Novel, "Ego Prose" series, Polirom, 2009, 224 pages
I haven't played Stack Attack for a long time.
I haven't unpacked for three days, since I came back from my parents'. Păpuşescu is happy. She keeps sleeping on my suitcase.
The bread has turned mouldy.
I haven't defrosted my fridge for more than two months.
I took a knife and removed the mould from the bred crust and then I spread chicken pâté on three slices. I opened a jar of pickled cucumbers, I took out two, cut them in thin slices, I put everything on a plate and I sat down in front of the window to look at the fireworks. Păpuşescu hid behind the sofa. She didn't come out until two o'clock when no crack had been heard for a long while. Until about half past four, as long as it took to defrost the fridge, I cleaned the washbasin in the bathroom and I played Stack Attack on my mobile phone. And not just once. I celebrated. I was somehow hampered in my endeavours by the New Year greetings I kept getting through the SMS; I didn't reply to any of them anyway. I dedicated the first round of Stack Attack to Adam. I spoke in English with Adam. A language that was neither mine nor his. This year Adam turns sixty-seven. It's cold now in Poland. The Baltic Sea shore is icy now. After I met Adam, for a whole year, as long as I waited for him to answer the only letter that I ever sent to him, I had a bookmark on my office computer on the map of the city of Gdańsk. I didn't have a laptop or an Internet connection at home then. At least once a week I bought myself a present for having finished my work: I would open an interactive city map of Gdańsk and look for Piastowska 89 to see how Adam's street almost flowed into the Baltic Sea. I would click on the satellite option and I saw the trees bordering Piastowska street, the cars parked in Piastowska street and the roofs of the hoses in Piastowska street. I would blow the image up and as I was about to get to Adam the text popped up: We are sorry, but we don’t have imagery at this zoom level for this region. And then I would take a step back, I would accept the distance, as it was only from a distance that I could see the barren branches of the trees, the cars and the roofs of the houses, maybe even Adam's house in Piastowska street. Getting closer was impossible, we are sorry. So was the map and so was English. It was always cold in the map of the city of Gdańsk, the satellite view. I scored 5835 points in Stack Attack.
My home phone rings. I get greetings for the New Year. They wish me the accomplishment of all dreams. I disconnect the phone, notice that I lost the game, go to the bathroom and rinse the linen that I left in water to soak last year. I wring it well and hang it on the two plastic bars on which the shower curtain hangs. There is no room left for the orange towel. I lay it on the hot radiator in the bedroom. Păpuşescu climbs on it. The plumber that set the toilet seat and changed the pipes in my bathroom told me that it was a bad thing to have the sewage pipe of the building in your bathroom. Because you'll always hear what your neighbours are doing. My neighbours above are playing loud music, very loud. After an hour, someone started to clean the corridor with a vacuum cleaner.
I dedicated the second Stack Attack round to Şerban. I rarely remember Şerban and his face of a wretched prince. And this is not because we only met four times – three times on July evenings and once in the winter. I only spent two days talking to Adam, walking with him and drinking orange Campari – though he would have rather had some sausages and beer, as he told me before we parted: I’m so glad tomorrow I will be back in Poland, I miss a lot my sausages and my beer… - and in spite of that I sighed for him for a whole year. During which Adam did not send me a word. I don't know why Şerban mattered so little to me. I remember listening to him, my mouth wide open as, in the middle of the genetics lessons that he gave me twice he suddenly said something of this kind: “it's really shitty when you jump out of the window and you don't manage to break but your hip bones and some ribs”. He had left his wife and son for a great love that ultimately seemed not o care too much about his sacrifice. One evening he held me on his knees while he emptied a 25 ounce bottle of whiskey and Italy lost the European Cup in soccer. Every now and then he handed the bottle out to me. I didn't refuse lest he believed I was conceited or something. Until they stepped with their shoes on Toldo's face during the extra time, the French could not score the winning goal. I hardly kissed the mouth of the bottle without sipping too much. In the 103rd minute Trezeguet put an end to the game sending the ball in the net of a slowed down Toldo. 2-1 for France. Rotterdam, July 2, 2000. “I am too old for you”, Şerban said. “Old and sick. Let me cook something for you”. And he made some pasta and ham and tomato sauce for me. He chain-smoked. He had ashtrays everywhere in his house: in the kitchen, in the bathroom, on the bookshelves, on his night table. And in each ashtray a couple of stubs.