Friday 2 November 2012

Fifty Shades of Polenta

I 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 late.

Twenty 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?

The 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.

Stefania 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.