything to whoever I thought might understand me. I wanted to check whether others too feel and think like me, if, if, etc. Unfortunately, on most occasions, my effort was answered with astonishment or with an equivocal approval which left me deeply disappointed and my interlocutor deeply puzzled, and if he was not one of my close friends, I ended up being avoided, for he would invariably consider me a provocateur. But to hell with them! Some live and others, like us, theorize!' I gave her the helmet I had brought for Radu, she told me her address, and, riding at a rather slow speed, so that, excited like a teenager, I could feel her arms and breast longer, I reached Victory Street, near the park and the synagogue. She got off, kissed me swiftly, and after having made an ambiguous sign with her hand towards me, something between see you tomorrow and sorry, I'm in such a hurry, she disappeared behind a heavy, black, recently painted gate. This time I was glad she didn't linger, for I was so confused I felt incapable of discussing even about weather. Back home, however, I decided to get a grip on my emotions and get used to her as much as I could. Above everything, I tried to convince myself that Estera didn't really mean anything to me, that she was just another person I had met accidentally and for a very short time. I had indeed taken her home, and her arms, wrapped tightly around me, had moved me beyond measure; but this was bound to happen to me with any woman, even with the faceless and nameless ones scattered in the hotels of our beloved homeland, and especially now, after prison, when I had not yet reconnected to the world for lack of a footing, being thus left at the mercy of Good Samaritans, whose – even if only suspected – pity humiliated me. Another sign of my weakness was my need for warmth, physical warmth included, as an inner cold, an early winter and an endless void in my soul had lately and quite frequently pained me to tears. I had also told myself that our roads were very different: I was going to defect, to try to cross the Danube, and if caught, I was to resume my time in jail as a traitor to my country, coward or whatever else they would choose to call me… Therefore, I didn't want to get anyone else involved, I didn't need extra pain and fear. It's just that I wasn't able to carry out this idea of leaving: the thought of defecting was in fact Visarion's obsession, his only one. Without asking me, he had included me in this project, which I considered distant, unattainable, and a hundred percent his; he kept speaking about it every day, continually, like a madman, and yet I wasn't sure if he really believed in it, whether ultimately it was not just an excuse for his failures or lack of a nearer goal. In fact, Visarion never admitted – not even by mistake – that I could have a different opinion or that his decisions regarding our defection were arguable, perhaps because I never contradicted him, or because they reached too far ahead, were too inconsistent and, anyway, didn't affect me right away. Eventually, forced by logic, I had to ask myself in earnest whether I really wanted to flee from the country, but suddenly, a huge void opened, and any word, any trace of perplexity or inner vibration had disappeared, so I realized I had to postpone the answer, because, at that point, it would have meant: would you want to die? We were not even theoretically prepared, therefore we could not honestly believe in our chance. I consequently needed quite some time to move on, that is, to return to Estera. I did not have the slightest doubt that, thinking of her so intensely, I was deceiving myself, but apart from the thrill of death that had not left me completely, this deception had become very attractive, it suited me. All cats are black at night; after jail, all women were beautiful to me. As if looking at a surrealistic portrait, I tried to analyze every detail of her face, hoping to drive her away from me, but although her lips seemed a bit too bulgy, her big black eyes lost in a freckled face, the nose too fleshy and slightly hooked, the forehead too curved, not to mention other minor but quite visible defects, they all made up an unusual kind of beauty. Towards midnight I had come to the conclusion that her mouth was too fleshy and her body very fragile, despite her beautifully-shaped and strong muscles. Anyway, I fell asleep thinking of her, convinced that I was very close to real happiness, which logic rejected and accepted at the same time: why would I be denied the right…? And: how can you think of this now, when…? Unfortunately, my castle, so high and bright, collapsed noisily the following evening, when Estera did not show up for the usual training session. At first, I wouldn't believe she might not come, so I waited for her strangely excited, an excitement that grew gradually as time and my energy ran low; then I told myself I should have been glad she did not show up, not necessarily because I was thus dissipating another illusion, but because my excitement would have put me in an embarrassing situation: in her presence, I would have been unable to control my utterly paradoxical reactions making me so ridiculous that, from that moment on, I would have done the impossible to avoid her. Thus, our idyll ended before it started, and life was to follow its course, trite, gray, full of petty illusions for times and people of similar dimensions. Unfortunately, the pain and bitterness that followed did not take her out of my mind. Estera continued to float beside me part of the day, strangely beautiful, but only as an obsessive character from an unhappy end movie. To my sorrow, Estera did not come to the stadium the following day either and this brought me back to earth for good; however, while talking to the watchman, who was very keen on my physical fitness, I also inquired about his running and solitude companion, the red-haired young woman training in the evening, and, to my surprise, he put on a broad, meaningful smile: 'She has some problems in the family, her father is not well – doctors, errands and stuff – but she phoned me and said that if anyone asked about her – she didn't say who – I should tell him she'll return as soon as possible.' Suddenly, I could hardly stop myself from jumping up and down with joy, although she may have thought of somebody else; for me, this piece of information was enough to resume the beautiful and naïve story whose main characters were Estera and I. Being quite sure that the watchman could provide answers to some of my countless questions about her, I was tempted to invite him to a beer, but I remembered my dislike for those who inquire about other people's lives, so I only told him that if, by any chance, somebody, man or woman, sportswoman or housewife, asked about me, she or he would find me there, training, every single night! On the way home, I made a detour on Victory Street, but I wasn't lucky enough to meet her; however, I went home relieved, though scared to think of her, lest logic might upset my recent relative balance. 'Estera Bran probably doesn't ring a bell, but Iulia Brădescu – for I had given up Estera at my coach's suggestion – was a name in athletics, and it may sound familiar to you, although soccer players have ears and eyes only for themselves, losers as they generally were. Therefore, that was my name as a married woman. My former husband, Costin Brădescu, is an electronic engineer with the freezing equipment plant. We met on the stadium. He played rugby, but that didn't make him famous, because they went all the way down the alphabet, while my star became brighter and brighter – due to him, to a great extent. A handsome man, tall, well-built, hairy like a bear, black eyes, George V moustache… And I, a poor skinny creature, very displeased with myself, red-haired, full of freckles… Only my breasts and legs satisfied me. Now, Costin has already grown bald, lost some of his teeth, got quite a paunch, but he's not however the wreck you would expect him to be, considering the amount of wine he drinks. He's still strong, I know it from the last few beatings he gave me. Brackets closed. I therefore got married very young, and after several happy months, the madness began. He had turned insanely jealous, especially when drunk: it was either him or athletics! I was a wife, therefore I was supposed to forget about that foolish rambling around the world, we had to think of children, a car, a house… When sober, he was sort of reasonable, but it was enough to sniff alcohol around him to turn into either a beast or a wimp, for he used to alternate violence and weeping. He followed me everywhere, put pressure on me to confess whom I was sleeping with when I was in training camps or competing in various towns, and if I didn't win, the disaster would be huge: I didn't win because I allegedly wasted my energy fucking various idiots. He couldn't raise his eyes higher than the waist! He was going through my handbags and pockets, smelling my clothes and underwear, my face… He put condoms in my suitcases or my handbag, scattered tobacco among my clothes. Beatings didn't consist of just a few slaps across my face to get my head spinning; he twisted my arms or threatened me with razors or white-hot wires. Sometimes he realized how absurd he was and begged forgiveness on his knees, crying, which did not stop him from beating me again later. I got a divorce with difficulty and only two years ago, but until then I did my utmost to win competitions and go as far away as possible from him, mostly abroad. For quite some time, even after the divorce, he would harass the people staying next to me in the street, in restaurants, at the theater, perfect strangers who just happened to be there. It was embarrassing. Then he would cry his head off and threaten me he would commit suicide. Now, after the police and the court of law and the prosecutor's office warned him to leave me alone, he sort of calmed down, but I thought I should tell you about this. I understand only too well, you've suffered for nothing, you've ruined your life because of such morons, you need no more complications, you may think that, although innocent, you'll be back where you came from… So, if we come across him by chance, walk on, don't stop, I'll handle it.' Her unexpected frankness made me boast: 'Instead of constantly begging for jobs and explaining whoever is willing to listen to me that I'm innocent, I'm beginning to ask myself whether at some point I wouldn't want to go back to jail… Let's hope this will not happen, but I'm not impressed by any man…' 'You shouldn't hurry though', she tried to cool me off. 'I don't know very well how you feel, what you're going to tell me when you find your tongue again, but think about it. I'll give you my telephone number and, if it rains or you miss me, just call. My father has the voice of a morose, repugnant man. He's in the habit of asking too many questions, but he does it out of love for me. So put up with these inconveniences, because you don't want to date my father, you want to date me, and – as he would joke – in this life, what you get easily, you lose with difficulty. After a while, you might want to meet him more often: he's an interesting guy if you can put up with his apprehensions, quite natural in fact, he's read a lot, so conversations with him wouldn't be a waste of time!' I put down her telephone number, but, confused by these new developments, I didn't know what to ask her or say for fear of not upsetting this dawn of peace, and I dared not count on good luck. We walked at ease in the dark streets, looking at the neglected window shops, the passers-by' faces, the countless placards scattered all over the place, some of which displaying hugely funny slogans, such as: Long live freedom, peace and security! Estera had an eye for the unusual: a little girl with a cleft lip, a beggar with a strange, yellow face, cracked like clay when no rain has fallen, a hairy dog full of dry mud, a drunk woman sleeping on yesterday's papers. We were stealthily watching each other's reactions, and when our looks intersected, she would guiltily put her head close to mine; those so natural gestures gave me the impression that I was on the verge of an important change, which I had no reason to fear. Back to my motorcycle, Estera dropped her backpack with her training gear and, quite unexpectedly, gave me a long, desperate and heavy kiss, as if she wanted to give or take my air, body or life; she then explained somehow embarrassed: "We have to say our good-byes here. I sometimes remember that my father might wait at the gate, and I wouldn't dare kiss you in front of him, as if I was a schoolgirl, not a grown-up woman already with an ex-husband. Although I would perhaps be entitled to punish you for the past several days when you played the sphinx… But don't think I didn't notice how you were staring at me! And I recognized myself in your gestures, in your burning gaze. We've been through a lot, so if you need anything, take it. My father would put it more cautiously: take it if you can handle it.' In just a few moments, without my noticing it, she had set aside the distance between us, giving me the feeling we've always known each other. Now it was clear to me there was no way back. From the very first moment we laid eyes on each other, we both knew something was taking shape between us. Each had fought a terrible battle, silently, with failures and advances, retreats and surprise attacks; we had checked over and over again our consistency, obstinacy and disguises until we both reached the conclusion that our story could only end one way. Yet again, she was quicker than I, but I was glad of her victory, I had wanted it. I could not think of the next steps, which I feared precisely because I was very happy at the moment, so incredibly happy that I would have had the courage to tell even Visarion that his predictions about me were right: I was not going to flee to Yugoslavia. All because of a woman, of course! 'I'm sorry my brother is such a moron', he had told me once. You win some tart and lose the world! They are all alike from the waist downwards and that's enough! Falling in love when new models are launched on the market every day? Giving up, of your own accord, the shred of freedom the communists have left us? What a pathetic creature you've become!' I was my regular self, I was meeting his expectations. As for Estera, no question had been answered, my confusion had not lost its intensity, but I was happy. Estera… If I hadn't been tormented by some strange presentiment, a feeling that something really bad might happen, a brutal, incessant sense of anxiety, I wouldn't have probably reached this subject so quickly. Even if Antim had published his inanities on tens and tens of pages, I'm sure that you, Anca, would have tactfully never asked me anything; each of us came with his or her past, fears, errors, failures and joys, and the time we spent together showed us we can trust each other, even if we don't know or know only partly many chapters of our biographies. I would have therefore continued to be silent if it weren't for this terrible presentiment. I don't feel ready yet; moreover, I'm certain that, no matter the effort, the more I try to approach those moments, the farther from them I'll be in reality. The respective happenings will give you the clue to those reactions I have that seem unexplainable to you, to my absurd obstinacy to move on by myself, to my confronting – against all reason – those who, in the name of light, are trying to bring darkness. I know them, I sense them and that's precisely why I deny myself the peace you think I have at last a right to. I've tried before to speak to you about Estera, but every time words failed to help me, after the first sentence they all turned cloudy, ambiguous; I felt lonely, deserted; uncontrolled pain and anger melted into one nameless feeling in order to force me into an area I fear. It has crossed my mind quite often that an unfortunate moment or even a longer period of time might come when we can't talk, and you wouldn't know why I did a certain thing, why I said certain words. I have always ignored myself willingly; I care, I'm obsessed with, I worry – or whatever you want to call it – about the whole world, always about others, others before anything else… Without realizing it, I have left myself at the end; ever since I can remember, others have always been before me, always others; for me, I have reserved an indefinite time, a quite hazy future, sometime… As you may have noticed, you have a place apart, and if – against all reason – we part at some point, I wouldn't want you to misjudge me; that is why I will try to tell you a story no one knows about some special moments that I haven't had the strength to recall until today… If the story of Estera is so unbearable or if your feelings, your trust in me – call them what you may – are not yet very clear to you, knowing your obsession, Matei, with exactness, we can postpone our discussion. I think it is important that we have approached this unbearable pain I was not very much aware of. I suspected there was still something, but I had no idea of the dimensions and mainly the consequences of the affair. Sometimes, in our discussions, when we got close to this area of feelings and I sensed your tension or saw your uncontrolled gestures, I thought of Elena Filipescu, and hence, of your hurt pride: how could she not send you a word? Didn't she ask herself by any chance whether you were alive or not? It was as if she had been all by herself in the woods. Everything is clear to me now: Elena is the pain you've tried to talk about, and behind which you've successfully hidden Estera's story. I wonder whether your exceptional stubbornness and everything you do does not originate here, in this area you still don't have the courage to investigate. You don't have to answer me now, I only voice whatever crosses my mind… I say what I feel… I can curb my curiosity. Moreover: even if I don't hear this story, even if a whole world condemns you for God knows what fictitious, unexplainable, brutal or absurd gestures, I will not ask questions, I will be beside you… I'm saying this, because I sense in your words a peculiar kind of haste, a strange anxiety, as if you were very close to some decisive event. And I also sense your loneliness and disillusion… Sometimes you feel like sacrificing yourself, like severing you links with this silly confused world, incapable of understanding what's going on around it… I have never left myself to the discretion of feelings, but I've always been very cautious when they signaled danger. Now, for instance, I feel I won't have the time to tell you what happened to Estera and me, although, logically, there's nothing and nobody who could stop me, especially as what you'll hear cannot not drive you away from me, and cannot create an unbridged gap between us. Moreover, and not for the first time, I feel Estera somewhere close, above us, urging me to tell you. From up above, she knows I'm weak and that only you can help me, not by doing anything in particular, but by listening to me and stopping me before my anger rejects any kind of control. You may have suspected, I hope, that it's only you I can fully trust, although, needless to remind you, I live around and work with tens of people, and I know thousands or tens of thousands with whom I'm on friendly terms or, anyway, we're not enemies. This is why I want you to know and mostly to believe me, because our relation is not ordinary. At the beginning, after our first walk in town, when Estera suddenly and all by herself raised the barriers between us, making my hesitations and my fears of being misunderstood useless and ridiculous, I got terribly scared of myself: I could no longer say I didn't know how she felt, what she wanted or thought, therefore I was no longer allowed to hesitate or grope in the dark, it's only that I didn't know how it was not to grope or dodge. I still couldn't get used to the idea that I could touch her without her taking my hand away more or less politely, that in fact I had the chance and duty to go ahead to the very end! Although I didn't want to be alone anymore, when the first sign of deliverance appeared, I began to regret that the dreamt-of moment caught me unprepared: it had come too soon, I did not yet have a scenario for the days after – how shall I call it? – victory! One thing however, I don't know whether good or bad, became clear to me: I was leaving prison farther and farther behind; Estera's mere presence kept me from looking back, and even when I did that, events took on a different color, I judged them in a more detached and rational way. We were in a frozen world in which not just time had fallen asleep, but even the air had turned stiff together with the gloomy, irritating sky and our thoughts, a world in which one received the same advice over and over again: keep your mouth shut! Even the simple act of living as we did seemed also measured in silent moments, in the ability of becoming as anonymous as possible; but no one had taken me the capacity to read, see and especially think, and it was Estera who had reminded me that. I didn't believe a substantial, deep and final change was possible during our lifetime, but I needed to wait for it anxiously, to be ready as if it might happen any moment. This explains why, until I got a job as a miner, I read incessantly, desperately, especially as some cold, endless rains kept me from going to my training sessions. Estera too was annoyed of being trapped indoors by the downpour. Surely, we spoke on the phone all the time, but with the normal reserve because we knew we were being taped, which was funny and scary at the same time. We used to begin our conversations by greeting our listeners, and ended them by clarifying certain aspects lest we should be misunderstood. 'I'm not scared of what I'm saying, but of what the security officer on duty might understand!' I was telling Estera, who seemed much less concerned by such intruders: 'To our shame, I don't think we're worthy of so much attention. We haven't yet upset the local hierarchy. Communists don't rain, they don't produce clouds, they're only responsible for the destroyed forests, the eroded soil, the potholes in the streets, and a few other minor things which account why a former convict and a would-be one have no place to go and kiss, not to mention other much more important needs!', Estera was joking. 'You shouldn't be so sure about that', I was trying to argue. 'There's no way to tell how much we're worth in their eyes. And what if, without knowing it, we are part of some project of theirs? Because the ones we know, those we can see are not the only ones… You may pass by an obscure person doing an obscure job, without suspecting he's a smaller or a bigger boss of a secret organization. He may have you in view, you might be targeted for God knows what post or mission. Maybe your security officer knows this and tapes you. Or you're nobody and still he tapes you. He may have come across you, he's bored and you may seem interesting to him, he's just a man and wants to know whom you fuck, who provides you with food… You may be friends with someone who's been followed for a long time… Anything is possible…' In order to convince her, I told her a story about something that happened in my neighborhood, a story which, of course, I heard from my mother. Two women were talking on the phone about our daily problems, and one of them burst out: 'May God in heaves take that moron, Ceauşescu, for I've heard he's sick! He cannot rule and he wouldn't let others rule either!' The very next moment, a terribly angry voice broke in: 'How dare you, comrade Panaitescu? You shall not leave the room until I get there!' Unbelievable, but the very moment I uttered the last word, Estera's laughing was interrupted by a hardly checked baritone laughter that scared us to death. Of course, she swore at him like a trooper, but the next days I followed Estera's advice: 'Better soaked than locked under God knows what charges!' We used to meet in coffee shops or for a beer in pubs that were buried under a thick layer of dirt and carelessness, and we had the feeling we'd always known each other. Our eyes and hands were searching each other feverishly, but our touches were brief and hesitant, as if we were doing something illegal; at such moments, however, I used to see a strange light on her face, calling me intensely; incapable of resisting it, and filled with an endless joy, I would immerse myself in it as in a huge, deep pool I no longer wanted to get out of. We were talking about most ordinary things, sometimes only for the sheer pleasure of listening to each other, because in parallel, with an intensity bordering on despair, our senses continued their dialogue, the only one that seemed important, interrupted just by Estera's tears – which I understood only much later – and her unconvincing explanation: 'It's smoke in here, I can't stand cigarette smoke… I have a sort of allergy…' The truth is, refusing to torment her with my questions, it took some time until I got used to her changing moods, which, as she assured me, had nothing to do with me. 'You know', she tried to sound more convincing, 'I entertain lots of stinking thoughts. They make me cut such faces and behave despicably. The rest is allergies; to everything: down, feathers, pollution, flowers, life, especially life… Sometimes I cry because I can no longer stand the rain. To be with a man who asks you no question whatsoever for fear of not upsetting you, but who stares at you hungrily, while you stare at him even more hungrily', she tried to turn it into a joke; 'but it's useless, it keeps raining and raining, and there's no place where they can hide from the curious and highly moralizing eyes of the world who denies others precisely what it considers ordinary and natural…' Indeed, all our moves towards one another, our efforts to know each other, to eliminate the distance between us were due to Estera; I still believed I needed time and patience, because what I was experiencing still seemed unreal to me: it had been too simple to be true, I had reached her unexpectedly easy, me of all people, a good-for-nothing, the man without a future, so something was not quite right, and even if it was, I still had to wait, to weigh things in order to be convinced. While she, sensing my hesitations and anxiety, phoned me briefly, abruptly: 'Today I have nothing to give or say to you. I just want to be with you for a few minutes. I'll also give you homework: love does not call every day, so be happy it showed up, and if what I feel is true, don't make the mistake to dodge or run away from it. But beware of words: they are not helpful, quite on the contrary, they estrange you from it. Loneliness, fear, the need to talk, and so on may have their contribution, but the important thing is that we feel how we feel… And then, in our stiff, sclerotic world, which gives us the illusion we have all the time before us, we might be wrong and run out precisely of what seems to be plentiful: time! Every day I come across so many plain people with distorted souls, always in search of food, putting up with every humiliation just to gain one more day, and the thought terrifies me that they might believe this is life and everything is reduced to what they see or is permitted to them. And then, if we give up, if we accept to be like them, all hope dies…' 'Sure, you're right', I answered, 'but I think we too might seem dead in the eyes of others, because we too keep silent and try hard to be as plain as possible. We were born under a dark star and perhaps we don't deserve more as long as we accept what is happening to us as if it's for eternity. Sometimes I think the big step, the revival of hope, might depend on one who has the courage to step forward and sacrifice himself. And then I ask myself again whether this noblest of gestures won't be belittled by the very people who still have something to steal, dodge, or hope for?' 'But since we've found each other, isn't it more fitting to rejoice?'
[1] The Ceauşescus.

by Augustin Buzura (b. 1938)