Ana opens the window and lights a cigarette. It`s late at night, but the air is still warm. The delicate smell of the linden flowers is reaching all the way up to the 9th floor.
Just across the dead-end alley used as a parking lot, similar blocks of flats are rising, the pre-fabricated concrete panes still visible, as if these buildings, given for habitation more than 50 years ago, have never been finished.
She knows Mircea is looking at her from the top of the bed, and she knows how much he hates it when she smokes, especially in his bedroom. He is one of those smokers in denial, who smoke, yet hate everything about smoking. He would`t light a cigarette in this car, nor was anyone else allowed to do that, at home – except for, maybe, in the kitchen – or in front of his parents. Going to the kitchen is really not an option right now, as this would mean crossing the living room, where his flatmate is sleeping.
“Great,” he says. She can tell he is more disgusted by her inability to control her addiction than by the smoke itself. “The room is now going to smell like an ashtray.” He then rolls over, and covers his face with a pillow.
“I’m a smoker,” she says in her defence. She is trying to stay calm while doing her best to blow the smoke out of the window. “And you’re a smoker, too.” Over her shoulder, she looks at him, waiting for a reaction. His face is still hidden, but she doesn’t give up. “Smokers do smoke. And I bet you`d like to have one right now.”
She turns her back at him. She knows she has a point. That’s why he doesn’t say anything.
The elevator’s sound in the building across the street is the only one breaking the silence. Drumul Taberei neighbourhood can be so quiet, as if the tall poplar trees surrounding the buildings swallow the noise disturbances with the same ferociousness they seem to swallow the buildings themselves.
She looks at the columns of windows and balconies customised after each family`s needs and taste: by mounting extra shelves to be loaded with jars and all kind of storage recipients, by adding plastic covers, or by using double-paned windows dubbed as “thermopanes” to close the balcony altogether – definitely a sign of status, and a statement for the owner. Ana cannot help but cringe at seeing the unnatural juxtaposition of the white plastic frames, and the grey, concrete walls. It seems almost surreal that, only a few hours ago, she was in Amsterdam, gazing at the majestic houses along the canals, with their crooked brick walls, beautifully adorned gables, and curtain-less windows, inviting for cosiness and contemplation.
“Are we going to get some sleep tonight?”
Mircea`s voice brings her back to his room in Drumul Taberei, Bucharest, Romania. She lets the window open and, while setting the alarm for tomorrow morning on her phone, she gets into bed. Turned away from him, she tries to fall asleep. When he wraps his arm around her, she accepts it, but all she can feel is its weight. And that is a bit uncomfortable.