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8/7/11

From His Village by the Woods He Already Dreams Himself in America

From His Village by the Woods He Already Dreams Himself in America
The village teacher, whose guest I was, said her man had his nutty side, but he’s alright. I asked what that was, but he entered the room with a tipsy smile. I assumed she meant his drinking. She was worried about her son’s future. Her resolve that education, studying, ensured a good future was weakened. The boy will be in first grade in a month and she, a teacher, had lost her faith in education. What was she to do? I said still, it was better nowadays. Western companies hired students before they even graduated college. What I’d worry about is her son working already on his manhood. Last night at supper his father gave him a small glass of wine to cheer with us grownups, and I cringed, but she didn’t seem to worry. The boy winked. His father, jolly as he was, asked why his woman didn’t make a steak for me. I said I was more than fine with the delicious lettuce soup and mushroom stew with hot polenta. He asked her if she’d bothered to ask me if I wanted polenta at all. She did, we said peacefully, to placate him, not that he was irate, but his face flushed, his sturdy body arched, his large hands, working man hands, fingernails trimmed with black, skin coarse. He is not one for the mushrooms. Once in a hurry he had picked a poisonous one and his mom didn’t notice it, it looked like the edible ones, but the inside of the crown/head/hat was yellow instead of brown, and so he fell sick that night. He didn’t die, ‘One doesn’t die from mushrooms,’ he says smiling, his lowered eyelids and blonde eyelashes sweetening his ruddy face. ‘You just vomit and get sick, depending on the amount you ate. Drink milk.’ ‘But what about the family that died from mushrooms next village.’ ‘Oh, well,’ he shrugs.
He is uneasy about fire too. When he was small twice his siblings burnt down the house. Twice. Once they made a fire in the attic to fry bacon, and they couldn’t control the flames. Then later in a barn they put hay on fire.
I look at his handsome face, why is he telling me all this? Maybe he wants to feed me stories?!
As he walked me back from an old lady’s house I’d interviewed, he briefed me on the women coming out of church. Especially a skinny old woman, dressed in black who apparently was foul mouthed, could curse you dead if you upset her. ‘She considers herself for a pure widow,’ he says, ‘the kind that is qualified to make holy wafers for church.’ ‘Do you mean she’s untouched by man?’ ‘Yes, a wafer widow. She doesn’t feel good if she doesn’t trick you a bit, if she doesn’t make a profit out of you, pinches something from you.’
He told me about Italy, where he worked as a seasonal farm worker. He showed me his documents, a flimsy ID, on its back saying ‘Rights: 0,00.’ As opposed to Italians who might have 1 or 2 rights?! He worked on farms, in constructions, no rights. ‘You may wonder why is my beard white,’ he says, smoking quietly in the armchair. ‘The first time Iwent to Italy I made 1,400 Euros. I put them in my wallet together with the 200 Euros to pay the bus driver the debt of my brother and his wife’s travel from Romania to Italy. I came all the way from southern Italy, with three suitcases. When I arrived in Rome for the bus leaving for Romania, two carabinieri and a civilian told me the arrangement had changed, I’d ride on a different bus, they’d accompany me to a different spot, and they took me behind a cathedral in Rome, and they asked for my passport. I gave them his wallet. They took my phones, they rummaged thru my suitcases, and then threw the phones on the suitcases and gave me back his wallet. The carabinieri said, ‘You’re lucky we’re Romanian too,’ and they left. When I looked there were only 50 Euros left and a stack of newspaper cut to the size of the Euro bills. A woman asked me if she should call the real carabinieri, but I said no, I was sure the impostors would cut my throat. I came home with 50 Euros on Christmas. That’s why my beard is white. No one plays you like our own Romanians,’ he says heavily. ‘Often, disguised in policemen, they stop Romanian buses and rob them. Romanians don’t complain.’
I don’t understand why, since it is legal to work for Romanians in Italy.
He says Italian farmers drive you like slaves on a plantation, they constantly are on your back. They pinch half an hour in the morning, starting work earlier, and then ask you to work, as a favor, for another hour in the evening, so multiplied with so many workers, they get a whole lot of free work out of them. If they think you are slow, they tell you don’t come back tomorrow and they don’t pay you for the work you’ve already done.
The last place he worked they didn’t pay him. He’ll go back again and perhaps he’ll take a truck loaded with strawberries and sell it, and he will run away with the money. The farmer deserved that.
But Romanians wised up now, they don’t go working on farms, it’s slavery, but instead they take care of old folks, this way they don’t have to pay rent.
Could I help him get work in America? He’s not finicky. Any work, he’d do any work.
I tell him I kept away from the Romanian community in Queens, so much venom, so much trouble. I could ask a builder who was a serious man, always worked, but I couldn’t guarantee he’d be safe from similar misadventures. ‘They told me how workers fell off scaffoldings and were abandoned, no health insurance, nothing.’ ‘Oh, that goes without saying,’ he nods. ‘In Italy too you were on your own if bad luck hit you.’
I just don’t know what happened to that builder. I met him once, his face was bashed in, he couldn’t see with one eye anymore.
His wife tells me he already dreams himself in America. So will I help him? He says smiling to her, ‘Why, you want to see me gone?’ She says nothing.
She tells me the mayoress asked her help to prove a woman in the village sold her twins for organ harvesting. It’s hard to prove because the kids were born in the cornfield. The mother never went to the doctors. They never had a birth certificate. The only proof is the sadness in the mother’s eyes.
Then she tells me about another woman who was drinking beer while she was breastfeeding. She asked her why. Because it makes milk for the baby.
I recoil and block it out. I don’t want misery in my life anymore. I want to live. I don’t want cancer and misery. I want to live my life now. I am not a sponge for misery, please, stop.
In the morning a bakery van from my hometown drives by to deliver bread at the village grocery store. My host stops it. She talks to the tall curly hair driver, a pity he has the customary potbelly. He will take me home. So long.
The van stops abruptly at various run down stores along the road. He brings back envelopes with money and empty plastic crates. We amble past wedges of sunflower fields, cornfields, stacks of hay, a wide muddy river, spruced up houses, here and there some painted in bright green or violet. He plays a cassette with merry drinking songs, that tell about the wife of the singer had enough of the singer’s buddies and pub going, he hopes to pacify her with an alcoholic kiss, she protests its stinky breath, he then informs her that he’s going to sleep.
Tomorrow, he’ll do the same thing again.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Well, here you have it: If you’d like to throw a bit of money my way to keep my endeavors going, and also enable me to spread the money to my various causes, witnessing democracy, amassing testimonies, and engineering social change thru art being one of them, I’d be grateful.


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