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11/14/13

A Worm Has Wiggled Into People's Souls

[Early Spring, 2004. An apartment on Roosevelt Island, New York City. Thru the window the gray city skyline and glittering water. GRANDMA DIDINA prepares breakfast for IRINA, her daughter’s guest, then lovingly watches her eat.]


GRANDMA DIDINA:
Do you like your eggs scrambled? My son-in-law also likes them that way. Here is some salami. He always eats salami. If we don't have salami he doesn’t feel satisfied! Have some slices of provolone cheese. Here's bread. You have to eat properly. Young people don't eat properly. [Places the plate with eggs on the table. Sits down. Pause.] Look at the geraniums! It's a jungle! They blossomed early this year. Hey, you calico cat! Get back in the armchair! Let Irina eat!
I wanted to go to watch the Passion of Jesus. Imagine! Maia Morgenstein is in it! A Romanian girl! I wanted to go but none of my girls wanted to go. "Girls"! If you add up together their age, they are 200 years old! Is it really anti-Semitic?
America is hard, you have to adapt to its ruthless laws. It's all about money. The rhythms here are mad, hard to adapt to. Some don't. I look at my daughter and my son-in-law, they come home dead tired. Luckily I'm here, I cook and take care of the house. Supervise the kids. I don't like how kids behave here! My grandchildren are polite, but their friends just come and go straight into Sorin's room, without even saying hello! As if I don't exist. They are high school kids! They eat, leave the dishes all over the place and don't even say a thank you! I told them, “This is not a hotel! Wash the dishes after yourselves!”
See how society shapes them? [Pause.]
I've been sitting here, thinking about things. A worm has wiggled into people's souls. Nazism, communism, terrorism, they are all the same! They are all built on lies! Politicians fill their pockets with gold and don't give a hoot about poor people.
We Romanians are a kind, tolerant people. We carried them piggyback for decades. We were stupid, stupid, stupid… We believed in communism, enthusiastically, when it came. Young people went after school on their own volition and built up those mammoth buildings in the Red Star Square. We believed! But when I finally saw how crooked they turned… Why, they built this huge steel factory by the Black Sea, at Năvodari, you know? And we had no iron, no coal! How can you be so megalomaniac, build a factory like that? Even now it's empty! Our industrious comrades came and stole whatever they could, a window here, a door there, and it was with everybody's silent agreement! Come! Come and take whatever you can! In bright daylight! They stole everything. The state took everything from us, so we always stole. And lied. On the radio they said we made 100,000 tons of steel a month! What a lie. We barely made one ton!
When I realized they were lying, I told my brother, "Brother, this system won't last. It's too crooked." But my very own brother, a colonel in the army, said, "Don't you ever let anyone know that you told me this!" I looked at him—my very own brother! If I am your sister and I can't talk to you about my doubts, what is this? He never spoke to me again! If the party said everything was wonderful, he believed it! Well, later on he asked forgiveness, "My dear sister, you were so right. I was a fool."
He can't survive on his pension if we don't send him a hundred dollars every month. In ten years of inflation they increased the pension by 20,000 lei, but nowadays a tram ticket is 20,000! They ruined everything!
Hundreds of people would stand in line for hours and we wouldn't say a word to each other. We were afraid to talk, because informers could tell on us, twist our words and we’d end up in jail.
Before communism—I grew up under capitalism—I was twelve and I remember people were much friendlier then. We talked to our neighbors. My mother once sent me to borrow two eggs from our neighbor. Then she returned them, but the neighbor said she wouldn't take them, because they were smaller than her eggs. "Dear neighbor, this is all I've got! My hens make smaller eggs! I can give you four or six in return!" No, she didn't want more eggs, she wanted just two large ones. "Well, then, here you are!" And my mom smashed the two eggs, one after the other, on our neighbor's forehead! [Laughs.] Oh, dear! She was not a patient one, my mom. When my father came home, he was a quiet guy, Polish nobleman, he asked her, "Why have you done this, Pichi? Why couldn’t you just hand them to her?" She said nothing. Luckily the neighbor didn't sue my mom.
[Pause.] Don't bother with the dishes; just put them into the sink.
[Blackout.]

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