The Bay


I WALKED DOWN to the water last evening and, after crossing through one of the restaurants’ parking, I took my way on the paved alley by the bay. There was nobody there, but a lot was happening on the water. I turned around before the bridge to Balboa Peninsula and went back to get to a spot I liked.
Most of the restaurants have a dock in the back of their buildings, and there is where you can sit down on the wooden moving wharf and watch the boats.

The sun was setting and this huge fancy boat was trying to back up and reach the small harbor. I didn’t know why, but then I saw a server holding a trey with food and waiting for them.

I was maybe 5 years old when mom and dad took me on the city’s boat, “The Sparrow.” It was an easy way to float from our city down the river to former Yugoslavia. But we were not allowed to do that. We didn’t have passports under the communists, and the only Romanians who could cross the border to buy stuff were some of the inhabitants of the villages closest to the border.
“The Sparrow” floated quietly about a mile down the river and turned back. I was so happy on that trip. Then my parents took me again and again, almost every Sunday since Sunday was the only day for cruises. The town closed the boat rides one day for good.

Then I remembered the rowing boat one dear friend took me on a lake in the mountains. I was on one of my fencing training camps at “Trei Ape”/ “Three Waters” when this friend came for a day to see me. I talked to my coach and he agreed to give me a couple of hours off. My friend got a rowing boat and he rowed the boat on the water between the evergreen forests while we talked about everything. Then life separated us.

The big boat on the bay reached the server, and a woman picked up the trey of food with a shout of victory.
The water was glittering under the sun caught on fire. A sailboat passed by.
It was peaceful.


The Real Deal

Right down the hill it’s a gym, a small one. I went and talked to the owner to pay for a pass.
“No passes here, but sessions.”
Great, me and my English…”What’s a session?”
I liked his smile.
“Well, a session is when you come, and do any exercise here, stay for as long as you want and pay $65.”
“For the whole session?” I ask.
Hmmm, I stand there and do the math. If I come for 30 min that means $130 per hour. No, that might not work.
If I stay here for 2 hours that will cut the price in two.
How about being here for 10 hours? Wow! That would be a real deal.
But the most amazing thing is if I would just move in, that deal would be as low as $2 and some cents per day until I get slim.
Meanwhile I have to walk up and down these hills. And I just don’t hate it.

The Size of a Nail

When you are born in a world of fear, corruption and a particular level of poverty, your brain goes into the survival mode and you are less vulnerable. You learn how to manage it.

My parents didn’t have money to spend on what I wanted, but I knew what to ask from mom and what to ask from dad in order to get it. My father bought me books, notebooks, pencils, sweets and fruit. I didn’t need anything else to be happy after doing my homework when the weather was bad and I couldn’t go outside to play with my friends.
On the other hand, I could ask mom to buy me a piece of cake, and she would buy it. Chocolate, candies, mother wasn’t convinced to make the financial sacrifice.

I was my last year in kindergarten and it was my dad’s turn to pick me up at 2:30 PM and take me home. Mom was working the second shift. He opened the door to my classroom and caught my eyes. “Let’s go!” It was summer time and changing from the uniform into my light personal clothes was piece of cake. I placed my uniform and my indoor shoes in my locker and grabbed my father’s hand.
“Would you buy me a piece of chocolate, please?”
Tata (“father” in Romanian) looked at me with a sad smile.
“I’m sorry, we don’t have money for chocolate today.”

We got on the street and hurried to the tram station. There were crowds of people waiting, and when the vehicle stopped, everybody was trampling on everybody. Finally, we managed to get in.
The news that we couldn’t afford to buy a piece of chocolate wasn’t in fact news. That happened often, but sometimes because I asked again and again, tata would give up and make the investment.
“I need a piece of chocolate, dad.”
He didn’t answer. I could see he had a lot on his mind.

We changed trams, and after about 15 minutes, we finally got out by the market in the Iosefin area.
“Would you buy me a chocolate, dad?”
“I don’t have the money to get you a chocolate, my daughter. Why don’t you understand?”
“How about buying me the tiniest one?” I didn’t let go.
My father halted in the middle of the sidewalk and dropped his hands.
“What do you want: bread or chocolate?”
I looked at him with serenity and declared:

He didn’t say anything.
We went and bought a loaf of bread from the bakery and took our way home by the Bega River. Just when I lost my hopes about my treat, we entered the small ABC store on Pop-de-Basesti street.
And dad bought me the minuscule piece of chocolate ever, “Dwarf chocolate”, the size of a nail.
That made my day.

The Day When People Looked Younger

One of my childhood’s thoughts was that there was no life after I would be forty years old.

I don’t know for sure when it came to me and how, but I remembered I wasn’t thirteen years old yet because when I was thirteen we moved to a big flat on the seventh floor. Our home was still in a very small apartment close to the river, and because I liked to have my privacy, I would go and hid under the table with a book. I was reading there one day when it hit me: ”When I will be forty, my life will be over. “ It wasn’t a premonition about my early death, but a feeling of being too old to enjoy life at that age.

I did the math and I joyfully established that there were still three decades till then.

Mom had me when she was eighteen and I was suspiciously looking at her to detect signs of her getting old. She was 28.

Years went by slowly and even if I wasn’t looking for the “morbid age” when I was 8, I wanted to be 10. When I was 10, I wanted to be 12. Each day for me was like an inflated balloon, a humongous one, hard to pull it from the moment I was awake to my time to go to bed.

We had a few neighbors mom and dad were friends with in our common courtyard, and I knew some of them were in their forties. They looked old, worried and overwhelmed all the time. The times were tough and joy was not so much at home there, but our family was pretty happy.  Everybody worked six days every week and I sensed that the most rejuvenated day for the adults around me was Saturday.

That was the time when people looked younger for one day.

A House by the Field

Can you see those houses in the back? They remind me of my aunt Marisca’s house, my mom’s sister in a beautiful village. The little house was by the green field with cows and sheep eating the grass. I remember my cousin Dorina and I walking there after a summer rain and picking mushrooms in a small basket. The air was crisp, the sun ready to take off his PJ’s and get into his playing shorts. Sometimes the shepherds’ dogs would see us, and we would run across the field with mushrooms falling over the basket. Aunt Marisca would make us eggs and mushrooms for breakfast, and crepes with cream cheese. That house is still there, but I haven’t see it in many years. My aunt is not young anymore, but her beautiful face is still young in my heart. I give thanks for her. Happy Thanksgiving, folks!

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