White Roses

by Cornel Nistea [Romania]
translated from Romanian by: Nigel Walker & Alina-Olimpia Miron
pentru versiunea română click aici


Many years later, I came across T. on the street. She didn’t look well at all. She had lost so much weight and had such a tired appearance, I almost didn’t recognize her. I instantly asked myself: ‘Where had her once exquisite youth and beauty gone?’ We greeted each other as if we were strangers. She took a few steps forward, then suddenly turned her head and looked behind her. A suspicious and almost scared gaze scanned me. I waved at her, although it was more like a wave of farewell. She looked too feeble to walk any further. I realised she wanted to speak to me, so I went to her.
– Hello, T. How are you? Long time no see.
– Indeed…Time flies by. I’m on my way to the pharmacy to buy some vitamins. I think I have some kind of anaemia…
– Come on…you’re still young…you shouldn’t complain about anaemia.
– Is that so? Truth is…I haven’t been feeling very well lately.
– I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s only temporary.
Her eyes studied me insistently, as if she wished to revive the past.
– We were once friends. Do you remember that? she said.
– Are we no longer friends? I asked her in a somewhat doubtful voice.
– I don’t know anymore. I can’t tell. We just meet by accident on the street and greet each other. Once upon a time, we walked together under the same umbrella, in the pouring rain. Do you remember?
– Yes, I do.
– You had been to the market and had bought a bag of cherries.
– Yes, yes, summer had set in and it was raining cats and dogs. I remember it.
– Would you like to walk together a while longer?
– Yes, of course.
She took my arm and we headed towards the park, on one of the pathways or park paths we had once trod together. She stopped next to a little bench under the huge magnolia near a patch of scattered flowers.
– I’m tired. Would you mind if we sat down a bit?
– Of course not. It’s a good idea.
We sat on the bench and she took a chocolate bar out of her bag. She offered it, asking me to take a bite. I shouldn’t refuse her. Her hands had shed the rotund and velvety texture and had become thin and bony. I broke off a piece of chocolate, after which she bit from the bar with certain precaution. She didn’t even look at me. Her blue gaze went far away, beyond the red-tiled roofs of the houses bordering the park.
– The flowerbed doesn’t have the petunias and begonias we would once feast our eyes upon…See?
– It’s still the same patch though. The magnolia has just shaken off its flowers…
The wind had started to blow. Even a few cold raindrops had fallen on our faces from the cloud above. We got to our feet and headed towards the parkway. She wanted to walk a little longer. The wind soon turned into gale. I placed my hand over her arm, as in the old days.
– You know…she began, I’ve recently seen an oncologist. Apparently, I have a bunch of nodules on my right breast. Their evolution is quite unpredictable. The doctors cannot give me a definite diagnosis… I won’t be sorry if I die. I know what I’m dealing with. We buried my first cousin last week. She died of breast cancer too. So many wreaths were brought…What can I say…I’ve bought myself a tomb in the same cemetery…Though it isn’t as nice as hers…I’m so happy we met. Remember when you promised me you’d bring red roses, lots of roses to my tomb should I die?
– Of course I do. But you are not going to die. You’ll live many, many years.
– How sweet of you to encourage me… However, I don’t think there’s any hope left for me…
Her anxiety sent a chill down my spine. We had reached the main road. I had to leave. Business called. She turned her eyes to me.
– Regarding the roses…I’ve changed my mind. If you do come to my funeral, please bring me white roses.


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