Fragment from my volume: The Door and other extraordinary stories
Mircea woke up in the middle of the night and could not fall asleep again. He couldn’t escape what he feared, this night either. But now, unlike other times, he felt his head heavy, as if he was going through a hangover. He shifted in bed from one side to the other, without being able to find his place, and when Sorana moved next to him, he realized it. I am going to wake her up, he said to himself, and he arose slowly, imperceptibly, like a cat lurking for a dove, the future meal. But he did not want to eat. After a few haunting hours of sitting on the couch, he picked up a book and started reading. But, after a few lines, his eyes started burning so much that he couldn’t even hold them open. In the bathroom he splashed plenty of cold water over them and it seemed that he was feeling better. But he did not know what to do. The sensation of unaccomplished sleep, of interrupted rest was like a flu fever. The daybreak brought a temporary feeling of peace. Until next evening, when he couldn’t sleep at all. This time he couldn’t hide the problem from Sorana any longer, as she woke up in the middle of the night, confused, if not a little scared, not to find him in bed, next to her. What happened, she asked him? I cannot sleep, he answered, laying his head in her lap. The young woman squeezed him with her arms, protectively. She was caressing his hair, hoping it will bring him comfort. However, she could see on his overwrought face that it was helpless. Tomorrow we are going to the doctor, she told him, we will find a cure. She kissed him, and her cold lips cooled his temples. The morning found them like that, clinging to each other, like companions in arms in the trenches, during frosty winters, on an absurd line.
While Mircea was taking a shower, Sorana was speaking to her mother, a renowned neurosurgeon form the capital city. Can’t you recommend us someone in Braşov? She asked her. Do you think we have to come to Bucureşti for insomnia? Al right, have it your way. Thank you, kisses. Bye.
At 10:30 they were already in the railway station. At 11 the train was leaving Braşov, heading towards the mountains. You could see the cross in Bucegi far away, on the peak, lofty, among the fuzzy clouds of the early summer morning. I miss the mountain, Sorana told him. Although we are next to them, I can’t remember when we last walked across them… I think it was the summer of 2006, said Mircea. It was then when I saw you bathing naked in that lake. Till this day I haven’t stopped wondering how you could do such a thing. I didn’t think anybody would see me; she tried to explain herself, blushing today, just like she did back then. No, he smiled; I meant the water, which was cold like hell. She laughed and she kissed him. The check man stapled the tickets, and he promised her that they will stop at Buşteni, on their way back. Or, she continued, maybe it would be better to first stop at Breaza. We haven’t been there since New Year’s. I’m sure the clean air will be good for you, and the insomnia will go faster. Otherwise, you will become a second Cioran. And, he laughed, the world could not handle another one!
They were still joking when the train was entering Gara de Nord, as if they were on a trip. Not even Sorana’s mother could read on their faces the concernment, although she could guess it. That was why she was trying to reassure them. I will take you to the best specialist. If we have to, we will do all the necessary analysis. And MRI, if necessary, although I don’t think we need to. It is probably just an episode; it will go away with the specific treatment.
Indeed, Mircea was seen by the best. He even did a RMI, to discard any fear that it might be a tumor or who knows what; it only revealed a more intense cerebral activity in the right lobe than the other, and that was it. The treatment prescribed worked from day one, therefore Mircea slept until Breaza. This time in the car of Sorana’s father, who was pleased to take them there. Although, at first, Sorana’s mother was not happy that Mircea was “a commoner”, he had liked him from the beginning, and shortly they both received him in their family, so much that sometimes they defend him, against their daughter. She always objects, hey, I am your child, not him, but only as a joke. In fact, she is very happy that everything was much simple than she thought, and the fright that her mother, otherwise loving, but who could be so blunt sometimes, will reject him and will cause a perpetual conflict for which she did not have the solution, proved to be only a short-term, maternal, defensive mechanism.
Once they got to Breaza, at night, the insomnia came back, full strength, just that being rested due to his earlier sleep, Mircea was not feeling tired at all, so he took advantage and started reading from his favorite book, Out of this world, the edition signed by the late author for Sorana’s mother. He read it again until morning and when Sorana woke up, she found him quietly looking at the sunrise. His face was enlightened, but he enjoyed this sensation which energized him. I don’t know how you can stare so much at the sun, she whispered, handing him the steamy, inviting cup of coffee. Good morning, he kissed her, instead of an answer. Did you sleep well? Look, he eluded the answer again; I thought we should go on the mountain no later than tomorrow. It’s enough that we are relaxing today… What do you say? We put on our backpacks and we climb to Omu? Do you have the guts? Isn’t it too much? she hesitated. Without any training… So, you are scared! No, I’m not scared, just that… Alright, then you will stay at the cabin and I will go on the expedition by myself. I need it. OK, she agreed.
It wasn’t the first time she would accompany him just to the last cabin, they did the same, for instance, in the Făgaraş Mountains, when he continued through The Devil’s Gorge, and she waited for him, taking a sunbath and getting a mountain tan, a tan which does not go as quickly when washed, as the sea tan. She was happy that at least now they would go out on the mountain, as they used to do each year.
Well than, let us start preparing, she got excited. Let us go shopping, let’s prepare the wool sweaters and socks. Mircea stopped her with a kiss. And she stopped talking.
Although he did not get any sleep that night, Mircea was optimistic. He was sure that the mountain air and the effort of climbing will help him more than any medicine in the world. Therefore, early in the morning, they were already getting off the train in Buşteni. If they chose to climb in Bucegi, then they preferred the route that went through Jepii Mici. “It would take their guts out”, as Mircea liked to say. At first he would laugh at her. You, like a real Bucureşti girl, could climb by booth, he used to tell her. Or, you could buy it, he would also say maliciously. Sorana would pretend she was upset for a while, and wouldn’t kiss him until after he, tired of begging, would kiss her by force, only then she would answer and wouldn’t let go.
And now the ascent was charging him with a force inversely proportional to the tiredness. As if every step he struggled for was a dose of pure energy. When he would rest, in the evening, in front of the cabin, getting himself ready to “conquer” next day’s peak, he felt as if he could move the mountains if only he wanted to. Sorana knew that ahead laid a night of love, the kind one could only experience at high altitudes, and she blossomed as the day passed and the night approached. And after she felt asleep in his arms, he would look at the sky through the small window and felt closer to them, not only by 2000m. But he still couldn’t fall asleep.
Are you OK?! She asked him the next day, seeing his hollow eyes. Yes, excellent, he convinced her. I’m ready. He then gave her a long kiss, he warned her, as a joke, to wait for him, not to go running with other tourists, he picked up his small backpack and headed towards Omu.