Mrs. Pipersberg's Boarding House

The book about fleshexcerpt "I absolutely have to tell you in detail everything that happened in my wedding bed, on which we lay down as though on an operating table," Ferdinand Sinidis grumpily intervened. "I really want to stick to the subject, although it might seem that I'm making use of another memory, so as to skillfully avoid discussing my wedding night." When I was a young boy, I broke my left shoulder whilst playing. I was taken in a hurry to the hospital where I met an older, dark boy who had a blue, swollen knee, the size of a funnel. The second day we were both brought in the operating room. I distinctly remember the face of an older doctor, wearing a white cap and robe, with a big, stout body and a wrinkled, pug's head. The boy was laid on the table. I could see the operation and hear the calm, dallied voice of the old surgeon, from where my arm was put in a cast. He kept shaking his head as if he was constantly contradicting someone. The hand with which he was holding the scalpel was quivering like a threat, when he tried to distract the scared boy. "What's your name?" was the gentle-faced butcher's first question, while he was slashing the blue knee, from which a little red geyser gushed. "Ouch!" screamed the little boy, and the nurses tried to keep him still. "Don't scream, or I'll get upset…" snapped the white bulldog, violently shaking his head. "Ouch is your name?" he said then smiling with eyes like an angel's… "Sica," answered the boy, whining and half-comforted while the nurses were cleaning the cut with large cotton wool tampons. "And your other name?" the old man in the white robe tried to find out, while his hand was still shaking above the wound… "Oouch!" shouted the boy again when all the evil gushed out from the red knee, filled with gray milk. Now the white bulldog really got upset: "Sica Ouch, is this your name? Who the hell gave you this gem of a name?" Then, he said severely to a black-eyed student: "Miss, why are you looking like an idiot, instead of sterilizing the instruments?" …Then Ferdinand Sinidis made me promise I would never write, not even figuratively, about what had happened in his wedding bed, where two complete strangers, of different gender, lay down for the first time, as if the bed were an operating table. "Write a book about flesh," he tried convincing me, with the solemn music of his deep voice. "For example, you should write about the soft skin of pubertal girls, or the flesh of brunette women with hard breasts and dark, rough skin. Or you could write about the flesh of dead people, or about the flesh of skinned calves stabbed by the iron stake of the slaughterhouse; or maybe about the flesh of mushrooms and that of snails sleeping in wet, moist places. I could help you with some of my memories, and if you're not the worst writer ever, you could really use my ill-fated balance. A book about flesh obviously means a heroic, almost impossible artistic accomplishment. You should still give it a try." "You see," Ferdinand Sinidis started talking again, speaking about a private matter: "the soul has no price. You cannot ask the merchant to sell you a soul, the way you ask him to weigh you a kilogram of meat.""...I haven't got any for sale!" I yell every time Gloria demands the key to my soul, without realizing how much soul I blow to her face. She thinks I have a screw loose but I, for one, think that it's the sows that are crazy, which after their piggishness, gratefully kiss my hand.""What kind of love is this," I asked a woman in contempt, "if my soul stays home and I come to you only with my flesh?" But the beast blinked her eyes, little toughened steel scales, and cried confessing that she always saw me spouting from the floors between her and her man. She also said that a river of warm blood goes from her heart up to her head, and that the red stream gets down into her guts and in her fleshy bud, opened to welcome me."Where does my man dare?" asks the bitch, hinting at my crazy weaknesses, when she puts up with my arbitrary whims, tearing her shirt with her teeth, throwing it away, torn along with the remains of her shame, and I become grim from her wild beast stench. When I sense the smell of live, trapped fox, I release myself from her flesh, with my eyes hanging by one sign, that of a black and deep, bleeding eye socket of a pierced eye. "Please, stay more," asks the beautiful, whorish woman. But her eyes are empty and her mouth smells like a corpse, when she wants to kiss me. It's the moment when I become afraid of myself and when I'm seized by the strong desire to drink, like a thirsty horse, a bucket of creolin, in order to disinfect my insides. "I want home," I mechanically burst out, having escaped from the infernal room in the ammoniac smelling courtyard. From there, I start dragging my heavy, leaden feet. Only late at night do I get swallowed by the passageway of my house with silent, rocky walls."Where were you?" asks Gloria, twisted in my bed like a crookedly grown plant. "Let's die together Gloria," I answer, growing gloomy. I lie beside her, but our bodies remain parted, even when our hands meet in hesitating caresses."To die or to escape," shouts Gloria. "You are the guilty one," I scream and I jump out of the bed, pulling out and overturning the drawer of the chest. I'm looking for a scraper to scrape clean her barren womb and her bad ovaries, the way I would rake through the swamps, hungry for the horrible truth. I can see her fat thighs sinking and disappearing in my imagination, which causes the outburst of a desperation, suddenly emerging in my horrible loneliness. …The flesh of a corpse, musty and cold, makes me sick. That is why I have never touched it. Nevertheless, I walk from time to time, behind a painted coffin, or a poor hearse, until the relatives begin elbowing each other, surprised by my presence in the front rows. I follow the hearse looking at the ground and with my ears pricked.Before we reach the cemetery, I learn that the dead woman had died while emptying her bladder, and then she had said good-bye to her mother.Among other little things, I also find out that the dead woman's feet had swollen after her death, and that her shoes had been cut with the scissors, in order to fit her and not to reach "the other side" and be laughed at for walking barefoot with the rest of the tramps, waiting for handouts… I, Ferdinand Sinidis, have other weaknesses as well. For example, when I absolutely have to cry, I say "hokum", and sit on my top hat and start pulling ribbons from my nose and mouth. After each show I slap my stomach and start laughing.I know myself too well to be influenced by a few Chinese people and their funny ideas. Of course I don't approve of my way of being, and that is way I try to avoid people. I really dislike my silhouette, disguised as a clown, a "Charlie", wearing a jacket, pants and hat stolen from his wardrobe, only to make the "entrance" easier for myself and become the center of attention.On the other hand, I despise adults, precisely because I am aware of myself. The others go through life not weighing a thing, and only after they die they become heavy and difficult to transport. But if a man like me dies, I like to think that the undertakers only pretend to heave when putting the coffin into the grave, as if they were carrying a large piano that mustn't be scratched on the wall or the railing of the staircase. Their prudence seems unlikely to me. The coffin contains only skin and bones, not heavy flesh, the way one mistakenly might understand, by looking at the concerned face of the undertaker director. Horia Bonciu (pen name of H. Haimovici, 1893-1950), an intellectual curtain and umbrella dealer, was strongly influenced by German expressionism (hence a specific brutality of his imagery), translated the works of many Viennese poets, despised realism, was imprisoned following a pornography trial also involving Geo Bogza and Mircea Eliade in 1937, and displayed his pessimism with a great dose of humor: during Anton Holban's funeral service, he lay in the coffin, and before his own death, he told his puzzled friends that the easiest death was the others'. The hero of Mrs. Pipersberg's Boarding House (1936; Polirom, 2005), "oscillating between morbid eroticism and nightmare," "equally obsessed with death and sex," is chased out of reality by insurmountable events in his life. (Adriana Babeţi)

by H. Bonciu (1893-1950)