I am telling you a story which I have not dared to write until today for a less common reason. There are some real events that may seem exaggerated and hard to believe. Situations in which reality trumps fiction and which, for this reason, may seem simply outrageous. It is also difficult to describe in reality. However, things went awry and were recorded in my memory with the sharpness with which completely out of the ordinary situations are imprinted.
It was spring like now, one night in the mid-eighties, at that hour when any disturbance of peace and fullness can only be disturbing. I woke up suddenly for an unknown reason. There was something wrong. My body and mind automatically went into an extraordinary state of alert. There was not the slightest waking period. In a split second I was fully awake, with an instinct to be defensive, even under the duvet. I gently pressed my fists to my knees, feeling that I should not give up because I woke up. In vain I struggled to get anything out, because there was impenetrable darkness (at that time the street lamps were not lit either, so there was no beam of light from anywhere). Although not identified, danger was imminent. It was like one of Edgar Allan Poe’s black stories. The sight didn’t seem to do me any good, but the strained hearing revealed a slight strange breath in the room in which I slept alone. It was like an opinion, and I was wondering if it was only in my mind, when I heard heavy footsteps on the ground. Another followed and another. He wasn’t even two meters away from me. My mother and grandmother were still in the apartment, each sleeping in a different room, but neither of them had such an iron. Only one man can walk like this. The mere danger had already taken the form of an intruder, but I still couldn’t see anything. My hearing told me that the person had made it into the hallway, where he had come from, and had touched the wall with the bike. “We simply knew it at the time. Let me not see it.” But no, he walked into the kitchen, where he turned on the light. Then I got up as lightly as I could, though it seemed to me that the mattress was making a terrible squeak. However, the individual did not appear disturbed at all. I turned off the light in the kitchen and turned on the lamp in my grandmother’s bedroom. Miraculously, she didn’t wake up. With that light, I was able to see the individual’s photo in the back, reflected in a painted dresser in the hallway. Leaning on the door leaf with one hand, he seemed to be watching his grandmother sleep. He had a hood on his head and his hand locked, which made me shiver. The weather was very warm, and he wasn’t just wearing gloves. So he was a thief.
I’ve watched movies, read books. Many of us have such contingencies in mind, and we ask ourselves: What would we do if… In the desk drawer in my room I had a hunting knife with a sheath, which I took when I went up the mountain to open cans or chop chips. You’ve thought about it… I mean. So I automatically opened the drawer and took it out of its case. I remember a certain sense of irony then. It seemed like a part of me was looking at things from above and giving me the best advice, but at the same time it was a little funny about the whole situation. I was definitely not dreaming.
And the advice above, from that moment on, was not to rush to point the knife at the individual. He had better wait, to see what he had to do and not interrupt his withdrawal, and to leave his way open to the front door so that he could run. Of course I didn’t have the guts, on the contrary, I noticed that my knee was trembling in a really comical way. The individual finally finished studying his sleeping grandmother, turned off the light, and went back to my room. Approach slowly and carefully. I waited for him with the knife around the corner, trembling and trembling with fear. But when he reached two steps, I discovered, with the same strange separation of that moment, that any trembling in my body had ceased. It was time to get in his way, and I had nowhere to go.
I jumped up trying to scream as loudly as I could. Just the scream stuck in my throat. Not out of fear, but out of amazement. The man in front of me was black. I mean African. Then my sarcastic subconscious whispered again: Another idiot! But in the next second, realizing that I must continue my turn, I started shouting as loudly as I could, “Get out! Thieves! What are you doing here? Get out at once! Thieves!” The man looked at me in astonishment. He started knocking on the door again. I don’t know if he saw the knife in my hand, because the same counselor in my head prevented me from flapping his face. I kept it quite conservative, only for the faint of heart, which seemed, thank God, farther and farther. The man was frightened, and, not taking his eyes off me, looked at the doorknob to open it. Because it didn’t fit at all, I lay down beside him and opened it for him. I was already in control of the situation. Slither like a shadow. I shut the door and shut it ASAP, but I noticed Yala’s tongue was sticking out, so I had to turn the knob first, and put my tongue back in so I could close the door.
As soon as I finished the process, I turned left and found that my mother and grandmother, awoke to the noise, were sitting in the hallway and looking at me in astonishment. “Andrei, what happened?” It was two o’clock at night, and my child and my nephew, who were students, were sitting at the door in green pajamas, and with a large knife in hand, after screaming. I told them he was a burglar in the house and just kicked him out. “But it was…it was black.” I looked at my mother frozen. “What do you mean black?” wait and see, My super hero started laughing, How the hell are you going to explain that? In those years there were some Africans in Bucharest, in most cases students from countries with governments close to Ceausescu’s regime. You can still see them downtown. But in the neighbourhoods, especially at two o’clock at night in an apartment building, it was unimaginable. Alternatively, he could think that I dreamed, or worse, that I went crazy. My mother had something to really worry about.
Using all my power of persuasion, I was able to get her to believe me. It was a flat-nosed black man who walked into our house. He somehow walked to the Yala. The heightened awareness or additional sensation I was enjoying at that time told me again that the individual had not left the block, and that he was sitting on the ground floor propped up by the radiator. I could see him sitting there thinking. Several unconscious observations may have contributed to this thought. The way the person crept in, frightened but hesitating, that I did not hear the defining sound of the front door door, which I knew so well … I persuaded my mother to call a neighbour. This one is called another and so on. They all knew it was a serious problem. The four doors of the landing were opened at about the same time. The heads of three men, in addition to mine, were peeking out from behind them. One holds a torch in his hand, another a shovel, and the third I don’t know what. Only then did I let go of the knife. I would have been embarrassed by such a thing, and on the other hand, I was no longer afraid. You have encountered “evil”.
Even more pleasant is the fact that his wives extend their necks behind the men, urging them to be careful. I told everyone that he was black and that he was sitting in the hall on the ground floor, ie downstairs. No matter how much I knew, they didn’t let me down. But they were afraid. One of them, a grocery store manager who had spent time in prison, took his heart out in his teeth. He shoveled the stairs until he saw the entrance hall. Then he let out a frightened exclamation and turned back to the others who were watching him from above. “It’s right there at the bottom of the radiator and it’s really black.” A murmur of terror spread across the floor. But I radiate happiness. It was exactly as I said. You are the block champion. The rest was very important.
The neighbors upstairs came to the conclusion that those on the ground floor should be advertised, so that there would be more. They all came out in their pajamas and surrounded the person who would not run away. But he was looking at us with red eyes filled with fear. Meanwhile, my mother called the police. No one had the guts to get too close to the intruder. He would lean on the radiator and at times, in the constantly asked questions, he would make noises on his tongue. Then the world was slowly receding. At some point he got out of the way. Nobody stopped him. The worker appeared at the end of the alley, coming towards the entrance. Seeing it, the individual also took it in the opposite direction. The man in uniform passed him and looked at him nonstop and reached us. One said, “Well, what are you doing, comrade?” “Did you pass the criminal? Aren’t you arresting him? The militiaman’s face turned green.” “This is it?” “Well, who is it?” He grabbed her and handcuffed her. He brought her back and we told him everything. Of course I was the main narrator. And the militiaman realized it was dangerous It was called the “Operational Team”.
After about half an hour the house was filled with militiamen. Some took pictures, took fingerprints, covered the wings with yellow powder, and others studied the Yala. They put the intruder in the library (they were amazed at how many books there were) and began to ask him about different things. This is how I learned that his name was Afiolabi, and that he is from Nigeria, an architecture student in Bucharest (meanwhile his language was unrestricted and he knew Romanian very well). Things were not what they seemed at all. His mother begged the militia not to beat him, which made everyone laugh. “How are we going to hit him, madam?” Someone asked Aviolabe where he is from Nigeria, as in a famous joke (Who are you, me, from Brazzaville?). Another asked him what would have happened to a white man in Nigeria if he had been arrested at night in the home of peaceful citizens. Aviolabe was unsuccessful in replying that another militiaman came with the reply: “Well, they ate it.” Once, a detainee wanted to go to the bathroom. The sector worker drove him up, asked our permission, but kept the door open. Of course, this was part of the procedure, but the militia guy kept telling me that all he wanted to do was see if the individual was civil enough to lift the coil while urinating.
Eventually, the on-site investigation ended, Al Yala was taken to the lab to see if he had been forced, and she realized that what she thought was a glove was just the black aviolabe hand he was leaning on. He left some lovely prints. In the end, it turned out to be trivial that the man was a fellow university student with his neighbour, and that he wanted to go to her, the darkness had found himself in the next apartment, as in stormy night. I shut the door in the evening, but did not push it to the end, until Yala’s tongue came out empty, and did not go into his place. All Aviolabe did was push him to open. The neighbor had some problems with the alleged relations with foreigners (until then it was forbidden). But she ran away, explaining to the militia that the individual loved and followed her. The apartments were the same, and her room was in a similar position to mine. This is how I explained to myself why the confused person kept shooting there. I still don’t know what he did to wake me up all of a sudden, but I imagine I was lucky not to get up with him in bed.
Nearly 40 years later, during Holy Week, I had the courage to write this strange story, which began in the most terrible darkness.