Aura Mircea


“Go on” my father’s voice echoed lingeringly in my head. I stood in the doorway, holding my breath as long as I could in an attempt similar to that of jumping into deep water. I stood in the doorway, holding my breath for fear of disturbing the hollow silence of the room. It was the presence of a person among the furniture in the room that made the muteness almost came in waves, drawing you in like a deaf mermaid song. The man sat on his stomach on the bed. He seemed so much in tune with the numbness of the room that it bore him away from reality and won him a new identity, such that would please a chair or a window.

I took a small breath. To my amazement, it did not disturb the deafening quiet. Rather, the room with the man in it seemed to completely ignore me.

“Go on” my father repeated encouragingly. My hands fell awkwardly lifeless beside my body and I finally made the steps to my grandfather’s bed. He was wide awake, arms huddled under the pillow in a posture that I found odd for an invalid. I had always imagined dying people in tidy white surroundings with the body aesthetically turned upwards, in a tranquil expectance of the inevitable if death was due to natural causes, or contracted if punished by tormenting pains. However, his was very much like neither posture. He lay on his stomach, facing sideway and gazing almost without blinking. His eyes seemed to have had fixed a well hidden dot on the stove and were reluctant to leave it. What was it exactly that this man was seeing? I could not say for certain but his gaze was so intense it seemed he was trying to rip apart the folds of the stove as tearing apart a photograph, in search of a way out.

I finally sat down on the side of his bed and summoned my courage to say “Hello, grandpa. How are you?” I couldn’t break his concentration with such a meaningless question. I had no idea my voice was lacking so much strength. It was of course, I realized, a very stupid question to ask. Hardly a mystery, the old man’s days were numbered, he most probably had no particular wish to see me, yet, there I was, asking silly questions.

I cleared my voice and asked again, this time accompanying the words with a timid tap on the shoulder. Grandfather blinked, turned his eyes for a moment towards mine and answered “I’m ill, my niece”. Nothing could have been blunter, almost like a bucket of water poured on the small fire I had diligently worked to start. There was nothing for me to say anymore so I just patted his shoulder once more and I hurriedly left the room.

Had I said “Don’t worry, you’ll get better” would have been such an obvious lie that the both of us would have been offended. I, for making him believe I was an eager young girl trying to make polite conversation with a man on his deathbed and himself, for my not giving enough credit to a man in search of peace of mind. Looking back at how rarely life had brought me close to that man I felt a slight tinge of pain in my heart. Our story was nothing out of the ordinary, a man seldom inclined for grandparenting and a mousy little grandchild always hiding behind her parents. There has never been anything compatible about our characters, except perhaps, in later years, when having been stricken by old age, he lived only by remembering his past. For my part, I have always been a good listener so I braved his obliviousness in hopes of hearing his story. It was a fortified city in which access was difficult to obtain delineated by a great sea of silence; I never could separate the times when he was wondering the actual paths of our gardens from those of gardens past. Though he never wanted company, it was during this time that I felt he didn’t even actually need it despite his fatigued body. It was thus to my surprise when one day, he began telling me in few words (an improvement considering he never spoke more that 10 words altogether during a whole day) how he had built the house and all the comforts such a housing would offer in his youth. It had been a hard ordeal for a young couple, married in the early 70’s, foreign to these lands, to start their life from nothing. He was a carpenter and his wife was young, that should have been enough for a peaceful life, he reckoned. But nothing turned out the way he had planned for his wife died too early. The old man stopped and he never opened this subject again. He only filled my head with riddles, planting questions in my already confused mind. I hardly knew a thing about her and the only person who could have elucidated the mystery only thickened the layers of the cloth covering her life as if weaving a traditional carpet. My thoughts rambled on, pending from the old man resting on a chair, his sight lost in contemplation of the ground beneath his feat, and the hill towering over the house. There was a delicate solitary white sign up the hill, swallowed by the greenery but still distinguishable, two crossed lines reminding us all that her life had been real.


The old man had grown thinner over the week I had been away from home. When I finally got back, almost accustomed to the idea that he was invalid but not quite in full realization of what that meant. He had stopped eating that week and could only drink water and even that with great difficulty. Beside his bed, on a wimpy chair, was the item that sustained his life. It was an old Coke bottle with a hole run through its stopper and a long flexible straw attached to it. The straw was actually made from a TV cable, cleaned and “adapted” for this use. It was, of course, a very useful invention, but I couldn’t refrain from smiling thinking back at how my grandfather’s yard had always been full of such devices, one more ingenious than the other, all evidence of a mind preoccupied with dismantling useless objects and assembling different pieces together to obtain something useful. Perhaps it was the coldness of these devices in the company of which he would spend days on end that infused his character. Any amount of warmth had gone unnoticed, for how could he have noticed something unrelated to his interests?

Yet, when I entered the shriveling man’s room, growing smaller by the day in a king of cruel involution, tears invaded me. The glimmer of light in his eye getting dimmer by the minute, his heavy breathing, made me tremble under the weight of the realization that he was fading away. This man, whom I had never really dedicated much of my time to, reached out to me, in perfect lucidity, and bridged all the noisy gaps enlarged over the years. Never had I thought it so simple. One arm stretched out and a glance sufficed us both. I sat down close to him for a few moments only, looking out the window. The weather had been morose the entire day and prospects for rain were strong.

“Water” he said in one breath, hurrying as if trying to gulp the word in search of the designated matter. The bottle was close; I helped him drink and left it near his pillow. Our cat walked in with sleepy eyes and lazy movements, trying to get on the bed and continue his nap there. The sight of the cat startled him, I could see clearly what he was thinking.

“You can’t sleep here, you know” I told the cat. One last smile for the old man and I left the room with the cat in my arms. We cuddled on the sofa in the parlor, listening from time to time to the heavy breathing in the next room. People started flooding the rooms, men and women, in thick coarse clothes, bustling with confusion and each saying some word or other to me. They seemed so awkward in their speedy attempts to ask and give forgiveness to the old man. A dead man is as easy to get along with as a live one but it is the passing from one state to the other that fills ones heart with anguish. Wavering of opinions previously thought of as unassailably right arises in such a time so I could half understand the restrained nervousness of the guests. A light shook me from my dreariness; the cat was still on my lap.

“You had better take that cat out” someone said. So I got up and left the house with it still purring in my arms. Best take him to another house; he might cause trouble here otherwise.