Viva La Revolucion!

Bertrand had descended on our little town as if from a film: long-haired, with a beard that was still fluffy but nevertheless impressive in comparison with our teenage fuzz, and dressed in a T-shirt with Che Guevara on it. Besides, he was smoking Gauloises and was an anarchist. The embodiment of our best dreams. So it was only natural that we should hate him from the very first moment.Things might have been different if it hadn't been Lelia who brought him to us. Maybe we would have accepted him into our group, even if he was two or three years older. But his arrival had disturbed a hard won balance, and things seemed irreversible. We all felt that. "Bertrand is French," Lelia had told us that night. "We met at the seaside."Of course we'd all noticed Lelia's sun-tanned legs, we'd even anticipated the moment of her return. We'd made scenarios about how we'd celebrate the occasion. Ace had gone so far as to shave his legs, and was planning to nick one of his sister's dresses and do a striptease routine. Knowing Lelia, we had no doubt she would have joined him. We'd decided to howl like wolves in heat, to drink and smoke like nutters, heedful though of the militia patrols that might have been passing through the park.Instead, Lelia had brought us that frog with bum-stubble on his face. "Tell him that our Geto-Dacian ancestors were francophone," Ace said to Lelia. "That's why we eat merdenele; because the French eat merde1."Lelia tried hard to translate, mainly through gestures, but despite her efforts the joke got lost somewhere on the way so Bertrand smiled pretty feebly. Or maybe he'd understood without words."Careful, darling, your hands will hurt because of so much conversation," Ace added."Fuck you, you sorry little dick," Lelia bristled. "You think you're a smart ass? Maybe your mother's ass, Ace!"Yes, that was our Lelia. Whom we'd accepted unconditionally. The only girl in a gang of wackos.She'd taken her Frenchman by the hand and, turning their backs to us, they'd started on their way out of the park. I watched them disappear behind the hedge – she, with her elongated, sun-tanned legs; he, with his red T-shirt on the back of which it said: Viva la revolucion! "At least you're not a fucker like Ace and the others."Lelia poured me some more wine. I took the glass to my lips, sipped a little, then put it back on the floor, next to the bottle and the full ashtray. I was sitting with my back against the bookshelves and was watching Lelia who sat cross-legged not far away. The music was playing quietly in the next room."Try to understand, what the hell! You show up like that…""How did I show up?! How?!""Well… Come on, Lelia, cut the crap, don't you understand?"She did, of course. She also understood why, of all the guys in the gang, I was the only one still darkening her door. But I guess that was actually obvious for everybody."You're a sweetie, you know."Sure."I must tell you what Bertrand said to me this morning," she abruptly changed the subject."What, are you going to tell me again about how the anarchist's indoctrinating you?"I'd hardly finished the sentence when Lelia was all over me and grabbed one of my ears with her teeth.I personally thought Bertrand was quite OK and we'd almost become friends, but there were still a few things I couldn't understand."How the fuck can he come and tell us to rebel against the Coca-Cola culture?""What? Isn't he right about Americanization and all that?""Baby, when's the last time we saw a bottle of Coke in our grocery stores?""…""And how about that one about the lying ads of the capitalists?""Come on, don't be a wanker, he's absolutely right there.""He may be, no problem. But then why is he flaunting Che's gob around all day long, fuck his saucy little beret? Isn't that some kind of ad too?"Right at that moment, Bertrand showed up sleepy-faced in the doorway, with only a T-shirt and underpants on. Lelia dashed towards him, kissed him, and whispered something in his ear. Bertrand disappeared without a word."OK, drop that now," Lelia said after she'd sat back down on the floor next to me. "Listen to what he said to me this morning…"Before she went on she filled my glass again. The room was beginning to liquefy.After she'd whispered in my ear what Bertrand had told her that morning, Lelia dared me with a defiant look on her face."Well, what do you think?"As she was sitting cross-legged, I could glimpse a patch of her white knickers in between her legs. I was holding on to the glass on the floor as if to the only fixed point in a spinning world."OK," I said, trying hard to control the quaver in my voice. In a few words Bertrand told me what the game was: we had to share her. Literally. He let me choose. I turned to Lelia, who was lying naked on the edge of the bed, leaning on one elbow. The white marks left on her body by her bathing suit made those bits of her skin look phosphorescent. And I could see for the first time how her thighs formed a V as they moved away from each other above the knees to the pelvis, a slight imperfection that, I finally understood, she'd masked cunningly for so long under her never-too-short skirts.Like the beginner that I was, I chose the lower half. A choice that the two had probably anticipated because without any further fuss, Lelia turned towards Bertrand, showing me her back provocatively. I felt I was getting dizzy in the face of all the possibilities that were opening miraculously before my eyes. But I still had a trace of damned lucidity, like the lees at the bottom of a glass. Enough to let me see Lelia with her head buried in Bertrand's belly and a tuft as if of corn silks around her mouth, a kind of replica of his revolutionary beard. I felt then something breaking inside me. A mechanism of whose existence I was just becoming aware. When I met Bertrand again it was after so many years and in a place so far away, not only from my little town but from his France as well, that our encounter had something of a science-fiction film about it: two galactic travelers running into each other in an eating place full of bizarre creatures from the four corners of the world. The bistro I'd entered to have something to eat was frequented by immigrants come from all over the place. You could find there Russians, Thais, Kosovars, Vietnamese, Moroccans, Nicaraguans, Portuguese, Bulgarians, Somalis, and I thought it ironic at first that I should stumble across Bertrand of all people in such a cocktail of nationalities. Not across a friend or an old schoolmate, nor a former girlfriend, but across the person who reminded me of them all without having ever been anything other than a stranger himself.In the first moment I didn't recognize him. With a short haircut, clean cheeks and an expensive suit, only the eyes would betray the erstwhile rebel. I was just wrestling with a recalcitrant schnitzel, when I heard somebody calling my name. I looked up questioningly. He was speaking English but it was his barely perceptible French accent that pulled the trigger of my memory."Bertrand!"There is a kind of camaraderie between men even if – or especially if – they once shared a woman.He sat at my table and started bombarding me with questions. What was I doing there, how long had I been in Canada, what did I do, where had I been traveling, how come I'd chosen Montreal, did I have any friends, did I have a girlfriend?..."Bertrand, whoa! Stop it for a while, will you?"He looked at me somewhat puzzled."What are you doing here?"He'd been in Canada for ten years. He'd made it big in advertising."You? In advertising?"He leaned towards the window and motioned me to do the same. He pointed his finger towards a huge ad taking up the whole façade of the opposite building. A girl was holding up her dress a little to avoid having it soaked by the sea. In the other hand she was holding a pair of sandals. Her whole being was breathing out vulnerability. "I made that."The lifted dress revealed a sort of triangle of air shaped out by the thighs that moved away from each other above the knees."Bertrand, pray explain: what's with that imperfection? Surely you could have found somebody with better legs."The Frenchman let out a short laugh."It suggests frailty, don't you realize? If she had some hefty flesh on her upper legs or a pair as straight as spaghetti, would you still be haunted by such an image?"There was indeed something hypnotic in the girl's gesture."You're not asking me anything about Lelia?" I said and looked him straight in the eyes.He held my gaze but only replied after a long moment of silence."Oh yes. How is she?"His tone had been so flat that I began to wonder if he had any clue who I was talking about."She's fine," I said.He didn't ask me anything else. What else could I have told him anyway? That while we, the others, had spread all over the world, she'd remained in our little town? That while everybody was striving to make money, travel or simply live, she'd grown inexplicably numb and had got a job in a moribund institute of engineering design? That while everything was taking on colors around her, she was becoming more and more grey? No. In fact, there was nothing to tell.I said good-bye to Bertrand in front of his creation. You had the impression that the woman was guarding her dress from the bustling life going on at her feet. In Erotikon (Polirom, 2005), Liviu Bleoca's (b. 1958) eroticism is "soft, one of suggestion and context rather than a hard, explicit and baroque one, as illustrated by Claudia Golea or Ioana Bradea… The lesson of American short prose (from Hemingway to Ring Lardner) was learned well. Similarly, the ease and self-irony that prevail in American fiction, from Raymond Chandler's hard-boiled texts to Charles Bukowski's unbounded indiscretions, have left clear marks on the direct, unsophisticated, cinematographic style of the author." (Mircea Mihăieş)
1 Pun based on the formal similarity between the Romanian word merdenele (a pastry-like snack) and the French word merde (shit).

by Liviu Bleoca