by Augustin Cupşa
translation from Romanian by Andreea Geanina Velicu [MTTLC student]
pentru versiunea română click aici
Marin Burlacu. He is old, tall and lean. He doesn’t know the meaning of hard labour, either around the household or in the field. He was a technical workshop trainer at a school complex. His cheeks and his bulky, copper-nose are red, which indicate a very happy and prolonged alcohol consumption.
He lives in Ghimpaţi. He sits on the bench in front of his fence. At a distance, the ruddy field soughs. There are wheat fields. They haven’t grown too much this year either. At Ghimpaţi it seldom rains and never enough. The sun is almost setting, everything flows between orange and lurid and the other way around.
A car passes down the street. Otherwise, there’s no one else. Only Marin Burlacu, the technical workshop trainer, now retired. He is wearing a checkered shirt, with short sleeves and his arms pop out, skinny and look like two melted candles lit for the souls of thedead. He gets up and he waves his right arm towards the car. The other one is leaning on a cane. The car stops, the window goes down. Marin Burlacu asks the driver what was the name of his car . Mitsubishi Pajero was the answer. Marin Burlacu repeats the name as if he wanted to remember it. He wants to know the drivers name. Octavian Stoian. And the one of the passenger on the right. Delia Lumpaci. He scratches his ear and he walks away babbling the name.
The driver asks him if he was a policeman. The old man walks towards his yard and a nasty swear is heard behind him. He walks into the yard after him, he catches up with him and gives him a dig in the ribs.
Burlacu goes inside the house, gets in the back room, takes a notebook and a pencil, flicks through the notebook, finds the last blank page, dips the pencil in saliva and writes – Delia Lumpaci, Octavian Stoian and Miţubişi Pahero. He has a shaky handwriting, with wide letters leaning to the right. He looks calmly out the window, with a heavy lift taken off his chest. A tiny cloud appears above the horizon. He gets up from the table and he sticks his head to the window. He anxiously returns to the table and starts flicking through the notebook. There are already almost two hundred written pages. Names, written one over the other. He cannot afford to waste space in vain because he has a lot to write. He has about two hundred notebooks piled up like at the state archives. They’re all notebooks with drip paper.
This started three years ago. Ever since he has been writing down names. Names of streets, towns, people, cars, diseases, birds, woods, saints, wars, this and that. They come one after the other like rain drops and the rain has a lot of drops. But not in Ghimpaţi. So he needs them all. If he cannot remember a name, he goes quickly to his notebooks and looks for it. If he cannot find it right away, a terrible anxiety comes over him, his hands start shaking. His head is pounding. The skin on his craw flops.
It’s as if a strange hunger was eating him alive.
After he finds it, he sighs of relief. For a short time though, because the wheels start turning again. After he retired he had a bar. He closed it because he drank the most and it was at his cost. Now he can drink on tick at the village pub.
One day he wanted to know the name of his desk colleague. Aurel Popa. His son’s name. Lucian Popa. The name of the others in the class. He went from door to door until he knew all their names. Vasile Turcilă. Vlad Costea. They called him ‘Tească’. Ioana Frăţilă. Iulică Vascu. He died, they don’t know why.
Ion Salciu – here
Ion Vasile – here
Toader Popa – here
Ştefan Edi Florin Irimia. He died of throat aches.
Sorina Gâdea – here
Simion Pandele – here
Gavrilă Popândău – here
Dinu Varga. They called him ‘Crăcilă’. He died when he was 26, hit by a train. He was drunk and he fell asleep on the tracks. Frosa Cârlig. She was far gone.
Mărioara Crăciun – here
Silvia Turcu – here
Sabin Izbaşa. Aurel Constantin Florescu. Evlampia Stegaru. Iulia Tesca. Ion Babanu. Florinel Chivu. Maria Ispas-Gheorghe. Florin Castravete. Claudia Eleonora Hortensia Gavrilă. Gheorghe Tărbacă. Florinel Şaşu. Ion Gioni Ionică. He was a gypsy. They all got up the flume for good reasons.
Marin Burlacu has it all written down. He soaks his forefinger in his mouth and flips the page over. His eyes soak like blotting paper. His mouth is getting dry. One night, three years ago he saw a white light in the field. In the shape of a white light. The light said ‘Is that you, Burlacu?’
‘It’s me’, he said and pulled up his pants.
‘If you ever drink again, I’ll strike you. You have wasted a lot and it is all written here. You tapped the barrels of heaven, you ran to waste good wine in your insatiable craw. You left all the blessed ones to swim around in nothing and to skimp over half a pony. This is it, you filthy blotter!
Now he has belly aches and a moth grew in his neck. It’s a moth which flops when he sits around a lightbulb.
Burlacu knows that it doesn’t rain in Ghimpaţi, so the thunder cannot strike, but he goes into tantrums at the mere sight of a cloud. He thought it over and he realized that he cannot stop drinking. If he did, he would go to rack and ruin. He hasn’t drank all that much, anyway. He started to keep a record of his own. If he meets the thunder, he takes his records and he explains. They will confront the both notebooks and the truth will come out. He has to be well-informed for that. People would be called for explanations. A confusion has been certainly made. He’s looking for someone. Someone he knows. Unfortunately, he can’t remember anything.
He goes out, to the back of the yard. He takes the hatchet and he starts chopping off kindling. He spits in his palms and he starts working. He doesn’t need wood but he has to do something. He hits eagerly. He went to the doctor and he said he was an alcoholic. He went to another doctor and he said he was an alcoholic. He went to the doctor and he said he was an alcoholic. He went to another doctor and he said he was an alcoholic. He went to the doctor and he said he was an alcoholic. He went to another doctor and he said he was an alcoholic. He went to the doctor and he said he was an alcoholic. He went to another doctor and he said he was an alcoholic. He went to the doctor and he said he was an alcoholic. He went to another doctor and he said he was an alcoholic. He went to the doctor and he said he was an alcoholic. He saw a psychiatrist and he said he has the anxiety of death. It’s written in the paper. Meaning you cannot part from the world without wanting to know every name, every person, every rock. Everything.
His pills are called something, but he cannot remember right now. He stopped taking pills because they make his mouth dry and he has to drink too much.
He has never drank more than 2 liters of wine and half a liter of spirit. Maybe, a couple of beers. It had to be a mistake, he mumbles.
The place where there is an empty grave is called cenotaph. It’s written there. He got a dictionary and he copies any word he wants to know. When the cars are stuck in traffic it’s called traffic jam. All the village laughed at him when they saw him carrying the dictionary on the street. The call him – the professor and they bow in front and behind him.
The sun is almost as quenched as a snuff. It flows like oil on the houses, on the eaves, on the fences.
Marin Burlacu is sitting with the hatchet in his hands and he is thinking. He doesn’t remember the name of life’s ending. But surely there is a word for that. He thinks about it ever since he saw the thunder. He feels his heavy breathing. His hands are shaking. His steps are flopping in the scarlet light as he is heading home. Surely he wrote down the word. The name of life’s ending.
He flips through three notebooks. He cants a pile. His stomach aches. He has no more saliva to lick his forefinger. Where is that wine? Surely it must be around here. Tornado. Cavalcade. Scaffold. Seeds. Sun. Worry. Fear. What was the name of life’s ending. Oh, there it is. Marin Burlacu leans back on his chair. He let out a long breath of relief. Like a suppressed cry.
In Gimpati even the train passes more often than the rain. If you want to drink water, you’ll die of thirst.