Week 7: Mrs. Anica Onete’s Objection

16 Jan

It’s 7 in the morning and Anica is stretching out her frail arms from under the quilt.

It smells like spring, but it’s only January, how funny, she quips to herself, audibly. The alarm clock, antique, turning kind you can’t find anymore, suddenly begins to ring noisily, making the entire nightstand tremble. Anica reaches for it and skillfully presses the right buttons to soothe the moody vintage clock she’d bought for her husband who was always late for work. Was it the 80s? No, no, definitely the 70s, before the earthquake hit, because she distinctly remembers it being one of the few items that they salvaged from the rubble.

For about 20 years she’d woken up a few seconds before the irritating, yet familiar sound of her alarm clock and every time she’d felt a little proud of herself, like she’d beaten time and bent the rules of the universe. Anica is an imaginative lady. 

She gets up and quickly turns on the radio to listen to Romantic FM and straightens her sheets and the picture of her late husband, Alexandru. The frame is silver and wavy around the edges and Alexandru is holding one of the neighbour’s kids up in the air, both of them laughing, blinded by the sun. The picture’s a little faded and a a little coffee stained, but it’s quite a sight, seeing him laugh so wholeheartedly like that. They never had any children themselves and, well, one day, in the 90s, he fell ill and forgot to get back up again.

Anica frowns, her face wrinkling up a bit more, crevices old and new. But her frown quickly evaporates as she remembers the new packet of chamomile tea she’d bought yesterday. Her clear green eyes suddenly become a little brighter and she scurries off to the kitchen with impressive haste. Water is boiled, poured and then left alone in the intimate company of the chamomile teabag, her favourite since childhood, since when she used to skip through wide open field brimming with the presence of the pale little plant. She’d dirty her white dresses with grass strains, but for a worthy cause.

As she stirs and dissolves the dizzy sugar in her tea cup, she watches the news, intrigued, engrossed, but calm. Who wouldn’t be with warm delicious steam hugging their face? She surfs through the channels to find much of the same. Hm, I’d better go buy markers, she notes, I’m out of markers.

An hour later and in full winter wear, including her lopsided 20s style hat, with a rose on it. Just because one is over sixty doesn’t mean you can’t have a some style going on. Got my bag, got my keys, here I go.

In the marketplace, she can’t resist buying a kilo of mandarins, beside the black markers from the supply shop. And some loafs of bread. And cheese and ham. And chocolate bars. Oh and look, you get a 20% discount voucher for purchases larger than 30 RON today! Thank you very much, good day to you too! Why yes, things are unraveling pretty quickly out there, I’ve heard it too.

When she reaches her apartment block, a neighbour of Anica’s is right in the process of closing the door behind him when he sees her at the last moment and stops himself abruptly.

‘Please, Mrs Onete. , come in! It’s cold out there.. and I think it’s snowing a little, today of all days. Want some help with all those bags?’

‘Oh, thank you, Paul, you’re really a dear, but it’s just one flight of stairs.’

‘Have a nice day then, Mrs. Onete’

‘You too, you too.’

Anica feels a bit distraught and a little guilty for being so very rude and not offering him or his wife any of her fresh chamomile tea, but it was going to be a busy day for her, pleasantries would have to wait.

She toils in the kitchen for about an hour, making sandwiches and wrapping them up  neatly in flower-pattern paper napkins, much like she used to do sometimes for the neighbour’s kids so they would have an extra snack at school, before they grew up, got married and moved away that is. The boy is in Switzerland, working as a doctor and the girl is in Spain, working as a dance instructor. She sighs and smiles a wrinkly, endearing smile. She’s still rather beautiful and stylish, in her own way. In fact, if she were to take the word of the men from the Sunday Park Chess Club who relentlessly ask for her hand in marriage, one would say she’s a real catch still. Anica giggles and clears her throat a bit afterwards.

She takes out the markers, rips open the packaging covering big cardboard squares and turns up the radio, this time it’s a news station:

‘The protesters are continually growing in number, as they occupy Piata Universitatii, making their way through the cement crosses, vivid reminders of ’89. The police are trying their best to contain the situation and minimize damage and violence. It has gone on for over four days now and the crowd doesn’t look like it’s going to give up any time soon. The president has yet to make any statement as the chaos ensues and the people wave their flags defiantly.’

It’s now 10:30 pm and Paul and his family are watching television. Most of the news stations are live broadcasting the protest in the city centre, as the situation escalates from calm to violent to calm to violent then to calm again, in sudden bursts of frustration and simple inertia. Paul is concerned, but a little distracted by his chocolate pudding, covered in whip cream. He’s basically on a diet, but it’s been a long, hard day and–

‘Dad, isn’t that the old lady that always wears the wonky hat, from upstairs?’

Paul’s son points and pretends to shoot point blank at the television screen with his fingers. Bang! Paul’s jaw drops to the floor as he sees that Mrs. Onete is right out there, in the front line, among all the youngsters and the oldsters alike, holding up an angry sign and chanting the message alongside those behind her:


‘OUR CHILDREN SHOULDN’T HAVE TO LEAVE,

OUR CHILDREN SHOULDN’T HAVE TO LEAVE,

OUR CHILDREN SHOULDN’T HAVE TO LEAVE,

OUR CHILDREN SHOULDN’T HAVE TO LEAVE!’

Her face flushed, her sign a little smudged and her hat more than a little crooked, Anica frowns and smiles a wrinkly smile.

 

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