by Coriolan Chelu [Romania]
translated from Romanian by: Angela Kirby & Mirona Palas [MTTLC student]
pentru versiunea română click aici
You know I have been at the seaside this summer but I haven’t told you what came next. How I entered the block of flats with my luggage on my back and how my neighbour asked me where I’d come from.
‘I’ve been to the seaside.’
‘Have you been travelling round the country?’
‘Something like that. But, you know, I didn’t reach Botoşani*.’
‘And what were you doing in Botoşani?’
‘I‘ve just told you, I didn’t get there.’
Approximate quotations. No hidden meanings, only my absolutely impeccable elocution, mixed with the nothingness I was willing to communicate – and with her maximum attention, to which you could add possible auditory lacunae.
I was amused to imagine the meanings of my first answer as understood by a listener. Any guess, Annie Guess, etc, etc, etc… Even the way I quoted myself, only with a more oenological meaning. Who else, apart from me, would have epiphile preoccupations like this? Well, Master Cosaşu** would, but as he was not present… Mea culpa: I just realized I did not read his two newspaper articles while I was away, therefore acacia and orache will grow on my tomb. Besides, I was tired, hungry, sick, fed up with my luggage, sad and – what I hated most – drumatized. I want to travel, I like seeing new places, but the voyage, theoretically (especially when it’s not just theoretical but practical and actual), kills me, I feel like a drum after a crazy solo, even after discovering the green placebo***. I am too sensitive for my own good. I often notice it, but I indulge myself in it, instead of taking radical measures. Opportunity of jokes for the social environment.
But you already understand this, because we have known and have been putting up with each other for so long. Let me tell you about the sea. Some memories are just too fresh, although a week and a day have passed since then. Yes, and a day, it’s a pity about that day! It could have been different. Have I used drugs at the seaside? Nobody asked me such a thing, although my favourite joke – when I am asked what I did yesterday/this morning/on Sunday – is showing the inner part of my elbows, the place where all my veins have not been pricked. ‘Have you swum in the sea?’ This is one hell of a question and I kept landing on it, accompanied by smiles. Everybody knows my star sign is Pisces, and I am often in contradiction, especially, with myself (© some colleague whose name, obviously, I could not remember).
‘I, the undersigned, hereby certify that I have not swum in the sea.’
Short and crisp, without useless and alleged exaggerations. But even now, does anyone believe me? ‘Have you at least sunbathed?’ is another Leitmotiv of friendly questioning.
‘Have you been on the beach?’
‘No, man, he was with his woman all day long, but he won’t tell.’
‘But maybe he lay in the sun with her.’
‘I’d rather listen to you and make no comments; you decide if I got sun-tanned or not.’ ’You can see that when you are in your underwear’ said the one I confused.
‘Wait until you see me in my underwear,’… what else should I have answered them? People are curious and I am playing the mysterious guy. ‘What did you do at the seaside, man?’, ‘What’s her name?’, ‘You can’t have been there all alone for so long!’, ‘If I managed to hook up, I can’t believe you have not…’ What if I isolated myself elsewhere to write?
‘So, what’s her name? If you want to bring her up here, we can work it out somehow.’ Haggio was speaking and now he is passing the ball on to me. I am volleying it into the net. ‘Figure out for yourself what I did at the seaside and who I was with.’
A character passing by, who looked like Romby, somebody I used to know, called out, agreeing with the undersigned, whom he saw on or from a terrace, depending on the source.
This mutual reaction has not recurred since he left the area. If somebody met this character afterwards, Haggio would most certainly stand up for himself. Therefore, their meeting in Cluj was inevitable and expected. I do not know what Romby’s namesake saw, but the rumour that reached my ears focuses only on me, not on the other characters. I have not yet begun to ask have I really been at the seaside? but since the future is unpredictable, you never know.
‘Come on, tell us what you’ve been doing there! Who have you been with?’
This is how friends are: if you cannot express yourself, they help you with it. But since I am pretty uncooperative, other sources are resorted to. The one I have not called Romby, not even Zombie, as I might have been tempted to, wrote to others as well to say that I had trespassed on his visual field.
‘Hey dude, this guy saw you at the shore.’
The one I confused is peaceful and calm, an amiable guy. Too bad he is leaving us soon. It has nothing to do with resting one’s soul in peace. I do not even know if he asked me something else. Or if he added anything to it. I do not think so. The same with HBo. Snowblack did, on the other hand, being curious about which woman I spent my days at the seaside with. My lines were pretty banal, otherwise I would have bragged about them, and useless, because he still believes what he thinks he has grasped from the outpourings of the rumour mill that reached his ears. I might have told him I had written my memoirs. I told Haggio there had been three instead of one. That I remembered. I have not mentioned what exactly there were three of. But it is hard to reproduce details right now, because days have gone by, and my memory has one skill, which – although it often acts like an excuse – is always present, that of being frequently absent from duty. You knew it, no? How many times have we not sabotaged our plans, because I either forgot or have not remembered? I sometimes make fun of the fact that there will come a day when I do not recognise you, nor myself in the mirror, but this gentle joke does not provoke my laughter. N’Orbrolin knows it, though it is funny that I did not look for him at the seaside during the five or six days when I had the chance to see him there. I have not forgotten about myenemy, told him that I might look for him, but such a coincidence was the one thing excluded from the isolation I had subjected myself to, and it did not allow us to run into each other. It, the coincidence I mean… Now, don’t you start thinking like the others! Not you too!
I wanted to be absent for a while, to detach myself from the matrix I had infiltrated without being aware of. It is said that everyone sometimes feels the need for total relaxation, to be far away and disconnected from everything. I almost experienced something of this kind. Some urgent problems and some promises made me go to the Internet café at the seaside three times, but I consider these to be isolated and victimless events, though when the show keeps repeating itself or is too long, the audience, however many great fans it contains, shows signs of unrest and boredom. Fans, a show – and if I say I want to grow my hair long there always seems to be some reaction. But, as with drugs, literature and separation, it’s always the same old story: ‘What’s her name?’ My answers are also clichés: ‘whom?’ ‘figure out on your own’, ‘no comment’… Has there really been a ‘she’ I went to the seaside with this summer? Are you not asking yourself the same question?
It may seem funny that I am soliloquizing right now while writing to you, without adding my responses. In the end, who cares? Whatever I stated about what I had done at the seaside also contains, among other contradictions and mixed words, a ‘you would be disappointed in me if you found out what I had done there’ masterpiece. Am I really disappointed with what I have done at the seaside? No, I’m not. Anyway, nobody asked me. A conclusion that I leave to anyone for the sake of articulation will follow. Can anyone be disappointed if I slept and lazed about? Any of those who do not know what I did at the seaside?
I remember one of my mother’s lines when I returned home: ‘Now tell me!’ What was there to tell? I have been away from home for two weeks, I did not get bored, I did not miss anyone or anything, and I quit the daily bombardment of music and information. Which I did not miss, even if I have taken to it again now, though in a more diluted way – and I have not even watched the national soccer team play. I ate burrito and watermelons, and even went on the sea. A dream of mine, related to concerts turned into reality in a form that was close to what I was dreaming of, and I liked it, I had a great time and sometimes I felt stupid, I even had a cold shower, I mixed with people, some of them rejecting, others accepting. I saw myself differently and I would like myself more often this way, I recovered some of my lost sleep days… Have I been there just to have something to write about? Why not? I know you think I am capable of that.
You may tell me that this style is not mine or that recent or past readings or other hairy mammals influenced me. The ideal thing would be to answer by plagiarizing old Ceauşescu, but who knows anything about the great national gathering**** nowadays, and by the time I have explained the whole thing, I would have been all alone. Is that not what I wished for? People are kind of boring to me, with a very few exceptions, I admit, and I think they all know it. Will you eventually ask me what I was doing there or will you be waiting for me to begin telling you spontaneously? Sometimes, the future shines upon the past, and whoever is on the right track can sift the story from among the words in which I am hiding it, in order to keep it for myself. You know that I am selfish, self-centred, egofagus, egophilus, egophobe, that I am interested in and usually amused by other people’s suppositions about me. ‘How come you’ve got long hair and you don’t smoke?’ was one of the best ever.
Maybe in two days from now there will be pictures of me at the seaside, but because of the crowds nobody will notice whether I was single or not. However intrigued the ones around me are regarding my holidays, none of those going to the seaside will search for my tracks. It would be stupid to waste their time there with such things. Even if, allegedly, one of them was staying at the same robbers as I was, when sleeping by the sea, do you think anyone remembered me? And supposing I was with a girl, knowing my taste in women, do you think someone would have noticed me, when all eyes would be on her?
What a long rigmarole, I hope that what these guys are doing to me has amused you too. Talk soon. Even about all this.
* – town in the northeastern part of Romania, more than 500km away from the Black Sea
** – important Romanian writer, master of quibbles, who is also a columnist of the most important Romanian sports newspaper
*** – some green pills against nausea
**** – the Romanian Parliament during the communist regime