Issue #23, 2006

Ștefan Constantinescu




It’s been a long time since my last dream. I like sleeping and I fail to dream or maybe I’m just so decrepit, that the morning leaves nothing on the hard disk. I’ve been planning for sometime to wake up at six in the morning, but I cannot stick to the plan. There was one time I woke up, I made the coffee, the breakfast and I turned in again. I want to do so many things, but it seems that I’m running out of time. However, I can’t give up sleep. In the spring, when light starts at 3 in the morning, I don’t think that waking up earlier will be a problem. I usually wake up at 7.30, I go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, eat, talk to Kuki and the boys, I dress up Iancu and we hurry to the kindergarten. I return home and it’s already 9.00. I start working. I waste a lot of time on the internet. I am internet-sick. I just got an e-mail from Gunilla from Arbetsförmedlingen Kultur (working forces, cultural section). I’m starting a course for the unemployed on February 6. Since the problem of de-localization of jobs appeared, it’s very hard to find a job in Sweden. All jobs leave for Eastern Europe or even further, for Asia. I wonder where it will end.

I usually feel like talking about Romania, but now I will talk about Sweden. I don’t know why, but it seems easier to talk about Romania. It’s just handy to do so, per­haps because from here, from Sweden, I can put myself at some distance. I returned from Romania for a week and I still can’t figure out where I am. Lucky with Gunilla, the assistant from Arbetsförmedlingen Kultur, who helps me get my feet on the ground again. Although I work or at least toss about from dusk till dawn about a lot of things, I write and answer to e-mails, work on my projects, I have the feeling that I’m not doing anything. Sometimes it’s just the routine, without thinking or understanding what I am doing. This happens every time I return here, I need several weeks to readjust. As soon as I arrive at the airport I get sick, sometimes feverish. I think it’s an organic reaction, a kind of self-defense, the brain wants to warn me, No more, it’s over, now you have “to sober up”. It has become difficult for me to move. In fact, it’s hard for me to return to the daily problems. I’m afraid of making mistakes, of sliding down the drain. The obstacles are in my head, it’s not necessarily something exterior. Any spatial movement hurts a lot, any departure is painful. It is a physical pain, an enormous tiredness, my bones, my flesh, my head hurt. I fail to store all the infor­mation. Time gains another dimension, everything expands. I noticed that if I stay here I feel much better, physically speaking, or, to be more precisely, there is no shock of returning to reality, which is so painful.

There are some things I refuse to understand. We live on the fifth floor, in an eight floor building in Grimsta, an area belonging to Vällingby, a Stockholm suburbia. Inside the building and in an area of about 50 meters around it, we respectfully salute with all the neighbours, but once outside this area, suddenly nobody salutes you anymore. It seems like the rules of the game apply only on a particular territory. I always had trouble with saluting. I use to salute all my acquaintances and I like being saluted; that’s why I go mad when someone pretends not to see me and doesn’t salute me. I feel betrayed, I mean he received something without returning the gift, he abusively took my salute. Regarding the salute, this is like a trade for me: I exchange a salute for another. Maybe I’m just being mean and I should be more generous, not expecting to receive anything from the others. I need to think it over.

The internet is not working! I am addicted to my electronic inbox. All right, now it’s working again, but I didn’t receive any e-mails. I receive about 20–30 e-mails per day, but only 5 are addressed to me, the rest are advertisements. I receive the most e-mails on Monday and Tuesday, on Friday I don’t receive e-mails from the institutions, and on Saturday and Sunday I only receive advertisements.

It felt strange in Romania, I didn’t have the feeling of returning home, but to a place dear, very well-known to me, but not my home. I felt the same thing I usually feel when I go, for instance, to Italy; maybe I’m exaggerating just a little. What I mean is that I arrived in a place with a familiar air, smell, atmosphere, but something was missing. From Claudiu’s car, who took me from the airport, I could recognize the places, the streets, the buildings and nevertheless felt they were very different. Although it was Christmas and one could listen to the perennial Christmas carols of Hrușcă at the airport, at every gas station and in the city, I haven’t felt anything I thought I would feel. I haven’t spent the Christmas in the country since ’94, since I got married and I’ve been planning for long to spend the Christmas and the holidays in Romania, with the loved ones. I felt that Romania has estranged from me, that it is now as estranged as Sweden. I think about those who refuse to come back, even to visit their homes, I also think about what they were trying to tell me, all those who I talked to and I didn’t understand at the time when I came to Sweden, including my parents. Even now I don’t know if I understand them. I suppose this reaction, the refusal to accept the change and the refusal to see or to talk about Romania comes from a certain fear of getting hurt, from the desire of keeping one’s feelings in order, to avoid an interior unconfortableness and preserve oneself. The only accepted Romanian reality is that of the crimes presented by PRO TV’s five o’clock news.

I can see it’s snowing outside and I have my English class today. I hate driving on ice, I feel insecure. It’s because this Peugeot of mine, which is very instable. At high speeds, you feel like flying off the road.

It’s been a month since my last English class and I feel like I forgot everything. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but English and I don’t get along very well. Not knowing English is a little embarrassing; this is another reason for my waking up at 6 o’clock. I have to be more disciplined.

What do you know! Gunilla wrote me again yesterday.

As I returned from the kindergarten it was snowing beautifully, but it stopped now. There are 8 grades below zero and my feet felt cold. I’m listening to Pavel Stratan, but I’m not much into it. It really sucks. I received a package with movies, music and books from Romania, from relatives and friends. I usually get a lot of new material from the country.

Yesterday I got upset on Kuki. I was irritated that she put things I’ve never said in my mouth. There are many things in my life that I’m not satisfied with, but I can’t expose them just like this, and the most annoying thing is when somebody does it for me.

I reinstalled Windows; I don’t know why, but once again I had a virus. At least twice a year I succeed to get myself a virus and, of course, reinstall the system. It’s a kind of ritual. If it’s not a virus, then Windows gets jammed and the computer starts to work slowly. It’s from Iona’s games. Speaking of games. I once had a game, I don’t exactly remember its name, however, it took place during the Second World War. I was a very bad “soldier”, they kept killing me. After a couple of weeks, I gave up playing, because I felt dizzy after that, and at night, when I went to bed, the images were still passing before my eyes. The fight continued for sometime before I went asleep. I unin­stalled after a while. I realized that I’m not the gamer type.

I’m waiting for an e-mail from Chile and it doesn’t come. I can’t stand to wait, it drives me crazy. I’m waiting for an invitation to present Dacia and The Passage there. I found out that it’s the summer holiday there. It seems so strange! Although I know that when it’s winter here, it’s summer for them, it’s hard for me to understand it.

The mail came; I’m going to check it out. Bills and Iona’s National Geographic, which he doesn’t even look upon anymore. I’m going to end up the subscription.

Today I woke up at 6 and I’m feeling all right. It snowed all day, too. It’s gorgeous outside and still snowing. There are 7 degrees below zero outside. Iona and Iancu stayed home. We got along very well. I made lassane for them: it came out excellent. Later on, I’ll start making an apple pie with Iona and after that we’ll go outside to play in the snow. Kuki is at Zara, buying me a shirt and some stuff. And tonight I want to watch, together with Iona and Kuki, Pistruiatul, which I received from Dan. Kuki called and told me that there are tones of things on sale, asking me if I wanted to buy myself some clothes. The joy on me...

Let’s not forget: last week, when I went to Hemsöp, the store next to my building, I noticed that all workers which were rearranging the store were speaking in Russian. I have to say that there was a sense of indignation floating in the air. People looked with hostility at those workers, those intruders they could not understand. And yesterday, at a clothing store, something strange happened: some of the employees didn’t speak Swedish, but they spoke English. It’s impossible to imagine something like that happening a few years ago.

Haven’t seen Pistruiatul yet, because Kuki fell asleep when putting Iancu to sleep and I watched Haiducii lui Șaptecai with Iona, who wanted some “action”. Wow, what a piece of crap! This movie is far-out. Nevertheless, I was fascinated by Florin Piersic. I was impressed by his youth and I can say from all my heart that he was a superb man. This man would have turned huge in a country with a powerful cinematography.

Someone wrote to me on Messenger that there are 20 degrees below zero in Bucharest. There are minus 7 here, which has been the constant temperature for the last five days. Fortunately, there is no wind.

I spoke with Jaw on the phone. He’s going to meet Palle, Valeria and Romanouski in the city; they seem to be preparing an exhibition here, in Stockholm. He asked me if I wanted to join in, with The Passage. I said yes.

Iancu wants to watch Spiderman all day. Of course we wouldn’t allow it. He thinks he’s Spiderman and I’m nervous about it. I’m afraid he might jump out of the window. We talked about it and I hope he understood. He eats anything that is red, because he wants a web like Spiderman’s. He likes pizza because Spiderman delivers pizza. He sits around the house in a Spiderman outfit, which he received from Ștefan, his cousin from Bucharest. He says he wants to save Kuki and Grandma.

Yesterday we had guests, Simona Ghiță, an actress from Bucharest, came by. She had a show in Malmö. We had a short walk around the city centre, visiting the touristiest area possible. We also met with Kuki, at 12 o’clock, at Gamla Stan, and we had dinner at a very cool place, but the food was not very good, at least Kuki’s salmon, looking and tasting like sponge. I and Simona had turkey, pretty tasty. At 3 o’clock I had to return home, to pick up Iancu from the kindergarten.

I got so angry at Iona. He’s always having trouble with the DVD player, which stops working just when he wants to watch a movie. I burst out and I smashed the remote. Now I feel awful. I am such an idiot and a stressed and a sweaty father.

It started to rain. It’s the first day with plus, after two weeks with below zero temperatures. It’s one degree plus zero. Kuki and the kids went outside for a walk.

I’m looking for a new remote control on the internet.

Last night I had a dream! I can’t remember the last time I did. I dreamt about having to leave for Holland with Doru Dricu, a friend from Sweden, to sell some golden bowls he received from his grandma. I don’t know why, but we were in Bucharest, Colentina, that is very close to the building I used to live in. We were in the tramway, with those golden bowls in a white semi-transparent bag. At the Teiul Doamnei stop, a guy with a dog stepped in and the dog pitched into the beans we had in a bowl. Doru got upset because I let the dog eat from grandma’s dish. As he explained to me how much he cared for those objects, suddenly the tramway crowded up and, from that crowd, a ticket inspector turned out. I didn’t have a ticket and I told him that “I accidentally got up on the tramway and that, in fact, I wanted to get down”. The ticket inspector, dressed in a fancy, modern suit, told me that there was no problem, that I could get down. I did so and on the tramway stop refuge I kept trying to explain the inspector that this is a mistake; then the music started in the living and I woke up. It was Kuki who turned the music on. I was marked by the new futuristic buildings that I saw in the dream. Colentina was gorgeous and the tramway was ultra modern.

Although it was Sunday, yesterday was a terrific day; we quarreled all day long. I don’t know what was wrong with us. From the very morning I smashed the remote, I yelled like a madman, afterwards I spent time on the net looking for another remote control. I went to Kista, to a store, and I bought a universal remote control, which didn’t fit my DVD player. I took it back and I looked for another one on the net. I yelled again, Kuki yelled too, the kids also yelled. And at night, so that things end up the way they started, me and Iona watched Terminator 3. It was awful.

Mother called to tell me that a Japanese businessman died from a dog bite. The bite severed a vein and he lost too much blood. He died at The Emergency Hospital.

Four days ago I started a course called “Identity and Shaping”. You learn how to present yourself as an artist, to define the “market” and to “wrap” yourself. There are many things I know, which I heard elsewhere, at work, on TV, in the papers, which, in fact, I never used to present myself as an artist. Maybe I was embarrassed or lazy. You can’t just show up holding your portfolio under your arm, raise your eyebrow, look your interlocutor in the eyes, unbeatable confident, and start selling yourself like a commercial traveler. The course is held by two guys; one of them teaches you how to create a digital presentation on a CD-Rom, the other one is responsible for PR. Tomorrow we shall meet a “guru”, who has “wrapped” a lot of companies here, in Sweden. I have to admit I’m curious about it. 

It’s snowing like hell outside. I like the snow a lot, it comforts me. Nevertheless, I can’t wait for the spring. Spring is the season I suffer the most. It’s simply not fair. Just when I’m supposed to revive, after a long and often boring winter, I get allergic. I am allergic to dust, grass, cats, pollen, but the birch flower hurts me the most. It’s a pain in the ass. Sweden is full of birches. One has to take some drugs, which really make you drowsy. I should treat myself or get myself vaccinated, but I always forget, because the first day the allergy is gone and I feel good again, I forget everything that happened. It usually lasts two months, of which one is the worst. I use all kinds of neck-sprays, I take pills, otherwise I can’t fall asleep because of the coughing attacks. Sometimes I cough until I throw up. One of these days I’m going to call up the poly­clinic, to see a doctor; maybe he’ll give me a shot to get rid off pain this year. I say this every year.

I started to draw. I’m making some kind of sketches. I have been haunted for some­time by an urge to paint and draw. I must be thinking of these drawings for 4–5 years, maybe more. I don’t exactly know what I am going to do, how or what I am heading for, but I know I feel like drawing. I haven’t drawn for 8 years. I’m a bad drawer. I fell in love with the pre-Raphaelite painters and especially with Sir John Everett Millais’ Ophelia, which I am obsessed with. I can’t say for sure why, but right now this work is in a lot of my thoughts. It sticks in there. I must see it for real. I will go to London to see it. I can’t say I’m interested in its story, at least not so far. I like this painting and I have to see it as soon as possible.

It’s snowing again. I feel safe when it snows.

I have to cook. I feel like eating some mămăligă and Iancu likes it, too. Iona has to return from school and after that he is going to Kuki’s studio, to learn how to knock the iron. He wants to make an iron plate medallion. I’m taking Iancu to a skating rink here, in Vällingby. I don’t feel like it at all, but I have to be a nice father. I drew again.

It was my birthday. I didn’t have any guests. It’s long since I felt happy for my birt­h­day. I don’t even understand anymore why you have to be happy, when you practi­cally get older with a year. For the same reason, The New Year’s Eve brings me down. It’s the silliest day in the year. The exuberance of the crowd depresses me. I wonder why are the people happy or why do they have to show it like this.

We just entered the house. I took Iancu to a mini skating rink. He didn’t care much for skating, but we played nicely. He threw himself in the snow and wallowed in it. When we entered the house, Iancu was wet from tip to toe, but he was happy. Tomorrow we will go again, but this time we are taking Iona with us.

Today it snowed all day again. I guess it snowed more than ever. I’m not talking about quantity, but about the period of time. It snows for so long, but the snow layer is not too thick. I remember that in the first years, the snow lasted for two or three days, maybe one week. I was shocked, because I imagined finding everlasting snows here, that I shall learn how to ski and skate, but in 12 years I’ve only skied twice; as about skating, no way.

I keep receiving advertisements for Viagra and other electronic products on my e-mail. It’s very annoying. I check my e-mail tens of times a day. I’m addicted to the internet.

We didn’t go to the skating rink, although we planned to. 

Yesterday I was with Kuki at IKEA to buy some things for the house and stopped at El Giganten, to look for a hair clipper. Although I’m a regular client of the electronics stores, where I buy CDs any DVDs, I don’t care for the other products. Yesterday I spent much time watching, and I must admit that I was shocked to see how much the electronics have changed, especially the digital photo cameras and the tele­phones. They are all tiny, flat and they seem to grab you by the hand saying: “buy me, buy me...” It was hard for me to leave just with a hair clipper. I felt like buying things that are worth tens of thousands or crowns.

The telephone rang and they asked me if I wanted to subscribe for a paper, Dagens Nyheter. I said no.

I have to cook. Iona should be back from school and there’s nothing to eat. Iancu is sleeping in his room. He hasn’t been to the kindergarten for three days. He had the fever and he coughs. Today, when he sneezed, blood came out of his nose. He’s not too hungry. I squeezed 4 oranges for him and he had two toasts with honey. I don’t know what to cook. Oh, I almost forgot. I took out some pastry this morning, for baking an apple pie.

Ionacalled and told me he was at Bauan. I told him to come at 5.

In the last days I downloaded a lot of music and films from the internet. I was fed up with everything I had in the house and I made a new “capture”. This time I down­loaded especially classical music, Mozart & comp. I also downloaded some Cassavettes and Antonioni; I was in the mood for Blow Up. I love the way that guy holds the camera and those white, stretchy pants. I dressed like that a lot of times. What a feeling! I remember high-school and the excesses of that time. I think this movie had the great­est influence on the way I dress.

There are seven degrees below zero outside and a intense sun. Although it’s cold, it’s a pleasure to walk outside. It is obvious now that, not after long, the spring will come and I will revive. The mailman brought a pile of advertisements. Most advertisements arrive on Monday. For Iona, today is a holiday and he is going to stay at home for the entire week. Now he’s playing outside with a friend.

I haven’t worked almost at all for the last four days. Iancu has a cold and I didn’t take him to the kindergarten. He was very quiet, but I couldn’t work anyway. He’s in the living-room now, watching Snow-White on TV. He is in the Snow-White phase. When Kuki returns from the studio, I have to buy some food. The refrigerator is empty. Iona is most nervous about it. When he sees that the refrigerator starts to empty, he gives us the first signal; others are following, more intense. The worst is when there is no milk. Iona feels safe as long as the refrigerator is stuffed. I guess that’s the way he under­stands that there are no problems and that everything is all right – mother and father are O.K. I think that he inherited it from me. As long as the banking account is full, I’m calm. But when it goes to zero, I feel depressed, nervous, stressed. Fortunately, Kuki is not like us. She gives our home a sense of equilibrium.

It’s 16.48 and Iancu is still asleep. He’s been sleeping for two and a half hours. This morning we played in the kitchen. We built towers, which Iancu broke down. He likes to look on the books and to be talked to. He speaks enormously. He asks the most impossible questions. For example, “why does Spiderman love red, blue and white”. Iancu calls albastru [blue] balbastru.

I still haven’t bought a remote control and I can’t watch certain movies. I want to order it on the internet. There are more things that I have to buy now and I’m going to order them all.

Laura Stoica died in a car crash on DN 2. Simona just told me that. She was three months pregnant. She was with her fiancé, returning to Bucharest from a show. A Dacia truck ran into them. I only remember Un actor grăbit [A hurried actor]. I never liked what she played. I always made fun of her when she was on TV, I called her Laura Gaura. I keep thinking about that mess of flesh and metal. I’m devastated.

The telephone rang again. This time, an underpants offer. I told them I was not interested. The underpants guys call every two or three months. They tell me I won a contest and that they are sending me three pairs of underpants for free. I always tell them I am not interested. It’s not that I don’t need the underpants, but it’s annoying. I’ve never won any prize in my life; I didn’t get any prize in school and it would really be a shame for my first prize to consist of three pairs of underpants.

Last Friday was a full day. I haven’t had a day like that for a long time. At 1 P.M. I went to a job interview. I have to make a site, a cultural information “bank”, with all the artistic resources in the area. I like the idea, but I realize the enormous amount of work involved. The interview went well. I actually applied for a job as web-designer, but after talking they asked if I wasn’t interested in managing a project, as they thought this job would fit me better. I think I made a good impression, generally speaking. There were two women past 45 and a guy around 30. They were nice and they seemed interested in the things I said. I left with the feeling that I got the job. However, I don’t want to think about it too much.

At 7 P.M. I went with Kuki to see an apartment with four rooms, somewhere nearby. We plan to move in a four room apartment and redesign one of the bedrooms as a studio. We didn’t like that apartment at all. It was very crowded and very depressing.

In the evening, Julio came from Madrid. He will stay with us for four days. We are working on a project together. 

The project is almost completed. We worked on it everyday and the foundation was laid. I can feel it’s strong and I like it a lot. It remains to be shaped and “receive another brush”.

A guy from the Norrtälje (a little town north of Stockholm) penitentiary called to ask if I wanted to work for them as a teacher of painting and drawing. I applied for this job some time ago, because I found it interesting, but now I’m scared. Working with criminals, pedophiles, rapists, etc is not quiet pleasant. One has got to be tough for a job like that. I don’t know what to do.

The people from the internet cultural information “bank” called; they told me that I got the job and that I start on April 3. It’s good news, right on time.

On Monday I went with Julio at Cinema Zeta and we saw Moodysson’s last movie, Container. I nearly threw up on the spot. I’ve never seen such misery in my entire life. There were 6 connoisseurs in the theatre, enjoying every line. Those people disgusted me the most. I didn’t make it to the end. I needed about 10 minutes outside to snap out of it. Lucky I forgot everything very quickly. I don’t even want to remember about it.

In the evening I downloaded movies from the internet again: all the Michael Haneke I could find, King Kong and Africa Addio, an 1966 Italian documentary. I also down­loaded some music.

I talked to Gunilla and she was happy I found this job.

Julio left and my brother and his family came. They will stay with us until Monday. He came to file for Romanian citizenship. I’ll do the same thing. I stopped being a Romanian citizen in 1998. Tomorrow we will go to the embassy.

Iancu broke a window with his head. Breaking into doors, windows, walls it’s something new for him and now, look! he broke a window with his head. It’s lucky the glass didn’t get into his eyes or didn’t cut hid face. He was really scared and I think he’s not going to do it again. I remember Iona going through a phase like this.

It’s Sunday afternoon. I slept on the living-room couch from, warmed by the sun beating on my chest. The only thing missing was the buzz flies.


Ștefan Constantinescu


Translated by Alex Moldovan