Friday, December 3, 2010

Strange memories

I couldn’t have been more than 6 years old. My grandmother and I were in the backyard on a cold autumn afternoon. It was foggy and our chained dog was enthusiastically wagging its tail around her arthritic leg joints as she dragged them into the garage. In the old dark room, smell of moist wood and dog hair, she fetched some large nails and a hammer. I followed her onto the patio where she nailed a piece of wood to something else, I can’t quite remember what. I was puzzled and amazed and asked her why she knew how to do that. “Men are the ones who do that. Where did you learn?” She had been divorced from my grandfather for a little less than 6 years. She smiled, walked away and as I was following her, she said, as if speaking to no one in particular - “Need teaches you”.

She always had a very lively nature and an innocent, almost unprovoked smile, like a child's, whenever she did mundane things. She’d sing as she was preparing our food and warming up the pigs’ winter broth. She’d cut up garden salad and mix it with mais flower for the ducks and change blankets on top of a box where a hen was hatching her eggs and my grandmother would sing in a low and prolongued voice. They were songs I never recognized, except for the Christmas carols I’d join in on. She’d talk to our animals and I’d love my time just following her around, like a 2 week old duckling.

You must know

... how when you grow up people are always telling you that you’re weird for doing this and weird for doing that. You realize it and you tone it down. You watch others. You learn. You don’t wipe your nose with your sleeve. You don’t just get up from the table as soon as you’re done. You don’t hold the fork in your right hand. You definitely don’t listen to the vast majority of your natural instincts.

But when you grow up, people tend to stop telling you what not to do and start waiting for you to be unusual. Being regular is alright, but being special...

So I was pretty messed up considering all my life I’ve felt like the outsider.

Of course you go through phases and you visit some places where people appreciate your weirdness more than in others. And sometimes it’s absolutely splendid to showcase your weirdness. Take being kind. I don’t know if I had too many bible lessons or my grandmother was too much of a grandmother, but I remember often being the sucker who just wanted things to be fair. Fair to the bone, fair to the last drop, fair to the last rule of the game.

When I was about 8, I had a fight with the 2 other girls I would often play with after school. We had decided on game rules for chasing each other around and, as far as I can remember, they had broken those rules. I remember I took it so hard that I immediately left, went to the other side of the playground and started making little crosses. Little Jesus crosses, from small twigs and long grass files instead of string. Some minutes later, when the girls joined me, I lectured them, almost crying, gasping from despair and pure outrage. I remember speaking while looking at my hands as they were working and I can see it so clearly now how my eyes became watery and I had to stop. I just wanted them to understand that the principle had been violated. I was lecturing them in the most passionate of ways about the necessity of being fair. And then I handed each of them one of the crosses and I didn’t keep one for myself.

I don’t think I’m kind. Not in the way in which most people think kindness is meant. I don’t feel the need to help those who fuck up. I don’t want to work more for someone who didn’t do their job. And I don’t wanna forgive someone who drunk drove into a pole. Of course I’d help someone on a hospital bed, but not more than an average homo sapiens would.

When you see an old lady on the street, in such places as crowded and uncaring, nasty old Bucharest, and she’s begging or selling unspectacular flowers for close to nothing, you want to help. But it’s not kindness that makes you want to help her. Don’t flatter yourself, as I am not flattering myself. It’s a sense of fairness that drives us. If you think that’s kindness, you’re probably compensating for some other shitty thing you did that day.