Mrs. Neacsu sits on the bench in front of the block, clasps the coat around her body, while enjoying the last sun rays of an unbelievably warm February day. She is probably thinking about the children who had left to a far away country, to seek a better life than they had in Romania. She misses them terribly. She sighs.
As if trying to cast away her moment of sadness, Mr. Tudose, the neighbour living on the sixth floor comes closer shuffling his feet; he had taken his old Pekingese for a walk. He sits down on the cold bench and sighs on his turn. Life is hard after a lifetime of hard work in the factory. The two of them greet one another and express their delight on the fabulous weather. They talk about prices, about how expensive life in an apartment has become, about the lack of medicines in drug stores and about the pension that is late again.
The door of the block opens and Ms. Niculae exits in a hurry. She had seen them from above, and, as she has had nothing better to do since she lost her job due to personnel cuts, she decided tp join them for some gossip. She sits near them, parches in her thin housecoat, passes her hand through her negligently tied hair and sighs.
After a moment of silence, she goes right for her favourite conversation topic, about how the block manager is stealing their money, and the other two approve her vehemently, while outlining their outrage with ample gestures and frowned brows. Their tone raises as they unavoidably reach the topic of politics.
“If there anybody honest in this country?” Mr. Tudose asks as if drawing a conclusion. But he awaits no reply. All of them know the answer. They sigh at once.
Ms. Niculae looks at her watch. She says nothing.
“Without paying something to the doctor, you cannot hope for a treatment”, Mr. Tudose says in a saddened voice. “I have to pay at the hospital, I have to pay nurses, I have to pay doctors, just to look at me. Otherwise, they ignore you and they leave you on a bed, so that you lie there for days in a row”.
“Things are the same in schools”, Ms. Niculae says, thinking about her two children who are at class now. “You have to pay the form master, you have to contribute to the school fund, so that they could get repairs, you have to contribute for school shows, you have to contribute for school trips to museums, you have to pay for everything. Because everybody pays and if you don’t live up to them, they are taking it out on the child. It is the same thing at offices. If you want a stamped document, you have to pay. If you do not want to wait for a century until a document is released, you have to pay. May God help us!”
“All of them are thieves”, Ms. Neacsu concludes. “My God, Romania would be so different if they did not steal so much! We would have had anything we desired. Our country is rich. My god, this beautiful country is so rich! But these people stole everything impertinently. Politicians take bribe to allow businessmen steal, and so does the police”, she angrily continues. “If you need health care, you pay! If you need justice, you pay. If you need administration, you pay. If you need education, you pay. If you need a stupid cable in your house, you pay. If you need a priest, you pay. Where are you supposed to pay it all from? God forbif you need anything in Romania! You will pay around more than Becali”.
Ms. Niculae looks at her watch again. She starts fretting.
“I think it is coming soon”, she says to herself.
The other two neighbours do not answer. They look at the bench in front of them. Four other neighbours are sitting there as well and discussing the issues of the country.
“Should we wonder that politicians take bribe and look, now prisons are full of corrupt people caught red-handed? No way!” Mr. Tudose says in a miserable tone.
“We are corrupt, too. We are a country of corrupt people. It is in our blood. This is the system. From the lowest to the highest layer of society, everybody gives and pays ‘attentions’ to get what they want.”
Then, the three of them start conjugating the verb “to not have”. “I do not have”, “You do not have”, “He / she does not have”, “We do not have”, “You do not have”. And yet, they do have! The other people do have! How come that they do!?
“They know how to steal, that’s it”, Ms. Neacsu says furiously. “I never knew how to steal. I cannot do it. I do not know how. This is why I have nothing.”
“Yes, indeed. We fear God and the laws, and we only knew how to give and to make other people rich. We die in honesty and poverty. We die of hunger, of diseases, of lack of medication”, Mr. Tudose says and his hands start shaking on the cane. He remembers his beloved wife, who had died in the shadow of his helplessness, because he had no money, like other people, to carry her to a better hospital and poor soul got infected with a microbe from the dirt in the hospital room and passed away.
“Should all politicians and businessmen caught by the DNA now burn in hell! They did not get away with stealing a little bit. No, they had to steal millions of euro. They stole from everyone of us. They stole our present, they stole our future!”, Ms. Niculae’s voice raises. “We voted for them and they stole from us! Let them rot in jails!”
She looks at the watch and her face starts to shine.
“Come on, it is beginning!”
The three of them stand up smiling, greet each other good-bye and promise that they would return the following day to go on with their debate. The people on the bench in front of them do the same. It is beginning.
“Let us see the daytime drama. Let us see whom else they arrested!”, Ms. Niculae cheerfully yells while going up the stairs.
They all laugh and enter the blocks. There is silence. The only thing remaining is the echo of my neighbours’ voices. They are in front of TV sets now, zapping through news bulletins, enjoying each grand corrupt of Romania that had ended up behind bars just like peasants did in the old days, gathered in the grand square of cities and yelling as the guillotine beheaded another traitor. “Is there anyone honest in this country?”… “What would Romania be if they did not steal so much?”… “We are a country of corrupt people”… “They stole our present, they stole our future!”…