Primul capitol din Celestine’s War în engleză

Celestine’s War

 

Written by Sergiu Someșan

 

Chapter 1

 

Celestine and nothing more

 

Several times lately, I have wanted to go back to writing my blog. I have had it for over a year, but I had abandoned it completely in recent weeks. Every time I felt like writing, this thought stopped me: my sorrows and my problems will be of no interest to anyone. Who cares, anyway? And then, write what? That I am ugly? That I am deformed by a disease? Certainly there are other ugly girls out there, but they are not whining over their troubles and shortcomings in blogs. Write that I am single? I’m sure there are thousands of single girls in the whole country, but they are not complaining about it on cold internet pages. I’m pretty sure they are somehow trying to deal with it and find a solution to their problem. They go out; they go to the disco and try to network. I can’t do that (or I don’t choose to do it), but on the other hand, I don’t feel like begging for mercy from strangers.

So I did it! Today, for the umpteenth time, I changed my mind again, and since my blog was all set up, I started writing that I am ugly and that nobody loves me. The outcome? A few hours later, I closed it. Had I expected some understanding from other girls suffering just like me? Well, I was dead wrong about that. Nobody paid any attention to my blog except for two jerks who wrote something to the effect that if I give them enough booze, they’ll “help me with my problem.” Maybe from the back, so that they don’t have to see my face.

On the other hand, those few girls from whom I expected some compassion proved to be only Nazi grammar bitches, who constantly corrected me. „Oh, please!” one of them – probably the meanest of all – said, “The fact that you have a skin condition shouldn’t be an excuse for your killing your own mother tongue!”

I got angry with her and wrote back, not in my usual manner, actually: „You dick, my mother tongue is Finnish, which I master better than you master Romanian. And maybe my skin condition will go away in time, but as Professor Denis Baron puts it, your condition is the “incurable pedantry syndrome,” and it really is incurable. It is caused by a limited sex life, so you, bitch, go and get laid, and stop getting on my nerves!” I knew I shouldn’t put an exclamation mark there at the end of the sentence, but that was the only true thing of all I wrote to her. I was born in Romania, and I can’t speak any Finnish, although my father has tried a couple of times to teach me his mother tongue. Professor Denis Baron is a real person, and he really has studied the grammar pedantry syndrome, but of course it isn’t incurable nor is it due to one’s sex life, limited or not.

I shut down the blog for good afterwards, and I went out, determined to piss off as many people as possible. I usually wear a hat or a cap with its bill turned sideways so that it covers the scaly spot on my face, only this time I went out with my head bare and my hair in the wind. I passed people in the street without trying to hide my face, and I even looked boldly into their eyes, forcing them to look back at me. Boys whistled at me, but when I turned around and smiled at them, they would choke. I even asked a good-looking one who came closer to me than the others:

„How about a kiss, pretty boy?” Then I smiled at him as sensually as I could.

What I had forgotten was that out there in the open air, my blemish caused by psoriasis broke out, and as I stretched the skin by my indecently wide smile, it broke and started to ooze.

I felt sorry for the fellow when I saw him afterwards moving a few steps away and starting to throw up. I felt even sorrier for myself, and I tried to think of something I could do that would cheer me up.

 

I took a few more steps, then hid behind a door, took a scarf out of my bag, and covered my hideousness. This is what I would call my blemish covered in red scales, when I was all alone. My dear hideousness, or if I was in a better mood, I would go even further by calling it my precious hideousness. Considering the amount of money my father had spent trying to cure it, I could easily call it that.

A lot of unpleasant things happened today, but what took the cake was the tired look on my father’s face when he arrived at our front door. My father, who is usually so easy-going, was standing in front of our house, together with two painters, trying to remove the writing that appeared on the wall yesterday. In fact, he had applied another layer of washable paint earlier, but who knows what pigments were used in the dye of the graffiti that „popped up” overnight, for you could still see it even through the fresh paint.

 

„Celestine is an ugly girl, but a pretty lizard.”

 

So somebody had actually spent money on that paint and invested time only to let the world know that I had a skin condition that would turn me into an ugly face resembling a lizard. Who does that? How small-minded do you have to be to do such a thing? And who would care that much about me, to feel the need to tell that to the whole world?

„We used a new product, and this time you won’t see anything anymore,” my father said when he saw me coming toward them.

„All right, Dad,” I said, rushing into the house, pretending I didn’t see the painters’ eyeing me curiously.

I had long been used to people staring at me, so I had no problem ignoring them. Most of the time, people pretended they didn’t see my face deformed by the disease. On the other hand, children did not hide their curiosity. The smaller they were, the more inquisitive they were, and their parents’ efforts to keep them quiet and not ask anything would have amused me a great deal had it not been about me.

Before entering the house, I looked over my shoulder one more time. Although he pretended to be preoccupied with the painters’ work, he was looking worriedly behind me. Poor Dad! Sometimes I felt that he was suffering more than I was.

I reached my room, trying not to look at myself in any mirror I passed on my way. Once, I was at a store, and when I looked outside, I saw a girl looking at me and pushing out her lips while arranging her hair. A few moments later, I realized that the store window was like a mirror for those passing by, and the girl outside was not sticking her lips out at me. She was pretty ugly, actually, but she was trying to make herself look nice so that somebody could like her. Ugly or not, at least she was normal.

I sighed deeply, chased away my bleak thoughts, and grabbed the Romanian language handbook; with or without psoriasis, I had the first high school graduation exam the next day, the Romanian written exam, the hardest of all the exams. I didn’t like that subject for more than one reason, mainly because besides the fact that I had terrible handwriting, I would make a lot of mistakes, too. Although in principle, I knew the difference between a subject and a predicate and that there is no comma between them, but when you least expect it, I would put a comma right where it shouldn’t be. As far as I could remember the evasive explanation of a classmate, the predicate is the one that does something to the subject, “and so,” he would grin, “it’s clear that an old comma shouldn’t set them apart, lest they should experience a „coitus interruptus.” His intentionally vulgar explanation made both boys and girls in the classroom laugh, no matter how many times he repeated it.

Maybe this was my unconscious reaction, a kind of rebellion that no „predicate” was going to do to me, the „subject,” anything, anything at all. I was smiling at that thought, when my father knocked softly at my door, then after I answered, entered my room a bit hesitantly.

He nodded toward the shelf at the end of my bed, and said as if feeling guilty about it:

„I left something on your bed table.”

I didn’t even turn around, because I knew there was an envelope with a few euros inside. My father was a successful architect, and every now and then, he would receive an envelope with money in it from some collaborator of his. I’m not sure how legal this was, but I didn’t worry about it, just as I wasn’t concerned about the money envelopes piling up on the bed table or on the shelf right above it.

I sighed and wiped my smile off my face.

„I don’t need money, Dad. I don’t want any money.”

My father made the mistake of asking me,

„But what is it that you want? I’ll give you anything.”

I kept silent for a while, as I could not possibly ask him to give me what I really wanted the most in this world, namely normalcy.

I burst out crying instead and told him,

„I don’t want any money, Dad. I just want to die!”

My father reached out and took me in his arms, just as he used to do when I was just a little girl as yet untouched by the disease, and I would run to him when I fell with my skates and scratched my knees.

„You cannot say that! You know very well that this cannot be….”

„Why not, Dad?” I asked him back, although I wasn’t really expecting an answer, but my father just shook his head and said,

„Because tomorrow you have your Romanian exam, and if you die today, everyone will say it was because you were too scared of the high school graduation exam.”

This was my father. I believe that even in the middle of an earthquake, he would have found something to entertain people with. I started laughing and pushed him out and started studying for my exam.

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