by de Ioan Suciu
translation from Romanian by Simona Sămulescu [MTTLC student]
click aici pentru versiunea română
Innocent left the office in a good mood, because, as of then he was on vacation. On the street he jumped over some children’s hopscotch, set fire to a garbage can, after which we walked on the middle of the road, among speeding cars. His reaction to the driver’s curses was to flip them off with his right hand. He let off some squibs he had from last Christmas, and he dropped them at the feet of some women. He started running. Two men began chasing him. He jumped the fence into a yard and came out the other side through a gate which was opened. He sat down at a table in a garden and he asked for two pints of beer. A young, fat woman, with giant breasts which nearly spilled over her cleavage, answered in high spirits that she will bring them right over. “Two?” “Two!” “But you’re alone.” “What’s that got to do with anything?” The woman brought him two beers and Innocent immediately downed one. “What are you going to do with the second?” He rose and poured the pint all over her breasts. The woman wanted to shout but didn’t manage to make a sound, only a desperate hiss. Innocent left the garden in a hurry. After a while he looked back and realized that no one was chasing him. On a barren terrain between two houses some kids were playing with a ball. He began playing their game a little, he then took the ball in his hand and put it on his foot, after which he kicked it forcefully towards the window of a house. The window shattered with a deafening sound. The children started screaming. Innocent left. Some pebbles flew past his ears. He got on a tram and found a seat. An old man sitting on the bench across had a newspaper in his hand and another one in his lap. Innocent asked to look over the sheet he was holding on his knees. He found a crosswords puzzle and he started solving it. He was writing with a slippery and see-through pen. The old man wanted to get off at the next station and asked for the paper. Because Innocent did not pay him any attention, the man grabbed the paper from his hands and went near the door to get off. Innocent started following him, only a footstep behind. The old man stopped on a bench in a park, next to two older men. He wanted to snatch the paper with the crossword puzzle from the man, but he got punched in the face by one of the old men on the bench. The third one jumped him and they all fell on the gravel in the alley. Innocent managed to rise first, grabbed the newspaper from the old man that was on the tram and began walking away in a hurry. He took refuge in a cinema. He sat down next to a person who kept fidgeting. He began crying; remembering what he had done on his last vacations. No one has seen it but the images from those moments were imprinted in his mind with a stunning clarity. “Hey, relax, it’s just a movie”. The soothing voice came from the darkness of the movie theatre hall just like a balm. He stretched out his hand towards the seat on his right and came across a kind of soft ball. He instantly felt caressed all over his body and licked on his cheek and ear. At the same time he felt shrouded by a heavy and suffocating fragrance. He forgot to continue crying. The overwhelming being next to him began unbuttoning his shirt with her mouth; she planted kisses like mattery breathers on his hairy chest, as hungry lips glided beneath the cotton. A car-brake noise was heard and the light came suddenly on. Innocent gave a frightened cry. A being like a green octopus was wriggling on top of him; a woman of 150 kg, in a dress with a leaf patterns on it. He catapulted out of the cinema. “It’s back on, the good part is only just beginning!” said someone behind him. He went straight home. In front of his apartment building there were two cops. Innocent slowed down and quietly passed by them. He took the stairs up to his flat, not the elevator.
“Should I make you something to eat?” asked his wife.
“I’m not hungry!” he said and disappeared into the closet. He searched for some masonry tools: a plastering trowel, a bucket, a chisel etc. Then, he locked himself in the small bathroom and did not leave it all afternoon, making some terrible racket repeatedly.
“What are you doing back there?” asked his wife through the door.
He did not answer. He came out come night time and turned off all the lights in the house, including the TV ignoring the fact that his wife was in the middle of watching the weather program. He looked out the window, after which he went outside, in the apartment building’s yard. He returned to the flat with an armful of bricks. He repeated the trip several times, always bringing with him more bricks, cement, binder, sand.
“What are you doing?” his wife kept asking him, but seeing that he wasn’t going to answer him, she went to bed. She didn’t manage to get too much sleep because of the noises in the bathroom and the knocking in the pipes from their neighbours.
In the morning, she found her husband sleeping on his side in the narrow space of the bathroom, still holding a plastering trowel; he had taken out the stool, leaving only a hole in the floor; he had walled up the entire outside wall, blocking in even the small ventilation window. From what she could gather, the lady understood he meant to line the walls with a layer of bricks, but to what end, she could not understand; the husband woke up.
“Should I give you something to eat? Or something against your headache?” his consort asked him.
“I don’t have a headache!” he said and walked away.
The lady went to work. Innocent came back home with a van; its driver helped him carry in the apartment the objects he had bought: a massive iron door, a giant lock, a hammer, a poker, a few tin plates and a mug. The driver asked him:
“Are you working there?”
“There!” said the driver, gesturing with his hands over his belly.
Innocent started working. He took out the flimsy door, that out of plywood with an opaque window he had at the bathroom, and put in its place the heavy iron door, which had a very small window (the size of a handkerchief), protected by some solid grates. The window opened from the outside. Innocent fixed in place, with heavy bolts, the massive hinges of the door. After everything was ready, he put the plates and bedpan inside and took out the globe from the ceiling, leaving the light bulb without any protection, and then he changed that one too, with a brighter one; he checked to see if the key turned easily in the lock, both on the inside and on the outside, and oiled it thoroughly with Vaseline; he tried the bolt (which had loops only on the outside), oiled it as well; the he locked himself in and stood inside for about eight hours, with the door locked, refusing the food his wife (who came home from work in the meantime) wanted to give him through the small window. “What’s wrong with him?” she kept asking herself, pacing through the length of the house and wringing her hands. She decided to call upon a doctor she knew. He remained dumb stricken in front of the improvisation Innocent locked himself in.
“Please see him, doctor!” said the lady.
“Of course, but how do I get to him?”
“Husband, please open the door, it’s for your own good!”
“Only I know what is good for me and what is not!” said Innocent from the inside.
“Tell me, please,” asked the doctor, “are you all right?”
“Excellent!” came the reply.
“Are you hurt in any place?”
“Are you in pain?”
The doctor wrote something in a notebook and told the lady:
“Your husband is perfectly healthy!”
“OK, but what if there is something wrong with his head?”
The doctor though about it for a moment, then he came closer to the window and he looked inside. Innocent made some silly faces, trying to also make his ears move at the same time, just as he used to do sometimes, when he was a little boy. The doctor said in a heartbeat:
“Don’t you worry, there’s nothing wrong with him!”
The lady paid for the consultation and the doctor left. It was late, past midnight.
“Do you want me to make your bed?”
“No! Sleep tight!”
“Can I ask you something?”
Innocent did not answer and the lady closed her ear to the cold metal door.
What could he tell his wife? Innocent thought. There are thoughts so personal that they cannot even be shared. And what if the police had uncovered something? It will get to that, eventually!
Innocent asked a relative from Rahova to come live with them for a while. He was a former district attorney, named Bludgeon. Despite being old he proved to be very strong and healthy. Every morning we would chop wood for all the neighbours who lived in the old house in the surrounding area (he lived in an apartment building).
The man took up residence in the free room Innocent used as library. They drank two litters of wine the first night he came live there and they got tipsy.
“If you want me to train you, you need to follow my instructions to the letter. Sign the agreement.”
“But here it says Will!”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“When do we begin?”
“Now! You go and sweep the street!”
“But it’s nighttime!”
Bludgeon went to his room and fell right to sleep, and Innocent pleaded with the sanitation crew from the street to lend him a broom. After half an hour of work he threw the broom away and came back to the apartment, lying next to his wife. Several seconds later he woke up thrown on the floor.
“What are you doing here, you filth? What order did I give you?”
“Well I… I mean we… I…”
“Shut up! Get in your cell!”
Innocent gathered himself and went in the bathroom he set up as detention cell and sat directly down, on the ice cold floor tile. Bludgeon yelled at him through the little window:
“Stand up! Attention!”
Innocent’s wife appeared behind him, crying:
“But what did he do?” she babbled.
“He knows!” said Bludgeon harshly.
In the morning, someone rang the doorbell. It was a policeman.
Innocent, who had just been released from his cell, rushed to grab the man’s hand, twisting and turning it:
“Really, it’s not necessary, please believe me! I didn’t do anything wrong, and even if I did, I punish myself as it is! If you’d like, I can show you that I have made myself a detention cell, set up by the highest European standards. Don’t take me, I’m begging you, let me punish myself!”
“Are you Bludgeon?”
“No! I’m just a poor man!”
The former district attorney came out of his room and asked what all the commotion was all about. The policeman told him to leave the premises.
Innocent’s wife explained her husband she called the police.
“Now it’s going to be even harder!” said Innocent.
He has displayed in the kitchen a list of forbidden foods. Because he had broken his own rules by eating mushrooms (seeing the velouté his wife had made he couldn’t resist the temptation) he punished himself for four days. What, do they give you mushrooms in there?
After he had faithfully fulfilled his time in the cell, he crashed onto the marriage bed, unshaven, tired, hungry and weakened, and began thinking he had only a few days of vacation left. And suddenly, all his being revolted against his punishment, as if it didn’t come from him. “In the end, what will be will be! I still cannot get used to something like that! And truthfully, why should I torment myself twice, once now and secondly after a potential conviction?”
He decided to free himself. He will make himself a nice steak, after which he will drink two glasses of dark wine, and before that, three glasses of plum brandy! (which was on the forbidden list).
Easier said than done, but the key would not budge: it was stuck in s different position and would not budge not even a millimeter, one side or the other. His wife, who was always near, asked him through the door:
“Do you want something, dear?”
“Yes!” he screamed. “Of course I do! And namely, I want to get out of here! Isn’t it normal?”
“Of course, I’ll go make you something good to eat!” said the lady.
“Can’t you see that I cannot come out? The door is stuck!”
“And what do you want me to do?”
“Go get the locksmith!”
Innocent waited with a blistering impatience. The minutes that separated him from his freedom seemed like forever.
The lady returned after about an hour, together with a scrawny man, dressed in overalls.
“But this is a true cell!” said the newcomer.
“So what? You just push the lock so that my husband can get out of there!”
“But what is he doing in there?”
“What do you care? You just do your job, that’s what I’m paying you for!” said the lady.
“You said that it was a bathroom door!”
“Open the door already, man, come on!?” shouted from the inside Innocent.
“Stop yelling, I didn’t put you in there! Go figure! Dear lady, let me tell you, this is no bathroom door!”
“Man, are you going to get busy or not?”
“But who built this cell, which maybe does not even match the legal requirements?”
“Why do you care?”
“I care! Who ever built this type of cage is not right in his head! What if I take him out of there and he hits me over the head?”
Eventually the locksmith opened the door. After the men left, Innocent ran after him.
“My man, please forgive me! You are right! Look, I promise you I will get back in the cell and I will not come out of there!
“Get away from me, man, and leave me alone! Go where you want, you’re free!”
“That’s just it, I’m not!”
Innocent locked himself in the cell and did not leave it for years. He had brought in his TV which he only watched two hours a day. In the morning he ate black bread with marmalade. At lunch beans or cabbage. In the evening tea and a sesame bagel. The TV broke down, but he didn’t ask for it to be fixed. After a very long time, he realized he did not know what date it was. He came out of his cell and stumbled over a furniture piece. He called after his wife, but she was nowhere to be found. He went into the street. He looked at the world in fascination. A lot of young, beautiful women. He no longer can abstain himself. When he figured out what date it was (he had seen an electric billboard) his face lighted. He had been in detention for far too long for what he had done. In the park he had reached, he saw a beautiful woman sitting on the bench alone. He went determinately towards her. He had served enough to count for a rape as well.