Fragment from my volume: The Door and other extraordinary stories
“Can you imagine” he told me “how awful it was for me to hear such a thing. Even now after so much time I can still feel goose bumps. Because I could not know if it was a trap or the guy was serious. You can imagine, although you are young, how things used to be back then: several months had passed since my good friend Ioan, decided to stay in Italy. Ever since, the Secret Police seems to have gotten even madder. The investigations would not cease, and they would not only investigate the members of the family, they can also tell you about their experience, but also friends and I was no exception. At first, they would ride me in the snaffle, then they would get to warnings, never mind, I don't want to remember all the details, then they would get to promises, you know, right: comrade, if you will cooperate we will give you everything you want. You want the job of the director of the theatre? We will give it to you. Do you want to be a university teacher? It can be fixed. Or maybe you want to travel to a conference in Germany? This can also be done, of course, you will be accompanied, given your background… Aaa, what was I saying? that's how they said it, background, but I had no background, I minded my own business, I was teaching Romanian language and literature in the countryside where I was distributed and I was happy that I was left alone. Although I was friends with Ioan I had escaped their “love” because as you can probably see, I'm thinking it now, I was neither as genius as he was, nor as reactionary. You can call it cowardice, but I used to say to myself that if I would stay in my place and mind my own business they would leave me alone… It seems that I was wrong… Of course, I'm not blaming Ioan, God forbid, he did well that he staid, what was a man with his intelligence supposed to do here? But I cannot restrain myself from observing it if he wouldn't have stayed, I would probably never have been investigated. Although who knows with these insane men everything is possible, they would have figured out a reason if they wanted to. Or what, as if they would have needed a reason. They were the masters, they could do what they want it if they wanted to investigate me just because I existed they could, couldn't they? Right, so I'm not blaming anyone. I mean, pardon, I'm not blaming him or myself, but I am blaming them! I don't want to hear excuses that they were only doing their job, the ungracious duty requested by the party etc. no one forced them to be pricks, beasts, terrorists. True terrorists, them, the police men and the informers. Do you know what actually the saddest thing was? That you really did not know if someone near you wasn't in fact a snitcher. Look, for example, at my school. I have no idea who that man was, who told them all I did, all I said, although I did not do anything, I did not say anything… so you can imagine how terrified I was.
I still had alive in my mind the endless hours spent in that empty room, with the dampness of walls rising up to the middle, but with only one chair and which the comrade performing the investigation would seat and another crooked one for me, at that depressing table on which there were only the pieces of paper where I was expected to write down my confessions. What to confess? I did not do anything, I told them. I'm sorry, I don't want to seem disrespectful, comrade, but I really don't know what to say. When the comrade would smack his fist against the table, my heart would stop. I think I'm lucky I never took a smack, I don't know how I escaped. Maybe they knew as well that I truly didn't know anything and just wanted to remind me, in case I would ever forget — how could I forget? — Who the boss was, the master! But let me come back… so not even two months had passed since the last investigation, when this guy called me, with his deep and slow voice, that would inspire anything but trust. And he tells me, can you believe it? That he traced an inter-war diary, considered to be lost, that I might find interesting: if not for yourself, then definitely for your friend Ioan, you know who. At first I thought it was a bad joke, only afterwards I became terrified thinking that it might be them. And I hung up of course. But the guy was persistent, he called again. Please don't hang up, he told me, I'm not talking rubbish. We must meet, for me to prove it to you. But you realize, he told me, that if your phone is intercepted, I am risking my life. Therefore please, go tonight, at 7 o'clock sharp, to the public phone in the corner, I will call you on that number. Like that one couldn't have been intercepted, ha. You can imagine I battered, I struggled all afternoon. What is this? What diary? And why would it interest Ioan? But, after all, who cared, Ioan was in Italy well off, and I was under the surveillance of the Secret Police. It was all they were waiting for, for me to do a wrong move… let us say it would have been true, that the man wasn't one of them, but that he had something for me to give to Ioan, how could I send it further, without risking my own life. Imagine, who was talking of danger, a guy whom I didn't know and he was transforming me into a target. Why me? Just because I was a friend, although a quite close one. Or more likely a disciple, I must admit, because I always had something to learn from him. In every class, in every discussion, if he was there, it was impossible for him not to come with a personal interpretation, with a never before encountered detail, with a clarifying observation, although most often than not he would completely turn around the entire perspective. He was miles away from us, he was probably closer to his master… and then it occurred to me. But no, it was impossible, it was impossible. No! The Secret Police would have been the first to know, if… no, how could it be? And yet I could not stop, what if? Indeed nothing is impossible and not even the Secret Police is almighty. I knew from reliable sources that there was still not yet caught a member of the resistance in the mountains. If this was possible, than the Secret Police did not know everything. Maybe, just maybe, this got away from them as well. Therefore, can you believe it? Hmm, I decided to go. Yep! Yes. And I went. At 7 p.m. I was in the phone booth. At five past seven I was already shivering. At ten past seven I was worried and at a quarter past seven I was running from there as if a bomb was going to drop. Lucky it was already night and although my feet were frozen, now that I was running I had started to warm up. Of course, I only ran for a few meters, I'm not much of a sports man anyway, but I didn't want to draw attention to myself. This much training I had myself, as I was used to running after the bus in the morning, in order not to miss the economy train, by which I would commute to work each day like the entire working class. So I stopped running but I continued walking. I did not stop at home, I was sure I was already being followed; the best thing would be not to go home. Maybe they will lose my sight if I take the small streets, I thought. Or maybe they will get bored… Therefore I was walking, not fast, but not slow either, careful to every move around. But there were none. Only a dog barking or the crack of a door. But no one was following me, I was convinced after walking for almost 20 minutes. Therefore, eventually, I returned home.
I fell asleep covered as usual with a blanket and coverlet, with my sports equipment over my pajamas, but I suddenly jumped scared. I did not know why the phone was ringing at that hour. I looked at it and I did not know what to do. Should I answer it or not? It insisted, that's why I answered. I apologize, that voice whispered, but I was followed and I did not want to endanger you. That is why I did not call, but you must know, that if you still want it, I will try again tomorrow same time, same place. And he hung up. I remained speechless. The fact that he would call after getting rid of his followers proved his truthfulness. I mean, wait a second, what if there was no follower, and if it he only made it up to gain my trust? And what did he mean, if I still wanted it? When did I ever want it? It’s not as if I went searching for him. No, I'm not going to fall in this trap again. I won't go anywhere. Christmas is close; I better stay home and do some ornaments for the Christmas tree, from colored paper as I learned when I was a pupil. Then on Christmas Eve I will quietly wait for the children to come sing carols, they do this every year. Why would I need to go to phone booths in the middle of the night waiting for a stranger? This is how I fell asleep, thinking about all these. I don't even remember what I dreamt that night, but I'm sure that in the morning I woke up with a dry mouth as if I would have been running all night or as if it would have been too warm in the studio. No matter how much I drunk, my thirst would not go away. Since my curiosity was bigger than my fear. But what if, I kept asking myself… so I went. Hmm, you can smile, I want to smile now myself, but then I had my heart in my boots. I was almost like a ghost. I'm not even sure I did not become a shadow all the way through, a ghost. I got there at 7 o'clock sharp just when the phone started to ring. This time I knew how to lose them; the voice told me when I confirmed it was me. I hope now you will believe me and will not suspect I'm an informant… I don't know what to believe, I answered. For now, everything is possible, anything is possible. If you are by any chance… if I were by now you would have been arrested. That convinced me, he was right. They would have taken me from the moment I opened the booth’s door or at least when I lifted the receiver. But they didn't and here I am, still in one piece, speaking on the phone with a stranger about a so-called diary. I know what you are thinking, he told me, how is it possible for this diary to exist and not yet to be in the hands of the Secret Police. He was again right. Well, he continued, I didn't really say that. I just said that I tracked it down. And, I could blaster, but it is not the case, I have a copy of it. A copy, I almost shouted? How is it possible for copies to exist? Probably, he answered, whoever took care of it knew how important it was, and to make sure it won't get lost, and you can see that he was right since the Secret Police took care of its disappearance, typed it. I have the carbon paper copy.
You mean to say that besides the manuscript, there is, aaaa, an original, typed copy? Exactly. And it is the diary I am thinking about? I am convinced you are thinking exactly about the correct diary, no doubt about it. Of…? Ssssh! He said quickly, no names on the phone. Maybe this is a safe phone, but even so, it is better not to say names that could start not only storms but real cataclysms! It would be best to meet. To meet? I almost shouted. Mister, what is wrong with you? Keep calm. Of course, we must meet, how else? Yes, yes, you are right, I whispered. I'm sorry. Mister? he did not answer for a few moments, then I heard him. It’s alright, a man went by, but he didn't even look at me. Although wouldn't it have been normal for him to at least look at me? I'm sorry; we better talk again tomorrow, the same way. And he hung up. It was as if I could see him rushing in the opposite direction from that man. But he had called me mister. I haven't heard something like this for how long? Too long… it was blasphemy, treason even just to think in such a bourgeois manner.