Emiluţa has an unfortunate thought. She’ll throw herself
off the top of the building. Why? What the fuck? Let’s say for the cause of
PeaceonEarth, for the slumdogs,
the lonely. Which is to say she doesn’t have a ghost of a reason. Viva
The way things stand, if she doesn’t do away with herself—pressed on to the
fatal deed by the wicked world—well, then Emiluţa would wind up writing the story of her life, and then everything would
go to hell, the very thing she didn’t want—not that I’d advise you, gentle
reader, to take pen in hand. Nor did Emiluţa want to write Avram Duca’s. For her, Tina Marcu is the veritable
heroine, a modern young “woman of our times.” P.S.: Emi- Emiluţa is glad to have arrived
on the flat bloc’s rooftop terrace. There she is perched on the ninth floor.
Already: the traffic jam at the intersection …the hour when the city freezes
into a Polaroid shot. Helping herself with wheelchair and crutch, she’s
heroically carted along the TV set. She’s made it in one piece. The whole
operation cost a lot of effort. She’s wiped out. And frightened too. But it’s
great that no one caught her in the act. She picked the right time. She slipped
through the smells of stew and sautéed cabbage. She passed a telephone ringing in a one-room apartment
where no one ever answered the phone .The risk was that someone would come out
on the landing or would show up in the lift, right when she was perching herself on the
roof. Hey, but she made it. She’s having a good day. And Guffy says the same,
even if he looks at her silently, half asleep.
going on greased wheels. Behold! She’s found the miraculous moment. Voilà! Emiluţa from top to toe. In her
beautiful pink organdy dress—washed and ironed with potato starch. She’s taken
a shower, she’s scrubbed herself with the sponge and the bath brush—she had one
with a long plastic handle to reach down her back. With soap at the armpits,
pussy, thighs—scrubbing between the cheeks of her ass. She’s paid her debts,
maintenance, telephone, what was left of her debt to Suzi with the money she’d
made from an episode that appeared in a neighborhood gazette. It’s cold up on
the roof. The wind keeps blowing like hell. She’s wrapped in a banner she wrote
out yesterday calligraphically. With megaphone under one arm, crutch under the
other, she takes care not to make a sound or drop a thing. It was hard getting
to the rooftop terrace, but she’s made it. Dark roofs, ashen-black, green, broken. Smokestacks. Cockroach world.
That’s how it looks from above. Little people like a pack of stirred up dogs. It’s
a burlesque down there—cohorts of insects at the bottom of the pit. The whole
thing can be seen perfectly from the terrace. You see how things are. It’s an
historic spot, in brief. She has the city at her feet, which is to say at her
skinny legs, which maim her. All that will swallow her up in an instant. Below,
the abyss. Shoulders, bald heads,
oxygenated coiffures, dandruff and hair ornamented with pompoms—all crowded
around the traffic light. Auto bodies
shining in the waning afternoon. What’s all this to her? She has certain things
to get in shape. She’s relaxed. No
sweat. And pushing it with the crutch, she hoists the
television onto the balustrade. She’d
gone through the drill plenty of times at home. The set shouldn’t fall on
someone’s head . She gives a look over the edge, and she let the bastard rip, BAF! Pulverized. Look how well it went—in
the first place that she didn’t change her mind, the way she feared.
now you back off since you’re shitting your pants. You’re having diarrhea. You
leave looking for another time.
firm in her resolve. She’s still hanging in there. In the end, after all kinds
of hesitations, she had decided to throw herself into the void, but not just
any old way, at least not without a protest—not to die like piece of meat in a
meat grinder. Otherwise, it’s OK to throw yourself off the roof, BUF! And not to offer yourself the least
chance, either. Zero! So what if she’s going to be crushed on the pavement?
She’s put on clean clothes for the suicide. So that no one will find her with
filthy blackened panties when the carrion’ll be picked up from the sidewalk.
Why cramp her style in that dumbass way and screw up the single most important
event in her life? Because—hey, you’re used to failures, Emiluţo. Nothing’s ever gone
her way. But now, everything is going acc. to plan. Thus: the television thrown
over the balustrade into the street at 6:30 P.M. sharp
bang and that’s it. A few suckers took a look. What th’ hell’s goin’ on? The
noise brought other people out of the stores and taverns ’round there. They
looked up stupidly at the place from where the fucking thing must’ve crashed.
Their eyes landed on a young woman, perched on the balustrade, swinging her
legs from the eve and armed with a megaphone. She invites them to imitate her, to throw their televisions out the
window if hey don’t want to go crazy. They can keep them if they’re stubborn,
but they should know that they’re being lied to and screwed out of their souls.
Someone’s fucking them over, big time. They are the slaves of masters unseen.
Trained like Pavlov’s dogs with the light bulb. They salivate over the news and
the soap operas. Conditioned reflexes have turned you into rag dolls, with
nothing in your stupid little brains and hearts. It’s a dangerous religion with
an unknown god, anonymous, rapacious and wild, a blood-thirsty beast. It’s
taken your skin off, robbed you, deprived you of memories, imagination,
everything. You’re strangers to yourselves. You’re destroying yourselves. You,
because I’m not going to watch the end. I’m throwing myself down from here and
finishing the comedy. Free yourselves! She unfurls the banner—it was a good
thing that she had it ready on time. Anyhow, that’s point 3B in the plan.
written: “Be free! Love Each other!” in
good calligraphy, and now she declares by megaphon that she’ll throw herself
into the void at midnight. No one should try to save her: any savior’ll be in need of salvation himself.
He’s lost in today’s world. In fact; he wouldn’t amount to anything more than a drug from Breaking News! Reality Show! some
program with sports and entertainment. Down!
The crowd chants from the sidewalk, amusing itself and pointing aloft. The
police have shown up meanwhile, in the
person of a gentleman with a shiny chin, just out of the butter dish. With a cap pushed back on his neck. He doesn’t
have binoculars. It’s not in his equipment or he forgot them at the station. He
doesn’t know. He asks himself, what should he do? The rules don’t foresee a
thing, and when they do indicate things, they’re vague. If this turns out
badly, he’ll wind up the provinces. Better to tell the boss. Then, let him see.
He goes into the entrance of the sprawling bloc. The lift is blocked on 9,
naturally. Emiluţa’s not dumb and she has big ideas. The policeman has no choice but
to read the graffiti on the walls. Cocksucker, Down with the Government, you’re a gang of idiots.
Bunch of old ladies, enough with you, drop dead! Fifi loves Dudu. Where-do-you-scratch-until-it-galls? What? did you
think the cop was a schmuck? He know the answer: the balls! He writes in a
short report and hides it in his little satchel. That’s how the section chief
finds him, working hard to raze the business about Down with the Government.
the end, the cop’s superior listenes to a short report. He doesn’t see anything
more to be done. He swears to the Godoftheproscribed and the shitty day. He’s
convinced that somebody’s screwed him. Here, at the address on
Carol Blvd at the
intersection with Moşilor there’s this kind of ambush going on that’s going to make him lose
his prospective promotion in the ministry.
the mayor shows up an hour later—during which interval he has remained
heroically at his post—it is clear to the colonel that he has enemies. He
reports to the brass in his turn. The mayor listens, not looking fixedly at the
rooftop terrace on 9 but at his elegant toe caps instead. He recalls that they
cost him four traffic tickets to “recalcitrant” drivers. In his turn, thee mayor had had to park his
jeep near the sidewalk, No Parking. Dirty Jeep, blackened by diesel fuel and
dust. He’s in for a Mission Impossible: giving the car to his secretary to get
it cleaned. Plus his shirt, which has scuz on the collar. What happens between
him and the secretary after he undoes his buttons, that’s a different story.
shall we do? That’s the question of that luminous afternoon when a crackerjack
female reporter shows up: Lulu Popescu.
sticks her nose in everywhere, except his ass. And that’s when
PoliceChief&Mayor know: everything will turn catastrophic.
news, declarations, people, video cameras, chaos, sideshow, hubbub. That’s just
what he needs right now. Because a madwoman is threatening to throw herself off the roof. Man, let her just do it already! We’re in a
rush. I have dinner to attend. We’re bored. She should give us a break. An
exhibitionist avid for publicity, perfect for the loony bin. Crazy cunt, if you
wanna kill yourself, do it, but make it snappy. Fucking fool! She’s handicapped
too. She feels like screwing up my day. That’s it, nothing political. The mayor
is relieved. Let’s offer her a pension. The Police Chief approves. Let’s help
her out with some money or something. Let’s send her for treatment at
Karlovy Vary. Let’s get
her a German wheelchair. Let’s get her an extra room. She’s suffocating in that
studio. The rats, broken pipes, flooded toilet. The Police Chief nods
respectfully. Let’s see things through the eyes of the authorities. They know
the truth. Let’s get her out of that
kitchenette of hers 24 square meters on the 7th floor. What does she
want? She hasn’t got herself perched on the roof for nothing. You ever hear ’v someb’dy that don’t want somethin’ outta this life? You
know ’v any disinterested soul? Show him to me and I’ll eat him on black bread
with jam. Maybe she’s some kindda saint. Bring a padre to negotiate with her.
To bless her with the cross, with holy basil, to hear her confession. She must
have a lot of sins. That’s how these kindda women behave. They go wild, get
hold of a string of men, and after all that misspent youth they turn into nuns
and moralize at us. She’s suiciding, man, to teach us a lesson, so we’ll regret
her. Get the padre from over there. She’s a lost soul too. The church—see it,
across the street. The guys from TV have already gathered. We’ll be seeing
ourselves on the news. I don’t have an appetite for that.. The whole country’s
us. They’re making fucking fools of us. I can see the headlines now:Bucharest—
Town! I won’t allow it. Nobody commits public
suicide on my watch. At home with a rope around ’r neck, alright! Alone in the
bathtub, let ’r slit ’r writs in the kitchen with a piece of glass, to let
herself just bleed out. You can throw yourself in front of a train. But not in
the North Station where people are watching and they fall for it. At 41
in a field, all you have to do is wind up without legs and a head. But like
that, it’s not proper. It’s a provocation. Hey, it’s just not possible for
people to say something about the administration. To spread suicidal psychosis
among the people? To get the masses depressed? What’s her name, man? Never
heard that name before, an anonymous type. And look what she’s doing to me! To
me, the mayor! OK, I got it. It’s blackmail.
If you don’t give me three sous in
old money, I’ll bust myself up on the sidewalk. Whopee shit! Blackmail like
this doesn’t work anymore, man. We’re in
She says she doesn’t want anything anymore—reports the colonel. A couple of
thugs from some pub are holding him up by the armpits, all of them half in the
bag from excitement.
back at the ranch, my Emiluţa goes on quarreling loudly with the honored public. She kept
chanting Down With something into the megaphone. No one heard her. She was up too
high. But they were amusing themselves. They were enjoying the spectacle,
really. It’s no small thing to provoke smiles. Bucharest Man is superstitious, blabbermouth,
rumormonger, mocking, wary, skeptical. I’ve run out labels, although I’d really like to add some more, like: lousy,
mean, incapable of applying himself, thief, the kind of guy who gets away with
things. And for that reason, the honored public was watching the drama with a
certain indifference. Only when she stood up on her legs in her thin little
pink, organdy dress on the narrow balustrade did a thrill run down their
spines. The peals of laughter quieted down. What the hell is that dame doing up
there. We thought it was some kind of joke. And whaddya know? The comedy starts
heading the other way. It’s a tragic farce, not a melodrama, vaudeville, soap opera. What if it ends with a
cadaver on the asphalt? A guy from the
anti-terror squad says he know a remedy for this whole deal. He looks at the
mayor and the vice mayor with hope. To get out of a crisis, you have to be in
control. He should scale the walls with cables. He’s in a great state of
training. He’ll get under the eve and take her prisoner, like a robin. Put a
little glue, set the bait and, Bingo!
tighten the noose. Her life is her own after all, she can do whatever she wants
with it. If she’s in a mood to end her days, it’s a free world, observes a fat
woman with a shaved head. Someone else (with a beret à la
Che) says inspiredly the door to the bloc’s roof terrace should be busted down
with a battering ram. Then they should negotiate with the suicide, going easy,
not with force. Violence doesn’t work anymore. It’s done. We have a
psychologist here and a priest. What do we offer her. Nothin’. Who’s the dame?
No idea. The one from the 7th floor. Late with the maintenance. No. Handicapped,
second degree. Look how she stands on crutches on the balustrade. Looks like
she’s taking a walk! I’m heartsick,
terrible thing, Emi has threatened that if she see’s somebody on the roof
she’ll jump. She has the power. She can do what she wants with us. She dictates
to us. We’re looking down her throat like a bunch of dopes. Let’s grab her! Why
so much fuss. Come on everybody, let’s go home—especially the television crews,
the radio, the viewing public. You’ll see if she’s still interested in killing
herself! Don’t you see how she’s clowning around? She’s laughing. She feels
of them wants to do away with this valley of tears. He’s solemn and tragic. He
speaks strong words; you should memorize them. What’s with this neighborhood
story? The youth of today carry on too much. We don’t communicate any more.
That’s the drama. Fuck you, ol’ lady. What did you, crawl out from under your
bouffant hair? The hairdresser left you in curlers to wander around the
neighborhood, and you’re talking when you should shut up. You’re talking
nonsense… I say it’s a question of karma. She doesn’t have a good one. Look,
poor thing, she’s going to throw herself off the edge. A lost soul, one less on
the face of the earth. She’ll look for her happiness in heaven…if she hasn’t
managed to be here, somehow. I’d light a lamp for her, but the matches are
crummy, damp, they don’t strike. I think the whole thing will end well. This
isn’t a story with blood. It’s red paint, bought from the store on the corner.
Fire Brigade!! We’re ihere n response to the emergency order—bravely reports
the commandant. Thick forked mustaches under the golden helmet. His hugeness
intimidates you. He says to open a tent canvas on the sidewalk right in front
of her—50 square meters, with his well-rained soldiers at the ready. But only when they come from the other fire,
in say, one hour, two. Keep her alive till I get back. If the woman doesn’t
smash herself to bits, they’ll manage to catch her, he guarantees. Small
lesions, a minor contusion, sprained ankle, that’s about the damage. I’m
worried about her spinal column—50 tons of pressure per cubic cm. She has a 67 %
chance of escaping with her life.—Vigorous the big guy, the man of figures. If not 33 per cent, 1/3, that she goes to
smithereens. Brains pattered all over the roadway. The whole deal washes up
with a hose. Set up time, four minutes. Before the next tram pulls in. No one
will know a thing. Eviscerated stomach, lean meat, blood, lymph, fat. That’s a
human being, for you. In a case like this they’ll have to take her to the
morgue with a tank of water. A team with a siren runs through the stop lights:
23 minutes, total. Good news, finally, if you have the stomach for it.
And the whole landscape changes once
the people from TV start to broadcast. They set up the television van in the
intersection and block traffic. The police can’t handle it. People have
gathered to see how a woman jumps off a building, LIVE. Some, very few, prefer
to stay home. To wolf down chips in their singlets, sweaty and downing the
perennial beer. Skinning the screen with bleary eyes. Their ladies, idem. You can see even better on TV.
They give replays, details, you can see everything from all kinds of angles,
and they have slo mo. You get the
information. The whole zone is blocked up with several thousand neighbors. Urbanites,
cats&dogs, townies, bourgeois&proletarians. Walk-ons, the whole
ensemble. Reporters-on-the-street dispatch the latest news. This
buffoonery will haul in HUGE ratings. There’s a drought of subjects in summer.
Does anyone care what the girl wants? She wants people to give up TV, pal, you
know, to stop watching those dumb programs. To bust the damned thing with a
hammer, dismember it, give to the rag and bone man, unscrew the dials. To be
free and happy. Does anybody commit suicide for a little thing like that? Only
if you’re out of your head, ready for the straight jacket. That’s
exhibitionism, a really serious spiritual ailment. Worse than the sin of pride.
The chick wants to attract attention, to see herself on TV, to raise a
hullabaloo and a cloud of dust around herself. They should put the cameras on
her organdy dress, on her wheelchair. To see herself in the TV lights. To have
the journalists stick their mikes under her nose. She has the anonymity
complex. She got a bug to shine. To find herself under the lights for an
instant. She’s sacrificing herself for that. She’s giving her life for it. It’s
worth it! She’s sick of watching the others’ shows, all the idiots being
admired, sluts, big mucky mucks. She wants her own moment of glory, all to her
self. The world at her feet. She washed them specially for the even. News alert: they shouldn’t stink.
Unfortunately, the video cameras have to stay below, far away, on the sidewalk.
There’s no way you can get to her on the roof top terrace where Emi-Emiluţa plays her role on a
About this issue
This July, The Observer Translation Project leaves its usual format to present a special CRISIS ISSUE. Things are tough all over. Hard Times suddenly feels like the book of the moment. The global economic crisis impacts life as we know it, and viewed from Bucharest the effects reverberate in domains that include geo-politics and publishing in Romania and abroad, with the crisis at The Observer Translation Project as an instance of a universal phenomenon.