There’s an earthquake on command! On commaaaaand! Wait, don’t shut me up… ON COMMAAAAND! THE EARTHQUAKE IS ON COMMAAAAND!
A woman jumps to cover the mouth of the screaming man. He’s an old man put together by some white locks of hair, some teeth and a suit from when he was young. If you undo his tie he will disintegrate. Two villagers grab him and drag him to the exit of the communal culture house, overcrowded with parliament members, seismologists and all the tv stations to explain to the citizens – where the earthquakes come from?
Exhausted, the old man can only squeak from the entrance: Why are you afraid to speak?.
The mayor intervenes from the stage. It has been decided… has been deciiided… HAS
It has been decided that within a reasonable timeframe a meeting will take place with the oil company management, in order to have a talk and deliver your message. Agreed?
The cameras are turning from the officials to the villagers and back… depending on who screams louder. A woman with a black scarf answers:
Why don’t they come here?! Here we have many riches, many of our country’s riches. Here we have gas, oil, here lie all the interests! Let it be known, let it be heard. We either die or we leave. But we won’t leave this place, we have a … sentimental connection. We have sentimental values. All my life is here. I’m not leaving.
Participative democracy is working! The people appoint two villagers to go with the mayor for a meeting with a big director, not just some welder. Lots of noise, the members of the parliament don’t like it, they want order and discipline.
The officials gather up like dust and leave indisposed through the back door.
Izvoarele is a village without watchdogs somewhere in the southeast of Romania (the moldavian part of the Baragan plain). No townhouse, no police department. Only a school, a church, a communal culture house and three ministorepubs. A main street, a secondary street, cut by about 10 small roads.
They had been free of calamities so far, but for a month now the world is beginning and ending. There were floods like never before, then the earth shook that you could see it live live on tv. Ahundredidkhowmany earthquakes in two weeks.
It’s sunday, people have gathered in the church, it’s like in american movies when the community gathers to debate before the storm of the century hits.
Because God wants to see if we are faithful. We were many of us these days on tv shouting left, right and centre. But how many of those who shouted came today to pray?
The priest recites his speech calmly: We are not even 1 percent. It is serious because God is giving us signs. God has shown us what i was saying some time ago in my preachings. God has saved this world from danger. That is, until this year. There were floods all over the country and all over the world, but not here. Yet now God is showing us that if it is his will, he can give that unto us.
Oh my god!, a woman sighs. The pastor blesses his sheep and reminds them Saint Parascheva is up on the next fixture (well, her mortal remains are) and whoever wants to see her should bring 50 lei for transportation to the city.
In front of the church, some kids are fooling around the television crews. 3,2,1, a boy with more nerve is trolling a live transmission, then springs like a buck over the unfinished concrete wall so he can see miss reporter transmitting live on the digital display.
An industrialhorror whining sound comes through the speakers mounted under the roof of the church. The sermon is over, but the priest forgot to turn off the microphone. A mix of hissing lips kissing crosses, donations in the name of the lord, for the living or the dead. Rural psy, rare event, live transmission all throughout the country, hourly.
I have been in Izvoarele for a day, in a remote corner of Romania, but it is as if I was at the People’s Palace, everybody in my family must have seen me on tv by now.
When i arrived there was no one in the streets. Browned off roads, parallel, perpendicular, sprinkled with scenes a phaeton and some hacks, a kid on a bicycle, arrowed by errands for some relatives, and television crews, going from door to door.
Are you scared, ma’am? We are, ma’am.
What is they sayin’ now?, asks Neculai, a drunken unemployed man, reviewing the press from a lane corner.
Neculai watches tv only at night, when he sleeps. During the day he checks out live on the women reporting the story. He doesn’t really have any teeth left. Sucks on the cheapest cigarettes because eh, tough luck, who has money to buy fine cigarettes? He smoked all you can smoke. He has a gathering of white foam from saliva in the corner of his mouth.
Even though the cold weather hit the country, Neculai tramples around in flip-flops. He warms the tips of his fingers with traditional spirit tastings and recently picked vines, you can’t even tell of no earthquake.
There was last night too, there were two. I jumped out of bed, even the tv was on. I just pulled it out of the plug, directly, didn’t press on the remote, you know? Who knows, it could have caught on fire, god forbid.
He says he’s been a securitate sergeant in the army. As a civilian, he screwed around as a mechanic. Sixteen years he busted his hands for Petrom, now he is retiring from unemployment, after 36 years on the job. He knows his deal.
There was nothing like this around here. Since this austrian came. They say it’s one of those uglies, how you call them, muslim, alright? And together with… so there is also an american with this muslim, alright? They put some chemical solution, they are to this day trying to break that tectonic plate. To see what’s under it. It’s a stone they cannot break. They’d put anything to break it!
People are stupid, people are stupid, look at those tv people, keep transmitting, why are they transmitting so much?!
Neculai says he keeps hearing bangs, but the company doesn’t admit to it. He’s well tipsy, he has checked on some rachiu in the barrel, that it hadn’t gone bad. I can hardly understand what he says, he’s conspiracymumbling, so that no one can hear him.
A dried up woman passes us and lets out a complaint about how this madness is not ending. I don’t need no giveaway from the state, i want to know if it’s a matter of leaving or of staying. Her hands are ghost white, but not out of fear. She’s coming from the mill…
Bam!My knees bend, as if i was on the bus. The electric cables are dangling on the poles, while a wave of whines, yelps, godhelpus and godforbids crashes into the streets. Did you see? That’s what it is like,, Neculai takes note of the onehundredsomethingplus earthquake. This is no earthquake, not even animals get upset. It’s not like in ’77, now, that was a real earthquake.
VThe seismic wave takes me to the yard of the woman coming from the mill. She’s Neculai’s cousin. Of course i will accommodate mr. reporter, I would even help out a homeless man. If you like the room, by all means! We don’t have too much. I will tell the boy not to come home, he’s gone wood chopping.
Madam Popescu is quite a woman. She worked in the city, in the industry. When she retired she came to live in the country side and is ruling the land with a fist of iron. She’s got vines, makes pickles, feeds the dogs and the other animals, carries wood, takes care of the greenhouse. What a household. The Mrs. is the boss. Mr. Nicusor, the husband, would like it too, but he can’t. He’s only got one leg and carries a quarter of his paralysed body in a metallic frame. He’s got a bad mouth, but can’t really speak.
What shall i do now? I have an apartment in Galati, the children live in it. Should I go and kick them out? the matron is telling me in fast-forward, while she is preparing food and what else she has going on.
I find my nose hovering over a plate of bean soup. Neculai, barely able to sit down drunk, speaks his own language, but it is not Romanian. Sorry, Mr. journalist, don’t get upset with me, securitate so and so, commander so and so, we got drunk for three days, beg your pardon, beg your pardon, you’re a schooled man, mechanic, petrom, people are stupid, I know what I’m saying, I’ve been there.
La țară se face repede seară. Nici nu știi când ai băut trei vișinate proaspete și iuți ca horinca. Doamna Popescu face patul și-n loc de noapte bună aruncă încruntată un n-o să se-ntâmple nimic în seara asta, nu?
Sper că nu, zic, da’ puteți încuia ușa, dacă n-aveți încredere.
Adânc în noapte se ciocnesc pahare, Isus se hurducă necontrolat, toată lumea s-a-mbătat, câinii latră ca la revelion. Nu trebuia să fac chef la străini în casă. Da’ nu era octombrie? Dacă încuia ușa, cum i-am zis… Visez, îmi dau seama. Da’ nici trenul nu te saltă așa. Poate nu visez, totuși. Deschid ochii, apoi carnețelul și notez 4:38. Isus chiar se hurducă în rama de tablou. La 5:35 mai sare o dată plapuma de pe mine.
Ai simțit cutremurul? citesc dimineața pe telefon. Care din ele, frate? Doamna Popescu nici n-a dormit. A adus-o și pe tanti Vasilica, să nu-i cadă casa-n cap, degeaba și-a luat loc la cimitir?
Numa’ să termin cu treaba și merg la biserică și dup-aia-i sfat la cămin. Vin ceva specialiști să ne lămurească și pe noi ce se-ntâmplă.
La biserică, oamenii-s așezați în dreapta și femeile-n stânga, lângă o masă cu pomeni. Coșuri cu struguri, vin, ciocolată și banane. E ceva parastas, dar pân-atunci popa îi ceartă pe oameni că nu mai au credință, de asta îi bate Dumnezeu, cutremure, inundații:
Și ne mirăm de ce nu se coboară duhul sfânt, de ce Dumnezeu nu ne ascultă ruga? Pentru că ne-am laicizat. Ne-am secularizat. L-am scos pe Dumnezeu din creație și-l scoatem pe Dumnezeu din creație prin faptele noastre. Nu-i de ajuns să spunem „da!”, să recunoaștem. Nu toți ce spun „doamne ajută-mă!” vor intra în împărăția cerurilor.
O iau pe urma cablurilor de televiziune întinse prin biserică și prin tot satul. Mă duc la căminul cultural, unde sătenii au fost convocați de autorități pentru explicații despre năpasta care i-a lovit.
Cultura din Izvoarele stă să cadă. Sunt înșirate geometric niște scaune din lemn și fier. Podeaua e din dale de trotuar, iar în capătul sălii e o scenă înaltă, cu scaune parlamentare din lemn și tapet înflorat, înalbăstrit de jaluzelele de la geam.
Sătenii intră buluc în cămin, dar nu se așază, că n-aud nimic dacă stau jos. În fața lor e un zid jurnalistic, cu acareturi și trepiede și camere țintite pe fruntașii județului – o comisie parlamentară, prefectul, primarul și un seismolog.
Domnul seismolog e băgat la înaintare, cineva tre’ să scoată castanele din foc.
Noi monitorizăm. Nu este ieșit din comun pentru noi să se întâmple asemenea cutremure de suprafață. Lumea și-a pierdut răbdarea de la prima frază. Au fost și-n Banat, în anii 90. Aici s-a reactivat o falie, să știți că au mai fost cutremure.
Intervin oamenii supărați, ce atâtea explicații?
– Și dacă vine dealu’ la vale?!
– Cutremurele ar trebui să se rărească…
– Ăștia forează cu freze d-alea, au adus din toată lumea, s-au rupt capetele de foreză, am lucrat mulți acolo, știm!
– Nu există indicii care să arate că exploatările petroliere ar fi de vină, falia…
– Ce falie, domnule, ce ziceți acolo? Noi nu înțelegem nimic!
Sătenii sunt revoltați: E CUTREMUR LA COMANDĂ! LA COMAAANDĂĂ!
Toată viața mea e aici. Io nu plec, zice o doamnă și-i pune capac.
Sfatul se termină fără deznodământ. Oficialitățile pufăie, se adună ghem și pleacă îmbufnate pe ușa din dos. S-au supărat că sătenii nu ascultă. Ce-i drept, nici ei n-au zis nimic.