The Romanian

                                   a memoir


                                                             by Bruce Benderson




For Remy

Have you sunk into so deep a stupor, that you're only happy in your unhappiness? If that's the case, let us fly to countries that are counterfeits of death. 
                                                                                        --Baudelaire .

 The sex instinct created a world of its own which was outside the Party’s control and which therefore had to be destroyed if possible.                                                                                                                                                                                                              --George Orwell




Homosexuality is no longer illegal in Romania per se. In 1996, under pressure from the then 40-nation Council of Europe, Romania amended the language of its sodomy law, known as Article 200. Formerly, the law forbade homosexuality in all situations; but at the time of this writing it still called for prosecution in cases of a "public scandal." Because the term "public scandal" is so vague, it can mean anything from having sex in a public toilet to forgetting to close the curtains as you kiss your partner good morning. And because the law explicitly condemns proselytizing for the legitimacy of homosexuality, it could certainly be brought to bear on anyone thought to have corrupted another into a homosexual relationship.

Currently, public pressure seems to have softened. But popular conservative opinion, linked to the Orthodox Church, still sees homosexuality as a western corruption, threatening to poison the country and endanger the growth of its population. 

In the mid nineties, the prosecution of the homosexual life style in Romania was grisly. Police in small cities and towns sometimes offered the most flagrant queen amnesty in exchange for helping them hunt out more closety homosexuals. Or else the information came from a family member. A well-known case is one from 1992 involving Ciprian Cucu, who was in his last year of high school, and Marian Matascu, who was twenty-two[1]. The two young men, who met through a coded newspaper ad published in Timiºoara, lived in the town of Sînnicolau Mare, with Cucu’s family. Their love affair was intense and secret. But Cucu’s sister and her husband began to suspect, and when the sister discovered Cucu’s revealing diary, she went for the only help she could think of—the police. During the interrogation, Cucu denied everything, but Matascu confessed. The police confronted the “whore Cucu,” as they termed him, with the diary, and he, too, broke down.

Trying to establish without a doubt who was the active and who the passive partner, which the prosecutor and the forensic doctor insisted were essential to the case, the interrogators forced Cucu and Matascu to undergo painful examinations of their genital and rectal areas. Finally, due to pressure from Amnesty International and the Romanian Helsinki Committee, the two were released and got suspended sentences. But by that time, both men had served jail time. Matascu was suffering from a severe skin infection that had erupted on his legs. Cucu was banished from high school and not allowed to finish the last year. The reason was ostensibly too many absences, but he later learned it was because his life style was considered an unhealthy influence. Matascu commited suicide.

In a few of my many fantasies about Romulus, I’d considered the possibility of blackmail. I’d heard accounts of it in the gay world now and then. A few American gays had been subject to extortion by ex-members of the Communist Secret Police, in regions where draconian laws against homosexuality were still in effect. What would happen, I remember wondering, if his impoverished parents convinced him to set up a sham police sting with a local former member of the Securitate? The fake charge could be propositioning and sexual corruption of a citizen. Like Cucu and Matascu, I might be beaten and held in a deserted barracks, while Romulus played innocent, explaining to me that the only way to get out of this was by having my traumatized mother wire huge sums of money.

However, this fantasy wasn’t connected in my mind with a moral defect on Romulus’ part. It had become all too clear to me that there’s a kind of life that by some historical accident is born into a mess, which leads, paradoxically, to more and more messes of the person's own making, for him and for those around him. Finally, I was aware that just a glimpse into such dead-end trajectories can brand the heart of an outsider like mine and lead to all sorts of entanglements. Society is structured to prevent the toxic effect of any meaningful contact with these people. But once you’ve crossed over, there isn’t any turning back from that reality.


Even so, each time these dark worries came up, they would again drown in the sea of my passion. I’d all but forget them, immersed instead in schemes to get to Romania, to create a future for Romulus by making him some money or to make my mother or friends understand or even envy my passion. My blinding visions and sudden eclipses were like Coleridge’s as I skated from Symbolist fantasies of perverse bliss with Romulus to demoralized cloak-and-dagger concoctions of betrayal. My dream worlds had no logical connection with each other, unless it was the connection between polar opposites, inexplicable joy or sudden fear. Shuttling from one state to the other, I’d squeamishly shade my eyes from the light of a Manhattan street, or close them against the sun coming into my bedroom window. On damp sheets, my body twitched with memories of our past encounters and visions of our future. Despite the dysfunctional state of things, and despite the current normalizing politics engulfing culture, I still saw my homosexuality as a narrative of adventure, a chance to cross not only sex barriers but class barriers, while breaking a few laws in the process. Otherwise, it occurred to me, I’d rather be straight.






Here on Piaþa Victoriei in Bucharest, Romulus has zero patience for the street urchins, those grimy kids who attach their suckered tentacles to us every time we step out of the hotel. With eyes shiny and hard as pebbles, glistening with a paint-thinner high, they never stop their operatic chant for a handout, appealing to us and the Savior in whines, or wailing soft sophistic arguments about charity. They grab the hem of our jackets and let themselves be dragged along until Romulus shoos them away with curses sounding like a witch’s imprecations.

One of the more articulate, who likes to play soccer with a balled-up newspaper after he’s sniffed thinner, constantly catches my attention. He acts courageous but strikes me as slightly oversensitive, a pouty mouth and a luxurious mop of shiny hair cresting his chocolate brown eyes.

“Why can’t we kind of adopt just one while we’re here?” I ask Romulus. “Set aside 20 dollars a week.”

 He chortles at my naiveté. “Go ahead. Try. Give to him first installment.” 

I take out five dollars and the boy pounces on it, inhaling it deep into his stained athletic suit. If he does mumble a thank you, it’s quickly curtailed by the torrent of begging for more. Suddenly, though, he’s ripped backward onto the grass in front of the Benetton store, as four other kids furiously attack him for a share of the take. Limbs cartwheel and small bodies roll through the grass as yelps of pain come from the jumble. Romulus shouts out to stop, like an athletic coach, but they ignore him, and he meets my eyes for a moment with a look of being right. “You see what happens?” he says, clucking his tongue.

“But they’re homeless.”

“I do not believe it for any moment. I as kid did same.”

As soon as I saw him striding across the busy street in front of the Bulevard Hotel, at that strange, unsettling moment when fantasy suddenly becomes flesh, I realized things had taken a step forward. We hadn’t seen each other for six weeks. This time he looked older and more purposeful and was carrying his own luggage, a gym bag with a couple pairs of shirts and two pairs of underwear. He’d come to the Gellért for my last visit with nothing but a razor.

The Bulevard, our nineteenth century hotel, is in a perplexing state of disrepair. The sour desk clerk looked past our heads with veiled contempt when we filled out the registration. The lobby didn’t feel like that of any hotel I’d ever been in. Among the marble columns and the strange series of vases attached to the walls, which I later found out had held surveillance microphones during the Ceauºescu era, were stone-faced, bulky men in black suits like those I’d seen at the bar in Budapest. Cher-look-alike beauties in black designer miniskirts, their shiny hair cut Louise-Brooks style and long legs ending in gleaming sling-back shoes, lounged panther-like on the scattered banquettes, scrutinizing us with tinges of hope but mostly undisguised boredom. Every once in a while, a cell phone would ring. One of the thuggish guys would extract it from his suit and answer it, and one of the girls would leave. It seemed like a pretty active hustling operation.

Our immense circular room has four bay windows. It’s high-ceilinged and aristocratic, except for the fact that the pseudo Louis XVI furniture keeps collapsing. But with our heavy drapes, mirrored vanity table and brocade couch, as well as the cavernous round space of our room, we soon forget about the rest of the world. Eventually I get the idea of filling a plastic jug with water to make the pull-chain toilet work; and although no one ever appears to make up the room, we learn to put our garbage outside.

A lot of phone numbers have changed in Bucharest shortly before our arrival. They’re installing an updated system. Not only do we never find out our real hotel telephone number, but the few contacts I have—such as film critic Alex Leo ªerban—who’s been recommended by my French friend, the writer Benoît Duteurtre—turn out to be unreachable. The old phone numbers just ring and ring, and whatever the new ones are aren’t listed in the directory.

Our lack of outside contacts has thrown us into that Cocteauean netherworld of enfants terribles that worked so well for a while at the Gellért. There’s no greater accessory to romantic passion than an absence of context. Within our Traviata-style stage set we can enact hackneyed  plots of sensual laziness, intense sex, encroaching boredom and jealousy. Our first sturm und drang occurs even before we’ve unpacked our bags, when I ask Romulus for one hundred dollars. A couple of weeks before, on the telephone, he’d said that the last hundred dollars I’d given him in Budapest had red-felt marker stains along the edges from the bank, and that no one in Sibiu would change it. He’d asked me to wire an extra hundred and promised to give me the stained bills back. 

“What do you mean you don’t have them?”

“Not no more. Finally in bar they agree to change those bills with red.”

“You were supposed to hold on to them.”

“I did not know I need them.”

“How in fuck am I supposed to trust you?”

“Then now I will leave.”

“Hello? Are you a pure sociopath? You spent money that you promised you’d give back to me.”

“Yes, yes, I needed, you see.”

“I don’t fucking trust you.”

“Good. I am leaving because one hundred lousy dollars is enough for you to lose my faith.”

“Alright. Forget it.”

“I cannot.”



“Look, put down your bag. You’re not going anywhere. Fact, I’m taking it out of the next sum I give you.”

“Of course.” He drops the bag to the floor.

He pulls on the striped velour shirt I’ve bought for him. It brings out the pirate and makes his black eyes look velvety. It’s almost dark already and getting windy, so we throw on light jackets.

The hallway is cavernous and unlit, like the set of Last Year at Marienbad after 30 years of cobwebs. In the lobby, one of the working girls follows us with X-ray eyes. Penetrating, bewildered, resentful. We hit the street, mowing through the begging children clustered at the entrance.

For me, this city has a strange Cabinet of Dr. Caligari feeling. You’d imagine the buildings of Bucharest leaning at weird angles, but, just as is suggested in those Expressionist films, it’s really your own grounding that’s off-center. You’re faced again and again with that amputee, History. Then you yourself begin to feel dislocated.

Dissonant twosome as we are—he young, lithe, short and sharp-faced with shiny, stony eyes; me, older, taller and much bulkier, eyes burning—Bucharest begins to feel like our landscape. It’s part Blade-Runner and part Boulevard Haussman. Twilight doesn’t seem to come to the city; it smudges it, I don’t know why. We’re walking past the sumptuous nineteenth century Cercul Militar and its hopes of Parisian glory. An elderly woman stops us, her eyes bright with memories, a weird, wild compassion in her trembling voice. When she finds out we’re visitors, that we haven’t suffered what she has, it sets something off. She recalls Bucharest’s old glory for us—the memories seem to shoot like sparks from her eyes to the tips of her wild, gnarled hair—she blesses us, begs us, as tourists, to reconstruct the Bucharest of the past for her by eating at Capºa, a formerly famous restaurant with velvet and ebony furniture.

As we leave her and walk up Calea Victoriei, the Haussmanian look of Bucharest brings back my literary memory of that fantastic promenade during the teens and 1920s, the days of Lupescu and Carol, when the seraglio-eyed women in mask-like make-up and dyed fox stoles sauntered past mustachioed men in severely tailored serge suits, brilliantined hair and patent leather shoes, puffing oval Turkish cigarettes with their pouting, gleaming lips that made off-colored comments about the parade of “possibilities”; but this is suddenly interrupted by an onion-domed Russian church, sprouting like a mushroom between two dank housing projects. I make Romulus go into it with me. Its small, musty interior holds genuflecting women with covered heads, and gleaming icons, all clustered together with little walking space.

Back on the street, wild dogs and even wilder homeless children keep crossing our paths. A Soviet-style housing project looks like it’s caving into a new, shiny adjoining bank. Everything looks pieced together by Crazy Glue, fighting for space and contradicting everything else, like cubist structures on a baroque wedding cake.    Most interesting to me are the pharmacies. You see, I associate my desire for Romulus, that sense of dislocation he causes, with the white tablets I’ve been taking: codeine and hydrocodone that exaggerate my fantasies of passion and make me forget my anxieties about my mother’s health; as well as the white lorazepam tranquilizers—also available—that I’ve begun to swallow to sleep. From the glass-doored wooden cabinets of the pharmacy we’ve just entered, the bony-fingered clerk extracts what I tell Romulus to ask for.

Just as exciting is the discovery of a series of face creams called Gerovital, which I will begin to use regularly and later maintain have magic properties. At barely two dollars a jar, they’ll end up filling my suitcases on every departure from Romania, as requests from friends for the magic substance multiply. The creams are based on a formula developed by the legendary and controversial scientist Ana Aslan, who claimed until her death to have discovered an anti-aging chemical. Today, all over the world, there are still aging people swallowing Gerovital pills. I buy several jars of the cream and, of course, stock up on 50-pill boxes of lorazepam and opiates, leaving the store with a feeling of flushed excitement.

Calea Victoriei leads us to a vast square, a kind of crossroads of historical trauma. There on my left is the palace where Carol’s II Jewish mistress Lupescu hid behind gauze curtains while Carol, in his white cloak, raised a toast to her. Now it houses a national museum of Romanian art. It was the palace in which Carol felt most at home, whereas his father preferred the more remote Cotroceni, on the outskirts of the city.

There were rumors of secret passages running underneath this palace, bringing Lupescu undetected to Carol at night or allowing Carol to meet secretly with deal-makers and members of his cabal of scheming advisers.

During the ‘30s, in an attempt to build a fitting monument to his increasingly dictatorial style, Carol had the place renovated in that sentimental English manner known as Palladianism, which attempts to poetically evoke Roman times. Perplexed by my fascination, Romulus waits impatiently while I stare at the structure, wondering if anything remains of the King’s eccentric installations, such as his electrotherapy chair or his stupendously expensive 1930s California air conditioning system, which never worked and was designed by an untalented engineer who turned out to be Lupescu’s cousin, thereby adding further fuel to accusations of her bleeding the royal treasury dry.

This is also the place where one rainy night in 1940 supporters of Romania’s Fascist Iron Guard came to call for the Jewess’s head, shortly before the couple went into exile. But that’s not the only occurrence that makes it feel as if the square on which we’re standing were shuddering with aftershocks of past violence. The Central University Library across the street, as well as the Palace, were nearly gutted by fire during the Revolution of 1989, and thousands of priceless volumes in the library were reduced to ashes. Behind the library, on Calea Victoriei, are the charred ruins of a once stately house that was destroyed during the revolution and left as a reminder. Not far from both is the wide, stern façade of the old headquarters of the Communist Party, riddled with bullet holes, from whose roof Romania’s last dictator Ceauºescu escaped by helicopter. A white marble plaque points to the spot where it happened, with the words “Glorie martirilor noºtri” (“Glory to our Martyrs”), in remembrance of the revolutionaries who lost their lives.

Unaware that Capºa, the restaurant the old lady mentioned to us, is across the street from where we met her, we take an eerie cab ride in search of it through back streets with decaying mansions, whose pitted wooden columns, stagnant gardens and shady gables keep leading us into dead ends. After several days we’ll realize that most of the taxi drivers don’t know where anything is. Giving up on our search, we begin looking for another restaurant named the Mioriþa, after the primal Romanian myth. It’s only later that I’ll ponder that myth of a murdered shepherd and realize how deeply it seems to articulate some of our experience.

It’s 8 PM already. Dying of hunger, we hurry shiveringly north of Calea Victoriei, still in search of a restaurant, past a large late-nineteenth-century palace fronted by two stone lions. We stop and stare at the scallop-shaped glass canopy leading to the entrance, just as the iron gate is being locked by a grizzled man in a moth-eaten sweater and wool cap. He is, he claims, the conservator of this museum, the palace of Cantacuzino, where George Enescu, the famous composer and musician, used to live; and he wonders—looking us up and down—if we’d like a private tour. We follow him up the stairs into a terrifying well of pitch blackness, after which he throws on a series of switches that illuminate heavenly, elegant rooms of polished wood and stucco, decorated with plaster cherubs, winged trumpeters and a rosy-fleshed nude sprawled across the ceiling. Casually, he yanks open cabinets containing the personal belongings of Mr. Enescu and removes priceless musical scores for us to examine, finger. He tells us—and this turns out to be confirmed in a book I will read—Romanian  Rhapsody, by Dominique Fernandez—that Enescu lived here with his wife, a princess named Maruka, who was a widow of the Boyar Cantacuzino and who kept the palace in near darkness, due to a disfigured face caused by gasoline burns she’d inflicted on herself after an unrequited love affair; that she appeared to the light only when her face was hidden by a plaster mask. Later I’ll also find out that this Maruka Cantacuzino was a confidante of Queen Marie.

He takes us to a smaller house in back of the main building, where he claims the composer, who was of peasant origins, felt more comfortable and spent most of his time. It’s only after we’ve thanked him and bestowed a ten-dollar tip—a two-day salary—that we realize he must be the night watchman, hoping to make some extra cash. 

We make another attempt to find Mioriþa, and our cab driver gets lost again. The ride ends in a mud path, where eerie light from an art nouveau window in the almost pitch-black street illuminates the uniform of a soldier, who works in this city in conjunction with the police. I want to ask directions, but Romulus grabs my sleeve and keeps me from crossing the street. It seems no one asks the police for help.

We cross to the other side of the street further down, through mud. Why do I feel that I’ve become lost in a marsh? It’s only later that I’ll find out Bucharest was built on forested wetlands tangled with roots. Once across the mud, we find ourselves in front of a large, red Victorian house that could have belonged to Psycho's Mrs. Bates. There’s a sign in front of it that says “Opium.” We enter out of curiosity, and a woman in a revealing red cocktail dress asks us if we prefer the smoking room (we aren’t sure what substance she’s referring to), the "bath lounge" or Purgatorio, a room in the basement with chairs decorated alternately with red devil horns and white angel haloes. The establishment is owned by the Romanian actress Ioana Crǎciunescu, whose much younger partner, director Bogdan Voicu, is working with her to create theater entertainments for the special few.

There are, says the manager, weekly performances in the bath lounge, a bordello-red room featuring an immense golden bathtub. And in the Purgatorio, a new trend of stand-up comedy in English has begun, because, she says, Romanian stand-up is just a series of potty jokes. Next door, in the yellow opium room, there are eerie pantomimes going on among the Oriental cushions. But there’s no food here. Someone calls us a taxi and, defeated and hungry, we head back to the hotel.

Too tired to keep looking for food, we switch on the color television. In front of it and a seemingly endless soccer match, we learn a series of passional attitudes designed to fit his smaller, steely body into my padded bulk. I’m stretched out on my back with him using my stomach as a cushion, or we lie entwined like two tarantulas, a perfect balance of lighter on heavier limbs that avoids bone pressure. Or I’ll be lying belly down with my head by his waist, so that my hands can wander over his body like tortoises inspecting every blade of grass on a beach.

Because he doesn’t complain, I’ve decided we’re in paradise. Visions of him change, but they’re always highly sexual, with elements of the predatory. I feel like a falconer with his hawk, that beady-eyed, sharp-beaked and alert but dependent creature that pecks ever so carefully at its master. At other times, his sinuous muscles, devoid as they are of fat, enlace me in the fantasy of a python, our corkscrew entwinings thrilling me into believing myself some circus performer who’s ready to chance being strangled for the right to be caressed. But then every so often, he suddenly diminishes to a poor wren, for what is the real difference, except in the sense of motive versus action, between vulnerability and predation?

It’s his emotional hunger, often presenting itself as stoical machismo, that keeps promising a trap door into his heart. And as we lie here, the unreal atmosphere of the room is as disorienting as the description of some powdery scent in a decadent novel, while snippets of his fairy-tale past float into the air.

“And then what happened?”

“Why you want to know? You will write a book about? The story of my life, such a book that will make.”

“How you ended up in Budapest. You were telling me.”

“I got to go to the toilet. Toss me those cigarettes.”

“Can you hear me?”


“You were telling me.”

“They threw me out at eighteen…”

“Who, who?”


“Can’t you hear me?”

“My parents, when is no more money from state for me, even though they keep money they get for me when I still live with my grandmother. Toss those matches in here at me, please will you?”

“Your parents threw you out?”

 “Surely. They fabricate this fight in Vîlcea to make me exit when I was eighteen. Say I steal from them. Which is how I end up on Corso in Budapest where you find me. But you know, my stepfather wastes what little they have for drinking, and soon as I am to coming back, it is money all the time, they take it from us all, me, Bogdan.”

“But tell me again about Macedonia. Come on, come back on the bed.”

“Alright, give me the remote, you know they have this erotic evening on TV every Friday, they showing one of the Emmanuelle’s.

“I saw them in the seventies. What’d you say happened in Macedonia?”

“I am crossing Macedonia two or three times, with two other guys, mostly walking, you know? They throw us out of train at every stop because they don’t like our passports, but we just keeping walking and get on at next station. But then they throw us out again.”

“And that’s how you made it to Greece?’

“Hm, hmm, three weeks there, my Greek becoming very functional, but I not write it, not write any of the languages I speak except Romanian.”

“Did you ever get caught in Greece?’

“Yes, yes. First time they send me back in closed train with other illegal Romanians. But I climb through window at station. Two days later they catching me again. ‘Let’s see you jump from this window,’ they say. They put me on a plane. Bring me to plane handcuffed.”

“A regular plane?”

“Of course. I get the meal, the drinks. But is November, still warm in Greece and we land in Bucharest and freezing. I wearing only tee-shirt. Have to hitchhike back to Sibiu.”

“But what about the time you got shot crossing from Macedonia into Greece?”

“Which time? I went over so many times, I start to make money that way, border guide, you know? I prefer bullets to staying home. Listen, this Mexican border. I read in a Romanian paper that plenty of people cross over to U.S.”

“Come on, Romulus, there are easier ways.”

“You do it your way, I mine.”


What did history do to him? The question sounds absurd, for we’re all to some extent victims of history; but I’m convinced that, as my friend Ursule Molinaro suspected, Romulus is ancient. His half-finished projects and sudden departures, his enslavements and sullen betrayals are micro recapitulations of the fate of his land.

Like my beloved Times Square, Romania was a crossroads of cultures and clashes—Byzantine glories, wily Levantine schemes for survival, the nexus of three empires: the Ottoman, the Austro-Hungarian and the Soviet. Romanians are, they themselves believe, Latins lost among the Barbarians, the Roman victims of Turks.

It’s midnight and we’re finally eating dinner, the only customers in the hotel restaurant. The mottled marble and enormous mirrors are exquisite, baroque and unreal, the room cavernous. The way the waiters and whores who walk through look at us says that we, too, are lost, isolated. Romulus’s eyes, I can tell, see doom and are perpetually disgusted by it. But such a stance is overruled by a kind of courageous passivity, which the Romanian poet Lucian Blaga called the “Mioritic space.”

According to the great Romanian myth of Mioriþa, three shepherds from different regions came down with their flocks from the Carpathian Mountains. Two of them began to plot to murder the Moldovan shepherd, who was warned of the plot by Mioriþa, the magical ewe. The shepherd didn’t flee. With a vast and perplexing sense of spiritual acceptance, he planned his own funeral, which took on the character of a wedding with Nature, a return to Eden.

Sociologues have debated the ancient myth’s meaning since it was published by the Romantic poet Alecsandri. There are those who have associated it with pessimism and passivity, going so far as to call Romania a “suicidal” culture. But Mircea Eliade, the Romanian historian and mythologist, who may or may not have once been a Fascist, saw the myth of Mioriþa as an active transformation of fate, the will to change the meaning of destiny into something self-empowering.

In light of this, Romulus’ surrender of his body to me takes on a morbid and transfigured aura. It may be an arrangement of circumstance, but to him it’s part of a timeless cycle. I can see it in his eyes. His prostitution has a sacrificial, fateful significance. And so it is that the fixed expression of his eyes, the angry, almost pious gentleness of his touch are signs of sacrifice that can’t be possessed by me. But in any case, the buyer can never possess the ritual of prostitution.

His face is getting paler during dinner as I flounder to stake a claim, shamelessly offering him long-term financial schemes as if they were car insurance. The obsessive-compulsive nature of my feelings for him makes me spit out vulgar maintenance plans whose function is to take away the guess-work of our relationship. I want marriage instead of doom. Each of my offers is an insult to his ritualistic approach to transgression. He’s getting more and more furious at my attempts to buy him.

This attack of mine has temporarily obliterated his machismo. Back in our room, he strikes me as a little boy, an effeminate one, as he angrily throws his few possessions into a bag. Now I must beg him to stay yet again, which subjects me to the domain of ritual. And so, we’re back in our trance once more. He puts down his bag.

It’s 2 AM and we’ve decided to have a drink at a toney club we noticed in our wanderings. It’s called Byblos and features a fancy restaurant with near New York prices and live entertainment. How can I explain the despairing rage that fills Romulus at the sight of its Armani-clad clientele? This isn’t simple resentment of the bourgeoisie on the part of an outsider, an underclass person, but something even more inherently political. His rage is, in part, Communist. It could even be interpreted as a kind of prudishness. But Romulus is himself in many ways a crass materialist who dreams of killer sound systems and flashy cars. Even so, the discipline and conservatism of real wealth, such as that exhibited by the privileged young people in this bar, crushes his spirit. What repulses him the most is the lack of Mioritic sacrifice in the comfortable life style of the young people around him. He’s looking at the faces of children of politicians or publishers and knows what strategies their parents have employed to achieve such security in this impoverished country. He wants to put out the eyes of their children, whose blandness negates all the wisdom of his suffering. Once again, his rage leaves me feeling helplessly inferior. There’s nothing I can do but slavishly admire this odd man out of global capitalism.

Back at the hotel, he strips for bed and I gobble two of my fortuitous codeine tablets. I know what my duty is. Within an hour, I’m in that sparkling night gallery made of little explosions of codeine. It blots out most of the sociological details surrounding our situation, leaves only his hard, shadowy body mysteriously laid out for me, dappled by the streetlight piercing the gaps in the heavy curtains. This is a funereal, or should I say, vampiric scene. I fall to my knees in the darkness because I know that to worship his abjection is to drink at the fount of cultural doom and play at entwining my fate with his. He’s a door out of the repetitive banalities of North American capitalism. His penis plunges into my throat like an eel into inky water.


[1] All details reported by the intrepid Scott Long, in PUBLIC SCANDALS: Sexual Orientation and Criminal Law in Romania; A report by Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.




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