The Mansion

 by Adrian Ioniţă  (USA)

Translation from Romanian by Doris Plantus-Runey and Valentina Tache

re-write by Robert Fenhagen

pentru versiunea română click aici 

 The intense focus of his eyes reflects the concentration of the man writing about a deserted nineteenth century mansion. A seemingly obscure subject, it has captured his interest to the degree that allows his mind to exclude all others, and he occasionally forgets to eat as he toils alone in his apartment.

A one-room walk-up, the apartment speaks of a lone occupant, with boxes, unread mail, unwashed glasses and cups, a large, rough honed granite ashtray overflowing with unfiltered cigarette butts, everything a mark of loneliness, obsession, and the concentration on a subject that has nothing to do with the external world.

To me, the world is garbage, but he stays safe in his cocoon of brevity of possessions and concentrated intellect.

      For this man, the mansion’s history is thrilling, and allows his imagination to walk within the grand rooms, ascending the great staircase that lies directly before the entrance from the outside.  A brief surge of adrenalin as he picks of a lone iron bolt that lies nearby, and imagines the rooms upstairs, each one different, each one with a unique touch of decorations, that in the end, speaks one language:  wealth and prosperity.

As he fingers the bolt, and explores his mansion, he thinks back on the treatise he had read that proposed that every object is changed once it has been looked at, but I believe it cannot be the object that is changed, but rather the observer.  I know what he’s thinking as he attacks the computer keys.

The author of the piece insisted that in some minute way, the object is changed, but for the life of him, he does not see this supposed change in the three pound iron bolt that he holds, and imagines how the bolt might have been used to firm up the supporting beams in his mansion—this hard metal guided through the hole in a great beam, probably in the basement—a rough cut mass of wood three foot square that runs along the bowels of the elegant house.  Roughness, with thousands of shards of piercing wood waiting to pierce soft flesh; this bolt holding a joint together, yet, another rough piece of milled material straining under the great weight of the mansion—how in the world could his gaze change such hardened things?

     An image of the grooved  swirls that run along the shaft swirl into his psyche; that’s was what changed, but what about the object’s innate ability to change, even his psyche for a moment or a lifetime?

Isn’t that a certain power?  Perhaps, elemental power?

      Following that thought, there in the corner, don’t the plastic boxes stacked in such a haphazard way present a threat or at least, a potential problem to him?  Perhaps they scream frantically, “LOOK OUT BELOW!”   That would be considerate of them. 

They are certainly not alive, but they do affect him by their very existence, don’t they?

Something inanimate cannot become animate, except in our perception, and as perception is supposed to be reality, doesn’t everything present opportunities, or problems?

Hmmm, that is not one of my ordinary thoughts; at least, I don’t think it is.

The boxes collapsed in the corner, shattering a smudged windowpane in the process, which in turn, allowed a freezing breeze to rush into the room when the simmering tea kettle let go with a nerve shattering scream.

    His computer seems to be the only one who came out of this calamity for the better, because the cool air relaxed his circuits.

“Did you hear it? It whispered, “Thanks, boys.”

That’s enough of that–I must get a hold of myself.

I do not like being the lone observer, especially as it is getting cold in here, so join me, and let’s see what else is afoot.   Yes, come, join me. Look, our man is not even affected by the boxes falling; he is too engrossed in what he is writing about.

Take a look; it’s about a mansion, isn’t it?

It’s hard to see the lines on the computer screen; its screen is filthy, but you can read, can’t you?

“The mansion is my home.” 

I wonder what that means.

I look around this tiny room–certainly, this cannot be the mansion to which he refers.

 Look out of the unbroken window and report what you see; I’ll watch him.  

A tall wall with ivy growing so high that the aged red bricks are almost completely covered—that’s all?

A long driveway; is there a car about?

Tell me, what do you think of the idea of objects having a soul—much as the American Indians believe?

Part of me believes it, but part of me thinks such notions are so much metaphysics, and, for the most part, I do not subscribe to those.

Do you? 

What are you going on about?  Oh, yes, his writing.  How can you read that computer screen; it’s so filthy?

“Our looking at them transforms them; it is a threat that deprives them of their true essence, a contamination and desecration, which made them look like things that have undergone abuse. Maybe this is the reason why, when we see an object that no one has yet looked at, we feel a certain emotion. But, one wonders, does such a thing exist?”

Finally, he gets up to investigate the broken glass, and has returned to his desk, but I don’t understand what he’s writing. “Everything that surrounded him became abundant and felt like a barrier in the front of my eyes, nothing seemed to be vacant or free. I tried to explain to myself the cause of this change and the only conclusion I could draw was that the objects which filled the room, had miraculously multiplied…”

Ah, you are going incommunicado; very well.  Let’s watch him together, and not speak, shall we?  Please, just watch the screen and tell me what he’s writing.

He what?   Yes, yes, tell me all that you can read. 

“There are times when I feel as if I live in a mansion in my mind; a huge, splendid, palatial palace of a place, where no one can reach me, but I must say, it does perplex me as to why I feel their presence.

      I have no idea who ‘they’ might be, that being a most curious matter….”

The hot embers of a cigar-stub drew a circle in front of my eyes. The man is not a smoker, I thought, but this time I doubted my own assumptions. It is an exercise that gives me the power  to feel the struggle of the cracked painting which still holds on to the wall and doesn’t fall, the weight of the body against the chair, the vibration of the door’s crystal handles, the chirping of the birds, the hot rails of the subway and the rainbow frozen above the room. At last, when I find a good vantage point from which I can see the computer’s screen, I realize that the text is illegible, because it had been outraged by the too many gazes casted over it.

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