I find a part time job on a construction site and I rent a small paneled room past the wilderness of Giulesti. The ranch style cottage where I rent hides in the shadow close to a long stone path. Scooped under a wide oak my room borders the sidewalk near the gate. The owner of the house, Mrs. Codin, a retired university professor in her 50s, has a daughter studying at a university away from home and a handsome son, Dan, about to graduate from the prestigious Gheorghe Lazar High School.
And Dan says he loves me... His mother watches like a hawk, as he gently pursues me with promenades, poetry and platonic romance. One late Friday night we go for a long stroll. It’s a moonless night with the anemic city lights flinging phantoms on walls and fences. We hold hands and slalom the neighborhood spying for ghosts talking and laughing, hours fly by. While walking back home we decide to do it again tomorrow night. Back in the yard, Dan stops me from opening my door.
“It squeaks,” he whispers. “It’ll wake up Mom.” He wants to sneak me inside his room, adjacent to his mother. Holding hands and panting with anxiety, we carefully tiptoe through a common foyer and onto the soft, Persian rug of his spacious bedroom.
Sandals off, I drop myself on the floor. Dan slowly locks the door and switches on a small porcelain lamp. A warm light falls on a queen size bed covered with spotless, perfectly ironed Dutch linen. While I survey a black upright piano and a wall full of books, Dan pulls the heavy drapes, opens a window into the dark night and drops down next to me on the rug.
We kiss. I run my hands through his velvety black hair and set sail in the blue sea of his eyes. I lick his engorged lips while he sinks his teeth and lightly bites mine. I unbutton his shirt, and he stretches out of his pants. We roll on the rug and he pulls me on top. I resist. He gives up and lies on his back next to me. I caress his perfect skin. My hands run light circles on his chest, stomach, lower, lower still. He grips my hand, holds it tenderly then moves it back to his upper chest. Minutes later, the pattern repeats.
Dawn creeps on the floor next to us where we hug, knotted tight, me fully dressed, Dan in his boxers and unbuttoned shirt. I stand up and peek through the drapes.
“I must go,” I say urgently.
“Okay,” Dan agrees. We kiss and hug. I jump out the window and across the stone path I slip into my dark, taciturn room. Awake and pensive I lay on me bed unable to stop thinking about the previous night. Clouded thoughts and feelings focus on Dan—admiration, physical attraction and respect mixed with an overall sense of peace and wellbeing when he’s around.
Is this love? Something’s missing.
Late in the afternoon, I hear a soft knock. I snap the door open, and find myself facing Dan and his best friend Traian, better known as “the medusa.”
Dan has many friends all over the city but his best buddy is also a neighbor who lives a few houses down the same quaint alley. They grew up in the same neighborhood went to the same elementary and that’s where the commonalities end. Traian is from a struggling family. He’s not a high school honor student; he’s an average Joe attending vocational school. He plays no piano, reads little and never goes to the theatre. Traian is a leech with an unstable character and emotional state. I do not like him. He is a thug and aware of my feelings he takes revenge every chance he gets.
Before I say come in, he insolently walks past me and makes himself at home. Dan follows and they both sit on my bed. Dan draws me close to his side while a wicked smirk grows on Traian’s face. Our conversation slides to a stop with the three of us lying on our backs, feet planted on the floor, eyes focused up on the paneled ceiling. I am in the middle, holding Dan’s head on my chest, while Traian dozes off on my left.
Dusk arrives early. It hangs on the curtains over two small windows peeking on the red sky. No one talks, the three of us stuck in a state of hypnagogia––not asleep and not awake, shrouded in the peace of a dense night. When black conquers all, I watch Dan and Traian shrink away in the flaky moonlight, while across the path a curtain topples over a tall shadow.
Early the next morning, loud, demanding taps rattle my door. I open it and Dan’s mother steps in as if blown in by a blizzard. My “good morning” goes unanswered and her prominent stature gulps up the space in my tiny room. Her eyes inspect the room, blatantly violating my frail sense of privacy. As if understanding my feelings, she blinks and asks permission to sit on my bed. I sit next to her. A black mourning dress, her husband passed away not long ago, covers her snow-white skin and tall heavy body. She doesn’t get much sunlight.
She tilts her head to the side while her icy blue eyes pierce through me tunneling beyond my irises for answers and confessions. Under her fine, high tipped nose, her small lips move, but I don’t hear distracted by her body language it warns that this won't be a friendly chat.
Her words hurl out like stones of lynching. She’s accusing me of sleeping with her son and his best friend. A threesome? She saw them both sneak into my room and hours later sweaty and guilty melt away the night sweaty and guilty. Guilty? Sweaty?
I struggle for words to defend myself. But I stare in silence at the skin on my legs as they stick close together on the edge of the bed, just as they were last night. Not getting much out of me, Mrs. Codin leaves the room after demanding that I move out as soon as possible.
Later that night, Dan softly raps on my sidewalk window. I peep through the curtain and send him away. He insists. I open the window and he jumps in and hugs me in a tight clasp. On the bed, our clothes on, he holds me gently and the vexing game begins again; my trembling hands caressing his chest, abs, over the belly button, lower, lower… and Dan moving it back up all the way to his collarbone.
Now I know why. His mother is watching and Dan Codin cannot perform.