The Galaxy Of Bachelors

Chapter VIII: The party on the 24th of August. Gaby and the other Sandu. Dyed. Pusha and Hippodrome. Gaby and the evil. The movie on TV. Stupid jokes. On the phone with Pusha. A letter. Fight and reconciliation with HippoLet's go back to 1963, a time in which Monica of 1963 was missing, as she was staying at her relatives in order to study and I was still in Bucharest until around the end of the month. Then I would leave as well, as I had a holiday ticket for a student's camp in Sinaia. Albinel was the one to provide that ticket for me because he would always send the people he worked with at the university centre to camps, so they would keep on working with him in the following year. So as I said, we already were under the sign of Virgo. It was still pretty warm, summer was about to end and take the whole procession with it, and since I was still in Bucharest and my parents were away, I threw another party. This time it would take place in the big hall-way and, since my brother had come back to Bucharest as well, we would use his room too because it was very big and close to the hallway. So I could invite more people. First of all, it was us, Tedi's people: Manitoiu who had the tape recorder, Tedi called the "Butcher" because he was studying Medicine and wanted to become a surgeon, Hippodrome and Dyed, who had just come back to Bucharest, the Alcoholic and all the others. Mr. Stock Exchange was missing. He would come back in September. He had left for the seaside later and was about to return around the 10th of September. But there were also other guys from the neighborhood, who were a bit older than we were, but only 3-4 years older, a special gang, with prominent figures like Keke, Sisoe, African Man, Mambo and Ghimmy. As a matter of fact, Ghimmy was none other than Manitoiu, but he was called Ghimmy in Keke's gang. Actually, he was the guy who was in touch with both gangs because his house was close to the focus of this gang (that is, Keke's). Then there was my brother's gang, who was already a bachelor by that time, being in his early 30s and all. His gang was made up of his former high-school and university colleagues: Mircea, Gipsy, Grigore, Pushu and others. There were also some of the Sheriff's team, but Sheriff had left again for the seaside while Costel's gang was attending another party, a smaller one, somewhere on Arionoaiei Street. I hadn't invited Gaby, but to my surprise she showed up together with her new boyfriend, who was in Sheriff's gang and who was also called Sandu, just like me. The confrontation with Gaby wasn't particularly spectacular but it was a confrontation all right. I asked her straight:"How are you, Gaby?" She didn't answer in a rude way: "I'm fine, how 'bout you?""I'm ok, just sitting and looking at you."Meanwhile Sandu joined us. He shook my hand and I accepted that with a certain regret."How do you guys feel?" I asked Sandu. "I heard you are going out together.""Yes, we are," said Gaby."So how do you feel?" I asked again.Then Dyed came and invited Gaby for a dance. Dyed looked like a criminal, or at least like a typical offender. He had sharp blue eyes, narrow jaws and a flouting smile. Soon afterwards he grew a beard and was astonished by the fact that he had spent so much time having a face that wasn't covered by any, since it was now providing him with a more refined countenance. Dyed's major specific feature was the fact that he used to curse in an awful way, especially when it wasn't necessary and every time he asked a girl for a dance, he first cursed her, no matter if he knew her or not. Being at the same time also very ugly, Dyed was now and then successful with that little habit of his. And then there was another specific feature about him: he'd never drink vermouth, ever since he threw up right in the basket of an old lady who was seated in front of him in the tram, after a drinking bout with vermouth. That day Dyed swore not to drink vermouth ever again and up until then, he had kept his promise. He was nicknamed Dyed because in high school he had once dyed his hair with peroxide so his classmates called him Dyed, and of course he was expelled from school for having done such a crazy thing. So after having cursed her according to his habit, Dyed asked Gaby for a dance. So there we were, me and the other Sandu. But he left as well and asked another girl for a dance. They were playing a great cha-cha, the famous Enrico cha-cha, so I went to ask a girl for a dance. It was a nice girl, dark-haired, and once I started talking to her, I found out that she was living very close to my place. Her name was Pusha."Do you like cha-cha?""I'm crazy about it," said Pusha. "Don't you?""I like it very much as well.""Who did you come here with?""With Hippodrome," she answered."Are you guys married?" I joked."No, but we're friends all right," she said.Hippodrome was standing aside, chain-smoking. He was sneering at us and letting us dance. So I asked Pusha three or four times for a dance. The fourth time I danced with her I asked for her phone number and she gave it to me and then I promised to call her the next day, on Sunday, at around 12 o'clock. Then I didn't dance with her anymore and she danced most of the time with Hippodrome. And what was Gaby doing? Gaby was dancing with Sandu and even kissing him while they were dancing, and I was surprised how rude she was, but I was thinking about Monica. I felt somehow reassured and at the same time I was thinking that I would call Pusha the next day. I could see that I was practically cured because I wasn't going mad seeing Gaby kissing Sandu, but still I was sickened by her, by the fact that she was doing that thing in my own house, right where we had met and where she had come to so many parties, and for once I got the idea of calling her for a couple of minutes to some room in the back and slapping her. But I held myself back, especially because I was afraid of Sandu, who was pretty strong, and I was generally not in the mood for a scandal, and I was particularly not in the mood for such violence, in fact, I've always resented it, although I should have humiliated her in some way, just like she was humiliating me now, in front of all my friends, although I must admit that I sometimes enjoyed making her suffer.I enjoyed it because she only felt good on those occasions. Gaby was not someone who was seeking praise and quiet. She was always looking for trouble. And she had to find it eventually. Only he who doesn't search doesn't find.I'd keep calling her and asking her out for a walk, a beer or a film after having met her at a party at my place. But she kept refusing me and shirking.Until one July evening of 1962, when she finally agreed to meet me and turned up very late. Getting bored of waiting, I bought her a huge bouquet of flowers which were red carnations. Gaby blushed with pleasure and became just as red as the carnations. Since my throat was dry and since it was hot outside, I suggested that we should drink a beer.We went to a nice and isolated bar. Gaby wanted to smoke. I went to buy her Snagov because I was smoking Carpati and those were too bad for her fine throat. She was dressed in a green pullover and an immaculate white skirt. We'd silently smoke and drink beer. From our table we could see the toilet. Gaby drew my attention on that. Then we got up and left. We headed for the park. I took her by her arm. The wind was blowing a bit but it was a sharp wind so I felt cold. I had just a T-shirt on. As I said before, she was wearing a pullover. So I suggested that we should drop by my place and take a jacket. I invited her in my apartment and turned on the TV quickly. A movie was on. It was an Italian one. Gaby sat down comfortably and started to watch the movie with great interest.I sat down next to her on the bed. The bed lay in such a way, that I could watch TV through my feet.We had both taken our shoes out. We were watching the movie. It was a beautiful love story but it also contained social criticism to some extent.Suddenly I turned aside and leaned my head on her breast."What's wrong with you, don't you like the movie?" Gaby laughed sardonically."I like it, though it's not great.""Then look at me.""Well, that's what I'm doing, can't you see?""Yes, you're doing it good."Gaby asked for a cigarette. I gave it to her. The window was open. A gentle breeze entered the room, messed Gaby's hair and spread the ashes all over."Oh no!" Gaby sighed, "What a stupid wind!"Her hair slightly touched my shoulder. It was rich and black but also very thin. On TV, the movie was running. It was flowing. It was flowing by itself. Meanwhile the major character died. Gaby felt sorry for him. The film was drawing near the end.The wind kept blowing through the window and messing Gaby's hair."Tell me, dear," she said, "did you ever think about the fact that we will die?"And while she was saying this she turned to me happily, and I was stunned because she always made a serious face.I didn't answer to her question. The movie was just showing the funeral of the major character. Gaby was watching the movie with great interest. My head would get close to hers in a sly way, I had to crawl a bit for that, but then I got close to her face and touched her cheek with my lips. Gaby turned around, put her arms around me and started to smack me; she was like a raging storm so I just stood there like thunderstruck. What had got into her? How could she be so fiery now, after she refused me so many times, and after I called her about 15 times until she finally agreed to meet me?But I had started to play the game, so what was I supposed to do? Yet I felt that everything she did was incredibly faked. She slowly gave up on that frantic style and I felt better.The shows went on. The movie was over and now something else was running, and soon the announcer showed up and announced the program for the next day. I got up, turned off the TV and asked Gaby if she was hungry.I took some eggs, cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers out of the fridge and we made ourselves some fancy omelets to which we also added garlic and slices of bacon. Then we started to eat. Too bad we didn't have any booze. We drank some syrup and sat down on the bed.Now it was really cold outside. I got up and closed the window. I lit myself a cigarette and looked at Gaby. I took out my green bath gown and got into bed. I thought sleeping but changed my mind, got close to her and kissed her. We embraced each other slowly, my hands caught her waist under the gown, she had a very thin waist, like a spool, and then my hands slid down and touched her round, big, generous buttocks that were in contrast with her thin waist. I kissed her for a long, long time but Gaby didn't quite respond to my kisses, she was almost in a state of lethargy, I took out her gown and we both were naked.I kneeled down and let myself go, my face attacked her face like a diving airplane, I almost bit her, Gaby sighed and grabbed my arms violently, the wind was hitting the windows, I would press her breasts that were long and black, almost blue, the wind was hitting the windows, the black wax cherry trees in my yard were flinging their branches and then we fell asleep in an embrace, like two martyr children, but she would step on my nerves, Gaby would always step on my nerves. I could never find my peace next to her and I was always trying to make her submit to my demands, I wanted her to adore me, I wanted to be her moon and stars and I never managed to get there.We used to meet very often, and Gaby would smoke very much and that was annoying me a lot, I'd tell her to get undressed quickly and she'd take a long smoke and ask:"Tell me, did you call me to do my job?""Why do you talk like this?""Why do you act like this?""How do I act?""Why don't you like to talk to me?""What do you want us to talk about?""Everything. Anything." "I don't like to talk like that, just to hear myself talking."Finally, Gaby would get undressed. She wasn't bashful at all. She would get totally undressed, sit down on a chair and smoke.I would turn off the light in order to make her stop smoking. I knew that it's not nice to smoke in the dark.So after the last light bulb was turned off, usually there were more bulbs on, we got close together, we'd start with a little kiss, a very little one, like a dead petal torn away by the wind, then I would hold her tight, very tight, we'd both be standing on our feet, naked, Gaby would keep her arms around me and scream, let herself be jostled, put on the bed, bitten and summer would enter through the window, then autumn, then winter when the blizzard would hit the window, our bodies would finish and long minutes would pass without a thought, a mistake or a fear from our part.I'd sometimes make stupid jokes. I had a bottle of the cheapest cologne and I'd sometimes sprinkle it on her. Gaby would always go mad."Why are you doing this, you idiot?""Because I'm an idiot." "Please, stop.""I can't stop.""No problem," said Gaby, who was now really upset and started to get dressed.Of course she didn't manage to do this; of course I'd hide her clothes.She'd desperately look for them, turn my room upside down and I'd laugh about her:"What are you going to do now?""Nothing," she said, lay on the bed and started to cry.I'd lie next to her and wipe off her tears."You are a moron and an idiot, that's what you are!""So what?""I'll never come to you again.""Do you think I care?""You don't?""No," I said bluntly.She'd turn to me, fake kindness and appear to be moved."How could you not care? I can see that you care.""So what if I care?"Finally our eyes met, we'd get close to one another, be shy, outside the eaves were dripping, it was spring already, we'd get close to one another and then we'd devour each other. It felt as if she were a poor deer under the bite of the lion and this had an impact on other moments as well, as I was very severe with her, very jealous and one look of hers towards someone else, even an accidental one, was reason enough for me to start a most embarrassing scene. Yes, I have to admit this. I also have to admit the extreme sermons and the implacable logic with which I would show her to her place, and subject her to my own will, and make her feel as if she were in a forge.Once I even slapped her twice at a party, after she had danced too long with a guy. But she didn't get upset. On the contrary, she was even more submissive, more obedient to me and I realized that I should never let her have it her way.We enjoyed going to the movies, we enjoyed it very much, we'd often go to parties and I'd always buy her flowers or, if it was summer, I'd rob all the gardens on our way and she'd go back home with huge bouquets, after a dizzy robbery, simply dizzy and she'd enter the house with a whole garden in her arms.And there she was, cheating on me, although I had been mean so often, but maybe I had been mean for the well-being of this love affair, for the hypnosis that she was experiencing in front of the evil; on the other hand, looking back on Monica, the strong feeling I had about her was pity, pity for her grace and suffering, for her wish to become a physician and it was as if I was entering a new age, out of the bestiality of adolescence and into the constructive wonder of the man who has completed his military service, and who was already cheated on in a quite sudden love affair, simple but so sure of itself, like a dog who was hysterically running for his prey, like a wild horse breaking through the prairies, like a starving tiger defeating the graceful antelope.Of course I don't know whether tigers and antelopes live in the same places, but what I do know is that I called Pusha the following day, at 12 o'clock.To my surprise, Pusha was very harsh on me, and asked me how I dared to suggest that we should go out together for a walk since I knew very well that she was Hippodrome's girlfriend, and how I dared to try to cheat on my friend in such a rude way. "But wasn't it you who gave me the number?" I noticed logically."I did, but not in order for you to call me out for a walk.""What for, then?" I asked."That I don't know. You asked for it, so I gave it to you, but you should know that I am Hippodrome's girlfriend and that I don't intend to cheat on him.""Please excuse me, dear," I went on stunned, "but I didn't understand that there was anything serious going on between you!""You should have noticed!" shouted Pusha and hung up on me.Then I called Hippodrome and the line was busy.Then I called Pusha and the line was also busy.I came to the logic conclusion that Pusha had immediately called him and told him what a pig I was.I finally succeeded to reach Hippodrome after many attempts."Listen, you gigolo," said Hippodrome extremely angry, "how dare you make a move on my own girl?""I'm truly sorry, Hippodrome," I said, "I really didn't know that there was something serious going on between you.""You're a moron, that's what you are," said Hippodrome. "You don't understand a thing." And after frantically cursing me, Hippodrome hung up the phone.Outside was a beautiful day, and a gorgeous sun was shining in the sky but I felt a deep depression coming over me. Then I took out a pen and wrote Monica a letter. I wrote a beautiful letter to her, very nice and also dropped in a beautiful allegory, I wrote that without her I was like a blade of grass growing in the shadow, and that she was the sunshine that the blade of grass needed, and throughout the letter I wrote all kinds of cool things like this.After I finished writing the letter I thought about going to the swimming pool, but since it was Sunday, it was too crowded so I just went to the corner of the street and posted the letter.Since I didn't have anything to do, I went to Hippodrome's place. But Pusha was there, too. They both judged me and since I had felt embarrassed before I was now feeling even more embarrassed, then we left and bought a liter of wine from the restaurant and the three of us drank it up. Pusha stayed at Hippodrome's and I left, I went to the market, bought myself a water melon and went home to eat it. A prose writer, poet, playwright, TV film and stage director, Dumitru Dinulescu (b. 1942), the author of The Galaxy of Bachelors (Cartea romaneasca, 1980) is no less a Bohemian familiar with the Bucharest lifestyle and gossips, whose world of petty, mediocre characters and kitschy dramas often steers into the absurd or the fantastic, hence the multiple filiations ascribed to him, such as Swift, Gogol, or Kafka. His critic Grigore Traian Pop sees him "joyful as a dog, sad as a shepherd." 

by Dumitru (Puşi) Dinulescu (b. 1942)