by Ioana Jucan
A Prelude to The Bottle and the Fly
“Good day, my dearest ladies and gentlemen. I/we/you/they are broadcasting live today – right this minute, though perhaps with a slight delay that, nonetheless, has no bearing whatsoever on the course of the events – from our so well-known – indeed most popular – Field of Protests and Revolts. It is a beautiful summer day, ladies and gentlemen – as you can so well see, in fact – the most beautiful day we’ve had so far this year. I would not be completely honest, however, if I didn’t tell you that it is unbearably hot here. So damn hot! To such a degree that all our cameramen are sweating like donkeys in the desert and even my-self is not necessarily, well, entirely, … hmmm …, cool.
Anyways, LIVE (with emphasis) from the Field of Protests and Revolts, we will allow you to watch a very important event. This event, as you know already, has been prepared with the greatest impossible care in the world, has been minutely and meticulously planned in the most insignificant of its details since time immemorial by the farmers of our nation – in a word, ladies and gentlemen, by the pride of our nation. This event, as you don’t know already, but you’ll find out in no time, has been officially baptized the, quote, ‘National-Tending-To-Be-International Great Farmers’ Protest-On-Its-Way-To-Become-An-Outright-Revolt’, end quote, and by this name your children and grandchildren will be sure to read about it in our most famous books of history-in-the-making.
Do not panic! I repeat, do not panic! This is the message of the leader of all the farmers gathered on the Field of Protests and Revolts today. We will do no harm as long as this is not necessary. It all depends on the feedback we receive, on the time it takes the authorities to provide the desired feedback, and – first and foremost – on the impact that our National-Tending-To-Be-International Great Farmers’ Protest-On-Its-Way-To-Become-An-Outright-Revolt will make on the active population within and without the nation.
Ladies and gentleman, there is therefore no reason to worry. Yet. But, to be completely honest, we can never know what shall come and go. The spirits here are getting high and hot. So hot that you can boil and egg at the vapors that make up the surrounding atmosphere.
Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, keep close to your/our TV screens and keep your glance as inquisitive and keen as never before. In no time, I will step out of the frame that I am currently proudly occupying and your visual field will increase to the n-th degree. Exponentially. At the point in no time at which it will reach the n-th degree, I will have stepped out of frame and the National-Tending-To-Be-International Great Farmers’ Protest-On-Its-Way-To-Become-An-Outright-Revolt will have invaded your comfortable houses. With all my soul, I wish you to enjoy!”
The Field of Protests and Revolts is a far-reaching piece of land, stretching from the railway tracks to the Great Palace of the People, cutting across the heart of the city that serves as seat of power, glory, story, etc., etc., etc. … It was invented thirteen years ago by the illuminated mind of a group made up quite by accident of a few members of the Parliament: proud representative figures of the People. The initiative had the secret purpose – not officially disclosed to this very day – of preventing spontaneous protests and revolts of any kind, and was well received by the People who – generally – didn’t have the slightest hunch about what might have been lying behind the patriotic proposal. Heavily supported, the Plan was brought into being in record time and, ever since, madly used without abuse. A recent survey has concluded – on solid grounds – that the Field of Protests and Revolts (along with toilet paper and toothpicks) is one of the most frequently used of all public goods. Reliable sources have informed the population that the Field of Protests and Revolts has been booked for the next thirty months and that the booking fee would be inevitably raised for the purposes of employing more faithful citizens to handle the incessant requests.
The Field of Protests and Revolts is a beautiful piece of nature, with the turf clearly cut and carefully irrigated, with all its trees cut and sent away forever to be turned into furniture, with its soil rich – though not virgin. Despite its rather impressive area, the Field of Protests and Revolts is an intimate place where all little lovers dream to spend their first night together. But they never can, and never will, for the Field of Protests and Revolts is so well guarded that not even an ant could step over it without being identified and punished accordingly. So, when not in use, the Field of Protests and Revolts sleeps its peaceful sleep under the vigilant lights of the loyal guardians of nature.
To this day, stepping on the Field of Protests and Revolts has remained an event with life-changing potential. The group assembled on this summer day – with its sun leaking and dripping from the sky – is thoroughly aware of the importance of the present moment and situation and, even though not necessarily eager to show it, tries to make the most of both. The group is larger than usually on other similar days of protest and revolt, but not as large as it should be in order to cover the entire Field from one end to the other. In fact, all the official inhabitants of a medium-sized town would be needed to cover every single spot of the field and this is, certainly, not feasible: apart from a couple of imaginary towns, no other middle-sized towns can be thought of in which each and every possible pair of two inhabitants get along so well with one another that they accept to take part in the same event – together.
The group assembled on this very summer day is large, impatient, and hot. From a distance, it looks like a round flying spaceship stuck to the ground. The members of the group – supposedly the best farmers of the nation – make up circular and concentric disciplined layers, whose center coincides perfectly with the center of the Field of Protests and Revolts. Marvelous but not altogether accidental achievement! For, weeks before the event, the leaders of the group made exact measurements of the field and modeled it in clay. They also planned an exact arrangement of the participant protesters on the Field and modeled it in clay. As rehearsals of the event prior to the scheduled date are virtually impossible due to the large number of requests, the farmers of the nation were forced to reduce the scale (and dimension) in order to rehearse the event on paper and, eventually, in their heads. They thought intensely of the arrangement of bodies on the Field as – naturally – closing upon the pièce de résistance of their model.
Having started off as a relatively disciplined group, the protesters have just increased the level of intensity of their voices and anger. Their demands and complaints are flowing incessantly as if from a broken tap. Seen from a helicopter potentially surveying the Field from the deep blue sky for safety purposes, the hands of the farmers – raised in the air at precisely determined intervals – appear to be nearly rotten branches of old trees whose life dried away as a result of heavy deforestation: branches like hands and like fingers of farmers raised in the air on the Field of Protests and Revolts.
At precisely determined intervals, all the chests move forward and backward, the chests of the farmers in the exterior rows pushing the backs of the farmers in the rows which, growing smaller and smaller, tend toward the center, closer and closer; and then the other way around, the backs of the framers in the interior rows, pushing the chests of the farmers in the exterior rows. The protesters’ passion and discipline will probably not be written about in history books, memorable though it is.
The protesters’ voices cannot be heard distinctly, except when they time themselves well enough and form an original chorus that is likely to shatter the windows of the neighboring buildings and, more importantly, of the Great Palace of the People. For the rest of the time, however, a curious listener can pick up only bits and pieces of shouted words carried away by the tired wind, such as “water”, “shit”, “God”, “hunger”, “bread”, “fuck”, “hate”, “money”, “life” – “life”, “money”, “hate”, “fuck”, “bread”, “hunger”, “God”, “shit”, “water”.
The act is in the making and it shall be great. The particles of the flying spaceship stuck to the ground are in Brownian motion and their agitation increases just as the leakage from the sky gets increasingly unbearable. But any movement outward or inward is strictly prohibited. The disciplined particles are moving on the spot. Difficult as it is for them to open their mouths and produce the very same pre-assigned sound – a pre-assigned string of words wittily put together by the great leaders of the farmers, ahead of their time – the protesters’ appetite for discussion is stirred to the n-th degree. They know too well that the event that is taking place just now through their bodies and voices will be great and they feel that, in order for it to be truly so, it must not be spoken about while still in the making. But the temptation is almost irresistible and the danger is a playful occurrence they are so used to that they think it is not even worth taking the risk seriously. The pleasure of the word spoken freely, spontaneously, from the depth of the living body, coming out to life through the wide-open mouth lures the imagination like a glass of red wine mixed with water. And stirred with a teaspoon.
A somewhat younger and more inexperienced protester in the exterior layer – the widest – grows so impatient with desire that he bursts. He turns his head around and stretches his neck but cannot immediately identify anyone with whom he might dare to speak. He searches desperately – his imagination full to the brim with desire. Purely accidentally and totally unexpectedly, the protester in front of the young and the restless farmer bends forward to lace his shoes: meticulously. This blessed gesture opens the young farmer’s perspective towards the center of the arrangement/spaceship stuck to the ground. In its straight trajectory, his glance meets a former very good friend of his, at present holding the status of “acquaintance”.
“Nel! Hey, Nel! Turn ‘round, you cow! Neeeelll!”
The voices in the background – louder and more radical in their demands and complaints than ever before – interfere with the uttered words, distorting them with impunity.
In spite of all the obstacles, Nel’s super-ear captures the distorted call. The string of words gets to his head in no time and Nel spontaneously turns it around. His eyes meet the red, convulsed flat face of a farmer whose well-coordinated opening of the mouth and uttering of the words are so well timed that they seem automated. Naturally, Nel’s initial instinct is to turn his head back to its rightful place as soon as humanly possible. No sense of guilt yet burdens his consciousness (or lack thereof), but the anticipation of it makes his hair rise on his spine. Before completing the well-intended act of turning, however, a hand with stretched fingers appears all too unexpectedly from the back of the flat-faced farmer and catches Nel by the nose with all its might. Nel is too frightened to shout or move, so he freezes. A head appears all too unexpectedly from the back of the flat-faced protester and smiles at Nel with disarming innocence. The young farmer and Nel share the beautiful moment together, smiling at one another with relief; the clenched fingers release the smashed nose; peace is eventually restored – though, in the background, the spirits get higher and hotter.
“Nel, man, I’m so glad you finally heard me.”
“Quite by accident, I can assure you.”
“Quite by skill, I can assure you. I barely heard myself, so you must have a super-human ability to capture sounds or otherwise you wouldn’t have heard any word at all.”
“You are quite mistaken, I can assure you”, replies Nel, offended by the allusion to his long ears.
“Anyways, I give up. This is no time for arguing about those all too insignificant aspects of life”, shouts the young and inexperienced farmer, sensing that the sounds he produces get increasingly absorbed by the voices of the fairly recently assembled collectivity.
“I agree”, Nel replies somewhat dismissively.
“Wait, man! Listen!”, the young and restless exclaims somewhat desperately.
“I can hardly hear you”, lies Nel. “Speak up and be short. I am in, as you see!”
“Listen, Nel! I feel that this is an important moment in my life and in the history of this nation. Don’t you? Really! My heart is jumping up and down inside me and I feel it now in the throat, now in the belly. I burn with desire to share this with you. Because you are my friend, Nel. Because I am not sure at all if I’m right that this is a moment in time that will change our lives for good, or if I’m wrong. What do you think? Nel? Answer me, Nel! Is it a misperception, or is it the naked truth? I think it is the naked truth, Nel! Nel?! Nel? Neeellllll …”
But Nel does not answer and never will. The delightful exchange of ripe words between the two has been forever put on hold. The protest has suddenly reached its unplanned climax and is on the brink of turning into an outright revolt. Suddenly, the concentric circles are broken – their imperfect circularity forever shattered. From inside out, the arrangement opens beyond the Field of Protests and Revolts to reveal its pièce de résistance to the TV cameras. Slowly, as it had been rehearsed in thought so many other times before. Gently, with all the protesters at the breaking point turning in the same antiquated rhythm.
Slowly, gently … like the lips of two lovers that never kissed before …
A 180-degree-turn, half a complete circle …
One careful move and the cameras will capture that which their lenses have never seen before.
Gently, slowly … like a door that opens for the first time …
“The cow is dead!” A desperate cry – and one only – breaks the silence of the cherished act of tense waiting into pieces.
“Long live the donkeys!” fills the cracks: uttered by mouths that open so regularly and incompletely that they seem automated, as if these words themselves had been pre-assigned during the exhausting mental rehearsals.