The Big Eye: Childhood Memories and Three Dreams
by Lavinia Munteanu
I spent the first ten years of my life in my grandparents’ house. One day excavators rolled on-to our street, and the opposite side of it fell. The demolition stopped one house beside ours. As a child, I sometimes imagined I would wake up in the morning and half of the house would be missing. From the adults’ conversations, I found out that the inhabitants of the demolished houses had been moved to apartments in housing blocks, some larger and in the center of the city, others smaller and in a neighborhood on the outskirts. My grandfather suspected connections between party loyalty and apartment size. It was also he who taught me that not everything that was discussed at home was al-lowed to leak out, that words could be dangerous.
I wake up in the living room, in my grandparents’ house alone. I look at the two doors that lead out of the room, one to the kitchen, the other to the courtyard. Several layers of heavy curtains hang in front of both doors. I get up slowly and lock the door to the kitchen with the latch. After that, I realize that the door to the courtyard that should have been behind the curtains is missing. I try to bring the curtains together with a clothespin.
I sit with my grandparents at the table in the dining room. The table is loaded with food and drinks, but we don’t eat. We are silent. The large windows that face the street have become half-open doors. The walkway is only one step away from the dining room. Anyone who passes by can look inside our house.
I am standing in front of my mother’s apartment. Around the door is a strange gap; the doorframe does not close on the wall. I approach this floating door anxiously and look through the crack. I wonder if someone could walk through this empty space between the wall and the doorframe. This apartment door is locked, but it cannot protect my mother’s home from foreign eyes, I tell myself.
Being a child during the Communist dictatorship was something like walking naked on the street without ever being able to take a rest. It felt like the others stared at me, but I couldn’t tell who “the others” were—they had no face. I was ashamed. A big eye was on me, an eye that never slept. I was constantly trying to shut doors during my childhood, to hide beneath curtains and walls, in the house of my grandparents, in their arms. I am still locking doors in my dreams.
- Lavinia Munteanu was born in Romania and now lives in Germany. She is a freelance architect, visual artist, and author. Her drawing, video, and poetry contributions to various exhibitions and literary magazines demonstrate her interest in cultural and political processes as well as in psychoanalysis and depth-hermeneutics.
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