Luminița Zaharia - a revelation of the modern literature by Eliza Roha
Honestly speaking, “The Acronyms of Pascal”, short stories (Semne Publishing, Bucharest, 2015) written by Luminiţa Zaharia is a real revelation for the reader, out of range, of the common, an intelligent playing with ideas, words and meanings. An alert prose, juvenile, where irony, self-irony are at home, getting less wild until they reach into deep, disappointing thoughts regarding life and human nature, told with humor, in such a way that you can’t be upset, only take heed. Because, beyond all that, we find a very generous soul and a superior optimism, Pascal is, after all, only a masculine image in the mirror of a delicate and discrete feminine nature, as the author herself tells us: “This is my composition about Pascal, and if he will ever read it one day, I hope he sends me at least a postcard, not to thank me – oh, my God, no! – just with a good thought, a smiling thought, an erratic one, a silly one, even an amused thought!” (page 37).
A LITTLE BIT OF GREEN
(part of “The Acronyms of Pascal”, short stories - Semne Publishing, Bucharest, 2015)
translated by Alina Astãluş
Hikari felt a strange attraction towards elevators, and even though she was a sporty spirit, every time she had the opportunity she would get into one, just for a short ride into the unknown. It never happed that the elevator would get stuck, run out of air, light, crowding and loneliness in the elevator never bothered her. No man had ever hit on her, nobody had ever looked at her shady or with implied hate. It could be considered that, deep inside, she was expecting a great happening, and that was why she didn’t fight the impulse. But no, Hikari just loved the closed box, with her smooth vertical movement, she felt it protected her from the rest of the world, that it offers her, just for a few moments, the opportunity to be with herself, with her thoughts, it was the perfect setting for revealing introspection, it was like a break between two classes at school – she even liked the sounds the elevator made starting and stopping, like a bell that awoke her from dreaming for a second, just enough for her not to fall in the melancholy barrel completely, just enough for her not to forget that outside not all is lost. It felt like she was about to fall asleep and somebody would just put their hand gently on her shoulder, namely to remain at the sweet border between awakening and sleep, between real and imaginary. She didn’t look at the bright panel which listed the floors, she would play at guessing, I wonder at what cloud level am I now, I wonder how high did I fly? She didn’t look at herself in the mirror either, how could she look for herself in the outside? She kept her eyes closed, sniffing, savoring the height.
In that Thursday she really crossed the line: the radioprotection course was being held on the first floor, her class mates were taking the stairs, only her, the girl they admired for her figure and muscle tone, was taking the elevator, to everyone’s surprise. Of course, it wasn’t fair to look like that, while being so lazy!
The elevator starts, Hikari knows that a pit in her stomach will follow, inherently. A man runs to catch it, Hikari tries to block the doors – too late, the doors close, nervously, her left hand pinky is lightly crushed. It hurts. She tries to see the glass full: At least it’s not the ring finger! And she laughs alone, through tears. The pit in her stomach seems more violent than usual, or maybe the pain receptors are set to maximum sensitivity today, who knows!
The elevator doesn’t stop, the bell doesn’t ring. She can’t tell if she’s going up or going down, it feels like time stood still. Same as her heart. Her pinky has started to bruise, she feels, for the first time, the need to crouch in a corner and call for help. Just now the face of the man she glanced for a nanosecond forms on her retina. Her hearts restarts, like crazy. She feels a laceration unlike anything else, as if she had abandoned a child in the desert. She feels guilt, she feels an unbearable lose.
Salvation, the bell rings. Somebody called the elevator at the ground floor. The doors open, Hikari takes a step back, unconsciously. The space created becomes a metaphor of waiting. The man stands dumbfounded, amazed, he looks at her with gratitude, as if to say What, you came back for me? and Hikari hears herself say Yes! He wakes up, and hurriedly, he catches both doors with determination, so that no more disasters can occur. Hikari smiles without her knowing and feels all her energy slip away somewhere, in the undergrounds of the planet. They had five seconds all to themselves, five second when neither understood what was happening, but know, together, that something was decided in the stars. Can you fall in love in a nanosecond, almost unseen? And, after this prolog, reach the climax in a few moments, feeling that a lifetime has actually passed? Not even ephemerides live like this, on fast-fast forward, they at least have the chance of an illumination! Did they saw each other? Did they touch? Did they say a word? Did they breathe? Full darkness! Just somewhere in the stars, the moment was recorded, the dice cast.
The first two hours of class have ended, everybody goes down to the terrace, for coffee. Hikari lets her feet take her, without being away of her steps, fully disengaged from her own body, dematerialized, as if her often elevator rides have made her a floating being, a confused angel, anyway, a being over which gravity has no power. A seer once told her that in another life she was a fairy. And that was how she felt, a flying fairy, light as a feather, who had only one idea in her head, to find the man from the elevator, take his hand, and, with a kiss, certainly magic, turn him also into a fairy – and they would both fly on the rooftop of the world, on the edge of the rainbow, anyway, to the land of never-ending tales.
I actually believe that tales are lying to us a little, it seems fairies cannot move freely, their neck is stuck, their eyes fixed in one direction, so they can only see with their periphery vision…. Dur dur d’être un ange…thought Hikari. Her sense of humor always saved her from moments of extreme dramatism. But even so, if angels and fairies would be different than in tales – ugly, deformed, deaf-mute, with sores and horrible diseases, she would have still paid the price, for floating she would have accepted anything.
On the terrace, there is a bustle, people gather in larger or smaller groups, according to gender, liking, interests. Some take photos near a billboard, other exchange business cards, a busboy walked amongst them with a tray from which the smell of coffee rises invitingly. Hikari quickly takes a cup and retreats to a corner of the terrace, behind a pole. She doesn’t feel like socializing, to comment on the course from which she understood nothing, or ask, formally, people about health. She didn’t find Him in the crowd and asks herself if maybe it’s for the better. The building’s revolving doors turn but Hikari can’t turn, petrified as she is in her new fairy body. All she manages to do is to lean against the pole, otherwise she would collapse. Her heart stopped again, maybe she should see a doctor, she thinks without much conviction. It’s somewhat of a complacency conversation with her own brain – still a form of dissimulation, the self-spoken blah blah – rather than talk with strange people about boring things, better to tell yourself, for instance: it’s raining outside, to smother the true thought: I’m in love, or what should I cook today? instead of what will become of my life? She knows instinctively, who left through the door, without having to see him. She understands the phrase “love is blind” now and tries a corollary, which should, in theory, amuse her, momentarily save her: “If love is blind, it means the other sense are sharper miraculously. As everything you sharpen becomes edgy, it means that love is lethal. If love is lethal, what am I doing here?” But she doesn’t feel like laughing at all, hides her face in the coffee’s steam, absorbs it greedily, so it doesn’t reveal her hiding in it – because, isn’t it so, who has ever seen a steamy pole?! She could, even so, blind and almost fainting, perfectly remake down to the millimeters, His route. She knows he sat, like a bewildered child, on the sidewalk, not caring if he dirtied his pants. His flax shirt, eggshell color, fits perfectly with the flavor of the coffee, Julius Meinl, originally from Austria, which “inspires poets since 1862”, as the slogan goes – and Hikari can almost hear Elvis singing Just a little bit of green…
He drinks his coffee and watches the clouds, with enviable wonder. Only children can look that way. In His honor, the clouds tale unimaginable shapes, ever changing. In this way, the amazon queen clouds slides sheepishly into the matchbox girl, then in Cinderella, then into a simple girl from a foreign country, and He suddenly feels the need to visits this country, with the girl as his guide. When the cloud changes shape again, into a sort of map of Canada, something like that, the smile suddenly drops. A poor cloud and the smile. He doesn’t talk to anybody either, although He does not have an air of shyness, loneliness. Hikari feels all these, but she had given up trying to decipher them. She manages a 90 degrees turn, now she leans on the pole only with her left shoulder. Periphery vision doesn’t help much, it’s just a pretext to hang on, still, to normality, to appearances. How to say: I’m blind but I can see him?
She doesn’t know how He fakes normality, what methods he uses. Maybe he doesn’t need it – whoever sees him, sees him, whoever not… But Hikari knows he can only be seen by her. A clear sign: his green laser glance reaches, first in straight line, to the pole (and she doesn’t even care that it will melt, that it will crash on top of her!), then it circles around, evading every know law of physics. It reaches her, it investigates her, it appropriates her forever. Now she’s sure: He is also a fairy.
The scene moves in time, the place stays the same. We don’t know how many days have passed, months, years, nothing betrayed the change. The building has the same modern air about it, the courses are still taking place on the first floor, the elevator was in capital revision, tulips still eternally in bloom, in crystal vases, in each room. At the bar, the same fat mustachio waiter, dutiful and well natured. The smell of coffee tied together memories better than the scenery, hence resulting that one should never trust in fixed objects, in their state of solid aggregation, on the ground. The ties memories do not endure slavery, they explode all on their own. Hikari feels them smell her, whispering around her, in a witches’ dance and doesn’t know how to defend herself. She cannot guess their intentions, her telepathy doesn’t work here.
An elder professor hails her ceremoniously, congratulates her on her big mark on the license exam, and asks her if she found a corresponding job. She stares at him in amazement, as if an occult force plunged her into the future and mumbles something formal, she doesn’t remember what. She calls the elevator. The elevator comes, invites her inside. Her feet take the leap, while her heart has stopped. As usually, she doesn’t push any buttons, she lets herself be taken. She hears a metal voice, vaguely feminine: What floor do you want to go? Will you look at this technology how it evolves, almost suddenly. She doesn’t reply, it seems stupid to talk to a robot. The voice repeats the question. So, she won’t get away! A little irritated, Hikari says: To the land of fairies, as if the robot understands jokes!
The pit in the stomach. The dizziness of taking off. It seems like the elevator is faster now, or maybe the technical revision is to blame. Or her weightlessness. Hikari, the girl without a body. She feels His presence, that unmistaken magnetism, the shape of His occupied air, back then. Maybe a hundreds of people have taken the elevator since then, but nobody and nothing managed to change his allotted space, his enchanted space. To distort his shape. She feels his aroma of child on the beach, the green of his eyes engulfs her unexpectedly. She hugs him, with reckless courage. She understands that nothing is lost. She caresses his lower jowl, his left clavicle, his youthful bicep, his irresolute knee cap towards maturity. He is not too tall, if she stands on her toes, she could even kiss him. She traces his profile with her pinky, almost healed now – and is certain that no, she didn’t imagine him. It’s Him, as she foresaw him, as she dreamt him, as she saw him. As she waited for him for a lifetime. She runs out of air, knows that will pass out. As a sign, the elevator doors open.
This floor didn’t seem to exist before, she remember nothing of the scenery. A welcome sign. Instead of the traditional tulips, multicolored freesias with a maddening perfume, everywhere. Live freesias, let us be clear, in pots, on alleyways. Not in vases, not in buttonholes. Directional signs: To fairygondola; To Lost Fairy restaurant; The Miracol Tavern; Little Dwarf Café; Spiritual Fairy Café. It amuses her, it bewilders her. She stars towards the café, she would give anything for a good coffee. It’s like she arrived in munchkin land, everything is lilliputian here, the tables, the chairs, the silverware. She almost hits her head on the ceiling. Nobody is sight. To get used to it, she thinks, they want to take me slow, so I don’t have a shock. Of course, it’s a prank, but she can’t figure out who the author is. Her classmates? They wouldn’t have this much imagination! The owners of the institution? Not even! Of course, it could only be Him, but she didn’t dare hope. He left for his planet, he would need two hundred earth years to come back.
The bartender finally arrives. It’s an actual fairy, no person could disguise himself this way! Small, ugly, but cute, dress like in a fairytale!
“What will the young lady have?” he asks with a smile, in a high pitched voice.
It seems like she spoke in her own mind – but no, the coffee appears. Its steam and aroma are so familiar! As if she were reliving a moment passed, only the setting is different, if this matters at all. She sips from the magic potion – and the taste is the same, as back then! A sweet warmth engulfs her, a dizziness, as surrounding a great happening. The things around her start to grow, the tables now are normal size, the chairs as well. The coffee cup seems enormous, but she drinks it, greedily, until the last drop.
The bartender looks at her curiously and laughs:
“Now you’re talking! I recognize you, you are Petite Lumière, welcome back.”
To her left, a mirror. She tries to turn, to look, but she can’t, she feels her neck stiff. She turned with her whole body and the movement saps her energy. The mirror shows her a weird midget, which has nothing of Hikari – maybe just the intense look, a little sad. Green hair, disheveled, two small plump hands, each with four fingers, also plump. She investigates her left hand – her pinky, caught in the elevator’s door, is where it belongs (a little bruised, but it doesn’t hurt). Just the ring finger is missing, from both hands. Her body, a funny little ball, covered with a sack like dress, orange color. A crazy laugh seizes her, then crying, then a laugh-cry with hiccups. She collapses exhausted on a chair. The bartender drizzles some water on her, pulls her left ear, as if it wasn’t sharp enough already! Hikari, or Petite Lumière, whatever, returns to her senses.
The bar is filled with small and noisy beings, it’s a delight to watch them. They all bring her welcoming gifts: a fairy who looks remarkable like Alabaster Snowball, from a children’s book, The fairies of Santa Clause, gives her a pot with a green freesia. She never saw green freesias before! A funny she fairy come with a stuffed teddy bear. A waggish old man, with a scooter. And they keep coming! How is she going to take all those presents with her?!
She glances at the clock on the wall, shaped like a fairy. Five hours have already passed, and she’s still there, it means she isn’t dreaming, everything is as real as possible! Suddenly, the ground shakes. She doesn’t know if that thought, towards her world, or outside forces caused the quake, but it seems damn real as well! The fairies run everywhere. The bartender shouts: Run, hide, it’s the dinosaur Martone, the dread of fairies! It swallows everything it catches!
She runs foolishly, with no compass, no instinct. She only managed to take the freesia. Her heart beats chaotically, her plum legs stumble. As if as a sign, a door opens. She throws herself without thinking. She’s in the elevator, her elevator, their elevator. The doors starts to close: a panicked fairy runs towards her. Hikari tried to block it – too late, the door closes nervously and it traps her left hand pinky. It hurts. In her right hand, the green freesia, intact, beautiful, trembles slightly, as if blaming her. It smells stunningly of coffee and child skin on the beach, underneath a sun from a different time.