Love In The Waste Lot

Safta was a victim of her past of love affairs and amorous generosity, but also of the human decay from the madhouse times and from all times. The former chanteuse had decided, the night when she ordered the enamoured shopkeeper to break the fiddles of the fiddlers, to give up the tumultuous life she led and to devote herself, wholeheartedly and till death, to an honest and long-lasting marriage, not deprived of still young love nights with the man chosen as master and donkey with the pack saddle of needs on his back. Gore wasn't, obviously, the ideal man, beautiful and rich, wanted in the nights with full moon. Unfortunately, the old times restless demon, with the lust neighing and rushing in the flesh passionately and greedily, had long died in her too. The time of dreams had passed. "Now I am what one might call a ripe woman…"Safta had known the Don Juans from all four corners of the town. She had listened to their words and measured their deeds. All of them, the perfect lovers and the nonentities – tramps with fringe on the forehead and pug dogs but with no penny, sentimental crooks, unfaithful, their life divided between accordion, scandal and ephemeral adventure – had made her suffer. "Souls like butterflies…"She hadn't found, among the countless lovers, a single serious man, thinking of work and willing to pick himself up, to heal his wounds, the self-disgust and the world disgust in the shelter of peace and comfort of a home. Gore was ugly and sturdy. Heart of servant, he would have been capable – for her sake – to kill and to set the waste-lot on fire. Safta had felt in him a simple soul, which was not difficult for her to mould as she pleased. After the incident with the fiddlers, she stopped doubting the blind faith of the lover and left the pub with him hand-in-hand – towards a new life.It rained with small drops, in the light of the rare gasoline street lamps, on the street with long-forgotten name – as the townsmen were forgotten… "Boy," asked the gipsy woman, carried away by the solemnity of the moment, "do you know what we are up to right this instant?""I don't.""We are up to a great thing boy," she sighed, tight to the ugly and sturdy shopkeeper, "we are getting married…"The lad didn't understand."Aren't you saying anything?""What should I say?"The chosen man was stupid and clumsy. "Well, haven't I told you we are getting married? That is: I marry you, you marry me. Now, do you get it?"They reached the gate. He took her hand and clasped it strongly, grinning.This is how he could answer. Safta pushed him inside. "Well now, let's get married."They didn't light the lamp and weren't patient enough to get undressed either. The dream had lasted for a week. Gore, who until then had loved primitively and fully, learned easily to behave according to all the whims and erotic attitudes imposed by the dissolute fantasy of the experienced woman. She discovered, in the tireless submissive buffalo, rare lover talents, and certain that such a precious man deserved a much better destiny, she forbade him to return to the broom and the green apron from the pub. The ordeal started for Safta the moment she climbed the few stairs from the railway janitor's residence, to ask for help. Stîrcu had met her at a terrace, five years before. He was then drill sergeant, in an artillery regiment. The gipsy woman fell in love with the varnished cap placed on an eyebrow, with his turned up moustache, with the handkerchief he held in his left hand, with the buckles and buttons. She was electrified especially by the bizarre rhythm of the steps with spurs which sounded like bells, accompanied by the rattling of the sword when hitting the pebbles of the pavement. The military man was standing in front of the folk music band. Safta had sung only for him. They agreed from a single glance. As a first advance, the drill sergeant invited her at his table, served her with a tangerine and a glass of special red wine, and after the restaurant closed they left together. The affair had lasted, night after night, for a month. He swore, several times, to marry her, and the carnation lover cajoled with happiness. A month after, the artillerist disappeared just as mysteriously as he had appeared. She cried, looked for him, tore her hair out in despair and finally hurried to forget him. She found out, only after a year, that Stîrcu had retired from the army, saddened to part with the sword and spurs but happy that he came across a job that was much more profitable, quieter and with great future perspectives. For now, he was only a railway janitor, but first class! So, little work and seated, like boyars, fine cloth uniform and sure retirement fund. Serious and clever as he was, he didn't doubt he would soon become the manager of a storehouse. This job meant fortune in a few years.Safta, certain that a single word of his would ensure a good, clean and easy job for Gore, had gone to her former lover to ask for his protection. The janitor, the moment he saw her at the door, hugged her, pleased that he would relive an erstwhile moment, kissed her and without saying a word, without giving her time to upset him with a small lazy gesture of resistance, he flung her on the bed. When the gipsy woman remembered that she was married and consequently bound to remain faithful to her husband, it was too late. Stîrcu was panting, tumbled over her. Appeased and only in his nightgown, the railway janitor rose sideways, between pillows and rolled tactfully a cigarette, smiling."What brings you here, woman?"Only now did he concede to ask her, his legs crossed and smoking, his small eyes through the big wreaths of smoke.Safta had forgotten to pull her skirt down. She was lying across the bed, her face covered in her palms, ashamed, full of remorse."What have you done, slyboots? You didn't know and I forgot – you were too pushy and I forgot to tell you that we oughtn't to do any more what we have just done! Damn it, now I'm married…"The man laughed heartily. "Stop being so happy," she sighed, finally getting up and covering herself, "let me be, cause it's like cutting me to pieces and putting salt on, my liver aches when I hear you…"She philosophised, more to herself and extremely sad, her jaw leaning against her palm. "Well, it's not at all easy being an honest woman…""Get out of here woman, stop whimpering like that for a bit of pleasure! Better say what you want."Stîrcu listened to her lying down, well-disposed."O.K., Saftica," he assured her eventually, "I will pull some strings for your Gore. I will talk with Şontîc today. But he must be dutiful and hardworking and you – especially you – be wise and understand the ways of the world. Tell him to look for me at the railway station tomorrow and you drop by next week to say thanks, so we can remember, like today, of old times…"Safta left his place late, saddened that she had cheated on her husband so easily. The chanteuse once electrified by the artillerist's sword and spurs rejoiced in her, anyhow, but the joy of seeing him again was permeated by a drop of melancholy. The janitor, red-cheeked as he had remained and having no white hair around his templets didn't revive in her flesh the unabated lust from the sleepless love month. He panted, was satisfied with little and drew back, after the deed, between the pillows, like a sick rooster. 1933

by G. M. Zamfirescu (1898-1939)