[Room: a gaudy Jesus on faux velvet wall spread above a large bed. A pile of clothing hangs on a sagging horizontal metal bar. Sizable fridge. Opposite wall: a shelf with cooking pots, a TV set. FĂNEL, early 50s, feeds EMILIA while trying to steady the TV image.]
These American houses are better than ours. They’re flexible when it comes to earthquakes. What do you need two rows of bricks for? Am I going to break into your room? I could, but I don't! I don't! I could just thrust my feet thru the wall, just thrust them and my feet would be in your bed, just thrust them! Boom! In your bed. Before you, a nice, serious lady lived in your room. Vera. She was a good friend. My cousin—don't pay attention to the gossip, she's just my cousin. She's just a relative, for God's sake! They were friends the two of them. Vera would come and sit in this armchair and we’d watch TV together. We were friends. I gave her a key to put her food in the fridge. I’ll give you one too. Emilia, dear girl, puiule, my gosling, eat. Eat. What can I do? Now I’m fixing a guy's basement. He had it all neatly done, everything ready to go and the worker told on him at the town hall and now he had to pull out all the plumbing. What a pity.
Romanians eat you alive, pull you down.
Look here, and here and here, see? No window panes. That’s why I am upset with Bebe! Be human! I paid him two months’ rent now, but I don’t want to stay here! Look! [More empty windows frames.] My cousin comes and yells and curses me, you know, like relatives do, that I haven’t cleaned around the room, and Vera would come and wipe the counter, do this do that. I told her, “Vera, please! You don’t have to!” “Oh, Mr. Fănel, it’s no bother!” she’d say. Then she left. We don’t know where she’s gone. She didn’t even leave a phone number behind.
My cousin was very upset because they were good friends. I’d come home from work and find them chitchatting here in a corner. Don’t pay heed to what they say. I don’t have anything to do with Maria, I always address her politely, “Madam Maria.” I told them, “You shouldn’t look down on this woman, just because she’s so modest.” I saw you cleaning up after the whole floor! I told them, “You shouldn’t disrespect her!” I even told Marinică! I told Bebe too! “Just because she quietly cleans after the whole bunch of us you shouldn’t disrespect her!”
Emilia, in Bucharest I was the head of the district at State Housing Department/ICRAL! I’m a construction engineer. I came here to make money for my family, but it’s hard. I come home, I watch TV, I say my prayers, I look at the Good Lord, and go to bed. I drink a beer, no strong spirits, just beer, and oh, once I told Maria’s son! Oh, he could be so inconsiderate, the ass. I was about to go to the bathroom, I had to pee so badly after my beer and the door was closed and I knock and he opens it and says, [In a whiny tone.] “Just one second.” I was wearing a baseball cap, I don’t know why, I just like wearing it and I came back into the room, and I, oh, [Squeezes his legs over his crotch.] and ujjjj! and I wait! wait! for an hour and again I go and knock at the door. I don’t know what was in my mind that I didn’t go downstairs. I was drunk, loaded, and he again says, [Whiny.] “Just one sec.” And I go back to my room, but then I can’t hold it any longer and I go and tell him, “You donkey ass, how long am I supposed to wait? Is this what I do to you? If you knock at the door, I hurry up and let you use it.” And he went into his room! Emilia, I’m not lying to you, it was full of shit everywhere! I burst into his room, tore the door with my legs [Demonstrates how.] and grabbed him! Hit him! “You donkey ass, this is how you leave the bathroom?” I clean it. It shines like a bulb, but they are animals. How can I leave the toilet unclean when I meet you on the floor and say hello to you? How can I?
Take this piece, and this one too! You have to eat this one! If you can’t finish it, take it home, put it in the fridge, eat it tomorrow. I don’t want to eat anymore salad either; take it, please, take it with you, dear girl, puiule, my gosling.
I was so run down, I fell from the scaffolding, I was up like at this floor, third floor, and I said to Enrico, the Mexican, I told him, “This won’t work.” He said, “Yes, it will, it will.” “Alright. And as he hauled up the buckets with plaster, the scaffolding fell down, and I held the scaffolding tight but my arm broke in three places and I fell crouched, [Makes a posture of sitting and falling thru the air.] The other two died on the spot. Enrico’s legs went out thru his shoulders! They put me on a plank of plywood and took me to their hospital. I could walk for months, only like this. [Hunchbacked and bent knees, slow crawling movement.]
Sit down. This is the History Channel, you don’t have it. See, the Visigoths, this is about us! Look at that! The Huns! I’ll stay up late. I’ll leave the door cracked open, you come back and we talk more. I don’t feel like washing the dishes now. I’ll put them in the fridge because of the roaches! There are huge roaches. They come from the bathroom. Here, take this spray can. I bought four of them. You spray when you leave your room by the threshold and they don’t come inside anymore.[Hits the TV set with his fists until the image steadies.] I told Marinică if you hear something in the night, don’t get scared, it’s just me adjusting the TV. Here I am with long hair. Was it right that she cut it? No, it was not. It takes five years to get that hair. It was long. And jet-black, how I whitened. Here I am like a rat in the rat-hole. There were three of us digging that hole. Here is Fănel taking a bath at leisure; this is my car.
Take care of yourself. Bebe is dangerous. He is dangerous. He won't take advantage of you like a woman, no, but I know him. He won't fool me even if now he became the vice-president of the church committee. He wants to kick me out because of my kitten. What wrong does my kitten do, tell me? Have you ever heard him meow? Never. [He looks under the bed and baby talks to his kitten.] Where is my kitten now? He is so sensitive and fearful, he hid under the bed! Bebe is dangerous. We all quarreled with him, Marius and Vasile and even Iulian, and found work somewhere else. He would keep the money, not give us anything. “To cover your rent,” he would say, “for your rent, let it gather here, save it up.” And he would go on for months. He would give us only $80 a week! I quarreled with them all. I don't want to see them. They all hate me now. I come in and stay with the Good Lord. [Kisses Jesus on the wall carpet.]
You don't know how I pray every morning. I pray for you. I do. I kneel like this and [Kneels and holds his palms in prayer.] pray to the Good and Only One to keep me safe and afloat thru the day and I pray for all these wicked people in the building too, and I pray, Good Lord, may their evil spells and curses stay away from me, dear Lord and Only One. Take this sausage and this chicken. Maybe one day I come to your door and ask for a crumb of bread. Take it.
Give it to your son, as if he is my own dear son.
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, freedom of speech and faith, and engineering social change thru art being one of them, I’d be grateful.
June 24, 2013