by Nicolae Sfetcu
It was a burning heat outside. Michael descended sweaty, but happy, the stairs of the shop He paused on the stairs of the entrance, took off his straw-colored hat, and looked at it once again with satisfaction. He had bought it a few minutes earlier. At least he will remember his first pension, which he had received on his credit card today.
He had been alone for two years, and the children were spread all over the country.
He waved his hat a few times to cool himself, put it back on his head, and started walking randomly on the streets. Near Lipscani Street he saw a little further a little shadowy terrace, and went to rest there for a while before going home. He found a table, leaned back in the chair, pleading with pleasure, and ordered to the waiter who had met a long espresso coffee (he was no longer drinking short and strong espresso) and a tonic water.
The coffee came unexpectedly quickly, along with the water. He unfastened the sachet of sugar without hurrying, poured the milk into the coffee, and began to stir for a long time, lightly. This ritual was an integral part of the coffee when he drank it on a terrace.
He had slowly lit a cigarette (he had not given up on this vice), sat back in his chair, and took a drag deeply in his chest, his gaze fixed in the sky without any cloud.
He was remaining lost in his thoughts without touching the coffee and the cigarette that had consumed almost all of himself. Still, he felt that it was something that contrasted with his peace of mind. He came down to earth and saw that from a table next to him a beautiful lady was staring him, about the same age as him. She had a white, sun-blazed hat on his head, but that could not hide his blue and gentle eyes, and in the leash it was resting near her table a beautiful snow-white dog.
Michael felt embarrassed for a few moments, but decided to face the beautiful lady’s eyes. As their eyes met, the lady approached his table, stopping before him.
“Michael, is that you?”
Michael remained silent. He did not remember to know her.
“Do we know each other?” he screamed.
“Haven’t you been to Slobozia before? How’s Lame George doing?”
Suddenly Michael felt a huge gap in his stomach. HE REMEMBERED!
* * *
It was a burning heat outside. Michael had just gone to college, with an unbelievably high average. His parents were happy. They had given him money to go where he wanted to go out that summer. In autumn he will serve in army, a shorter army for those who took the college exams.
In the evening he would meet his friends, he was happy that they had gone to college too, and they would go to the disco together.
He was preparing to go to the village library, when he heard the cry:
“Michael, what are you doing, man? Come on!”
A few meters farther along the road, an old car was stopped, and beside him was Elijah with three more boys, one of which was much older than them Lame George. He had been arrested several times for violence, and it was said once for rape. The nickname Lame had gotten from a fight with some boys in the neighboring village: being drunk and picking on their girl friends, they had knocked him so hard that he had to be operated on his leg, and then he was left with a slightly limp.
With Elijah he was a friend, but another kind of friend, from another group. He had played with him several times their specific gambling, street blackjack and dice, and they had been together at some parties for a few moments. It’s true, every time Elijah got drunk and made scandal, but when he was awake he was a good boy.
He headed for their group.
“Hello! Where are you going?”
“Let’s have a cold beer in Slobozia. George is buying it.”
The truth was, on this heat, a beer really works.
“Are we going back fast? Tonight I have a job.”
“Yes, man, come on!”
They were all up in the harsh car, and George was driving. They had arrived at Slobozia well, and found beer (a rarity in those times) on a terrace in the shadow of giant giants.
As long as Michael had three beers, the others had been drinking five. Good luck that George was not stingy, and he had ordered some food who walked perfectly with the beer. At the end, George paid for the consumption and they started walking to the car; they had left it further, in the shade. There wasn’t a soul in sight on the deserted streets at that noon time, when the asphalt burned like it was an oven.
“Ha ha, look, man, we are not alone, we have whores!” George was a little dizzy.
At about two hundred yards, two lean girls were sheltering from the heat under a tree, waiting for the bus to take them home. They seemed to be high school students from the boarding school.
“Leave them alone, don’t you see they barely stand up?” Michael tried to stop him.
“The true is that I’d like it now, after this rich meal!” Elijah was also on great deeds.
They climbed into the car, and George started the car suddenly straight for two girls, near which he braked abruptly stirring the dust off the road. He opened the door and addressed the girls without getting out of the car:
“Come on, harlots, let’s go with us to a beer!”
One of them scared and ran away. The other, a washed-up girl with a gentle figure, stood still, staring at the boys in the car. George stepped out of the car, took her by the hand, pulled her up to the car and pushed her into the backseat beside us. He jumped in the driving seat again.
“What’s your name, sweety?”
“Well, Ely, we go together to have a beer, and eat something.”
He started the car and turned it to the terrace where they had just left.
“Elijah, run out and buy some beers and fast food.”
Elijah stood on the seat in the right side of the driver. He took the money and went down. He returned quickly with the order. George started the car again and drove away on the dusty road. The girl had groaned in a corner of the backseat, staring at us with an undisguised fear.
The car left Slobozia and stopped in a little forest on the outskirts of the city. They all descended, dragged the girl out, and spread two blankets on the grass. They had pulled the beer and the food, and had once again eaten and drunk.
Long ago, Michael had caught a wounded sparrow, which was no longer able to fly. He held her for a few moments in his hand, staring at her. He felt his heart beat fiercely, scared, her eyes wide open, standing ready to cry. Then he took an endless pity for the bird. He took her slowly to a branch of a tree where he left her slowly, hoping that she will recover before she will be killed by other birds, animals, or bad people. That’s how the girl looked like now.
After about half an hour, George addressed Michael:
“Michael, come on, you are the first. After you the turn is coming for Elijah, then John and Peter, and I’m the last to finish the job. Take this bitch and go further, shout to us when you’re done. Take this blanket with you, do not get a thorn in your ass.”
Michael knew what it was, but he seemed to be in trance. He took the blanket in one hand, the other grabbed the girl’s hand, and walked away from the boys who were chuckling. All the while, he felt the girl shivering as if it was cold. He stopped when no one saw them, threw the blanket on the floor, left the girl’s hand, and stared at her.
“Can I go over there to pee, please?”
Michael knew what the girl wanted. And she knew Michael knew.
The girl took a few steps with her back, staring at Michael, then turned and ran to the city.”
Michael waited a long time there, leaving the girl time to move away. After several shouts of impatience of the boys, he replied that he was coming, and he slowly approached them.
* * *
That was all that Michael succeeded to mumble.
She leaned slightly, took both his hands into her hands, and whispered:
She stood for a few moments, got up, took the dog with her, and walked slowly to the exit of the terrace.
Michael was still dizzy when she was out of the terrace.
“Ely!” he cried, with a voice that he himself did not recognize.
The beautiful lady stopped, and turned her head.