My light blue kindergarten uniform, thin, wrinkly material with a big, red ribbon on it, under which I had two blouses, both knitted by mom, one made of thinner wool, one thicker, a vest, body tight blouse and a body shirt; my grey hat with red, zigzag lines around it and a long tassel which kept me company in my often “I’m bored” moments; my kindergarten menu made of sugar burned (I meant brulee) tea served in aluminum or metal cups, pasta with breadcrumbs and sugar, brown hard crackers, handy when someone would make a move on my chippy colored pencil; my dark yellow overalls which considering the amount of clothes I already had on, were hard to get into and harder to get out of and which starting with September until the end of March I was forced to wear; my indigo winter coat with its fist size red buttons, family inheritance from my older brother; my winter boots always one and a half size bigger in order to fit my foot wrapped up in three slim socks, one wool sock; fear of the dark (induced by daily power outage) manifesting itself every day when climbing the stairs until the forth floor, sometimes overcome by me singing a song or by some candle left in the doorway by one of the moms to guide their kids home in the dark.
‘80s outcome: a nightmare and a rat
I’m swimming in the dam enjoying that fact that no one is around to forcibly dive me in; I’m making mud castles; I’m chasing pigs with my dog Lache; I’m with Chioreanu’s girls picking up walnuts or getting spring water; I’m at school and my teacher, mrs. Dobrescu is praising my paper on Romanian literature; I’m up in my mulberry tree making a bed out of two of its branches and refusing to come down; I’m getting a white, fluffy Romanian shepherd dog as a present for my birthday; the senior high school boy that I fancy finally sees me when I walk by; my ducklings are joining me to school for keeping me company, out of trouble and out of boredom…. When out of a sudden, without notice, nor background music, a creature entirely dressed in black appears wearing a wide brimmed hat, with a face I can never distinguish and scares the crap out of me and I wake up sobbing. From the end of ‘80s up until the end of ’90s everything I dreamed ended this way.
I am almost seven and I’m heading home. I’m almost there, near the food store at the corner. I’m stalling and staring through the window at the empty food shelves with nothing but hooks hanging on. Something crosses the food store. I stick my forehead to the window. The steam of my breath is blocking my view. I’m using one of my mittens to wipe it off and there on a shelf sits a rat. We lock eyes.
“You’re fatter than me.”
I’ve lived seven years in communism, in the dark, cold and hunger and I’ve envied a rat for its fat, round, chubby belly.