Monthly Archives: May 2014

All Quiet on Volga River

Perhaps she was a fantast. She lived on the second floor and a half. The garbage and the elevator were half a floor above or below. Anyway it wasn’t a room of secrets where you can get taking the train on platform nine and three quarters, as in a famous story with little and big wizards. The old cinema hall on the ground floor had been abolished a long time ago. The space had been refurbished and turned into a club for party, music and dance.

Miss moved there as a lodger in a year when the club had gone bankrupt. It was quiet. Her rent was payed by a benevolent gentleman with whom she had no connection. Money was her main lack, the tree of her life hardly ever had such leaves. She was that kind of fat and quiet spinster, keeping her roots visible and close to the soil line. Miss Martha did not forget a thing, she always took into account every detail and believed that things can only go for the better, but without her dreaming, without her trying to imagine something. Therefore she was a fantast. She didn’t enter the world of witchcraft and was not accepted in that peaceful or idyllic world of teachers and educators. In fact so she thought, that that world was like a little prairie house where every useful object is in place and where’s a reading corner with an armchair and tea with brown sugar on a table. She only believed that the world was what she had seen once in childhood, and remembered that some people said about her father that he was like a big child. Alone, in the peace of her thoughts, she was like an asylum with too much love for children and helpless elderly; she felt like a mother and certainly didn’t understand that it was her now that big child.

At her new job located near her apartment, the children called her ma’am. Sometimes Mrs. Martha. She suppressed the pain that at her age that all the teachers can only be ladies. In fact she was never thinking about this. She tried to forget that some girls told her in the recess times that she needed a child of her own to sway in her arms and to care about. She didn’t know what to answer. Always finding something to work from morning till night in the house, she thought only about theses, quizzes, examinations or interesting lesson projects. Se hoped to succeed like this, again without a hint of fantasy. She consumed a part of her small salary on paper and printer ink for teaching material that seemed necessary for school hours, or that were strongly requested by her chiefs or inspectors. She often went to mandatory meetings and heard a long memorial of names and possible future school activities, as the long list read in church services. Once the meeting was held at a boarding school for theology students, where the chef generously offered lent snacks, which had a great success among participating teachers. She went round the feast table pinching something here and there, then leaving the meeting before its end. Sometimes she attended training courses and find with bewilderment, a constant feeling in her life, that other lady teachers were playing like children with different more interesting learning materials, that they danced a dance of capitals and markets where prices were shout aloud, experiencing the law of demand and supply. She got out a little sad in the hall room between lessons, and lit mechanically a cigarette, a habit that usually helped her forget that the world is more fantastic than anything she had seen before.

For instance, she did not understand the point of mandatory service over school hours, when some teachers sat all day in a small, clean and quiet room on the top floor and had a student as a kind of camp aide, effectively wasting their time. She opened the register on the table and discovered that other teachers had more fantasy and joked about the hours spent in that guardian tower. Martha did not understand why she had become Head of Department or why they were asking her many cards and projects and endless tables that she could not have filled from her empty fantasy world. What on earth was she supposed to write there, when she counted only what he saw in front of her and did not guess at all what was hidden behind any wall?

In fact she did not understand many things. A colleague, much more popular among students, tried to open her eyes and said : “You are a materialist. Do you really think that this table in the teachers’ room is simply just a table ? Do you really think it exists as such here and now ?” She answered simply yes. She didn’t like Hegelian dialectics or sophistry of any kind. She was not an attractive person in conversations. The other lady teachers talked about the glass bead game and usually about the books she hadn’t read. She felt sad and alone, but still she did not lose hope. She knew, even before becoming big child, that she always was an outsider regarding society models. She vaguely remembered a well known Romanian poem about some kind of Miss beyond fashions and time. All that she planned was in vain. The fact that logic is not enough in life was a lesson that she couldn’t understand. First she had success, then everything tumbled down. Exactly like when as a child she was among the first at a long run test for sport class, but among the last the second time, when the other girls understood how to run. Once, when her teacher colleagues were smoking in the teachers’ room (smoking was forbidden to students), one of them joked that there are too many witches for one pot, that single ashtray on the table. Martha did not fit such kind of humor, she really did not understand others’ jokes and for a moment she thought maybe it was her the cauldron, but then she quickly shook off the ashes, and the world seemed the same again. She also did not quite understand why they stayed so long in the schoolyard, both teachers and students, after a mere fire simulation, but probably with true firemen, climbing up and watering the roof and the walls in plenty.

Then came the conflict with one of her student groups. She had categorically refused to be a form master, since she already had too many papers to administer. She remained only a teacher, but only as an honorific title. The reality was that in the classroom, some of those students so cute, that she loved too much with her heart too round, did not even listen to her. So she saw, so she thought. Young people, 16-17 years old (actually she thought they were not really children, like other teachers called them) made loud noise over her weak voice and when she turned to the blackboard to write down and explain some formula, a rain of large and small paper balls or even chalk pieces aimed to her outfit pretty faultless otherwise. After several such unsuccessful small wars she complained to other teachers, who were also form master teachers, and they told her with a peaceful tone that she has the bread and the knife and she should understand this. Martha then tried desperately to admonish her students, to lower their grades if they were deserved of course, but it was worse. A school psychologist intervened and children wrote on anonymous notes complaints that their teacher … one note (she knew from whom) said that she looks like a well-intentioned person, but … , someone else (she did not know who) said she was too fat and the great majority of students wrote that she does not know how or she cannot communicate, have a dialogue with them. Martha was sad, this was the most unacceptable thing for her, because everything she ever tried was the dialogue. Another lesson she did not understand was that the dialogue does not appear when someone wants it.

After two years of apprenticeship, Martha left that job for various reasons. She remained alone with a rent to pay, like a broken cuckoo clock. That benevolent gentleman did not help her anymore and her money from an unexpected inheritance dwindled. Moreover, that nightclub was re-established with fresh horsepower and her nights became real nightmares. What I wrote here are excerpts from her diary that got by chance into my bag. It was an interesting reading for me, being myself another kind of Martha. On the third floor and a half, above her apartment, appeared a law firm with young ladies treading the floor on high heels even in weekends and off-hours. After Martha managed to move to another part of the town, I cannot say what happened there because her diary ends there with the words: “it remains to be seen”. It seems that she moved somewhere near the old Fire Tower where she would eventually visit the firemen museum, fantastic like any other museum .

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