from Vain Art of the Fugue

Context N°20

by Dumitru Tsepeneag

I sat quietly for a while in the seat behind the driver, looking out at the rush-hour streets, but then I began to whisper to him that I was in a great hurry to get to the station and was afraid that I’d miss the train, because, you see, I’m already late and don’t feel like rushing from platform to platform (you never know exactly which one to wait on), running around with my coat unbuttoned and tails flapping while people turn and look at me with surprise or indignation; there’s no point shouting or waving your bunch of flowers like a flag, faster and faster in that huge, reddish, thickveined hand, while the train disappears at the end of the platform . . . I’ll be left there, head bent and arms dangling at my sides, as I look at my mud-flecked shoes and wonder whether I’m not somehow to blame: that stupid habit of looking for someone to blame, the torture of splitting hairs over and over again. I hear the panting of the locomotive, slower and slower, then the long sigh of relief as it comes to a halt. I turn my head, passengers rush down, the platform fills with people talking loudly and all at once; their words, all more or less the same, collide with one another in the air. Their voices too are very similar, one perhaps thicker or thinner than the next but all strident and rasping, because the noise makes it almost impossible to hear, yet no one can refrain from speaking; the words eventually lose their meaning, or rather they seem to be in a foreign language, and you look around and can’t tell what’s wrong with you, whether what you see is real or whether you’re dreaming.

The driver is wearing a leather jacket and seems very robust. Between us is a kind of glass pane held in place by aluminum bars, and between the glass and the bar on the far right is a space where my voice can get through to him.

“Please go faster, I don’t want to miss my train. You see, I took my bags there earlier in a friend’s car—he left this morning heading in a different direction. So, I’ve still got to pick my bags up from the luggage office. I didn’t leave this morning because I still had a few things to do: I had to visit someone (there was no point mentioning Maria’s name, as he wouldn’t have known who I meant, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t know Magda either)—anyway, to visit a woman.” The driver didn’t say a word, as if he were deaf and dumb. At some point a woman with an incredibly large stomach got on the bus; maybe she had a pillow under her dress . . .

It was warm and he felt good. He adjusted the pillow and turned over again, feeling himself begin to fall back asleep. He didn’t try to resist, although he knew that in the end he wouldn’t be able to stay in bed.

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