I Was Playing Belote

I was playing belote – ancient surrealism heralding as its ultimatevalues the nine and the Jack, nobody knows why, some poets claim this is an idea meant to consecrate the troubadour and the portal he passes under at night – I waspeacefully playing one evening in a house on Drumul Taberei, I wasannouncing belote and rebelote in clubs, when my playing partner's little boy, his hair carefully combed, the buttons of his school uniform alldone up, smiling like a triolet, said goodbyeto his father and stroked him paternally on the head.The little boy was going to the Opera, to see his first ballet,he'd never seen the opera, nor the ballet, he was being takenthere by his school, they had tickets up in the gods, none of usknew if he'd like it or not, the kid was going out into the unknown, his mother was giving him last minute advicebe good, be serious, don't fight, don't laugh,if you don't like it don't leave, one also has to do what onedoesn't like; why wouldn't he like it? I felt like screaming butI shut up politely as my father had taught me and whispered belote and rebelote in diamonds, oh, beloteand rebelote, how I wished I were the little boy whowas going to the opera for the first time in his life tosee a ballet, and, like in a long-known game, like Maigret whoin front of any enigma of life identifies silentlywith the fragile, I started trembling for the lightsthat would go out above the head of the kid seated up therein the gods when the curtain went up. The little boy lefttogether with an uncle, his mother's brother, I think, a niceman with whom I exchanged a few words about the football player Ozon. For a long time I played belote tense with that thought – would the boy likethe ballet or would he leave at the interval? And how would he get home?When the late night news bulletin was on, the kid came backwith his uncle, I've brought him back, the adult said,he was very good, he stayed to the end, I waited for him, where did you wait?, in the car, I listenedto the radio, I waited because what if he didn't like it andwanted to go, who would he have come home with? – belote and rebelote,I declared again and wanted, at that moment whenthe mystery was unravelled, to be an uncle, an uncle waitingfor his nephew for hours at the exit of the opera,anxious like in a detective novel, would he like the balletor not, mysterious waiting, unanalysed, among cars and leaves, the waiting of an uncle. I lookedat him fascinated – as in my childhood a white dogstared petrified at the red bows of a cheerful little girl. Excerpted from Stories to Tame My Sweetheart, Cartea românească, 1978

by Radu Cosaşu