by A.R. Deleanu
translation from Romanian by A. C. Clarke and Camelia Aura Barbu [MTTLC student]
Two hours had passed since the man had entered the house, put down his briefcase next to the kitchen table and stood there staring vacantly at the square patch above the sink where there had once been a tile. He could hear tramson the street shaking the windows every quarter of an hour, and he spent a long time chewing his way throughthree cheese sandwiches set out on a plate. The clock had a different tick from the one behind the counter at the post office:that was faster, like a randy stag beetle. The one from home was rather… how was it really? he asked himself, but before he could answer atram would pass the window again and the thought would dissipate. He was calm. As usual. Nothing, but nothing, seemed ever to disturb the familiar sense ofcalm that always came over him late in the afternoon, when he was still dressed in the shabby suit that didn’t fit him any more, his tie patterned with small white letters on a blue background, his glasses discreetly mended with sticky tape. But after he had taken the last bite of his sandwich, he felt a gentle tingling, like a child’s breath, on his neck. He looked around. It was as if someone was watching him intently, but that was silly, he was sure of it, stuff and nonsense, because he was alone in the house and he always had been. What’s more, he wanted it to stay that way. So, whoever was watching him now in the slowly deepening darkness of early evening had better go away as soon as possible, or else… And yet the sensation was hovering in the air around him: someone or something was watching him. He got up from his seat and started walking around the house palpating the electrically charged air as if he had huge antennae on his forehead, feeling, feeling. And now he had reached the bedroom the air tingled even more and he could have sworn, yes, he could have sworn that from there, from the bedroom, someone or something was watching him intently. His eyes fell upon the picture above the bed and he stood there for a long time looking at the deer drinking water from the spring. He went to the picture, took it from the wall, and smiled: from the wall, an eye with a green iris was watching him tenderly. It blinked from time to time, looked left and right, but most of the time looked directly into his eyes. And it was a beautiful eye, the same shade of green as the USA 1898 one cent stamp, or the Canadian 1910 one, or the French 1907 five centimes one. He thought of taking out the stamps from the album on the shelf, putting them next to the eye and comparing them with a magnifying glass as big as his head, but he was too fascinated by the little round pupil in the almond-shaped eye that was watching him from the wall. Then it struck him that where there is an eye, there have to be other parts of the body. He lay down on the bed and looked around. It wasn’t hard for him to guess that there was something behind the wardrobe, and, as soon as he moved the furniture a step to the right, he saw a splendid nose, a Greek goddess’s nose, coming out of the wall. An eye, a nose, no, surely, surely there are also…And he started to move the bed, the bedside cabinet, to lift up the carpet and it wasn’t long before, next to an electric socket, he found an ear with a silver earring. He lay on his stomach and looked at it: it was a little dirty, so he rushed to the bathroom for some cotton buds. He cleaned the ear carefully with one. He whispered something to it, only he knew what, and chuckled into his beard when the fluff on the ear rose as if in graceful greeting, or like an invitation to dance. But somewhere, muttered the man, somewhere there must be, must be something else as well, yes, yes, something else, something else. He ran in circles, raised the corners of the carpet, and looked under the bed, twice, three times, to make sure, yes, yes, somewhere, he muttered somewhere there was something else. Then he saw the stain on the curtain. He pulled the curtain open and smiled contentedly: he had found what he was looking for. There, behind the curtain, a perfect breast with a wet nipple was shining in the light of the setting sun which was coming in through the open window. It had been so long since he last saw a breast. So he stood and looked. But it had been so long since he last stroked a breast. So he stroked it. It had been so long since he last smelled the skin of a breast. So he pushedhis nose into the soft breast and smelled it like a hungry lion cub. And why not? It had been so long since he last felt on his tongue the taste of a sweatynipple. So he gently took the nipple between his lips and nibbled on it, playing with the tip of his tongue around the breast’s tip. He hadn’t felt this in so long; it had been so long since… He opened his eyes and glancedat the street, with his lips still attached to the breast. It was getting darker by the minute. Perfect, he said to himself, perfect. He closed the window and remained in the dark of the room. He thought a little. Nothing was random in his house. Not then, not any other time – never. He ran to the bathroom and returned with a cotton wool ball which he made as small as he could and stuffed into the ear on the wall. He put the picture back on the wall, covering the eye. There. He went back to the breast and took his penis, so long out of practice, out of his pants. With the nipple between his lips, his nose pushed into the naked breast, and a hand on it too, he started rubbing his penis, slowly at first, then faster, until soon his white seed fell with a plop on the carpet. First he shuddered, and then sighed, and finally put the shapeless piece of skin and meat back in his pantsand smiled. A beautiful day, he thought, a really beautiful day. But he was tasting a strange flavour on his tongue. He made a wry face, and then he told himself that it wasn’t that bad.He took a closer look at the breast on the wall and he understood: from the hardened nipple a droplet of milk was slithering down the breast. The milk was collecting under the breast and dripping on the carpet, combining with his milky seed. The moon had risen in the sky and its reflection broke into many small moons in the pool of liquid. Everything smelled cosmic, like bread baked in the oven or like a wall rug depicting the Abduction from the Seraglio. It was good. He sat, leaning his back against the wall. The milk flowed continuously from the rich breast and dripped onto his right shoulder. He took off his jacket and fell asleep under the breast on the wall. He dreamt that he was taking a shower, and instead of the shower head, a huge penis, long and thick, all veins, was ejaculating on him. He was washing his hair with shampoo or perhaps not with shampoo. Then he woke up. It was morning and he was cold. His shirt was soaked with milk. He raised his eyes: the breast didn’t stop pushing milk through its pink nipple. He was hungry, so he held a glass under the breast for several minutes until it filled with milk, which he then poured on bread with sugar from the bowl. The coffee wouldn’t have tasted the same without milk either. And after he had drunk the coffee too, he placed a basin on the carpet, under the breast, and the breast pumped, pumped, pumped. He thought for a long time about what he still needed to do, until it came in a flash: the breast is heavy, maybe it hurts; it’s full of milk. Children drink milk. He stuck his head out of the window. The avenue was like a smoker’s arteries. He watched the people below him hurrying along: dizzy, wicked, white, black, purple, hardworking, ugly, upright, crippled, and he smiled thinking, as he had many times, that they were like well scrubbed shells, polished on the outside, but their asses not at all well wiped, with big pieces of dried shit caught in the hair between the cheeks. That always made him smile, but he knew that now he had something else to do, to think, to follow. He looked around for a pram and soon saw one in front of a baby clothes store. Go in, go in, he was whispering in his beard, go in. And the woman went in. He pulled his jacket over his greasy shirt and ran out of the house. He crossed the street and entered the store. It smelled of lavender and he felt a shiver run down his spine. Among the fussing mothers he saw the one he had watched from the window. He wormed his way among the shelves and hangers, and, when he reached the pram, carefully lifted the small man-cub asleep under the fluffy pink blanketsand left. Nobody saw him. As he took his first step on the staircase he heard an ear-splitting scream. He closed the door behind him. The flatdidn’t smell of lavender. The breast on the wall was huge and drooping under the weight of the milk which was gliding down the wall in thin streams. The baby opened its big eyes and watched the clerk. He smiled. Outside, a siren split the avenue in two – weeping and tearing of hair on one side, dupes and bustle on the other. The man took the baby to the breast and fed it. The baby breathed deeply and ate insatiably from the ever enlarging breast. When it couldn’t eat anymore, itjerked its head and a spasm contorted its face. The milk kept flowing through the inflamed nipple. He made the child eat again, but the baby started pushing the breast with its legs and hands, hitting out and crying. It couldn’t take one more drop of milk. The baby was crying and the window was open. Agitated, sweating, the man looked for a place to put the child until it calmed down. He had never had children, he didn’t know how to make it shut up, and he thought of all sorts of gags, devices, even a massive kitchen knife, with a wide blade, which he sometimes used for chopping frozen meat. Finally, he opened a wardrobe drawer, arranged some of the clothes inside it as a small bed and put the baby among them. He closed the drawer, leaving a space through which the air could enter. The crying wouldn’t stop, but at least it was partly stifled, like an indecent thought in church. More and more agitated, the man walked up and down the room, either looking out of the window, or in the drawer, or at the breast, which was getting heavier and heavier. Again, he thought of the knife in the kitchen, of a key, of paint,but he wasn’t capable, he would have been sorry. Who else had a breast, like he had, on the wall? But the milk poured, and the child cried. The man was sweating and a sour odour was rising from his shirt. He had to do something, but he didn’t know what. He remembered, as in a dream, that nearby there was a small park for children, where he also went sometimes, covering his nakedness with a long, black coat. In a few minutes he was there, looking around: two old ladies with grandchildren – too old to be still breastfed, a couple with a pram – but there was a man as well, that was not good, a few older brats who were abusing the slide, and three, no, four pigeons. But then he saw her: partly concealed between two limetrees, a small thin woman was rocking a pram. The man sat on a bench and thought. Everyone could see. Something, anything to make her move from there. A few metres to the right there was another bench, hidden in the shade of some tall and dense bushes. Why hadn’t she sat there? The woman, always in sunlight. He was thinking of many things, not all of them important. Suddenly he saw the woman turning her head sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right. Her cheeks were red; she was embarrassed by something or someone. The woman stood up and pushed the pram to the shade of a bush. That’s it! She sat down. He could see her only in tiny fragments through the bush’s leaves. Yes! Yes! He stood up and went closer. Now he could see her well. All three of them were hidden, but only he knew that. Now he understood why she had gone behind the bush and why she was blushing: the young mother had taken her left breast out and was suckling the child. First, the park fell silent, and then, after the man had lifted a rock over her head, there was silence in her head as well. A silence like on a deserted beach. He took the baby, lulled to sleep by the milk, and left, not before gently squeezing the woman’s breast. His, on the wall, was more beautiful, he told himself. It was much more beautiful. And the second baby ate quietly from the breast on the wall until it shut its lips tight, closed its eyes, and let the man understand that it could not eat any more. But the milk was gliding down the wall. Flowing. Rags on the carpet. They stank. He put the child next to the other one in the drawer and looked out of the window. A duet of muted sobs was reverberating in the depths of the wardrobe. The full moon looked like a hole in the sky. The town was sleeping under the man’s eyes, swarming with life in ducts and septic tanks called apartments, with their insulated windows like magnifying glasses, with curtains and carpets and families crouching in front of TVs. The town was full of babies, just as his breast, only his, was full of milk. The babies would grow and lead the towns towards the infinite, they would talk from balconies, they would show their cocks and pussies and they would piss on the nation. They would smile from TVs and eat a lot, drink a lot, talk a lot, love a lot, fuck a lot. The babies were sleeping, but someday they would wake up he told himself, and they would wallow like sows over the town, shitting, laughing, and shitting again, shitting whole chunks of town. The babies were sleeping, but he was awake and the breast infinite. He lay on the bed. He could hear the town’s whisper, like a voice stifled under pillows, and he watched the ceiling, where two broad lines were taking the shape of two crescent moons that met: a mouth. And he smiled and knew that, from now on, he would have to keep searching for more babies, bring them to the divine breast, lay them to sleep on their throne of clothes and listen to their polyphonic hymn. Tomorrow you will whisper to me, the man thought, tomorrow your lips will part and you will whisper to me and ask from me and I will give to you. Tomorrow you will kiss me and you will kiss all the babies in your town, brought to your breast as if to a living spring. Tomorrow I will be yours, my concrete-armed princess, my plaster treasure, the queen of my eternal walls. Tomorrow.
[short story originally published in Romanian in the issue 33 of tiuk!]