20. Rain, cold, tenacity
I haven’t met Tofana for a few weeks. I suddenly met her on Wednesday evening near the Enei church; she was just coming out.
It is cold and drizzling and Tofana is frozen. Tiny and huddled up, a bird of the sky soaked all over.
She is shivering and shrinks her shoulders under an old coat.
She tells me that everything has come to a standstill but, with God’s help, she will soon leave this place. How soon? She doesn’t know, but with God’s help, she hopes to leave next month. Where?
She doesn’t know yet, but with God’s help, she hopes it will be Austria, Israel or Belgium.
She says that she goes to the Coral Temple, to the big synagogue every Friday evening. So that the Jews there can notice her, and adopt her. She breaks open the gates of the temple, besieges the Mosaic religion; she has started to learn Hebrew and Yiddish; she always has a manual on her.
She has taken no decision about the Adventists. But she still goes to their meetings, regularly; they have a very good opinion about her piety and devotion.
Faith, calculations, agonic weighing of situations – all at the same time. I saw she was capable of dedicating herself to one religion today and to another one next day, constantly serving the same God Who impersonates all the religions. I also saw how enslaved she was by her obsession of leaving the country, of getting visa AT ANY COST, feverishly grabbing any helping hand, rushing to any gleam of light that could facilitate her emigration.
Her candour and obstinacy might be confusing. Even if she went to the Temple to negotiate a visa, she forgot her goal when she was inside the temple and lived the rhythms of the loftiness; she was seized by amazement, the songs and words she could not understand touched her and she came to a state similar to a trance. Only in the end, when she was out, in the street again, she remembered she was chasing a benefit.
She was incapable of hypocrisy and yet, she was unconsciously a hypocrite. She was not able to deceive God as God was for her the same everywhere: in the church, in the temple, in the prayer house of the Adventists and only a cultural fear made her sometimes wonder whether she had, nevertheless cheated anyone. Cheating God was out of question, she might have cheated some soutanes, some rites, some priestly hoods, but not God.
I don’t ask her anything. But the person who is not asked, speaks out on his own.
Tofana: “I was with Jacob to Sinaia. Jacob forgot Romanian. He was here for one month. He promised to help me with the visa, but his departure time was approaching and he did not help me. So, we went to Sinaia. We were climbing in the cable railway cabin. When the cabin started moving, I asked him why he did not help me. How can I help you? He said. Marry me formally, so that I can leave. And when we were high above the precipice, I told him: “You either promise me you will help me or I’ll push you out. He got scared. I scratched him badly to convince him he was in my hands. I forced him to swear he would help me; if not, I’ll push him into the precipice. He was white with fear, he was trembling. I think he won’t put his leg in a cable railway cabin again all his life.
I kept quiet. She said:
“I’m coming to you tomorrow. I’m asking you earnestly, give me the certificate of the Center of Oriental Therapies. I promised the Indian embassy I would show it to them. There are hopes they will allow me to go to India. I told the Indian ambassador that I did healing with a famous Mr. Mario, known by the doctor of the Indian embassy. Please, understand, I must make him trust me, I must show some documents to them. To these people only documents, stamps are important. Give me the certificate!”
“Stop yelling, please.”
“One day you should tell me about Buddhism. Who is greater: Christ or Buddha?”
”Christ is God Who learned to be a man. And Buddha is a man who learned to be God. Christ is the emperor, Buddha is the emperor’s friend.”
“You can reconcile the Romanian clerics and the whole Asia with this explanation! she says.
“Happy are the peace-makers!” I say.
“I see. But now you should do something concrete for me. Concrete, not just words. Help me.”
“I can help you provided that you continue your work. Come to have another lesson tomorrow.”
“I don’t want, I can’t concentrate these days, I have too many problems to solve. I want you to give me the blue framed attestation with the stamp of the vanished institution. Can’t you understand that the Indian embassy is going to issue the visa to me? But I have to show them the letter, to gain their sympathy. Give me a certificate!”
“Stop talking irrationally. When something gets into your head, you grow deaf and won’t hear anything. I have no certificate.”
“Yes, you have. Yes, yes, yes. You will lose nothing if you give me that paper.”
I don’t contradict her. She sees that people claim papers from one another, open doors with papers, shut one another’s mouths with papers, dig social galleries with papers. They cross the street swimming in papers, they cross the ocean swimming in papers. They legalize their inequality, wickedness, even their theft with papers. She thinks: “If one needs a paper to open a door and one needs an axe to break a door open, then paper is the honest civil replica of the axe.”
At the same time, her insistence on my giving her the certificate of an institution abolished by the ideological censorship raised my suspicion.
To put an end to my suspicion, I tell her:
“Come tomorrow to carry on our work.”
“I won’t do any training. I don’t want any more slow psychotherapy. I have no patience. Your exercises are good for prisoners. I have told my parents to stop paying you. I’m fed up with it. I’m not capable of anything, not even of this. I’m not going to learn anything. When I want to pray, I go to church, to temple. This is all I know. Summon the staff of the methodological center and the stout chairman and take my tests away. After all, your signature is enough. If you won’t give me the certificate, I’ll scratch the blood out of you. You are like all the embassies put together. You prevent me from going abroad. My visa for India depends on you.”
“I’ll ask Sorin tomorrow to talk to the Indian ambassador for you. He knows him. His talking to the ambassador makes two certificates, not one.”
“I feel like strangling you. Why is this paper so important to you that you don’t want to give it to me? I would have felt I’m strong in front of them!”
“Good-bye!” I say heading for the door.
At that moment she gets panicked.
She starts insisting again; to stay one more minute, not to leave her because she will be again seized with despair… She tells me to forgive her.”
“Don’t get angry with me, but I lose control when I think that my passport validity will expire soon and I haven’t got a visa yet. Oh, God, I’m still at the starting point! I cling to the Indians, to the Jews. If only they accepted my request of converting to Judaism… I would certainly solve the visa problem. Jerusalem is the place I’m dreaming of.”
“A restaurant or a monastery there!”
“If you go to India, what will you do there?”
“Same thing: a monastery or a restaurant, a singer.”
It’s cold. She shivers in her shabby coat. The precarious condition of the bird of the sky. The birds of the sky have an indifference of their own, a free life; Tofana doesn’t. It rains and snows over a bird’s nest. But when the sun shines, it shines there more than anywhere else.
I left her visibly strained. I don’t remember to have seen her so aggressive before. I was thinking again that she had two different faces: one of piety, the other of impulsiveness. When you saw how pious she was, you would presume she was capable of all the good feelings in the world. When she was aggressive, you felt you were better than her and than the world fallen pray to neurosis. It’s drizzling outside, it’s cold.
Friday followed, then Saturday.
At 1.00 p.m. the telephone rang. But I left it ringing. It rang long and in distress.