When my boyfriend Peter and I find ourselves on the sofa, silently sitting side by side, scrolling through whatever demands to be scrolled, he will occasionally turn to me with an image on his screen and ask me to explain it, to tell its story. Recently, he showed me this evocative pic, and this is the story I told him. (Obviously, it is not the actual story of @theduponttwins, who are lovely people, I’m sure.)
Side note: pictures have appreciated in value, it seems. This one is currently worth 2,326 words.
Nicolae thought about the unruly mobs as he lay in bed with his eyes gently closed, pretending to sleep. He did not want to lie in bed and think about the mobs of course, but the one thing he wanted even less was to sit up for the next several hours, discussing the mobs with Elena. Her advice in such matters was usually pretty good, but even she acknowledged her tendency to err on the side of bloodlust.
Nicolae dreamt about the unruly mobs from 2:45am to 2:49am and again from 3:32am to 3:33am, but their second appearance was fleeting, so he didn’t recall it when scribbling in his dream journal. If he had, he might have seen the writing on the wall.
Nicolae awoke after seven hours and 59 minutes. Under normal circumstances, that would have enraged him, given his obsession with getting a perfect eight hours of sleep. (The seed of that obsession was planted by his mother, a poor, unlettered shepherdess who was also one of the great undiscovered beauties of her time and correctly believed that sleep had a more powerful effect on one’s appearance than any cosmetic ointment, cream, or salve.) These, however, were not normal circumstances. Nicolae was awakened by a senior aide whispering in his ear.
When an aide awakens a callous, capricious, sleep-obsessed tyrant sixty seconds ahead of the tyrant’s well-established schedule, the aide rarely bring good news. After hearing the updates from overnight, Nicolae scowled at the aide and ordered coffee to be brought up. He gave no thought to sleep patterns ever again.
While this was happening, Elena lay on the other side of the bed with her eyes gently closed, pretending to be asleep. A lifelong morning person, she had been wide awake for the better part of an hour, but the last thing she wanted was to endure Nicolae’s early-morning wishy-washiness. He was much more decisive after lunch.
Sitting at a small table that the couple had received from a family friend after he was named president of the state council, Nicolae wrote down his dreams as best he could remember (which, as we have said, was not good enough) and considered his options vis a vis the aforementioned mobs. On the one hand, he thought, change was in the air. On the other, he thought, fuck change.
When the coffee arrived, it was bitter and cold.
By sundown that same day, eight days before Christmas, Nicolae had given The Word, and Romania’s streets ran red with blood, as they did in legends of old. The more things change, am I right?
Elena swooned at Nicolae’s bold choice, but her thrill was fleeting, because for the first time in his life–well, not the first, but the event was rare–the so-called “Genius of the Carpathians” had miscalculated. Historians can debate Nicolae’s deeply flawed decision until the sun envelops Mercury, Venus, Earth, and perhaps Mars in its suffocating embrace several billion years from next Wednesday, but what is indisputable is that five days later, three days before Christmas, Nicolae and Elena raced to the top of the Central Committee building and boarded a helicopter to avoid being slaughtered by protestors.
As he helped Elena into her seat, a magnificent silver ring slipped from Nicolae’s finger, a ring given to him by his grandfather, which he had received from his grandfather, and so on, and so on, no one knows how far back, but it is clear that the tradition began long before helicopters roamed the skies, and certainly long before a repressed Irish homosexual reduced a national hero to a pulp novel, blood-sucking bogeyman and a proud country’s name to a synonym for superstition, dysfunction, xenophobia, and corruption.
Nicolae’s great-great-great-et cetera-grandfather’s ring rolled out the door of the helicopter, onto the roof of the Central Committee building, and plummeted into the square below. A writhing mass of revolutionaries waited there, but their eyes were too full of hatred to see the ring, so they unknowingly stomped it into a gap between two cobblestones with their snow-covered boots.
The story of the cobblestones and the workers who quarried them is a tale for another time. It is an excellent story, but very, very sad.
Three days after the government helicopter bearing serial number R239EWER498 rushed Nicolae and Elena northward, then northwestward, then flew no more–three days after that, A picked up the ring.