We're taking a journey. A journey into alternate pasts and speculative futures. Adventure, crime, dark comedy and sci-fi. Hot tunes fading in fast from forgotten dance halls and vintage radio. Fedora hats with a snap brim. And, of course, Gothic lurks in the narrative shadows: tippet for a tulle, the dead once again stroll amongst the decaying temple colonnades. Stories always written out of love - or perhaps necessity? Like the murder of Miss Fromm, one can never really be sure...
stride across the main square to the Bella Musica where I’ve arranged to
take Demitris and Stefania out to lunch. Dimitris works damned hard and he’s
also been incredibly generous so it’s time to return the favour. As usual I’m
minutes in and I’m sat down with the pair of them in airy, renovated gothic
surroundings. Our table has fresh blue flowers. The waiter’s shirt is as white and
crisp as the cotton table cloth and Stefania’s complexion. She lights up yet another
cig then runs me through the menu.
I’d like to try something local, I say.
Try this, she says, pointing a scarlet
fingernail at a dish with an unpronounceable name.
Is it good?
waiter comes over and we order. After he leaves Dimitiris tells me Stefania is also
a writer except she is actually quite famous – at least in Romania. Blimey. I
pour her another glass of wine. Tell me more.
runs a hand through her jet black hair. She explains how she wrote an erotic novel
about four years ago. It was based on her experiences in the Kronstadt
town hall where she still works as the deputy supervisor in the sanitation
department. Stefania looks me straight in the eye as she describes one of the graphic sex scenes in the town hall car park involving an enthusiastic group of Hungarian exchange students and a paraplegic popcorn wholesaler from Latvia. She tells me all about being on talk
shows on TV and radio. It seems for a while the media couldn’t get enough of her. There used to be a poster of her on the bus shelter opposite the Musica.
The novel sounds like Transylvania's answer to
Fifty Shades of Grey, I say. But with a stronger public sector element. Demitris laughs out loud.
That book is shit and the other ones as well, says Stefania. My novel is about the truth of experience.
Mine are about the truth of not being
commercially viable, I say.
Stefania's crazy but I love her, says Dimitiris breezily.
I like sex, retorts Stefania. Anyway, what's wrong with that? Nothing, we both reply. Men
are all the same and they can’t keep it in their trousers, she says pinching Demitiris hard. They’re all like teenagers that
never grow up. Men...
Did you make any money out of your novel?
My editor, she says after pausing to
convert leu into pound sterling, still owes me seven hundred pounds. Some of the novel is
about Republicii. You know Republicii?
Yes, of course. I spend most of my time
there – when I’m not at Dimitiris’ place.
Stefania frowns then stubs out her cigarette. All women
are s**** and aeroplanes in that place, she says.
She’s about to explain when the waiter returns armed
with our food and places it gracefully down in front of us. I peer suspiciously into my local dish: a mass of polenta, curly
bits of bacon and melted cheese. It looks, to be honest, a bit on the heavy
side. The smiley face made with peppercorns on the yolk of the fried egg strikes a discordant note
with our sophisticated surroundings. But I pick up my fork. Get stuck in.