Indeed, only pure love, burning like a whirlwind, saved me from the hell of a vagabond's life. I had been fleeing my hometown for some time and haunting the parks, streets and undergrounds of Bucharest. I was extremely filthy, ragged, penniless and... quite often... extremely drunk, not knowing where my feet were going. I had and still have a house, in Ploiești, my parents' house, spacious, which I had left voluntarily, considering myself wronged by them. What dull and merciless people my father and mother seemed to me when they refused to give me more money for alcohol and cigarettes! I had hastily learned these vices at the end of the twelfth grade. Until then, I had been the model student of the school, good and studios...
One day, I packed a few things in a backpack and boarded the first train to the Capital, to the city of all possibilities and all disappointments, all pleasures and horrors. Arriving on the streets, I considered myself a victim of my family and society and I fully enjoyed the taste of meaningless freedom. When it was warm enough, I spent the night on park benches or strategically placed cardboard. When it was cold, I would go into the canals through the hot water pipes or into a disused subway gallery, along with the other homeless people. Unlike the other creatures of the underworld, I never stole to make a living, but I did hard, daily, humiliating work, and I begged. Food had become a fad, an occasional prerogative, but I constantly needed money for alcohol and tobacco.
I worked sporadically in the markets or in warehouses or I washed tables, floors and glasses in all sorts of dubious bars...
I had left home shortly after graduating from high school, when my parents were hoping to attend college. But I ran the bullet to the "school of life", a life I don't want anyone to have it. Fortunately, the day I met the providential young lady I was (perhaps for the first time in a year and a half) clean-shaven, well-groomed, my hair cut and dressed in new clothes, because I had received my salary from an owner of industrial halls and I had allowed myself to stay a few days in one of those almost clandestine hotels that rent rooms even by the hour, something between brothel, train station and hiding place. I didn't even remember what it was like to sleep in bed...
On that day, probably not by chance, but predestined (that they all fit too well, namely the shower, the barber, the new jeans and sneakers, the beautiful red T-shirt, toothpaste, deodorant, nail polish, comb), I met a girl I was going to fall in love with.
This providential young lady, Raluca, convinced me, within three weeks, to return to the human condition, to dignity, to civilized life. I met her in Herăstrău Park, where, this time, I was walking like a "gentleman", not like a thug. Inattentive, with eyes and thoughts in the clouds, I collided with a girl who, due to the impact and probably her own "air" gait - dropped a huge bag on the floor from which many small things spilled. I leaned over and started helping her gather them, muttering some apologies. Among the things scattered on the ground was a book that appeared in the publishing house "Humanitas" when I was in my last year of high school, "Dragonfly", written by Martin Page. I told the girl, as I was gathering the last items and putting them in the torn bag, that I had read the book myself. From that squatting position, the girl looked at me in surprise, as if I didn't look like the kind of person reading such books at all. To assure her that I had indeed read it, I said to her:
"Miss, in this novel everything starts from an enigmatic smile of an Egyptian queen and ends with a problematic smile of a Parisian painter."
I think these words had stuck in the preface or afterword of the book. Sometimes I have amazing bursts of memory real crevices of time and thought.
"So then!"she said, suddenly sporting a friendly and appreciative smile, as if she saw a genius in me.
"So..." I replied like an echo.
"My name is Raluca."
"Valentin is my name."
To compensate for that accident caused mainly by my inattention, for that great collision between two lunatics (spent as in the movies with fools), I invited the kid to a juice. In fact, I was going to find out that she wasn't really a kid, she was twenty-one, and she was a student.
He accepted the invitation and we went to an area with many terraces, me with the bag in my arms, because he no longer had a handle.
The juices, combined with the coffees, pre-lengthened... in a burst of bizarre confession, of warm and disgusting sincerity, of much too hurried confidence, I told the girl, in short, my troubled life as a man of the street... Jesus!
She seemed very impressed... Then she started to "scan" me and ask me all kinds of questions with a tense curiosity. I gave myself all the frustrations and all the secrets, led by the regret that I left my home and that I had no shelter.
"You're going through a bad pass..." she murmured.
"My life itself is a bad pass."
"Boy, tell me what's stopping you from coming home and resuming your civilized life!"
"I'm ashamed... I can't meet my parents and my neighbours... Or my friends....
"Yes, I am convinced that you can ruin yourself with the shame, you can die, you can live in hell on earth!
"I think they have already heard at home about the way I live in Bucharest... The world is too small...
"What do you care? After all, it's about your life. Look, I have an idea! Come and stay with me for a few days, let's talk... I live alone. Maybe I can make you find yourself and become who you once were, because you're neither ignorant nor ugly, on the contrary... You look, at least today, very well.
"Do you have the courage to bring a stranger, a tramp, into your house?"
If you only knew how many boys went there! Of course, I don't brag about that... But I'm a completely unprejudiced girl, a nonconformist. In a way, I ran away from my parents' house too, but unlike you, I don't miss anything. You showed up exactly when I needed to in my life, because I was just feeling very alone and crying on my shoulder, after a new sentimental disappointment.
"You risk it, I'm so..."
"I repeat, you don't look or behave like a vagabond at all." And your mind seems very well furnished.
"Unfortunately, with old furniture..."
"I'll lend you a hand! Luck got me in your way, why don't you take advantage?"
"I don't want to upset you with my presence. Unfortunately, at this time I have no income."
"I do not care! I'm fine with the money. And I'm not afraid of men. I recently got my karate black belt."
"Come on, my friend, or, if you want, stranger, let's go to my house... Don't be scared! I don't want to hold you long. I intend to send you back home, rested and full of better thoughts. All I need is a temporary company. Then you will leave."
She took me to her apartment and kept me for three weeks. I had fallen in love with her from the beginning, and in the short time we spent together, this feeling seemed to become mutual. I thought I had found (or had found) the soul mate.
It is love that saved me, that urged me to return home, because I suddenly wanted to reconcile with my parents, to put my life in order and - with a different status - to return to Bucharest to live with the girl who had promised to wait for me.
My parents received me as a prodigal son, finally returned from pilgrimage. Forgiving me, they made all their affection and all their resources available to me. I'm their only child. I mean ... I'm not a child anymore, but a person who has matured in extreme conditions.
I returned to the Capital after five months, as a student of a private faculty and armed with a generous bank account, made available by my parents. But Raluca had not kept her word, she had not waited for me, I found her with someone else - and she seemed to have a serious relationship. Please... A serious girl doesn't take a tramp like me home after only an hour of conversation in a park. However, I cannot deny the hand of destiny.
Destiny can send you a frivolous girl to help you. As Raluca said at the beginning, she only wanted a temporary company, a bit surrogate against a temporary loneliness.
In the presence of that individual (mature, about thirty-five years old), who lived with her and listened carelessly, Raluca only talked to me for about ten minutes and I wondered where the girl I had fallen in love with so passionately had disappeared. Anyway, I thanked her for everything and said goodbye.
The fact that she didn't wait for me, that she didn't want me anymore doesn't mean that I don't remain grateful to her. Because of her, because of the love I had for her, I got up from the slump and I want to hold on to my honourable life and by the way, I just received a scholarship to the University of Dubai. I am a happy man and I see a bright future!