Undoing

by Oxana Silviu [Romania]

Translation from Romanian by A.C. Clarke and Iris Butnariu

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I walked slowly towards the counter. He was already there. I just have to close my eyes for a second and the entire scene starts rolling again … I took out a crumpled sheet of paper from my pocket and I stuck it through the  half – closed window.

 

– Complaint, right?

 

I did not answer him. I sighed like an old man and I went back to watch a spider struggle in a web it had fallen into – not its own. I believe every spider has its own secret code, everything that’s made has the ability to recognize its maker. In the case of this particular spider, I could see that it was desperately trying to understand, to work it out. At the same time, the conviction that his effort was useless, that the battle was taking place on a field no spider had ever conquered, was made obvious by its desperation.

 

– I can’t understand you … You have been living for so long among people and you have yet to understand basic issues.  Why did you get so close to the man you have filed this complaint against ? I quote:  I could have listened to him day and night, I would copy his gestures, words,  my clothes  were similar in color and pattern to his… The girl I chose to love looked almost exactly like his wife…

 

– She’s a person who could carry it off well. She has everything I have ever wanted!     I interrupted

 

The spider host sat quietly in a dark corner. You could see nothing but indifference in its attitude.

 

– Ok, but life is much more than behavior and clothes.  How could you believe that something like this would work ?!

 

The sheet of paper in his hand looked like a note. His eyes were running fast over the lines, deliberately ignoring the individual words. I didn’t understand a thing – what went on there wasn’t my business after all.  After a while, he started delicately laying out the ideas on the white table with a pair of tweezers. Some were long and colorless, others seemed warm, blue or reddish… He finished quickly and then opened a drawer and tossed them in. He kept only a single short thread. He put it on the keyboard and began typing at an amazing speed.

 

– Stop by tomorrow!

 

There is nothing harder to bear than a tomorrow that could mean anything. I could feel the truth of that myself, a man whose world had crumbled just a few hours before. And everything had been calculated; the entire construction was built on such firm foundations! The hardest struggle was to believe. It was insane, but you had to believe this insanity in order to go on. I managed to believe. Everything started to have a shape; the light was getting stronger and stronger, and my steps were getting more confident. In a short time, this whole endeavor became  a life’s task. I recalculated hundreds of times and there was nothing that could get in the way. I became  free of all human responsibility. I fixed my mind  on the best possible outcome, at most on everything going according to plan.

 

Let us assume I was once one of those people who had everything and because of God knows what curse, it all turned into nothing, into an intolerable burden. I then took this big X and placed it in a setting that was fitting for the game that was to follow. I made it like me, a meaningless individual, subject to an inertia which was rapidly approaching zero.

 

I knew everything about him and he had no idea I even existed. The game began to interest me a lot.  It all went perfectly, until the moment I clearly understood that the miracle I believed possible in my life, had occurred in his life. I do not know how it happened, but the point where everything crumbled in my existence, had had no effect whatsoever on his life. He had crossed over and was now experiencing a level I no longer had access to. I could not stand that. My misfortune was painfully increased when I learned that I had no control over the game. The rules had suddenly changed, and my role had almost ceased to matter.

 

The plan was not simple at all:  the entire world had to see him as a big liar, whose existence jeopardized the basic structure of society itself. I would draw attention to his origins. I would then pursue this thread and someone, no matter who, would realize that everything was false, that his achievements were not real, that beyond them was only decay: the next scene would be a huge scaffold. This mechanism could not work, after all, if I backed out. It would be like a disconnected system. The life of a battery is limited. The satisfaction? I believe it is every person’s duty to destroy what he has created and cannot control anymore! Unless… But that’s impossible. after all, it is not about satisfaction.

 

The spider was going through the exact same things as I was. The web did not break, obviously.  The host spider made  itself more comfortable. Waiting … a scene in which indifference, whether absent or present, plays the key role. You just have to focus on this role, to resolve the absurd situation. Someone stuck  a piece of yellow paper on the window, saying: Do not disturb! I watched the neat movements of the person sitting at the desk.

 

– What are you waiting for?

 

Without saying a word I pointed at the notice on the yellow paper. He looked at me attentively, ignoring my gesture.

 

– I will not allow this to happen. I thought you were smarter than this.

 

I opened the door of the small office and I went in. It was warm and it smelled like a hospital that had recently been disinfected.  I sat on the chair next to the central heating.

 

– There you are, he said, handing me a file.

 

When I was a child, my father made a kite. It took him an entire day to do it. No detail was left out. Then he took a brush and started painting. He called me near him and uncovered the small painting. He gave me his hand and helped me get down into the painting. I sat near a well made of grey stone; I stretched my arms so much that the tips of my fingers reached beyond the edges of the painting. My father was smiling. I want you to put it on the wall in my room! He did not answer. He circled the head of a man with the tip of his pencil. After he had searched the drawers of an old cabinet he came back with a magnifying glass. He put it in the palm of my hand. The face immediately became the center of the painting. In fact, it became the center of the world…Father went out of the narrow gate of the garden and never came back. In that context, his gesture seemed  painfully appropriate.

 

No! Vibrated on the strings of my soul, whose existence I had not realized until then, and ran through my whole body, regardless of anatomical boundaries. It was not despair. Despair is completely rational. What grew inside me, was uncontrollable. Moreover, it was something unknown to me and to the world that was part of me. After a few minutes, there was silence, a thick blanket of silence that weighed on me. Naturally, I was not happy with it. However, there was no more room for questions. I was practically the answer to every question that might come up. I did not open the file. I put it on the edge of the desk and got ready to leave.

 

– Wait, he whispered.

 

He got up slowly and picking up a hammer he started to walk through a corridor, asking me to follow him. He stopped somewhere in the middle. He became nervous all of a sudden. He apologized, then grabbed me by the sleeve and took me back to the window of the counter. The spider victim had grown tired in the meantime. Struggling to get loose, he had managed to spin a refuge out of his own web in one of the corners of the web into which he had fallen. He was now still looking directly at the small dot which was moving its web almost imperceptibly.

 

I watched the scene for a few minutes, fascinated by it.

 

– Come on!

 

We turned towards the tunnel. The green light made it seem like everything was happening slower than in reality. My pulse went crazy. Things would change soon, there were only a few score meters to go. I knew the man wanted to tell me something, but he could not unless I asked him to. I carefully avoided his look. We finally stopped in front of an iron door. He took his jacket off like a craftsman who, though an expert at his trade, has realized the complexity of the situation. A few big, gleaming locks hung impassable. Grabbing the hammer, he started to strike them. Every blow sounded hollow, as if the locks were part of the door, of the tunnel…

 

–  Let me help you!

 

– There is no hurry, do you understand? That is why, the tunnel, the light, the pulse! Every second…But what am I doing here?

 

He continued hammering until one of the locks broke. He opened the door wide. He looked surprised as he tried to put his jacket back on. Eventually, he turned to me and handed me the hammer. However, he quickly took it back. Without even looking at me, he rushed through the opened door.

 

I feel good at the desk. I have taken the piece of yellow paper off the window. It prevented me from seeing the spider web. Every day, they bring me a plate of boiled potatoes and a new fork. I have hung the kite-painting on the northern wall. Sometimes it still smells like a hospital.

 

 

 ***

 

 

 

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