Homeric (Homeric)

Homeric (Homeric) - Doina Ruști
Polirom, 2019 (Romanian)

I The Characters


She did not seem beautiful to me, especially in the beginning, but even for a long time after that, and then not until later did I come to realise that she was a jewel dropped into the murky waters of a pond, completely out of place in the Gorgani slum, where she seemed to have fallen from the skies, just like the flying Hasan Çelebi, whose name was given to a bridge. She was from another part of the world, another life even, and her power did not come from the kind of beauty that stops you in your tracks, but from something invisible and contagious, arising after you made the mistake of talking to her because, as you were listening to her, a soap bubble began to surround you and her words, leaving you with no escape. What had been bestowed upon her by fate was possessed by very few people. When I think of her, an image comes to mind of a fingernail-sized flower, glowing deep red, known as the Devil’s Blood. The moment you see it you feel compelled to draw it to your nose, not so much as to smell its perfume, but because you expect it to be startled by your paying it attention. And once you inhale its scent you are as good as dead, for if you have been so foolish to have done so, its scent rises up through your nostrils to then disperse throughout your flesh, taking control over your lungs and blood, and in the end over your brain, which cannot resist it. And what a treacherous scent is hidden in its petals! At first you are flooded by the sweet and gentle smell of bread, fresh out of the oven, so overwhelming and pure, but just enough to numb your fears and sadness. And only afterwards does its true scent reach you, the scent of crushed tendrils, in which lay hidden the aspirations of unripe grapes and the wretched joys of the ripened fruit. This is the actual fragrance that overcomes you and transforms you forever into a slave. And, once touched by its perfume, you forget everything you had loved until then, you stop liking what you used to like, you have no more desires and no more hopes. If tomorrow thugs were to break into your house and start chopping your family into pieces, you would merely stand off to the side, doing nothing, numbed by the dreams of a flower.

She was exactly like that flower, I felt her power that morning when she stepped out of the apothecary. She wore a dress I could hear whispering with every move, lace swaying on soft waves of sendal. And, watching her eyes, looking to gauge their path, I discovered the blue carriage, in which a man sat, sighing. There were two people watching each other discreetly: a woman, besieged by whispers, and a man who was pretending to have no part in this, casting his eyes off into the far distance through the carriage window, although it was crystal clear for anyone that in the whole of Bucharest, if not in the whole of the world, they were alone but for each other.

He was looking straight ahead, but from the corner of his eye a tear glimmered, the kind that turns a man into a hunted beast. From the folds of her dress bees flew forth, and her eyes, emanating deadly perfumes, were finding their way towards the blue carriage. He would sooner die than look at her, but his cheek was enraged, like that of a man coerced, while she was affronted by his indifference, I could see that clearly in the way she blinked, rapidly, leaving behind waves of accusations from which he would no longer be able to escape.

And I understood that not only was I fated to see them again, searching for each other with the same looks which clearly showed that love’s fiery sphere had started to grow between them, but there was also something else, meant only for me. Without wanting to, I had entered the realm of shadows, where you cannot be seen. They were the only ones that could be seen, while I, until then at the centre of the story, was now drifting through the treacherous fog of strange desires, like a poor fly blown about in the wind.

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