Romanian July showers, and I can’t help but wish I was one of the fluorescent green summer leaves. I am in the mood for mischief, adrenaline — playfulness above all else. There I am! There is my muddied reflection in a puddle! I want to keep helping her have fun. It is by sitting on the wet, cold, corroded steps of a communist-style apartment building that I realize that Tom Sawyer and I would have been good friends.
Both of us crave that feeling when you and newly met people your age run fully clothed into the warm summer sea. We want to feel that feeling that arises when we feel extremely supported by those we love. It feels like excitement, this feeling. The feeling that seizes your heart at sixteen as you inhale from your first cigarette on the balcony above a Bucharest side street, knowing then and there that you betrayed your sixth-grade self who promised to never smoke. It’s the same overwhelming feeling you feel when you flirt with a summer crush, knowing that you won’t see each other again because he’s enlisted in the navy; in this case, the feeling arises when four chestnut eyes maintain contact longer than most would, as he catches the volleyball in the warm sunset of the Black Sea.
Both of us crave that feeling when you and newly met people your age run fully clothed into the warm summer sea.
I feel like doing something that isn’t allowed. I feel like being the only one that is aware of something.
I joke to the bus driver that I forgot my umbrella, though I purposefully left it at home. I love having my skin pierced with icy raindrops. I become energized as I dance in the rain. My once-baggy teal cotton t-shirt, now sticky and dark blue. My thin capri yoga pants from the eighth grade, now a heavy wet fabric. My innocence, still innocence. My age, almost eighteen.
I feel like doing something that isn’t allowed.
My shriek suddenly straightens surrounding passengers’ backs.
“A SNAKEEE, A SNAKE!”
People hunch their backs again, tired from what is apparently an already exhausting day. Maybe they don’t believe me because snakes don’t exist in Bucharest. I learn that people are fooled only by believable things.
It’s a late afternoon in late July, and I am late to meet Iris at the mall. Cheap, shiny watches are casually modeled by the group of teen boys by the entrance. They want to show off, I realize. I don’t tie my Converse so when I trip right in front of them, it will seem like an accident.
Mihai was the first one to jump at me to help. I am now in the center of a group of brown-haired teen boys, whose eyes are particularly interested in any part of my body but my own eyes. They don’t know that I am only pretending to not speak Romanian, so I capitalize on their desire to be seen as powerful heroes. We push through broken English and thick cigarette smoke and end up walking to a cafe in the mall. Ion pays for my lemonade and chocolate pastry — my hero. Goodbyes ensue soon after.
I offer Iris the chocolate pastry, convincing her that I bought it for her. Shortly after, she buys me Romanian fried donuts as a thank you.
They don’t know that I am only pretending to not speak Romanian, so I capitalize on their desire to be seen as powerful heroes.
Blood-orange sunset and no longer with Iris, I meet Teodor, who refuses to use conditioner and has hair like hay. He invites me to dinner as a thank you for the fresh donuts I give him.
It seems that people aren’t so clever.
By his rumbled apartment block, I see a bike on the loose. It reflects the fading blue sky and the shimmering leaf shadows. I ride it home, but left a note with my phone number on the fence.
Vali calls me. Our quick chat explains that I had to go home because of an emergency (without telling her that I am being lenient with my definition of emergency), so I took the first mode of transportation that I saw. The truth is that I just miss riding a bike; I just wanted to feel excited the way I do when the wind blows through my hair; I just wanted to have fun; I just wanted to be spontaneous. Such thoughts disappear as I return the bike to Vali.
I am bikeless, once again. The July evening heat succumbs to the rain’s quick temper. I am cold. I am alone. I am tired. I am really tired. I am shivering, but shame warms up my cheeks as I inhale from my cigarette.
I tried to fool these people today. I lie, I thieve, I omit. I don’t feel bad about it.
However, I am a monster for lying to my grandparents about smoking, knowing the cancer that smoking caused my Bunicu. My stomach pains like on the first day of period cramps. Throbbing overtakes my left temple, my right arm hesitantly lifts the cigarette to my mouth, the puddle freezes my toes, and my heart hurts because I know I am betraying the trust of those I love most.
I fool myself by trying to be a thief when I know I am not. I fool my depression when I think I have the motivation to live, I fool my honesty when I promise my parents I’ll sleep at midnight, and I fool my achievements into believing that I would drop out of high school.
I fool, and I am fooled.
I fool, and I am fooled.
Bunicu fools me into thinking he’ll live to see me graduate. Mama fools my fears into areas of growth. Tata fools my sickened nights into nights of laughter. Bunica fools my lack of eating into love for eating what I cook. Bunicu fools my understanding of family from one of disconnectedness into one of deep trust. Bunica fools my loss of passion for painting into excitement to share my art with the world. Sora fools any bad instinct I may have into pure kindness.
They fool me; their love fuels me. I want to keep secret for myself that I fool people in unkind ways, but my family openly speaks words filled with love to fool insecurities and sadness that try to fool my joyous nature. I fool people, they fool qualities of life.
I pity the fool because I am a fool.
– April, The Fool