Nine

23 Feb

I am standing at the window of our eighth floor flat looking through the smudgy glass at the people below hurrying into the cafés and the cinema house, inside from the rain. But I’m not really seeing them. I am looking at what Mother was seeing a long time ago: a chubby toddler, barefoot, attempting to climb the side of the monkey bars. Hot, summer sand below. The space in between the steps is wide and the boy has to make a great effort to get his leg up, then hoist himself to the upper bar. Mother is watching her son. The boy puts a leg up, then takes it down quickly as if the iron bar just burned his foot. Then he starts out again and slowly, cautiously, steadies himself, pulls himself up in slow motion. Mother smiles and turns to Father and says her boy looks like Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon. Then she tells him they won’t ever have to worry about him. He is a cautious one, this one. He won’t get hurt. He’ll always look out for himself.
COSTA!
Someone yells from the construction site eight floors below and I’m back at the window looking at the rain-soaked, empty streets. No cars anywhere. Not parked. Not moving. Nothing. The wide boulevard once hosted a huge parade in honor of Richard Nixon’s visit, and countless pro-Communist demonstrations, anniversaries, and May Day parades. It is now being pounded by the thick, dirty water.
COSTA!
The cry comes again. Father enters the small room. I know he is standing behind me but I don’t turn to look. The parquet floor squeaks under his feet.
COSTA!
We just stand there for a while and listen to the water hit the window, eight floors up. I know my father is trying to think of a way to tell me.
Then I look directly across at the apartment building, still standing in ruins, sliced in half vertically by a mythical, weird giant. Tavi lived on the 6th floor. When the earthquake struck two years ago I was supposed to be in that room, across the street, spending the night with him. All there’s left now is an exposed vertical row of bathrooms and rusty pipes. It’s what these men downstairs are working on. Only nothing seems to be getting done.
COSTA!
I want to yell at this man below that there’s no Costa up here, but the window is closed. Hermetically shut. Instead I think of Tavi and the shitty way in which he’s been remembered for the last two years: a toilet with rusty pipes exposed to everyone. Father moves in closer. The floor squeaks.
COSTA!
“Old Man,” he says. He always calls me Old Man. I know what comes next, but I don’t look at him. Standing behind me is exactly where I want him right now. Control. Some kind of.
“Old Man, listen…”
I know my mother is not coming back, but I make him say it anyway. I know what defecting means. I make him tell it to me all. It’s my punishment for him. I know it’s a hard thing to do, but I want him to go through all of it. He’s never done anything hard. Ever. Not in his life.
COSTA!
“WHAT?” somebody from Tavi’s broken building yells back. Father says something but I don’t hear him. I’m listening to the two construction workers.
COSTA!
WHAAAAT?
FUCK YOUR MOTHER.
Father is very close, but still behind. I feel him. I smell and feel his breath hot on the back of my neck.
“How do you feel about leaving,” he says.
I look around outside. The streets are wet and empty. The man below on the construction site is laughing, looking up at Costa. Cigarette on the corner of his lips. I don’t see Costa. I just hear Father.
“…about leaving here for good…”
I know she is not coming back ever. She cannot. She’s committed treason. If she comes back she will probably disappear. Be shot. Sent down to the salt mines. I know what will probably become of us. I saw it happen with Pavel and his family. They were never allowed to leave and Pavel eventually got a new mother. The Party saw to that. The Comrades. Tovarasi. They took you to their bosoms.
I want to play the smart ass and say something about exchanging her for a new mother instead, but I don’t want the belt. Father is already tense. He is still talking but I tune him out. I look out of the window at this dreary, rainy day; at the feeble apartment building across the way, still in ruins; at the construction workers hurling nasty insults at each other several floors up and down; at the abandoned streets of this ruined country. This fucking country. The Party has driven everything into the ground. It has crushed everything. Left it all to turn to mud. I know this even now, at this age.
“…leave everything…” is what I come back to finally. Father has been explaining, but at this point I do not care about it either way. We are both marked. I can leave or I can stay; it doesn’t really matter. I can switch off everything. I can do that. Even now, at this age. They are all gone. They can be. It’s so easy to erase them all. It’s one thing the Party has taught us well. The Pioneers. The future of the Party. Pionieri.

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2 Responses to “Nine”

  1. janete cabral 25/02/2008 at 5:24 AM #

    Wonderful as always…great to catch up on some of your new material. Different style and voice but I like it!

    You never fail to impress me lx!

    your fan

    janete

  2. (S)wine 25/02/2008 at 5:58 PM #

    Hi Janete. Guess you’ve been away travelling. Yea, a different voice, but not one I like at all, so probably won’t be seeing much of this kind of stuff anymore. It was a good attempt, though. Thanks for reading, as usual and welcome back.

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