Going to the Delta

ACT 1: A Flying curtain

They have a long way to go today: they start early in the morning and get there at sun dawn. It’s a full day of travelling. In the train the seats are brown, made of some kind of synthetic leather, and are very smelly, stained, and torn especially at the corners. In the compartments everybody makes small talk. The grandfather tells jokes and prompts the little girl to observe every railway station where the train stops. It will be good to document the trip, he tells her, so she can write a good “compunere” about it when she returns to school. Like every year, one of the first tasks at school is to write an essay about “how it was in the summer holiday”. She doesn’t seem to be really listening to him, but she’s instead glued to the window, looking outside in wonder of the changing landscapes rushing past. There’s a lot of dust and a lot of fields. The window is a constant source of discussion among the passengers- whether, when, and how long it can be opened. The agreement is to open it in the stations when everyone gets a chance to look outside with the head sticking out. The girl is allowed to get up on the seat to reach the window. It’s very exciting to do something you’re not usually allowed to do. When the train starts to move, if the window hasn’t been closed, the brown curtain starts floating outside the window as if trying to fly away. The sun shines through the cigarette holes in the curtain’s synthetic fabric. She wonders what it would be like if the curtain just took off, like a balloon. Where would it go? How would it dance in the wind?

Act 2: The Captain’s View

They finally arrive in Tulcea. It smells like sea. They are getting on a large ship off to Sulina, on the Danube. The ship is large and the girl feels small. The ship has a few decks/floor and makes loud noises. The two travelers get on the ship and find some seats. The air smells so different here and there’s the wind. The grandfather tells the girl that soon there will be a split in the Danube at which point it would be great for her “Compunere” to be upstairs on the deck, where the captain is. He tells her to go up to him and ask to be allowed to see the Danube from up there. Her aunt Simona did this too, so she shouldn’t be afraid. But she is. She’s terrified! There are signs everywhere saying it is prohibited for passengers to go up there. What if the captain thinks she's not allowed to be up there? How does she dare to ask him to break the rules for her and allow her to be where other passengers aren’t?  What if he’ll get angry? Her heart is beating very fast but she doesn’t want to disappoint her grandfather. She cannot be any less than her aunt, and what will she write in the “Compunere” then? How can she describe the beauty of the Danube if she doesn’t see it from up there? The grandfather insists. You won’t get very far in life if you don’t have guts, he says. You have to have guts and do what you have to do. Your “Compunere” will be the best and you’ll get the highest mark in the class. Finally, she goes up, but on condition that the grandfather goes with her. She goes slowly, shyly, feeling ashamed knowing she’s not supposed to be there. Her cheeks are red. But she trusts her grandfather.  He must know what he’s doing. If her aunt did it too, and she was not told off by the captain, it must work. ‘Excuse me, Mr. Captain, may I see the Danube from up here? I have to write an essay about the beauty of the Danube for school’, the little girl says, her legs shaking, her voice trembling. The captain sees her, sees the old man with a grey suit behind her, and allows her on his seat without any resistance. She now watches the Danube from the captain’s view. She doesn’t even know how it feels or how to describe it. She knows it’s supposed to be beautiful, so she sees it that way. What a brave little girl. And she’s going to do so well in school. Everyone is happy. And that’s the most beautiful thing.

ACT 3: Riders of the storm

They arrive in Sulina where they wait for another boat, a smaller one. It’s a Şalupă that has only one deck and is long. They get on a narrow canal of the river Danube towards Cardon. All they see is luxuriant vegetation on both sides, and all sorts of birds. When they arrive in Cardon, it starts getting dark. Not because the sun is setting, but because a storm is coming. Grey heavy clouds are hanging down. The only means of transportation from Cardon onwards is a Tractor that will take them ‘in-land’. The girl is amazed how empty the space is. It’s just sand, and dust. She sees no houses, no people, and she’s starting to feel cold. A thunderstorm is upon them. The tractor has a trailer where everyone is packed. They get a “prelată” to cover themselves in case it starts raining. The first thunder strikes and they’re in the middle of nowhere, in an open, empty field, riding on the back of a tractor, with few others. It’s scary and cold. The thunders keep striking. Will we get there soon, grandpa? She asks. The grandfather is in a good mood, he doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything. He again makes small talk with the co-passengers and even lights a cigarette. He’s laughing and he’s happy he’ll see his relatives soon. Nobody else seems to be scared. The tractor ride is bumpy, there’s no road. It almost seems like the tractor is making its own road, through the dusty earth. Big drops of rain start falling and they make a noise on the prelate that everybody is keeping with their arms over their heads. The girl feels like in a womb.

They arrive in CA Rosetti, the village where the grandfather was born. Now, we only have to find my cousin’s home, the grandpa announces cheerfully. They get their luggage down, and start walking through the dusty- muddy road.