excerpt I was to deal with this vague feeling, this bizarre, somewhat abstract and pure love three times during my teenage years. I had come into this huge and empty room, lured by some strange music that I always found irresistible, insinuating, intoxicating and dangerous. In the whole room, where in the evenings people danced till late, there was just one boy left, dressed in black. He was sitting on a chair with his back against one of the loudspeakers. As the other chair, a stool, was in front of the second loudspeaker, I sat down on it with my back against the black box. The boy was sitting just across the room from me. I couldn't see him clearly because I didn't have my glasses on. He could very well be an ugly boy. Or a cute one. We sat like that, facing one another, with our backs pressed against the throbbing canvass. I was perceiving that incredible music through the skin on my back, I was feeling the rhythms in my flesh. The sound vibrated spasmodically between my shoulders. The electric guitar was stuck between my ribs, leaving me breathless, while the hammering of the drums was pounding on my shoulder blades. The stereophonic balancing was dragging me to one side, then to the other. We kept sitting one in front of the other, watching each other like two stunned sphinxes. It had grown almost dark. When finally somebody came into the room, I had the feeling I had just woken up, and for a fleeting moment I swung between two very different realities. I stood up and left. I never went back there. Nor did I ever try to find out who the boy in black was. The following day I left, before the camp was officially closed. For as long as the music played, I was in love with that tall and lean boy dressed in black, because he did not move, because the rhythms had all passed through his body, had pounded against his young flesh too, because the darkness between us was no longer darkness, but a corridor of light. And I loved him precisely because I never knew him. The second occurrence was equally bizarre, to me at least. I was at some kind of party, pairs were dancing, tied in each other's arms. The guys were resting their hands on the chicks' butts, to some of them it was actually becoming. Back then I would find boys terribly boring with their cheap theories, with their fits of jealousy and their pettiness. At some point, in the brownish-green semidarkness, a boy passed me, over the table littered with plates, food leavings and glasses, a round, blue balloon, and our game lasted long, until the lights were turned on. The balloon was floating, light, pure, quivering, and was a sort of declaration of love in plain sight. It was a flawless conversation, innocent and kind. This tranquillity, this calmness was what I had always been seeking, the silence that fills the space between two bodies, the wordless communication, the long pauses on the phone, the mystery and the uncertainty. Again at a party, among friends this time, while everybody had retired upstairs, I abandoned my enamored and pestering boyfriend and cleared off to a room downstairs where a blue lamp shed its indigo light on the food leavings. I was glad to come across a good friend of mine and another guy, with Indian-Japanese features, so to speak, smoking calmly and listening to some slow instrumental music. I sat down between them. It felt good, we were all sitting crossed-legged on the floor, without speaking, listening, looking at our own shadows on the wall. Eventually we felt hungry and ate olives, pickles and cake, and started making fun of everything, like silly children. Then the boy whom I barely knew suddenly got the idea to dress as a girl. He asked me to help him with the make-up. I brought all the make-up I could find in the bathroom – the eyeliner, the lip liner, the brushes, the powders – and began, in the fluffiest of silences, the complicated operation. He kept his eyes closed and my gestures, as I rubbed the cream into his skin and then applied the blush by touching his face with my fingers, caressing him with the powder brush and the little sponge brush, made me feel, from a certain moment on, I don't know why, guilty, because the initial silence was now charged with something strange and dangerous, something we were all aware of. And the increasingly insinuating tympanum and triangle music had acquired meaning and was starting to feel awkward. All the while the boy's face was rapidly transforming into a splendid girl with Oriental features. The Sleeping Beauty – as he continued to keep his eyes closed, bathed in the bluish light. We looked at him stupefied – my friend and I – not daring to say anything, lest we should break the spell we were all under, lest we should startle him. Maybe he really was asleep. We were all dead still, the music had long stopped. Then someone turned the light on – the unknown boy's girlfriend had come down together with my blond and gorgeous boyfriend. It was only then that I felt deeply ashamed and guilty, despite their laughing at the sight of the chick I had produced, the perfect mannequin who still made no gesture. They were laughing, making fun, but their laughter wasn't genuine. I was looking at them in embarrassment, and the Indian-Japanese wasn't helping. I was to love this strange boy for everything that happened between us. My love for him, like that for the boy with the German name, or my two-hour love for the strange boy at the disco, or the one who had passed me the balloon over the tables, and whom I didn't even know by name, remained intact, preserved in vacuum, in a nourishing and purifying vacuum, for ever. I know that, in my dreams, my soul meets their pure souls and there, in the dream world, they seek one another and keep loving one another with the most powerful of all loves in the world, because what we then shared was not the feelings that bind men and women together, but our common innocence. "Secret is part of the motor of my books. For instance, I attributed to the child I once was many things from my first novel that I feel and think as a mature woman, or else they would seem laughable, although they are serious and profound," says the poetess and essayist Simona Popescu (b. 1965), in an interview by M. Vakulovski in Contrafort. First published by Nemira in 1997, part of a jigsaw puzzle whose model "I am the only one to see – a 'model' I had before my eyes when I was twenty-something and I knew what my obsessions were, and why I would have to write about them as long as I was able," Exuviae has become a classic of Romanian postmodernism.

by Simona Popescu (b. 1965)