Y I heart Manea … life, …sentences

I saw her again in the week before my return to Romania. We were walking together in the streets of Bucharest. She was talking to me about Mihai Eminescu, the national poet, and tell me how dearly he would have liked to be with me again. She was animated, focusing on matters that seemed to give her pleasure, but that were mainly intended to please me, when suddenly she fell into a deep trench along the edge of the sidewalk, a kind of shaft where workers were repairing the sewage system. It happened in an instant, leaving me no time to catch her. But she had held on to my arm, and her old, heavy body was hanging suspended over the pit, while I lay flat on the sidewalk, gripping her with my left hand, so that she would not drop into the abyss. With my right hand I clutched the edge of the sidewalk, while my left hand gripped her bony fingers. I could feel myself slipping, I couldn’t hold on to the burden of her body swinging desperately above the void, her thin pale legs thrashing helplessly in the air.

There were men working in the bottom of the hole below. I could see their white helmets, but they could not see me or hear my vain cries for help. I was screaming as loud as I could, but I didn’t produced a single sound. I was suffocating, I could feel my strength draining. I was being pulled down by the bony clasp of the old hand into the black void. I was slipping toward the edge of the sidewalk, ready either to let go of the burden or to let myself be dragged into the bottomless depth, over which my mother was writhing. I had just found her again, I had been talking to her, and I could not bear to lose her again.

– Norman Manea, The Hooligan’s Return: A Memoir, trans. Angela Jianu, p. 55

– photo by Joseph Gallus Rittenberg, Heiner Müller, 1982 [Heiner Müller appears here for no reason as somebody’s mother escaping via manhole]